Famous people from Wisconsin: Actors, musicians, athletes, authors – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Who doesn’t like a brush with fame?
Well, Wisconsinites, here are some of ours. 
From Oprah Winfrey and Bon Iver to the Watt brothers and Frank Lloyd Wright, here are more than 65 celebrities who are from Wisconsin or have strong Wisconsin ties.
Please note: This isn’t a cumulative list; our state is pretty awesome, so of course, there are many more. 
Gene Wilder, remembered for his roles in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Blazing Saddles,” was born on Milwaukee’s west side in 1933. 
Wilder (born Jerome Silberman) was a graduate of Washington High School. 
Before making it to Broadway and the big screen, he studied drama at the University of Iowa, served in the Army, then studied at the Actors Studio in New York City. 
He married late comedian and actress Gilda Radner, his third wife, in 1984 and made several movies with her. 
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Legendary talk show host, producer, actress and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey was raised in Milwaukee, attending Lincoln High School and Nicolet High School (she finished high school in Nashville, where her dad lived). 
“The Oprah Winfrey Show” — the highest-rated talk show in TV history — ran for 4,561 episodes over 25 years and Winfrey won 16 Daytime Emmy Awards, according to a USA Today report. The show is now available as a podcast
Oprah runs her own TV network, magazine and production company, the report said. Her acting credits include “The Color Purple,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and “Selma,” among many others. 
Winfrey opened a school for underprivileged girls in South Africa in 2007. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 and the Golden Globes’ Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2018.
Winfrey — born in Mississippi as Orpah Gail Winfrey — once said her best Christmas ever was in Milwaukee when she was 12 and living on North 10th Street. Her mother, the late Vernita Lee, who was working as a housemaid in suburban Fox Point, told Winfrey that Santa Claus was not coming that year because the single mother didn’t have much money to buy presents. But on Christmas Eve, nuns brought food and toys for Winfrey and her siblings.
Comedian and actor Chris Farley was a Madison native and a Marquette University graduate. 
After working at Second City in Chicago, he joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live” in 1990. 
He became a fixture on the show and created many memorable characters, like motivational speaker Matt Foley, a Chippendales dancer-wannabe and a nervous celebrity-show interviewer. 
His movie credits include “Tommy Boy,” “Wayne’s World,” “Black Sheep,” “Coneheads” and “Beverly Hills Ninja.”
Award-winning actor and activist Mark Ruffalo is a Kenosha native. He grew up around the 21st Avenue neighborhood. 
Ruffalo won his first Golden Globe award in 2021 for best actor in a TV movie for HBO’s “I Know This Much Is True.” That performance also won him a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding actor in a limited series or TV movie and a Screen Actors Guild Award
He had been nominated for Golden Globe awards three other times. 
Ruffalo’s acting credits include playing Hulk in the “Avengers” films, “Dark Waters,” “Shutter Island,” “Foxcatcher,” “Infinitely Polar Bear,” “The Normal Heart,” “13 Going on 30,” “Spotlight” and many others. 
In addition to acting, Ruffalo is known for his activism. In 2020, he went on Instagram Live with Kenosha Black Lives Matter organizers and Justin Blake, Jacob Blake’s uncle, during an event in protest to President Donald Trump’s visit to the city. He also helped spearhead a project to encourage Wisconsinites to vote. 
Hattie McDaniel — the first African American to be nominated for and win an Oscar — called Milwaukee her “springboard to Hollywood.”
In 1929, McDaniel joined the cast of a touring production of “Show Boat.” After a stint in Chicago, the production moved to Milwaukee. Soon after it arrived, because of losses elsewhere, the show cut back on much of its cast, including McDaniel, leaving her stranded and out of a job.
She worked at Sam Pick’s Suburban Inn, also known as Club Madrid, which was at 128th Street and Blue Mound Road. She was a ladies’ room attendant, then later, a floor singer. 
In 1931, she went to Los Angeles. Her big break came in 1935 when she played a servant in the Shirley Temple movie “The Little Colonel.” 
McDaniel became one of the most familiar African American actors in the country. In 1940, she won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her performance in “Gone With the Wind.”
Rachel Brosnahan, who plays the title character in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” was born in Milwaukee. 
She has been nominated for the Emmy for best actress in a comedy series three times, taking it home in 2018. 
She’s also won two Golden Globes and two Critics’ Choice Awards, among others. 
Her other acting credits include “House of Cards,” “Manhattan” and “The Unborn.” 
Award-winning actor Willem Dafoe is an Appleton native and former University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee student. 
Dafoe went to UWM in 1973 to take some theater classes and got hooked. 
After a year and a half, he left college to join Theatre X, at the time Milwaukee’s leading experimental theater company. 
Over the years, Dafoe has earned three Oscar nominations for best supporting actor: For his performances in “Platoon,” “Shadow of the Vampire” and “The Florida Project.”
The Spirit Awards, the independent film world’s Oscars, gave Dafoe the award for best supporting male in 2001 and 2020 for “Shadow of the Vampire” and “The Lighthouse,” respectively. 
Trixie Mattel, one of the most popular and prolific drag queens in the world, is the alter ego of Silver Cliff native Brian Firkus. Firkus got his start in the Milwaukee drag scene. 
In 2015, Mattel was on season seven of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” She would go on to win season three of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” in 2018. 
Mattel, who is also a singer-songwriter, has put out three albums over the past few years. She also has a cosmetics line and was the basis of the feature-length documentary “Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts.” In May, Mattel announced that she’ll be doing a renovation series with Discover+ called Trixie Motel. 
