A lot of journalists in Milwaukee used to make a joke about how the daily newspaper stretched miles to create some tie between famous people and the state of Wisconsin.
"Joe Blow," the joke went, "who changed planes once at the airport in La Crosse, was elected President of the United States today."
I was reminded of the joke when Satya Nadella was named CEO of Microsoft. Nadella got a bachelor’s degree from a college in his native country of India. Then he got a graduate degree at UW-Milwaukee. UWM and the state can take some pride in having a role in the successful development of Nadella.
But he is far from the only person who had great success and a measure of fame with some kind of significant roots in Wisconsin.
And I wonder who would wear the crown as the most famous person who was either born in Milwaukee, raised in Milwaukee or became famous while in Milwaukee. Here are some of my candidates.
Walter Annenberg, who ran a publishing empire, created TV Guide and Seventeen Magazine and was an active philanthropist. He led a crusade against McCarthyism. He was born in Milwaukee.
Danny Gokey was an "American Idol" contestant who finished third.
Charlotte Rae was an actor who was on "Diff'rent Strokes" and "The Facts of Life." She was born in Milwaukee.
Woody Herman was born in Milwaukee and was a musician and bandleader. His band, The Herd, was hugely popular in the 1930s and the 1940s.
Liberace was born in Milwaukee and was a huge hit in Las Vegas and he began the trend of over-the-top production numbers for musical entertainers.
Candace Michelle, who was born in Milwaukee, is probably unknown pretty much by her name. But if you remember sexy Go Daddy commercials or you are a big professional wrestling fan, you probably know her by sight.
Alfred Lunt was one of the most popular stage actors of his time, teaming with his wife, Lynn Fontanne. He was born in Milwaukee and had a home in Genesee Depot where they entertained all sorts of famous members of the artistic set. That home, Ten Chimneys, is a museum to the two.
James Groppi was a Catholic priest who captured national attention leading protests against housing discrimination in Milwaukee. He was born here.
Bud Selig is, of course, the commissioner of Major League Baseball and was born here. He got his start selling cars.
William Rehnquist, who was born in Shorewood, was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Spencer Tracy, born in Milwaukee, was a movie actor who made 74 movies. He went to Ripon College.
Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. He played the majority of his career in Milwaukee.
Eric Benet, a singer who was born in Milwaukee, was married to Halle Berry, which makes him famous in my mind, at least. Also lucky. Also stupid because he cheated on her.
Kato Kaelin was born in Milwaukee and went to Nicolet High School. He has tried to make a living off his minor role in the O. J. Simpson murder case.
Golda Meir was raised here and was the first prime minister of Israel.
That’s my list except for the person I think is the most famous of all the people with Milwaukee ties.
Jeffrey Dahmer, the cannibal who raped, killed and dismembered 17 men in Milwaukee between 1978 and 1991. How can you beat this guy?
I’m sure there other candidates and I’m sure I’ve missed some. So, have at me.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.