|David Merrill and grandfather Jimmy Stewart|
Everyone loves gossip.
In fact, even in Portland—the anti-L.A.—we’re as curious as the next city about the latest dirt on Brit, Lindsay, Paris, et al. And, when a celebrity comes to town? Well, you just might think Jesus Christ himself paid us a visit.
Latest Jennifer Aniston sightings aside, though, there aren’t that many “stars” knocking down our door. Sure, we have a handful of authors, musicians and film directors, but you’d be hard- pressed to find young starlets being chased down Southwest Broadway by swarms of camera-wielding paparazzi.
But we’ve got something different: people who are related to famous people.
For whatever personal reasons, they’ve adopted this city as their hideout.
Maybe they’re here for the same reasons we all are: It’s cheap, easy and green. Or maybe they were looking to escape the reflected glare that came with their famous fathers, mothers or siblings.
These folks have lived their lives here in semi-obscurity. That is, until now.
So let’s meet your neighbors—the lunch lady, CEO, rodeo queen, barkeep, wonk, lawyer, cook—who happen to be related to some of the most famous people in the world.
Oregonians, one and all.
Enjoy the following intrusion—I mean interviews—and our peek into the private lives of some locals who’d prefer to keep this whole “famous relative” thing private. Make sure to check out the ones we didn’t have room for in our Fame-ish Quiz. And if you know anybody who didn’t make our list, drop us a line at wweek.com to let us know who and (more importantly) where they are.
We can’t wait to meet them.
Born John Kiedis, on his MySpace page he claims to be “99.”
Famous kinfolk: Blackie is the proud papa of Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis .
Job: For decades Dammett lived what he calls a “show business life” in Los Angeles, appearing in such films as Nine Deaths of the Ninja , Meatballs II and Doctor Detroit , as well as playing “Drug Dealer #3” in Lethal Weapon . His son confessed in his autobiography, Scar Tissue , that his heroin habit was influenced by his father’s drug use. In 1999, Dammett became president of “Rockinfreakapotamus,” the official Red Hot Chili Peppers fan club. He spends most of his time now painting in the garage of a million-dollar, Craftsman-style home in Northeast Portland (which includes both a ballroom and a dumbwaiter) Anthony bought for him in April 2007.
On exposing young Anthony to so much grown-up stuff: “In retrospect—and as a good, drug-free citizen—I admit it was bizarre behavior. But both Anthony and I have no regrets. He’s become an international icon—financially, intellectually and psychologically wealthy beyond our wildest dreams. He’s truly the coolest guy I’ve ever met.”
Why Portland: Burned out on the Hollywood lifestyle, Blackie began raising wolves and wolf hybrids in 1993, keeping several of them on his 15-acre estate near Grand Rapids, Mich., in an area called Secluded Lake. When he found he could no longer keep the canines, he returned them to the animal preserve where he’d first acquired them and started looking for a new state where he could keep his wolf “family.” “I checked out Montana but liked Oregon better,” Blackie says. Anthony made at least seven trips to Portland last summer to help him look for a home in a wolf-friendly Oregon county. “We looked at property on Sauvie Island, too, but we both fell in love with Portland, which is [in] a county that is too urban for critters. I still hope to find a place where I can keep them.”
Who knew? Dammett has a collection of over 100 skulls and skull artwork in his living room.
Famous kinfolk: Born in Molalla, Ore., Snodgrass was a sweetheart of the tabloids long before Paris and Britney. In 1991, she married the much older Hawaiian Tropic Suntan lotion king Ron Rice. After that marriage ended in divorce in 1993, she hitched her wagon to action film star Jean-Claude Van Damme . That union ended in 1997, only to be followed by a marriage to Mark Hughes, the founder of Herbalife, in 1999. Less than a year later, Hughes died. Darcy is now married to Brian Snodgrass (of the Seven Dees nursery family). She counts Dodi al-Fayed’s family among her famous friends. “I was close to [his] family. When he was dating Princess Diana, I was a guest on his yacht. Two weeks later, he was dead.”