Mattel also has a podcast, “The Bald and the Beautiful” with drag queen and fellow “Drag Race” alum Katya Zamo. They do the web shows “UNHhhh” and “I Like to Watch,” and wrote “Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood.” The two will be going on a live tour in 2022
Mattel became a co-owner of This is It! — the longest-running LGBTQ+ bar in Wisconsin, and one of the oldest in the country — earlier this year after seeing many LGBTQ+ bars in Los Angeles permanently close during the pandemic. 
Mequon native John Ridley received an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for “12 Years a Slave.” 
A writer and director, his credits include TV’s “American Crime” and “Guerrilla” and movies including “Jimi: All Is By My Side” and 2021’s “Needle in a Timestack.” 
Ridley is also active in the comic book universe. He wrote “Future State: The Next Batman,” a four-part DC Comics comic-book series featuring a Black Caped Crusader. In May, it was announced that he would be writing Marvel’s new “Black Panther” comic book series. 
Ridley also co-founded Milwaukee’s Nō Studios, a creative arts hub, which is overseen by his sister, Lisa Caesar. 
Nick Viall, a “Bachelor” franchise veteran, went to Waukesha North High School and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 
Viall appeared on Andi Dorfman and Kaitlyn Bristowe’s seasons of “The Bachelorette.” In both, he was sent home as the runner-up during the series finale. 
During his first appearance on the show, Viall took Dorfman on a hometown date in Milwaukee, where they visited Lakefront Brewery and the Milwaukee Public Market. Viall introduced her to his family in Waukesha.
Viall would later be on the ABC spin-off “Bachelor in Paradise” and become “The Bachelor.”
Viall is the host of the popular podcast “The Viall Files” and the founder and CEO of Natural Habits Essential Oils, per his Instagram bio
Dustin Diamond, best known for playing Samuel “Screech” Powers in “Saved by the Bell,” lived in Port Washington for nearly two decades. 
One of Diamond’s more recent acting gigs was in 2017 when he portrayed disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein in a music video for TENLo, a band with Milwaukee roots. Over the past two decades, he had done stand-up comedy shows around the world, including a stop in Green Bay in 2018. 
Diamond made headlines in May 2015 when he was convicted of two misdemeanors — but cleared of a felony charge — in the stabbing of a man during a bar fight on Christmas 2014 at the Grand Avenue Saloon in Port Washington. 
Diamond died from carcinoma in early 2021, three weeks after being diagnosed, his publicist Roger Paul told USA TODAY.
Award-winning actress Ellen Corby, best known for playing Esther “Grandma” Walton on “The Waltons” was born in Racine. 
Corby, who grew up in Philadelphia, won Emmy awards for that role in 1973, 1974 and 1975. She also took home a Golden Globe Award for it in 1974. 
She already had won a Golden Globe, back in 1949, for best supporting actress in the movie, “I Remember Mama.”
Over the years, Corby appeared in an array of TV shows and films, from “The Andy Griffith Show” to “It’s a Wonderful Life.” 
Stage, film and television actress Jane Kaczmarek was born in Milwaukee and raised in Greendale
Kaczmarek, who attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is best-known for playing mother Lois on “Malcolm in the Middle.” She was nominated for seven Emmys and three Golden Globes for her performance in that role. 
Kaczmarek also starred in “Raising the Bar” as Judge Trudy Kessler. Over the years, she’s made appearances in many shows, including “This Is Us,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
She also voiced characters in “The Simpsons” and “Jake and the Never Land Pirates.” 
Tony Shalhoub, the award-winning star of the TV show “Monk,” is from Green Bay. 
During his time as Adrian Monk, Shalhoub won three Emmys for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series. He also took home a Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a television series: musical or comedy. 
Shalhoub also earned an Emmy for his role as the father of Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” 
Shalhoub has appeared in many films, TV shows and stage productions. He earned a Tony Award for best actor in a musical for his performance in “The Band’s Visit.” 
He’s also voiced characters, including Luigi in the “Cars” movies. 
Allen Ludden, the original host of the game-show “Password,” was born in Mineral Point in 1917. 
His family also lived briefly in Janesville, Elkhorn, Antigo and Waupaca when he was a young child, according to the Hollywood Walk of Fame’s website
Ludden was the husband of beloved actress and comedian Betty White, who was a frequent player on “Password.”
Ludden’s star on the Walk of Fame is located near hers. 
Other notable programs Ludden was on include “G.E. College Bowl” and “Win With the Stars.” He was on air from 1959-1980. 
Shorewood natives and brothers David and Jerry Zucker co-created the iconic “Airplane!” and the “Naked Gun” movies with Jim Abrahams, also from Shorewood. 
The three graduated from Shorewood High School, then went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where they founded a sketch comedy troupe called Kentucky Fried Theater. 
They moved to Los Angeles in the early ’70s and their first comedy film (and cult classic), “The Kentucky Fried Movie,” came out in 1978. The trio’s works also include “Top Secret!” and the TV series “Police Squad!” And they directed “Ruthless People.” 
Each member also has many of their own credits. To name a few, David co-wrote and directed “BASEketball” and directed two of the “Scary Movie” films; Jerry directed “Ghost” and co-produced “My Best Friend’s Wedding”; and Abrahams co-produced “Cry-Baby” and directed and co-wrote “Hot Shots!”
Director, producer and writer George Tillman Jr. is from Milwaukee. 
Tillman wrote and directed 1997’s “Soul Food,” which was loosely based on his own life and starred big names, like Vanessa Williams and Vivica A. Fox. 
