It’s not the most flattering of names, and it’s fair to say Pittsburgh might not have quite the glamour of some other US cities. But dig beneath the surface and there’s a surprising amount of famous folk from all areas of the pop culture spectrum who hail from the ‘Steel City’ (so dubbed because it was a former steel manufacturing base).
For sure, some stellar actors hail from the city in Pennsylvania. Maybe you know Holly Hunter, who appeared to much acclaim in The Piano, though we preferred her goofy turn as a cop gone outlaw in the great Coen brothers flick Raising Arizona.
Staying with the Coens, Frances McDormand happens to be married to one half of that partnership – but while her and Joel are a couple, it’s her turn as the sweet but capable small town policewoman in Fargo that she’s famous for. Better that than being known for turning up in the turkey that was Aeon Flux, anyway.
Other well-known city thesps include: Jeff Goldblum, whose been successfully weirding us out ever since we saw the Cronenberg remake of The Fly; Charles Haid, who delivered a masterclass in understated subtlety with his portrayal of Renko in the ground-breaking television show Hill Street Blues (just kidding); and Bruce Weitz, who played Belker, the cigar-chomping, undercover cop with anger issues from the same show.
Michael Keaton played Batman in the Tim Burton film, and staying with comic books Bill Nunn took the pivotal role of Joe Robertson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. Zachary Quinto turned up in 24 before taking on the iconic role of Spock in the recent, surprisingly good Star Trek movie.
And for obscurity value, you can’t beat Frank DiLeo – the guy who used to be Michael Jackson’s manager also played Tuddy Cicero in Goodfellas, one of the greatest films ever made. Nice little sideline for the man who looked after Wacko Jacko.
If you’re more interested in the guy’s behind the camera, George A Romero also came from Pittsburgh – Romero is the man behind old school horror classics like Night of the Living Dead and Creepshow. And while George directed, special effects wizard Tom Savini was busy coming up with the gory accoutrements for horror movies – though he’s also worked as an actor and director in his own right in a bunch of zombie flicks.
Then there’s music. Pittsburgh has given rise to the likes ofChristina Aguilera, who isn’t really our bag though you can’t fault that videos, and RZA (born Robert Diggs) from the Wu Tang Clan, who made some of our favourite hip hop records in the mid-nineties, though personally I think he should stick to producing.
And Lady Miss Kier was the singer in Deee-lite, the one-hit wonders who were redeemed by the fact that the hit in question, Groove is in the Heart, was very good indeed. You might file Coolio under that heading too, though Gangster’s Paradise doesn’t quite float our boat the way the outrageous Miss Kier once did. Those were the days. Ahem.
More artistic souls may prefer to settle back with a novel by Michael Chabon, who even wrote a novel (his first) about the city called The Mysteries of Pittsburgh – and which quickly became a bestseller. Chabon also wrote a draft of Spider-Man 2 – guy likes his comic books. Excelsior, Mike!
Pittsburgh also has more than its share of sports stars, with baseball great Ken Griffey Jr coming from the city alongside golfer’s Jim Furyk and Arnold Palmer, and wrestler Kurt Angle. You can also add basketball stars DeJuan Blair, Paul Grant, Armen Gilliam, Myron Brown and Mike Luzzolino to that list, as well as NFL aces Terry Hanratty, George Blanda, Jeff Hostetler, Jim Kelly and Johnny Unitas.
If for some deranged reason politics is more your thing, resident presidential hopefuls (no chance) Ron Paul and Rick Santorum both come from Pittsburgh – though since Santorum’s name has become synonymous with something that probably shouldn’t be mentioned on a family-friendly website, perhaps that’s no great claim. Hey, I’m sorry, it’s true!
By: Steve Colton