Job: The Snodgrasses run Sequoia Custom Homes. “In 2003, we thought we’d build five to 10 homes. Since then, we’ve built over 350,” says Snodgrass, who is currently working on a condo project near Clackamas Town Center.
Why Portland? Snodgrass returned home to Oregon after Hughes died in 2001. That’s the time she traded in her Rodeo Drive lifestyle for life on the rodeo circuit. “I wear a Stetson hat and Justin cowboy boots, but I also wear Cosabella thong underwear under my True Religion jeans and Chanel nail polish,” she says. “There are certain things I won’t let go.”
The real reason she moved back to Portland: “I’ve been part of the A-list. But the world is a very jealous place. They like to tear you apart. [When I lived in L.A.,] people used to go through my garbage, and I would have to drive to Venice Beach just to dump it. When I saw the report on Heath Ledger’s death, it brought back the morning I found my husband [Hughes] dead. You need to be allowed to mourn without the glare of the paparazzi in your face.”
As for contact with her former husbands? Although Darcy and her family still spend holidays with “Uncle Ron,” she says she never sees Van Damme anymore. “I’ve been married to Brian for six years. It’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had.”
Reo D. Varnado
Famous kinfolk: He’s the uncle of rapper Snoop Dogg .
Job: Varnado co-owns a Southern-style barbecue joint called Reo’s Ribs (17385 SW Tualatin Valley Highway, Aloha, 310-3600) and makes up one-half of gospel duo the Varnado Brothers. He’s performed with Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey, Madonna and Beyoncé Knowles, and he’s known for his flamboyant clothing choices away from the grill.
Why Portland? Varnado came out west in 1999 looking for his best friend from Magnolia, Miss. After finding his friend, Varnado picked up the phone book and saw four other people shared his last name. One of them was Susan Varnado. “We found out we shared a lot in common,” he says. “We both came from big families and went to the same church. When I asked her what her skin color was, she said white. I said I was black. She said that didn’t make any difference. That’s when she came to my house. We found out we were first cousins with the same aunties and uncles.” Reo still flies all over the world to cook for his nephew and recently popped up on the E! channel’s reality show Snoop Dog’s Father Hood where he tried to check a case of chicken wings on a flight to Munich, Germany.
Does Snoop stop by for ’cue? “Snoop still comes to Reo’s, but I make sure no one knows he’s coming. That’s so people will let him eat in peace.”
Famous kinfolk: Merrill’s grandfather was Jimmy Stewart , the star of It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington .
Job: Bartender, Mock Crest Tavern.
Why Portland? Merrill moved here in February 2007 from San Francisco. “The main reason was to join the band the Dregs. I play guitar and vocals. My brother has lived here for six years.” Merrill refuses to trade in on his family’s fame. “Using his name is cheap,” he says.
What’s keeping him here: “The band, for now,” said Merrill from behind the tavern’s taps. “Portland’s a good place for music. There are a lot of venues and bands to play with. I love that about Portland. But the indie scene is a little ‘scenesterish.’ So many of them wear skinny jeans. I came here wearing skinny jeans, and I’m just like, ‘Man, I feel like wearing baggy jeans.’”
Famous kinfolk: Daughter of television mega-producer Joe Hamilton, she is also the stepdaughter of comedy legend Carol Burnett . “I wasn’t close to my dad or Carol, but I have nothing bad to say about them,” Hamilton says about the stepmom she rarely sees. That doesn’t mean she didn’t see her own side of fame, including the highs (getting whisked away in limousines by her dad to movie premieres) and the lows: “People make presumptions all the time based on who I’m related to. It drives me crazy.”
Job: In 2007, Hamilton left her job as Mayor Tom Potter’s chief of staff (she had been his campaign manager in the 2004 election) to become director of strategic development for Gov. Ted Kulongoski. “Our job is to figure out how we can create effective strategies to help our state’s economic growth,” says Hamilton.
Something you might not know about her: Hamilton had her own brief brush with fame as Sally Slang in her 5th-grade production about the proper use of grammar. “I stopped the show and got a standing ovation,” she says. “That was my proudest moment as my father’s daughter.”