Since then, he’s directed a wide range of movies, including “Men of Honor,” “Roll Bounce,” “Notorious” and “The Longest Ride.” He directed and co-produced “Barbershop,” “Barbershop 2: Back in Business” and “The Hate U Give,” which was based on a bestselling young-adult novel
Tillman has also done producing and directing work for television. 
Film and television actress Heather Graham was born in Milwaukee. 
Graham has been in many famous films including “Boogie Nights” and “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” “Swingers,” “Bowfinger” and “The Hangover” movies. 
She’s also appeared on shows including “Twin Peaks,” “Scrubs” and “Californication.”
Graham is starring with Sam Worthington and Colson Baker (Machine Gun Kelly) in “The Last Son,” which Redbox Entertainment acquired North American rights for, according to a June Deadline article
The actress has signed on to star with Dennis Quaid in “On a Wing and a Prayer,” a recent Deadline article said
Comedian, master impersonator and actor Frank Caliendo grew up in Waukesha
He’s a graduate of Waukesha South High School and the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. 
Caliendo spent years on “MadTV” and appeared on “Fox NFL Sunday.” He had his own TBS sketch show, called “Frank TV,” from 2007-2008. 
He also performed on many late night shows, including “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”
According to Caliendo’s website, he’s going on tour. His closest stops to Wisconsin are in Illinois in March. 
Iconic actor Harrison Ford, known for his roles as Indiana Jones, Han Solo in the “Star Wars” films, Rick Deckard in “Blade Runner” and more, attended Ripon College, where he majored in philosophy.
Though he didn’t end up graduating, he took his first acting class in Ripon, got his first professional acting gig in Williams Bay and married his first wife in Mequon, according to a Wisconsin Life report
Ford’s other acting credits include “Witness,” “Patriot Games,” “Presumed Innocent,” “The Fugitive,” “Air Force One,” “What Lies Beneath,” among others. 
Over the years, he was nominated for an Academy Award, four Golden Globes, and won the Cecil B. DeMille Award, according to the Golden Globe Awards database
In 2000, he was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award. In 2003, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 
Actress Gena Rowlands, who won three Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards, is from Madison
Her Emmys were for Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie for her performance as Virginia in “Hysterical Blindness,” Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or special for playing Pat in “Face of a Stranger” and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or special for “The Betty Ford Story,” according to the Emmys database
Her Golden Globes were for “The Betty Ford Story” and “A Woman Under The Influence,” the award show’s database said. She’s also a recipient of an Honorary Oscar. 
Her other acting credits include Woody Allen’s “Another Woman,” “The Notebook” and “The Skeleton Key,” among others. 
“The Terminator” and former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, went to college in Wisconsin. 
Schwarzenegger, born in Austria, first gained fame as a bodybuilder. He won Mr. Universe five times and Mr. Olympia six. 
When he was 31, he started school at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, according to a Los Angeles Times article. He accepted a position as “cooperating faculty member,” so residency requirements could be waived and he could complete his classwork largely from Los Angeles, the article said. He earned an undergraduate degree in business administration in 1979, according to the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s website
Schwarzenegger’s acting credits include “The Terminator” films, “Conan the Barbarian,” “Predator,” “Total Recall,” “The Expendables” movies, among many others. 
Over the years, Schwarzenegger was nominated for two Academy Awards, winning one for “New Star Of The Year” for his performance in “Stay Hungry,” the Golden Globe Awards database said
Schwarzenegger was the governor of California from 2003 to 2011. 
Longtime “Days of Our Lives” staple Dr. Marlena Evans is played by Deidre Hall, who was born in Milwaukee. 
Hall played Evans on and off (mostly on) starting in 1976. She was let go in 2009 due to severe budgets cuts, but reprised her role in 2011
Her other acting credits include “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl,” “Our House,” “Emergency!,” “Lucky in Love” and “My Christmas Dream,” among many other shows and films. 
Hall also executive produced and starred in “Never Say Never: The Deidre Hall Story,” a movie that shed light on Hall’s fertility struggles and how she ended up going with surrogacy. 
She has also authored books, like “Deidre Hall’s Kitchen Closeup,” which she co-wrote with Lynne Parmiter Bowman. 
In 2016, Hall was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 
Spencer Tracy, who was acclaimed as America’s greatest movie actor for three generations, was born in the Merrill Park neighborhood of Milwaukee. 
His family also spent time in Bay View, on Prospect Avenue, Grand (now Wisconsin) Avenue and the Story Hill neighborhood. Tracy was drawn to neighborhood movie houses, like the Comique on Kinnickinnic Avenue, Milwaukee’s first motion-picture theater.
He attended Ripon College, where his passion for acting exploded. He went on to win Oscars for “Captains Courageous” and “Boys Town.”
He’s also known for his decadeslong love affair with Katharine Hepburn. 
Actress and comedian Charlotte Rae, known for playing Mrs. Garrett on TV’s “Facts of Life” and “Diff’rent Strokes,” was born in Milwaukee, according to a USA Today report
Rae became Edna Garrett in 1978 on “Diff’rent Strokes,” then carried the part over to the spinoff “Facts of Life.” She was nominated for an Emmy Award for best actress in a comedy in 1982. 
She also appeared in “ER,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “Girl Meets World.” Her last role was in the 2015 movie “Ricki and the Flash.”
Orson Welles, known for his iconic radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” and the renowned film “Citizen Kane,” was born in Kenosha, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report
By the age of 19, Welles had appeared in hundreds of radio programs. 
“The War of the Worlds” broadcast, based on H.G. Wells’ tale of invading Martians and created in the style of a fake newscast, “disrupted households, interrupted religious services, created traffic jams and clogged communications systems,” The New York Times wrote. 
In later years, Welles made wine commercials, appeared on talk shows and provided a voice in an animated “Transformers” movie to help fund smaller projects.
