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5 interesting facts about 5 Oklahoma celebrities

by Richard Hall Modified: June 20, 2013 at 9:05 am •  Published: June 20, 2013

Oklahoma is the birthplace for many a celebrity, but not all of them are all that interesting (I’m looking at you James Marsden*). There are a handful, however, that have interesting factoids about their lives that are worth sharing. It could be because they’re funny or inspiring, or maybe it’s because they’re downright embarrassing (just wait until you get to the Dr. Phil part of this read).

In any case, here are five interesting facts about five Oklahoma-born celebrities that you may or may not know.


5. Oh, what could have been

Who he is and what he’s famous for:

If you don’t know who that man is and why he’s awesome, then I’m done with you.

The interesting fact:

Ryan, Okla., is a small town just north of the Red River and southwest of Ardmore, but it definitely ushered in one of the most important people of the last century: Chuck Norris.

Norris has been in countless movies and TV shows, and is a black belt in being awesome. If you believe the rumors, Norris never has to use an umbrella because raindrops dodge him.

But the interesting fact about Norris is that he was offered the role of Red Forman in the popular sitcom “That ’70s Show.” Sadly, Norris had to turn down the role because he was busy kicking ass and taking names as “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

Being a fan of “That ’70s Show” and also being completely happy with how the character of Red Forman was written (ultimately portrayed by Kurtwood Smith), I can’t help but think the original draft of the character was written specifically for Norris. Norris is known to be a conservative dude (except when it comes to violence) and as awesome as it would’ve been, I can’t picture him portraying the Red Forman we got with Smith.


4. Maverick gets things organized

Who he is and what he’s famous for:

James Garner is a Norman native who has been a screen actor since the 1950s. He attended Norman High School and is a huge supporter for the University of Oklahoma, specifically the college’s drama school.

Garner’s one of the first actors to successfully tackle big- and small-screen productions, and is known for his roles as Bret Maverick in “Maverick” and Jim Rockford in “The Rockford Files.” He also starred in a little gem of a movie called “Murphy’s Romance,” alongside Sally Field.

The interesting fact:

Yeah, it’s cool that Garner has a street named after him in Norman. And yeah it’s cool that he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. But an even cooler fact about Garner’s legacy is that he helped organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

A pinnacle event in our nation’s history, the March on Washington was paramount in getting both the Civil Rights and Voter’s Rights Acts passed in the mid 1960s. Sure, sure, there were a good number of celebrities at the event because that’s what celebrities do: They cling to such things to make themselves look better. But the word on the street is that Garner was in it for everything but the spotlight, and the story is he was legitimately active in the march’s organization.


3. The guy who directed ‘The Pink Panther’ is a charmer

Who he is and what he’s famous for:

Filmmaker Blake Edwards is a Tulsa native who is one of the most beloved comedic directors of the 20th century. He’s known mostly for his work with the always-hilarious Peter Sellers in “The Pink Panther” film series, but he is also the man responsible for “Operation Petticoat” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

The interesting fact:

Alright, so, Edwards is a charmer, and you reckon he’s a good one if he scored a beautiful woman like Julie Andrews. How he charmed her, though, is a tale that includes a bit of naughtiness but a ton of humor.

One time, when speaking of Andrews, Edwards said she is “so sweet she probably has violets between her legs.” Ha! Well, as these things go, Andrews heard about the remark through the grapevine and decided to let Edwards know what she thought of it…

By sending him a bouquet of violets.

The couple married in 1969 and were together until Edwards’ death in 2010.


2. Nov. 23, 1968, will forever haunt Dr. Phil (and the University of Tulsa)

Who he is and what he’s famous for:

A Vinita native, Phil McGraw got famous after becoming a TV personality with his hit show, “Dr. Phil.”

A lot of people kind of despise McGraw, mostly citing his arrogance and the perceived preying he does on mentally ill people, which he then exploits on his television show.

The interesting fact:

Some people already know that McGraw actually is no longer licensed to practice psychology in any state, but since his television show is considered more entertainment than anything else, he can get away with it.

What you might not know is that McGraw was a middle linebacker for the University of Tulsa’s Golden Hurricane in the 1960s, and that he played in the infamous Nov. 23, 1968, game against the University of Houston.

Why was it infamous? Because Tulsa got romped, and romped hard — Houston beat them 100-6 in one of the most lopsided games in college football history.

Was it Dr. Phil’s fault? No one knows for sure. But he transferred to Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, the following year, which instantly improved the city of Tulsa.


1. Controversial Tulsan inspires famous filmmaker

Who he is and what he’s famous for:

Larry Clark is one of Tulsa’s most important people ever. He’s a writer, director, producer and photographer, and has documented the lives of the youth counterculture since the 1960s.

This has kind of turned Clark into a controversial figure, since his work often details graphic use of drugs, sex and violence. He wrote and directed the 1995 film “Kids,” in which a reckless teen with AIDS makes it his goal to bed as many virgins as possible, all while a victim attempts to save others from him. Then, in 2002, he released a movie he directed called “Ken Park,” which is based on characters of his.

Ken Park” is a hard movie for many to watch because of the subject matter, which is the destructive home environments the main characters have to deal with, and how they choose to deal with them.

The interesting fact:

But before all that, Clark released a photography book called “Tulsa” in 1971. It’s a collection of black-and-white photographs of Tulsa’s youth at the time.

And a lot of people hate the book, calling it exploitative and voyeuristic. I agree with Clark’s response, however, when he explained that he was a part of that culture and simply documented it as he went.

Despite the flack it gets, “Tulsa” is praised by many and has influenced a great deal of culturists, including renowned filmmaker Martin Scorsese.

Everyone pretty much considers Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” to be one of the best American films of the 1970s. And without Clark’s “Tulsa,” we likely never would have gotten the “Taxi Driver” we did.



*J/K, Marsden. You were good in “Enchanted.”

by Richard Hall
Digital Media Specialist
Richard Hall is an award-winning newsroom developer, editor and blogger for NewsOK. He was born in Austin, Texas, spent his childhood in southern California and has lived in Norman since 1999. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2008.
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