Chris Van Dyke
Famous Kinfolk: Chris’ father is comedian Dick Van Dyke , best known for his roles on television (The Dick Van Dyke Show , Diagnosis: Murder ) and in movies (Mary Poppins , Chitty Chitty Bang Bang )
Job: Van Dyke came out of semiretirement in 2005 to become CEO and president of Nau, a sustainable-focused sportswear company.
Why Portland? Chris moved here in 1975. “It was a very deliberate choice to come here,” he says. “I grew up in the 1960s, and I liked the way [Portland]...addressed environmental and social issues. But I’m the freak in my family. Everybody else works in show business. I was the only one to graduate from college.” Chris’ first Portland job was as a law clerk for Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Arno Deneke, before Nike hired Chris as a lawyer in the early ’80s.
What’s it like when people recognize Chris’ dad here? “He comes up pretty regularly, and he’s so easygoing. He realizes he’s been blessed and never resents [fans] stopping him to say hello. I resent it more than he does.”
What else? “I was a rebel in college,” says Van Dyke, who studied at Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash. “I had the highest grade-point average for anyone who had been kicked out of school for bad behavior”—stuff like dismantling 100 bikes on the college lawn.
Famous kinfolk: Chandler’s the older stepsister of radio and television wiseass Adam Carolla , co-creator of The Man Show and Crank Yankers , who hosts a syndicated radio show (found locally on KUFO) broadcast from Los Angeles.
Job: Chandler is an admissions assistant for the Riverdale School District.
Thoughts about her stepbrother: “I was an only child until the age of 10,” says Chandler. “Then Adam came. He was so annoying. My little brother and his friends—who he’s still friends with to this day—were, and are, cretins.”
Has Adam visited you in Portland? “No. We always go to his house for Thanksgiving. I remember visiting him when I was pregnant with Brittany [now 21]. Adam was ranting, just like he does on the radio. He has that piercing voice. I couldn’t take it anymore. I yelled, ‘SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP!’”
What would surprise people if they ever found out? “I live in Dunthorpe. I think some of my neighbors might be surprised that I joined a Latina girl gang in junior high so I wouldn’t get beat up. I was this white California surfer girl from North Hollywood. They called me ‘Flaca.’”
Famous kinfolk: Son of television actor Jack Klugman (The Odd Couple, Quincy ) and game-show regular Brett Somers (Match Game ), who died in September 2007.
Job: Adam owns Progressive Media Agency, a two-year-old advertising company that does work for progressive political causes, candidates and companies. “I was in the traditional advertising game for a long time, but I got tired of selling stuff people don’t need. I want to sell them something they do need—a stake in their democracy. My dad has a strong social conscience. I got that from him.”
Why Portland? “I grew up in Los Angeles, in a fishbowl.” Klugman says his friends as well as his father’s friends were always keeping an eye on him just because of who his father was. “I prefer to make my mistakes in private,” he says. “That lifestyle was insane.” After his daughter, Olivia, was born in 1997, Klugman decided to move north. “My life changed. It became about trying to have a set of values that work. My mission was to find a way through that. I moved here for my sanity. It’s such a progressive community. Take traffic patterns: In Portland when you get caught in a bottleneck, people actually pull over and will let you through. That would never happen in L.A.”
What does your dad think of Portland? “He can’t stand it. He tells me, ‘It rains, it’s boring’...he could never live here.
Famous kinfolk: Twinka is the daughter of pop artist Wayne Thiebaud , known for pigment-thick paintings of pastries. Between 1974 and 1976, Twinka was Henry Miller’s live-in caretaker and his personal chef. “It was an incredible household because there were all these interesting people passing through,” she says. “I served dinner to Jack Nicholson and all these interesting Hollywood people.” Thiebaud says Miller was “the grandfather I never had” and was with him on the day he died.
Job: “I’m an oil painter,” says Thiebaud, who shows her to work to her father when he visits. “My biggest influence is Richard Diebenkorn [another famous Portland native]. He was a good friend of my dad’s. Right now I’m focusing on non-objective painting. I also work at Reed College. I’m a ‘sandwich lady’ [for an on-campus food service company].”