A small plaque outside a home in the 6000 block of 7th Avenue marks his birthplace.
Tyne Daly, who has won six Emmy Awards for roles in three TV shows, is a Madison native. 
Daly won Emmys for her performances in “Cagney and Lacey,” “Judging Amy” and “Christy,” according to the award show’s database
She’s also a Broadway veteran who was in the 1989 Broadway revival of “Gypsy,” which she won a Tony for, “Master Class” and other productions.
Comedian Jackie Mason was born in Sheboygan, according to an Associated Press article
He performed on Steve Allen’s weekly television variety show, “The Ed Sullivan Show” and other programs. Later TV appearances included “30 Rock” and “The Simpsons.”
He put on several one-man shows on Broadway, including “Freshly Squeezed,” “Love Thy Neighbor” and “The World According to Me,” for which he received a special Tony Award. 
He also performed in front of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. 
Emmy-winning actor Bradley Whitford, who was on “The West Wing” and other popular programs, is a Madison native. 
Whitford won Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series in 2001 for his performance as Josh Lyman in “The West Wing”; Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series in 2015 for his performance as Marcy in “Transparent,” for which he also won a Critics’ Choice Television Award; and Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series in 2019 for his performance of Commander Joseph Lawrence in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” 
His other acting credits include TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The Mentalist,” “The Good Guys,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “All My Children,” among many other shows, as well as films. 
He also has done voice work, like in “Tangled: The Series.”
Accomplished actor Chris Noth, who’s been in “Sex and the City,” “Law & Order” and other hit shows and films, is from Madison. 
Other acting credits include, “The Equalizer,” “Doctor Who,” “The Good Wife” and “Gone,” among many others. 
Over the years, Noth has been nominated for two Golden Globes, one for “The Good Wife” and the other for “Sex and the City.”
Fredric March, known for his starring role in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” is a Racine native and a University of Wisconsin-Madison alum. 
He won his first Oscar for best actor for that performance. (He shared the award due to a tie vote with Wallace Beery.) March received a second Academy Award for best actor for his performance in “The Best Years of Our Lives.”
March was also the recipient of two Tony Awards, for his performances in the plays “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and “Years Ago,” according to the Tonys database
He was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and won one for best actor in “Death of a Salesman,” the Golden Globes database said. 
Decades after his death, March found himself in controversy. During college, he belonged to a student interfraternity society that, for a time, was named the Ku Klux Klan, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report. The Fredric March Play Circle, a theater named after March at his alma mater, was changed after a student filed a hate-bias complaint against the school a few years ago. 
Director, writer and producer Zack Snyder, who directed iconic films like “300” and “Watchmen,” is from Green Bay.  
His other directing credits include “Justice League,” “Army of the Dead,” which he co-wrote,” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” among many others. 
Snyder also executive produced movies, including “Suicide Squad” and “Aquaman,” and was a producer for “Wonder Woman 1984.” 
Danny Pudi, known for playing Abed Nadir on “Community,” is a Marquette University grad. 
During college at Marquette, he lived in Schroeder Hall, worked as a campus tour guide and met his future wife, Bridget Showalter, according to the university’s website
Pudi’s other acting credits include TV’s “The Book Club” and “Gilmore Girls,” among many others. 
He also voiced Huey Duck in the animated TV series “DuckTales” and Brainy Smurf in “Smurfs: The Lost Village.” 
World-renowned entertainer Liberace was born in West Allis as Wladziu Valentino Liberace in 1919. 
When he was an infant, Liberace’s family moved to West Milwaukee, where he’d end up graduating from West Milwaukee Intermediate School. 
In his heyday, Liberace was the highest-paid entertainer in the United States. His syndicated television show — mostly, him playing piano and bantering directly at the camera — was one of the country’s most-watched programs in the mid-1950s.
Liberace — who died in 1987 — left a lasting mark on the world, from being an early role model for gay men to making pop-classical music a thing. 
World-renowned band Bon Iver, led by Justin Vernon, is Eau Claire born and based. 
While attending Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Vernon formed his first band. As a student at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire, he established an alternative country act, which ended up relocating to Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2005. 
After the band split up in 2006, Vernon moved to Dunn County, Wisconsin, where he wrote and recorded the songs for Bon Iver’s first album, “For Emma, Forever Ago.” 
That album, which featured the ever-popular “Skinny Love,” launched the act to stardom. It was re-released with independent record label Jagjaguwar in 2008. 
Bon Iver has put out three albums since and took home two Grammy awards (and has earned numerous nominations). 
In 2015, Vernon, along with Aaron Dessner from the National, founded Eaux Claires, a music festival featuring one-of-a-kind musical collaborations and immersive art. 
If you’ve ever been to Waukesha, it’s no secret that music legend Les Paul is from there. 
A major road through the city that’s part of the West Waukesha Bypass and a middle school — which Paul had attended when it was called Waukesha Junior High — bear his name. 
He dropped out of Waukesha High School to pursue his music dreams. 
The “Wizard of Waukesha” was lauded as a pioneer for his creation of the solid body electric guitar and for inventing overdubbing and multitrack recording techniques. A Gibson executive once figured that the six-string Les Paul guitar — introduced in 1952 — accounted for half the company’s sales. 
Paul was also a TV and radio star in the early ’50s with his wife, singer and guitarist Mary Ford. 
Waukesha is also Paul’s final resting place; there’s a monument where he’s buried at Prairie Home Cemetery. 
Grammy Award-winning singer and musician Al Jarreau was born in Milwaukee and attended Lincoln High School. The “acrobat of scat” formed his first vocal group at Ripon College. 
