Arts & entertainment in 2014: Gevinson, Strong, Galecki and more

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By Ashley Lisenby

Digital Editor

Tavi Gevinson

If the list of noteworthy celebrities with Oak Park and River Forest connections were a high school prom, Tavi Gevinson, would be the queen. The recent Oak Park and River Forest High School graduate was earlier spotted in the halls of OPRF with New Zealand pop singer Lorde, she published a third Rookie Yearbook, appeared in Vogue magazine posing in a tree, and she landed a role in a Steppenwolf production and then on Broadway in This Is Our Youth as a teen writhing with angst from impending adulthood. 

Cecily Strong

The 2002 OPRF grad would be Gevinson's "BFFL" (Best Friend For Life) at the dance. The "Saturday Night Live" ensemble member's star rose quickly as she earned a spot on the "Weekend Update" desk alongside Seth Meyers earlier in the year. Meyers left to host "Late Night." After a short stint with a co-host she was replaced and moved into the main cast ensemble. Strong did lead a solo "Update" during the CES Tech Conference this year, and she appeared on quite a few magazine covers in 2014. She was also chosen to host the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2015.

Johnny Galecki

Since Galecki starred in a Hyundai Elantra commercial during the 2014 Super Bowl — in which he flew through a ring of flame in said car — as well as sporting a black motorcycle jacket on the cover of SPLASH earlier this year, he gets to be the "desirable bad boy" in the high school dance analogy. You're welcome, Leonard. The Big Bang star became one of the highest-earning cast members on the CBS show along with Jim Parsons (Sheldon) and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting (Penny). The trio will make $1 million per episode for the next three seasons. 

Gail Mancuso

Mancuso won her second Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series for the Modern Family episode "Las Vegas." The Melrose Park native and part-time River Forest resident fought back tears and finished her acceptance speech by locking eyes with award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey.

Alex Kotlowitz

The longtime Oak Park resident and author and now filmmaker (The Interrupters with Steve James), along with his colleagues Linda Lutton and Ben Calhoun, received a 2013 Peabody Award for a two-part This American Life series on WBEZ called "Harper High School."

Steve James

And speaking of Oak Park's longtime resident and documentary filmmaker, James' latest effort, Life Itself, based on the late, beloved film critic Roger Ebert's autobiography, made the rounds of the film festivals (including Cannes) and is now awaiting word on Oscar nominations. He deserves one.

Kathy Griffin

Even if you're not a fan of Oak Park native Griffin's racy stand-up and in-your-face style, you have to give her props for joining the elite group of comics this year. After a number of nominations in previous years, Griffin won her first Grammy in January for best comedy album. Griffin is the third woman, after Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg, to win the award. 

Thomas Lennon

I'm just gonna say it. Sean Saves The World ended too soon. On the short lived NBC sitcom starring Sean Hayes, OPRF grad Thomas Lennon played his anal-retentive boss Max. The show ended in the spring, but not long after Lennon was cast as Felix in the 2015 reboot of The Odd Couple starring Matthew Perry as Oscar.

Betty White

The world suffered a bit of a scare back in September when satiric news source Empire News reported that Oak Park native Betty White "dyes." The Twitterverse chirped with exaggerated rumors of White's demise until sources confirmed with her agent later in the day that the "Hot in Cleveland" actress was, indeed, alive. Goodness gracious, we almost dyed of shock.

Jeff Mauro

Yet another OPRF grad, Jeff Mauro, more famously known around these parts as "The Sandwich King," won $3,500 for the Oak Park non-profit Hephzibah Children's Association as a contestant on Guy Fieri's Food Network Show "Guy's Grocery Games" this past summer.

Rachel Baiman

Oak Park native Rachel Baiman released her first solo album, Speakeasy Man, in January, 2014Baiman drew inspiration from traditional Scottish and American folk music in her debut album. The fiddling pro and her sister have been running a summer fiddling camp in Oak Park since 2010.

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Reader Comments

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Ashley Lisenby from Chicago, Illinois Wednesday Journal Employee

Posted: January 8th, 2015 9:11 AM

Did some more digging. and found the Friedberger connection to Oak Park. Thanks, readers. I'll keep an eye out for them in 2015.

Ashley Lisenby from Chicago, Illinois Wednesday Journal Employee

Posted: January 8th, 2015 8:55 AM

Thank you. I will make that "Rookie" update. And Eleanor Friedberger has her hometown listed as New York City...what is her local connection? Thanks, A.


Posted: January 7th, 2015 11:50 AM

Eleanor Friedberger should totally be on this list. Also, Tavi put out the third rookie book last year, not the second.

Chris Withey from Oak Park   

Posted: January 6th, 2015 11:16 PM

What about the Friedbergers?

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