Why Portland: “I came to Portland in 1993. I wanted to be in a city where there were readers. Portland has a wonderful neighborhood feel; all these little villages strung together like a beautiful necklace.”
Famous kinfolk: Jeremy’s the son of Alfred Sarant , an American physicist who spied for the Soviet Union. The elder Sarant was a friend and fellow Communist Party member of Julius Rosenberg, who was executed alongside his wife, Ethel, for sharing nuclear bomb secrets with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Alfred fled to Mexico when his spy cell began to unravel in the ’50s, then made his way to Russia, where he worked to develop micro-technology for the Soviets, receiving a state honor in 1969. He died of a heart attack in 1979.
Job: “I’m a non-practicing attorney,” says Sarant, who came to Portland in 1976. Active in the local United Way (he’s served as chairman and was on its board for a decade), Sarant coaches high-school kids in law-related programs. “There’s a constitutional law program at Franklin, and then there’s a mock trial organization at Meek. I’m in my eighth year of coaching [at Meek], and we’re getting closer and closer to catching Grant High School, the perennial champion.”
What brought you to Portland? “My ’74 Honda Civic. Just kidding. I was looking to relocate, looking for a new place to live.”
What’s your relationship with your dad like? “He left when I was three and a half. [That’s when] he disappeared. I have no conscious memories of him. I didn’t even find out about him until the year after he died. In my 20s I tried to find out everything I could about him, but I didn’t come up with anything. I knew his brothers and sisters. That’s given me some sense of him.”
What’s your opinion of your father today? “I may not exactly agree with what he did, but I can respect his reasons for doing it. I think he was an energetic, intelligent idealist who was committed to making what he believed was a better world. I think the times were very serious. People who believed in something committed themselves completely to it. There was less ambivalence then. Things were more black and white.”
Age: “I’m in my 40s.”
Famous kinfolk: She’s the daughter of Kenneth Mars , a character actor best known for his appearances in such Mel Brooks classics as Young Frankenstein . Younger viewers might know him as “Gunther, the Innkeeper,” on Hannah Montana .
Job: An actress, Susannah recently wrapped up Mars on Life: Holiday Edition at Artists Repertory Theater. She again takes the ART stage Feb. 12 for Rabbit Hole . “As a child, I begged my dad to take me to work with him,” says Mars. At the age of 10, Mars became a child actor, appearing on film (Freaky Friday ) and television (ABC After School Special: Me&My Dad’s New Wife ). In high school, her focus shifted. “I’d worked enough to know I liked [acting], but it was very competitive. I didn’t have it in me to be that competitive. I became a third-grade teacher in South Central L.A.”
What attracted Mars to Portland? Mars moved here from Los Angeles in 1988 to marry a chiropractor, Gary Johnson, after meeting him on a ski trip at Sunriver.
What’s your father think of Portland? He loves it here. He’ll take the MAX train, go to Powell’s Books, fly fish on the Deschutes. He’s a painter, so he loves the colors and the greenery. He’ll sit in the back yard and paints all day.”
Famous kinfolk: Allan is the brother-in-law of Ina Garten , a.k.a. the “Barefoot Contessa” on cable TV’s Food Network.
Job: Garten is an assistant United States attorney for the District of Oregon. “I moved here 26 years ago,” he says. “I wanted to live next to the Rockies.” (Nobody tell him we’re in the Cascades.)
What keeps you here? “My family and my job.”
When Ina comes to Portland, what do you two do? “She was here most recently for my daughter’s wedding. When she’s here, she comes to visit family. We enjoy going out to eat,” said Garten, who refuses to endorse any specific spot.