In 1975, his career was launched when he signed with Warner Bros.’ Reprise Records, released his debut album, “We Got By,” and performed on the inaugural season of “Saturday Night Live.”
Jarreau would go on to record 20 more albums, with his bestselling one being 1981’s “Breakin’ Away,” which featured his signature song, “We’re In This Love Together.”
Over the years, he earned seven Grammys. He’s the only vocalist in Grammy history to win in the jazz, pop and R&B categories. In 2001, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 
The Wisconsin Foundation for School Music honored Jarreau with a Lifetime Achievement Award and established an endowment in his name to provide financial assistance to Milwaukee Public Schools students in need to participate in music programs.
The legendary and longtime band Violent Femmes has Milwaukee roots. 
The original group was made up of singer, lyricist and guitarist Gordon Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie and drummer Victor DeLorenzo. (Milwaukee native John Sparrow is the Femmes’ current percussionist). 
Ritchie and Gano met at the defunct Beneath it All Cafe on Downer Avenue. They played their first gig together that spring at Rufus King International School, then busked around Milwaukee that summer with DeLorenzo.
While the band played for fans lined up for a Pretenders show at the Oriental Theatre in 1981, Pretenders guitarist James Honeyman-Scott invited them to open for them that night. 
The Femmes would later strike a deal with Slash Records, which released “Violent Femmes” in ’83. 
The band has put out 10 studio albums over the years, with two of them being released in the past decade. And this year, they reissued a one-of-a-kind compilation album, “Add It Up (1981 to 1993),” in conjunction with their 40th anniversary.
One of the most commercially and critically accomplished bands from Wisconsin is Garbage.
The Madison-born alternative rock group formed in the ’90s with Butch Vig, Steve Marker, Duke Erikson and Shirley Manson. One of their most-famous songs is “Only Happy When It Rains.”
Garbage released its seventh album, “No Gods No Masters,” in 2021; it’s third album since the original foursome reunited in 2009. 
Before going on a hiatus in 2005, the band had earned a Grammy nomination, performed the theme song for the James Bond Film “The World Is Not Enough” and sold more than 13 million records. 
Vig, a Viroqua native, is one of rock’s most accomplished producers. He produced Nirvana’s world-changing “Nevermind” album, which launched his career. 
He honed his production techniques at the iconic and since-shuttered Smart Studios in Madison, which he opened in the ’80s with Marker. It’s where Nirvana went in April 1990 to record the demos that led to “Nevermind.” The band insisted Vig work with them when they recorded the album in Studio City in 1991, which launched his career. 
Andy Hurley, the drummer for one of the most popular rock bands in the world, Fall Out Boy, is from Menomonee Falls. 
Hurley knew he wanted to be in a band since he was a student at Menomonee Falls North Middle School. 
When he was 15, he immersed himself in the hard-core punk scene in Milwaukee, then would travel to Chicago to do the same. He played drums in bands, like Racetraitor and Killtheslavemaster, with Pete Wentz as an occasional bandmate.
Bassist Wentz and lead guitarist Joe Trohman established Fall Out Boy, and Hurley joined right before the band recorded its debut album, “Take This To Your Grave,” in 2003 at Madison’s Smart Studios. 
Since then, the band, with frontman Patrick Stump, has put out six more full-length studio albums and has won an array of awards, including a People’s Choice for Favorite Alternative Band. 
Even after the band became an international sensation, Hurley stayed in Milwaukee for years. He left his North Lake Drive house to move to Portland, Oregon, around 2015. 
Milwaukee native and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Steve Miller learned his first chords at the age of 4 from Les Paul on East Ogden Avenue in Milwaukee. 
Paul was Miller’s godfather; Miller’s father, George, was a close friend his. 
Miller’s family moved to Dallas, but he returned to attend the University of Wisconsin- Madison, where he played in one of his first bands. He ended up moving to Chicago, then San Francisco, where he established the Steve Miller Band in 1966. 
His debut album, “Children of the Future,” was released in 1968. Five years later came “The Joker,” which had a hit with the same name. Miller’s other classic-rock staples, include “Take the Money and Run,” “Rock’n Me,” “Fly Like an Eagle” and “Abracadabra.”
Miller was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. In 2015, on the day he found out he would be inducted, he called for a “revolution” at the institution for more transparency and for it to work more on music education programs. 
Keyboardist, guitarist, songwriter and producer Jerry Harrison, who was in Talking Heads, is a Milwaukee native and Shorewood High School graduate. Even after the band’s success, he lived in Milwaukee until the early ’90s. 
Harrison was asked to join Talking Heads in 1977. He had previously been in Modern Lovers. 
Rolling Stone proclaimed the Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light” album as the 39th-greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone. The Library of Congress preserved the album in the National Recording Registry. 
Nowadays, Harrison still produces music and movies, and is involved in tech enterprises, including Ophirex, a company he co-founded that’s trying to find an antidote for snake bites. 
He also plays in the Brooklyn-based funk group Turkuaz. Turkuaz, featuring Harrison and Adrian Belew, performed “Remain in Light” at Summerfest on Sept. 18. It was the first time Harrison played the fest since 1990 and his first Milwaukee concert in more than a decade. 
Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers was born in Beaver Dam. 
He sang tenor in the duo and Bill Medley sang bass-baritone. 
The Righteous Brothers’ big hits include “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,’ ” and “Unchained Melody.” 
The performers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. 
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Howie Epstein graduated from Nicolet High School and attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for two years before heading to Los Angeles, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report. 
Epstein played by Tom Petty’s side for 20 years as the bassist for the Heartbreakers. He appeared on six Heartbreakers albums and recorded two Petty solo albums. 
