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Host of Stars Have Home-Grown Roots

October 21, 1990|DENNIS McLELLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The "first bona fide film star" to hale from Orange County was an overweight kid nicknamed Fatty by his classmates at Central Grammar School in Santa Ana.

Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle, whose boyhood home was at 5th and Spurgeon streets, was one of the most popular comedians of the silent era before scandal in the '20s ruined his career.

But the rotund actor was the toast of Santa Ana in 1917 when he appeared on stage at the Yost Theater to plug his new picture, according to county historian Jim Sleeper.

Introduced as "another of Santa's Ana's world-famous sons," Arbuckle reminisced about pulling a red wagon all over town delivering the washing his mother took in, hawking candy and peanuts on the old Newport Railway and performing for the first time at the Grand Opera House.

A latter-day funnyman, Steve Martin, also had early work experience in Orange County. When his family moved from Inglewood to Garden Grove in 1955, 10-year-old Steve landed a job selling guidebooks at nearby Disneyland after school, weekends and summers.

During his eight years at the Magic Kingdom, including a stint behind the magic shop counter, Martin became good friends with entertainer Wally Boag, star of the Golden Horseshoe Revue.

Boag would often take his youthful protege with him when he performed at private shows. Martin's mother, Mary Lee Martin of Corona del Mar, once recalled that Boag would introduce Steve as being "very bashful and retiring--so just bear with him." Then Steve would walk out with a "a loud cap and sports jacket, doing the Twist."

Martin once told Newsweek magazine that he had "enough innate intelligence to get B's and C's" in high school "but I was mostly a goof-off." He did run successfully for cheerleader at Garden Grove High School. But, as he told audiences in the '70s, "the other cheerleaders were so jealous they wouldn't use my cheers. I wrote, 'Die, you gravy-sucking pigs.' "

At the same time that Martin was attending high school in Garden Grove in the early '60s, Diane Keaton was attending Santa Ana High.

In high school, Keaton told Time magazine in 1977, she wore "white lipstick and black net stockings. Oh, wow." She also sang in the Methodist Church choir. "When I was really small," she told Time, "I used to go out in the yard and sing to the moon. It was like plugging into a great big battery."

And years before Michelle Pfeiffer writhed atop a grand piano in a thigh-high red velvet dress in "The Fabulous Baker Boys," she was a Midway City moppet "singing to the garden hose and pretending I was Elvis Presley." As a teen-ager, she told People magazine, "I was the beach bunny . . . into all kinds of drugs."

Among the many part-time jobs the former Miss Orange County held before becoming an actress was as a checker at the old Vons supermarket on Beach Boulevard and Atlanta Avenue in Huntington Beach. (It's now a Pic 'n Save.)

Recalled one of Pfeiffer's former co-workers: "The customers and box boys would always ask her, 'Why are you working in a grocery store? You're so pretty.' In fact, I told her, 'You're so pretty you should be a model.' She was kind of an airhead, just kind of a surfer chick."

Other entertainers whose roots extend into Orange County include Kevin Costner (Villa Park High), Bill Medley (Santa Ana High), Bobby Hatfield (Anaheim High), Jennifer Warnes (Mater Dei), producer-director Frank Marshall (Newport Harbor) and Kelly McGillis (a Newport Harbor High School graduate who joined the board of the Grove Shakespeare Festival in Garden Grove last May.)

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