Famous kinfolk: Maureen’s family tree is packed with legends. The sister to Beach Boys lead singer Mike Love , she’s also the cousin of Brian , Carl and Dennis Wilson . She is sister to Stan Love , a former professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers who lives in Lake Oswego and whose son, Kevin Love, plays basketball for UCLA. (Fun fact: According to Stan’s Wikipedia entry, he was a bodyguard in the ’70s and ’80s for the Beach Boys. One of his main jobs was to keep Brian away from drugs. )
Job: A freelance musician and photographer, Maureen is best known as Pink Martini’s harpist. But she wasn’t always a harpist. Before the California beach boys became “The Beach Boys,” they were called the Pendletons. Maureen was its only girl singer. “My parents were protective and pulled me out of the group,” she says. It was at that same time the Pendletons found out another band already had that name. “That’s how they became the Beach Boys.”
Does she see much of the Beach Boys? Brian was here a couple of years ago for a concert, and I went backstage to visit him. He seemed much better than he had been in the past.”
Who knew? “In high school I was an all-city champ in ping-pong. Our family is very athletic.”
Famous kinfolk: Son of abstract expressionist Robert Rauschenberg and painter Susan Weil. Christopher is an artist, too, but his medium is photography.
Job: Rauschenberg has a new book of images titled Paris Changing (Princeton Architectural Press, 192 pages, $40) retracing the 1898 footsteps of French photographer Eugène Atget. While Christopher’s own work goes for anywhere from $600 to $1,000, his father’s work sells for millions of dollars.
Why Portland? Christopher came here to go to Reed, but “wasn’t crazy about it.” He decided to go to the Evergreen State College and, when he graduated, thought he might become a filmmaker but instead became a still photographer. “It was cheaper,” he says. He was also founding member of Blue Sky Gallery.
Does his father visit much? “No, we visit him all over the world. But he helped us out with Blue Sky’s capital campaign.” (Last year, Blue Sky moved to its new home inside the North Park Blocks’ DeSoto Building.) “He donated a piece to Blue Sky,” Rauschenberg explains. “We in turn sold it to [arts patron] Carol Hampton, who in turn donated it to the Portland Art Museum. It sold for over a million dollars.”
Vince Paveskovic (a.k.a. “Coach Pesky”)
Age: I’m 86,” says a spry-sounding Pesky in his Northwest Portland home. “Eat a lot of garlic. It’ll keep you young—and people away from you.”
Famous kinfolk: Vince, a.k.a. “Coach,” is the brother of Johnny Pesky , a hustling shortstop who was such an indelible part of the great Red Sox teams of the 1940s he earned himself the nickname “Mr. Red Sox.” A legend in the Boston organization—he helped raise the championship banner after the 2004 World Series win—he’s immortalized by “Pesky’s Pole,” the right-field foul pole in Fenway Park.
Job: “I’m retired, but back in the day I played a little professional baseball myself. At my size and speed, I figured I’d better get into education. I spent 35 years teaching in Portland’s public schools.”
Did you ever get to meet any of Johnny’s teammates? “Oh yeah. Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr. Also Joe Gordon [Yankees, Indians], who went to Jefferson High and the University of Oregon. “
Thoughts on being a Portland native? “Best city to live in the world, if you don’t mind the rain. Like Harry Glickman [the former president of the Trail Blazers] said, ‘This is a big-league city and people don’t even know about it.’”
Your brother Johnny still lives in Boston? “He lives in Swampscott, just outside of Boston. Johnny was out here last year as a speaker for a sports banquet. He loves Portland but hates the rain.”
Christopher Michael McCarthy Yarrow
Famous kinfolk: Christopher is the son of Peter Yarrow . Peter was part of the seminal 1960s folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. His mother is another Mary, Mary Elizabeth McCarthy, niece of 1968 presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. Peter met Mary Elizabeth at a “Get Clean for Gene” rally in Portland during the 1968 presidential race.
Job: For six years Christopher has been the proprietor of Old Town’s The Monkey and the Rat, a world-goods emporium he likens to “somewhere between a museum and a junk shop.”
What keeps Christopher here: “Portland is a ‘big town,’ and it’s as much city as I can take. The affordability thing is right up my alley. My folks helped me buy a house. I’m close to everything I love: the city, ocean and mountains. When I first moved to Portland [in 1999], I got a job waiting tables at McMenamins Edgefield. I’ d never done anything like that before. It was great.”