He also recorded with Bob Dylan, Stevie Nicks and Warren Zevon, and got a Grammy for producing John Prine’s album “The Missing Years.” 
Years after Epstein’s death, his younger brother Craig unearthed and released recordings Epstein had made in Wisconsin before catching his big break.
Brothers and NFL players J.J., T.J. and Derek Watt attended Pewaukee High School and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 
The Houston Texans drafted J.J. 11th overall in 2011. Since then, he’s been the defensive player of the year three times. In February, he announced that he wouldn’t be returning to the franchise. He now plays for the Arizona Cardinals. 
T.J. was drafted 30th by the Steelers in 2017. He’s had three Pro Bowl selections and two first-team All-Pro selections the previous two seasons. In 2020, he posted a league-best 15 sacks and 23 tackles for loss, putting him second in the league’s defensive player of the year voting. 
Derek was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. The special teams ace joined the Steelers in 2020. He was named special teams captain in 2021. 
More:Watt brothers prep for big NFL seasons, with J.J. Watt in new Arizona home and T.J. headed for new contract in Pittsburgh
Speedskater Bonnie Blair-Cruikshank, one of the most decorated U.S. Olympic athletes, lived in the Milwaukee area during her rise and now lives in Lake Country. 
She competed in four Olympics, winning five gold medals and a bronze. She is a member of the Olympic Hall of Fame and Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame. 
Blair’s husband, speedskater Dave Cruikshank, competed in four Olympic Games. He was inducted into the US Speedskating Hall of Fame in 2008. Cruikshank owns DC Hyrbrid Skating and is a skating coach for the Los Angeles Kings. 
Colin Kaepernick, a civil rights activist and former NFL football player, is a Milwaukee native. 
Kaepernick spent six seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. In 2016, to protest racial inequality and the oppression of Black people in America, he knelt during the national anthem, according to a USA Today report
The starting quarterback’s action caught the attention of the world, including former President Barack Obama, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and then-President Donald Trump. 
In March 2017, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers. After more than seven months as a free agent, he filed a collusion grievance against league owners under the collective bargaining agreement, according to a USA Today report
In 2019, he settled his collusion grievances against the NFL. 
Kaepernick’s protest inspired other athletes to take a knee as well and to use their platforms to express their desire for change. 
Kaepernick has donated to Milwaukee groups, including the I Will Not Die Young Campaign and Urban Underground, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report
Reggie “The Crusher” Lisowski, who wrestled professionally for more than 40 years, was from South Milwaukee. 
He earned many championships, including being a three-time American Wrestling Association (AWA) Heavyweight Champion and a five-time AWA Tag Team Champion with Dick the Bruiser. Lisowski was inducted into the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) Hall of Fame. 
The Crusher was part of the All-Star Wrestling cast of characters that was a staple on UHF TV stations in Milwaukee, and elsewhere, during the 1960s and 1970s. 
The Crusher often said that he got in shape by running along the lakefront while carrying a large full beer barrel over either shoulder. 
The Crusher has been commemorated with a life-size bronze statue in South Milwaukee, a day in his honor and Crusherfest. 
Steve Stricker, who has built the most accomplished résumé in state golf history, is an Edgerton native. 
As a talented youngster, he won the State Amateur title and WIAA medalist honors. He claimed the State Open once as an amateur and four times as a professional. On the PGA Tour, he earned 12 victories and then added seven more on the Champions circuit, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report
He has also organized the American Family Insurance Championship in Madison. 
In the 2021 Ryder Cup, which took place in his home state, Stricker led 12 Americans to victory as the U.S. captain. He won the Ryder Cup as a player in 2008. 
Groundbreaking racing legend Danica Patrick, the only female winner of an IndyCar Series race, was born in Beloit. 
In 2005, Patrick competed in her first Indianapolis 500. She led the race, finished fourth and quickly became one of those athletes who transcend sports.
After seven years in IndyCar, Patrick spent six seasons in NASCAR.
In fall of 2017, she announced she would retire after a “Danica Double” in the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500. She ended up crashing during both. 
In 2017, Patrick came out with a book called “Pretty Intense: The 90-Day Mind, Body and Food Plan That Will Absolutely Change Your Life.” 
In 2019, she launched the successful Pretty Intense Podcast. Her first guest was Alex Rodriguez. Since then, she’s had a ton of other big names on her show, including Matthew McConaughey, Jenny McCarthy, Michael Strahan, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Alanis Morissette and her ex, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Danica was named to TIME’s “100 Most Influential People” list and has appeared in a record-setting 14 Super Bowl commercials, according to her website
Molly Seidel, the third U.S. woman to win an Olympic medal in the marathon, is a Nashotah native and former standout at University Lake School in Hartland. 
Seidel made headlines back in February 2020 when she ran her first marathon ever at the U.S. Trials and took second place to qualify for the Games.
Seidel’s third marathon ever was at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. She finished with a bronze medal. 
While she was a student at University Lake School, she won four state cross country titles and eight track championships. She went on to win the NCAA cross country title (along with three track crowns) at Notre Dame.
Rice Lake High School track and field star Kenny Bednarek took silver in the 200 meters at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, running a personal-best time. 
He’s the WIAA Division 2 record-holder in the 100 (10.42 seconds), 200 (20.43) and 400 (46.73), all set in 2018.
The 200 and 400 times are the best in any division, with the 200 time just ahead of the legendary 1998 race put in by Bradley Tech and future NFL running back Michael Bennett (20.68), according to a previous Journal Sentinel report
Before he was a U.S. Olympic wrestler, Ben Askren was an Arrowhead High School standout. 
