Sure, we’ve still got Vanessa Williams—but what about the ones who got away?
There’s no question that Westchester raises some of the most gifted folks in the entertainment industry. However (sigh) they don’t always stay. Well, you know the old saying: If you love great movies, TV shows, and music, set the local talent free. Though we can no longer claim these celebs as our own, we can always take credit for fostering their creative upbringings. Here, we keep tabs on where some of our famous alumni have ended up.
We knew him when: He was discovered by a talent agent in the halls of Mamaroneck’s Hommocks School. (Whether or not he had the pompadour back then, we don’t know.)
His breakthrough: While his part in Over the Edge (1979) opened doors for additional juvenile-delinquent roles, his turn as Dallas Winston in The Outsiders (1983) cemented his teen-star status.
Where is he now: This teen idol made good with an Oscar-nominated performance in Crash (2004), then squandered all his newfound cred with last year’s You, Me, and Dupree. He’s given up the suburbs for a life in New York City.
We knew her when: Determined to be a star, Lake transferred from Hastings High School to the Professional Children’s School in New York City at the end of her sophomore year. Her breakthrough: Shaking her big hips and big hair as Tracy Turnblad, the starring role in John Waters’s Hairspray (1988).
Where is she now: In addition to being dogged by rumors that she’s working on another talk show, last summer Lake finished up a stint as host of CBS’s Game$how Marathon, which re-created classic game shows like Let’s Make a Deal and Press Your Luck using celebrity contestants. (No whammies!) The Brentwood, California, resident may also be producing a documentary about midwives for submission to the Sundance Film Festival.
We knew him when: He was the rambunctious son of a preacher man growing up in Mount Vernon, until his behavior problems forced his parents to enroll him in boarding school at the Oakland Academy in New Windsor, New York (class of ’72).
His breakthrough: After being spotted in an episode of St. Elsewhere, the wildly (if a bit inexplicably) popular ’80s TV hospital drama on which Washington appeared from 1983 to 1988, he was asked by director Richard Attenborough to play Steve Biko in Cry Freedom (1987). The role earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Where is he now: Eighteen years and two Oscars later, Washington’s taste for juicy roles has not ceased. (Remember Malcolm X? Philadelphia?). Most recently, the Los Angeles resident has starring roles in two separate thriller/gangster/crime movies directed by brothers Tony and Ridley Scott: last year’s DÃ©jÃ Vu and the upcoming American Gangster.
Behind the Scenes
Dan Futterman and Bennett Miller
We knew them when: They were BFF (that’s “Best Friends Forever” to those who don’t have elementary school-aged kids) in Mamaroneck High School’s class of 1985.
Their breakthrough: Taking the film world by storm with Capote, a biopic written by Futterman, directed by Miller, and starring another childhood chum from their summer-camp days: Philip Seymour Hoffman. All three of them snagged Oscar nominations; Hoffman won.
Where are they now: While Miller has not officially announced what his post-Capote project will be (still riding the Oscar high, we guess), Futterman, who acts as well as writes, has been tapped to star in A Mighty Heart, a film about murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
David O. Russell
We knew him when: He graduated from Mamaroneck High School (’76) and left for Amherst College—to study English and political science, not film.
His breakthrough: Directing Three Kings (1999), a hard-hitting look at the (first) Iraq war starring George Clooney. (We’ll ignore his 1994 debut film, the suburban black comedy Spanking the Monkey, because of that bit about the incest.)
Where is he now: After directing the existential, hipster-beloved I ♥ Huckabees (2004) with Dustin Hoffman and Jason Schwartzman, Russell is in pre-production on another comedy, The H-Man Cometh, starring Vince Vaughn as a sarcastic radio call-in show host.
We knew him when: He was a big theater nut at Scarsdale High School (’78).
His breakthrough: Writing a little play-cum-movie called A Few Good Men (1992). Perhaps you’ve heard of it?
Where is he now: In L.A., adding to his television legacy (Sports Night and The West Wing) with NBC’s Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, an hour-long drama that goes behind the scenes of a Saturday Night Live-style variety show.
On the Charts
Mary J. Blige
We knew her when: In 1988, at the tender age of 17, she was honing her ghetto-fabulous style in the Schlobam housing project in Yonkers and recording Anita Baker’s “Caught Up in the Rapture”—the tape that launched her music career—in the Galleria Mall in White Plains.
Her breakthrough: After catching the attention of P. Diddy (or was it Puff Daddy back then?), Blige recorded What’s the 411? (1992), the album that features her catchy single, “Real Love.”
Where is she now: The New Jersey resident is supporting 2006’s greatest hits compilation, Reflections, and 2005’s album, The Breakthrough, which earned her eight Grammy nominations.
Loudon Wainwright III
We knew him when: He was splitting his time between Bedford and Beverly Hills until age 10, when his family chose Bedford for good.
His breakthrough: You decide: Was it his appearance as Captain Calvin Spalding, the “singing surgeon” on M*A*S*H (1974-1975), or was it the 1972 release of his ominously named novelty hit, “Dead Skunk?”
Where is he now: Wainwright is still balancing singing and acting; his most recent studio album, Here Come the Choppers, was released in 2005, as was the DVD of the underrated television series Undeclared, in which he played the father of a college freshman (who gets it on with his son’s RA). No doubt, from his new home in Los Angeles, he’s also watching with pride the musical careers of his children, Rufus (swoon) and Martha, and his kid sister, Sloane, who still lives in Katonah.
We knew her when: After graduating from Horace Greeley (’85), she traded in her Chappaqua digs for the dorms at Wesleyan University, double-majoring in theater and religion—not music.
Her breakthrough: Her 1993 album, The Honesty Room (1993), which made her the darling of the indie folk scene.
Where is she now: Everywhere, it seems, including on The Peak; her most recent album, My Better Self, was released in 2005, and the charming single “Echoes” has been on radio waves ever since. She’s been touring to support the album—and living not too far from home in the lower Hudson Valley.
The Great White Way
We knew him when: He graduated from Westlake High School (’68) and went on to study theater at the University of Miami.
His breakthrough: Though he’s starred in and played character parts in many TV series and Broadway shows, we’ll always remember him as Pumbaa, the flatulent Warthog in The Lion King. (You’re welcome, Ernie.)
Where is he now: He recently finished a run as Herman in the Broadway revival of Sweet Charity and has been seen in a few bit parts on TV shows like That’s So Raven.
Marissa Jaret Winokur
We knew her when: She was a Bedford Village teen attending Fox Lane High School (’91).
Her breakthrough: Nailing the role of Tracy Turnblad opposite Harvey Fierstein in the Broadway adaptation of Hairspray, a performance that earned her a Best Actress Tony award in 2003. Yes, both famous originators of Hairspray’s starring role were from Westchester. The girl cast as Turnblad in the new movie-based-on-the-play-based-on-the-movie, however, is from Great Neck. Our dynasty has ended.
Where is she now: The L.A. lady has been bouncing between projects on the big screen (Fever Pitch with Drew Barrymore) and the small screen (she co-starred in two seasons of Stacked with Pamela Anderson). Look for her upcoming film, Always a Bridesmaid, about a funky East Village woman’s unlikely romance with a straight-laced Connecticut lawyer.