What else would you like to do? I’m trained as a painter, and my parents would like me to continue doing that, but I just tried out for the ski patrol.
Famous kinfolk: Oswald is the great, great grandson of ketchup czar H.J. Heinz . He’s also related to Sen. John Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. Oswald, when asked directly about his lineage, had this to say: “I’m Honey’s grandson, my mom’s son and Laura’s brother. And Ryan and Rudy the ice-cream guy’s housemate. Aren’t we all related when you go back far enough?”
Job: “I’m a manager,” says Oswald , who came to Portland in 1998 to attend Lewis&Clark College. “Most of the year I’m working with p:ear [Oswald is on the board of the art gallery that provides artistic programs and services to homeless and transitioning youth]. The rest of the year [I work with] a band called the Libros.” In 2006, Oswald closed his infamous arty-cum-party-friendly Gallery 500.
What keeps him in Portland: “I have a life and a house in Portland,” says Oswald from California. “It’s the best place to be who you want to be.”
Famous kinfolk: She is the daughter of famed film director Sam Peckinpah , who made violent, beautiful movies about men a lot like himself: hard-drinking, misogynistic and combative. (When he was drunk, Peckinpah liked to take out his gun collection and aim for nearby mirrors. So do the characters in his movies.) He’s still famous for The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs —but it’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid that best captures his mournful, stoic vision of men doomed to violent ends.
Job: Kristen, a former actress, appeared in Without Evidence , the 1995 film of the Michael Francke murder, which starred a then-unknown Angelina Jolie. It was directed and co-written by her husband, Gill Dennis, who went on to write the screenplay for the Johnny Cash bio-pic Walk the Line .
Why Portland? I would come here to visit my mother.” (Sam’s first wife, Marie Selland, lived in Portland until her death in 2006.)
Anything else you want to share with us? “No.”
Test your knowledge of other almost famous relatives of celebrities:
1. A musicmaker from local band Sophe Lux is related to what well-known, local indie filmmaker?
Wendy Haynes is the sister of Todd Haynes (I’m Not There ).
2. Rick Caesar, who lives in Eugene, is the son of what comic legend?
3. Pink Martini chanteuse China Forbes is a distant relative of what former presidential candidate as well as an up-and-coming indie rocker?
She is a distant cousin of John Kerry (not flat-taxer Steve Forbes) and the first cousin of Grizzly Bear guitarist Edward Droste.
4. Local actress and therapist Vana O’Brien is the daughter of what Academy Award-winning MGM actor?
5. Linda Carroll, a Corvallis psychologist, wrote about her famous writer mother and her famous rocker/actress daughter in her tell-all biography Her Mother’s Daughter. Who are they?
Paula Fox and Courtney Love.
6. He had his own talk show and now appears on FOX News. His son went to Catlin Gabel. Who are they?
Geraldo and Cruz Rivera.
7. His dad was secretary of defense under both Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush. He once was a member of X-PAC, a now defunct Portland Generation X political action committee. Who are they?
Donald and Nick Rumsfeld.
8. This family was featured in a controversial 2003 documentary about a “seemingly normal middle-class living in the affluent New York suburb of Great Neck.” Which members make their home in Portland?
Capturing the Friedmans’ Seth and Howard Friedman.
9. Who is the Lake O mama of a right-leaning MTV VJ who currently hosts Reality Remix on the Fox Reality channel?
Maria McCarthy is the mother of Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery.
10. A Portland artist, he likes robotics and saving arts organizations. His dad is one of the richest men in the world, and through marriage he’s related to our current President’s mother. Who is he?
Henry Hillman Jr. is related to former First Lady Barbara Bush.
Bonus: His dad was attorney general under Eisenhower and secretary of state under Nixon. He also headed up the Rogers Commission to investigate the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. In 2001, as a Portland city attorney, the son became the face of the city’s opposition to greater cooperation with John Ashcroft. Who are they?
William and Jeff Rogers.
Props: Amanda Waldroupe and John Minervini contributed to this story.