The Hartland native won two national titles at the University of Missouri and competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics with the United States wrestling team.
He’s a former champion in Bellator and ONE Championship, among other accolades.
Following a lengthy career in the ONE Championship series, he briefly competed in the UFC. He retired from MMA in 2019 and underwent successful hip replacement surgery in 2020. 
In 2011, Askren co-founded Askren Wrestling Academy, which has multiple locations, including ones in Hartland, Mequon and Green Bay. 
Askren made headlines in 2021 for boxing YouTube star-turned boxer Jake Paul, who won the fight. 
Tony Romo, who spent 13 years in the NFL, grew up in Burlington.
The quarterback threw for 34,183 yards and 248 touchdowns during his career, which he spent entirely with the Dallas Cowboys. 
After injuries, he retired as the fourth-rated quarterback in league history. 
Following his football career, Romo was hired as a CBS NFL broadcaster and also threw himself into his golf game
Olympian Rose Lavelle, who attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, became a World Cup sensation and scored a goal in the championship match in 2019. 
During her time as a Badgers star, she was a four-time first team all-Big Ten selection, the Big Ten midfielder of the year in 2016, and the first player in the history of the award to earn the honor in two consecutive years, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report
She was the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NSWL Draft by the Boston Breakers.
Lavelle started six games for the U.S. at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, scored three goals and was awarded the Bronze Ball at the FIFA Women’s World Cup awards as the third-best player in the tournament.
She competed with Team USA in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, taking home bronze
Miami Heat basketball player Tyler Herro is just a few years removed from his time as a superstar at Whitnall High School in Greenfield. 
Herro played only 13 games in his junior season after a knee injury, but still scored 2,036 career points, reaching a 2,000-point threshold that’s been achieved by only 42 players in state history, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report. Even though he missed time early in his senior year with a calf injury, he still averaged 32.9 points per game. 
He flourished in one season at John Calipari at Kentucky and wound up taken No. 13 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft by the Heat. 
The Heat made it to the NBA Finals in 2020. They were taken out by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. 
Dan Jansen, a four-time Olympian who won a gold medal in speedskating, grew up in West Allis and Greenfield. 
Jansen was a seven-time overall world cup champion and two-time world sprint champion with eight world records and over 75 world cup medals, according to his Team USA bio
He competed in his first Olympics in 1984. Going into the 1988 Winter Olympics, Jansen was a favorite to win the 500 meters and a contender in the 1,000 meters, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report. But on the day of his first race, the 500, he received word that his older sister Jane Beres had died after her yearlong battle with leukemia. He fell during the race. Days later, he’d fall during the 1,000 and again in the 800. 
His first medal came during the 1994 Winter Olympics, his final Games. He won gold in the 1,000 with a world-record time, and subsequently won the 1994 James E. Sullivan Award for the nation’s most outstanding amateur athlete, his bio said
Shortly after, he founded the Dan Jansen Foundation, which supports charities that help people affected by cancer, as well as youth sports programs and educational scholarships, the organization’s website said
Following his speedskating career, Jansen became a motivational speaker, a speedskating television commentator and a trainer, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report
Before Dwyane Wade was an NBA superstar, he played basketball for Marquette University in Milwaukee. 
During Wade’s two seasons at MU, he scored 1,281 points and also led the school to the 2003 Final Four. He was drafted fifth overall by the Miami Heat in the 2003 NBA Draft. 
Wade announced that the 2018-19 season — his 16th in the NBA — would be his final one. During his time in the NBA, he scored more than 23,000 points and 3,954 playoff points. In his last game, he secured his fifth career triple-double.  
During his NBA career, Wade played 1,054 regular-season games, 177 playoff games and three NBA championships, according to a previous USA Today report
He earned one Finals MVP award, 13 All-Star selections, eight all-NBA honors and two Olympic medals (one gold, one bronze). 
Four-time world heavyweight kickboxing champion Jeffrey “Duke” Roufus is from Milwaukee and co-founded Roufusport, a MMA/Mixed Martial Arts academy, which is headquartered there. 
The gym is one of the most highly regarded mixed martial arts gyms in the country and Roufus is known for training elite fighters, a previous Journal Sentinel report said
He operates the school with Scott Joffe and former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, who trained there, according the school’s website
A few years ago, Roufus made headlines after a 24-year-old kickboxer who trained at the academy died following an unregulated amateur bout at the Eagles Club, which was an event promoted by Roufusport, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report
The kickboxer’s family filed a lawsuit and named promoters Roufus and Joffe, ringside doctor Carlos Feliciano, among others. All the parties except Feliciano settled with the family for an undisclosed amount of money in August 2018.
Former UFC lightweight champion Antony Pettis, who’s currently in the Professional Fighters League, is from Milwaukee. 
During his time in the UFC, he competed in welterweight, featherweight and lightweight divisions. He won the lightweight title at UFC 164 in Milwaukee on Aug. 31, 2013.
Before losing his title belt in March of 2015, he had not lost a fight since June 2011.
In 2010, Pettis also became the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight champion. Fun fact, he was also the first mixed martial arts fighter to appear on the cover of a Wheaties box. 
Pettis is a kickboxing and MMA coach at Roufusport, according to the academy’s website
Before she was a professional soccer player and an Olympian, Lauren Sesselmann was a star athlete at Green Bay’s Notre Dame Academy.    
During her high school career, she was named all-state four times and was a first-team selection three times, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette. She also excelled at basketball, helping the academy go 27-0 and win the D2 state title in 2001 to become the first girls basketball team from Green Bay to win a championship.
She earned a soccer scholarship to Purdue University. When she graduated from there, she was the school’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points. 
Sesselmann would go on to earn a bronze medal for Canada at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
After a long professional career with several teams, Sesselmann has continued to play the game, with the Santa Clarita Blue Heat. She’s also a host, FIFA agent and mentor and a mental health advocate, according to her Instagram page.
Frank Lloyd Wright, who’s considered the greatest American architect, was born in Richland Center and spent much of his life in Wisconsin. 
After moving around, Wright’s family settled in Madison and Wright spent summers in Spring Green. Wright went on to attend the University of Wisconsin- Madison, but left to work for architectural firms in Chicago, according to Wright’s website.  
During his 70-year career, Wright created grand structures, like the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the S.C. Johnson and Son Co. Administration Building in Racine and the Taliesin — his own home and workspace that burned down and was rebuilt twice — near Spring Green. 
But some of his most “lasting and relevant ideas” are found in the affordable, precut homes for the middle class, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report
Wright was also a writer, teacher and founder of the Taliesin Fellowship — architectural training with a holistic, learn by doing approach — on the Taliesin property, the Taliesin Preservation’s website said. 
Playwright and novelist Ayad Akhtar, who won a Pulitzer Prize, is a Brookfield Central High School graduate. 
Akhtar fell in love with great European modernists, like Robert Musil, during high school, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report. He also began going to plays staged by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, which a few decades later would perform his works, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Disgraced.”
His other works include the novels “Homeland Elegies” and “American Dervish” and plays, like “Junk” and “The Who & The What.”
In 2020, he became president of the advocacy group PEN America, whose mission is to stand up for writers and journalists punished for speaking truth to power, and celebrate literature. 
Laura Ingalls Wilder of the famous “Little House” books, which shared the story of her life as an American pioneer, was born outside of Pepin. 
Her first published book was “Little House in the Big Woods,” which recounted her time in Wisconsin. 
The series went on to include eight more, including “Little House on the Prairie,” “Farmer Boy,” “On the Banks of Plum Creek,” “By the Shores of Silver Lake,” “The Long Winter,” “Little Town on the Prairie” and “These Happy Golden Years.” 
Her writings inspired the popular television show “Little House on the Prairie.”
Legendary illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini spent time living in Appleton and Milwaukee when he was growing up. 
Even though he was born in Budapest, Hungary, he frequently claimed Appleton as his birthplace, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report
In Milwaukee, he became fascinated with magic and learned how to hold his breath while swimming in the Milwaukee River, the report said. He ran away from home at age 12 and returned two years later before moving to New York. 
He frequently returned to the city to perform, escaping handcuffs at a police station, performing his milk can escape and lecturing at Marquette University. He was once suspended in a straitjacket from The Milwaukee Journal building and later gave a free matinee performance of his act for Milwaukee Journal newsboys, the article said
Georgia O’Keeffe, “the mother of American modernism,” was born and raised on a dairy farm in Sun Prairie. 
She’s best known for her canvases depicting flowers, skyscrapers, animal skulls and southwestern landscapes, according to the Georgia O’Keeffe Biography on Biography.com
O’Keeffe received the Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts, the biography said. 
O’Keeffe’s former caretaker Margaret Wood said the artist was also a “foodie.” Her recipes can be found in “A Painter’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe,” which Wood authored. 
There’s a museum, The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, dedicated to the artist in New Mexico, where she spent much of her life. 
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and novelist Thornton Wilder is a Madison native. 
He won the awards for the legendary plays “Our Town” and “The Skin of Our Teeth,” and the novel “The Bridge of San Luis Rey,” according to a previous Journal Sentinel report
He wrote many more books and dramas, including “The Matchmaker,” which was adapted into the musical “Hello, Dolly!”
The Ringling brothers performed their first circus on May 19, 1884, in the backyard of the county jail property on Broadway Street in Baraboo, according to an Associated Press report. Within a few years, the family created the famous circus. 
While the brothers performed juggling acts and skits from their home base in Wisconsin, Phineas Taylor Barnum made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular. Eventually, they merged and traveled around America. 
After 146 years, in 2017, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced it was ending. Declining attendance combined with high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups all contributed to its demise, the report said. 
Circus World Museum in Baraboo is still in operation and features a large sampling of the circus’ history. 
Aldo Leopold, who moved to Wisconsin in 1924, is considered “the father of wildlife ecology and the United States’ wilderness system,” according to his foundation’s website
Leopold wore many hats, including conservationist, writer and educator. 
His book “A Sand County Almanac” occupies a place of honor among ecological writings and could well serve as the unofficial Earth Day handbook, according to a previous Journal Sentinel report
Leopold’s exploration of relation of people to each other and people to land, and his descriptions of his own life and interactions with nature, formed the basis of his “land ethic,” the report said
Leopold continues to provide a holistic, authentic example to those striving to live in concert with the land.
The Aldo Leopold Foundation, headquartered near Baraboo, is dedicated to Leopold’s teachings and surrounded by artifacts of his life. 
Chris Foran, Piet Levy, Sarah Hauer, Chris Kuhagen, Jim Higgins, JR Radcliffe, Ben Steele, Dave Kallmann, John Diedrich, Mike Hart and Paul Smith of the Journal Sentinel; Erik Hanley of Now News Group;Scott Venci of the Green Bay Press-Gazette; former Journal Sentinel writers Gary D’Amato, Kathy Flanigan, Jan Uebelherr, Jackie Loohauis-Bennett, Duane Dudek and Mary Louise Schumacher; the late Meg Jones; USA Today reporters; and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 
Contact Hannah Kirby at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @HannahHopeKirby.  



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