Evanston has been home to a handful of celebrities before they were even rising stars.
Here are a few notable Evanston connections.
Before Tina Fey created and starred in the hit NBC comedy 30 Rock, before she became Saturday Night Live’s first female head writer, she was a 22-year-old recent-college-graduate manning the front desk at Evanston’s McGaw YMCA.
In her 2011 book, Bossypants, Fey allocates an entire chapter to describing the ins and outs of her 5:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift, including quips about her early-morning CTA ride from Morse to downtown Evanston’s Davis Street station and her Friday lunch treat of “a greasy slice of pizza and onion rings at Giggio’s down the street”. It was during her time at the YMCA front desk that Fey began taking evening classes at Second City, Chicago’s famed improve comedy theater.
Any Evanstonians remember seeing Fey during early-90s, early-morning YMCA visits?
Two-time Academy Award-winning actor Marlon Brando was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1924, but his family moved to Evanston in 1930 after his father landed a job with the Calcium Carbonate Company of Chicago.
According to Charles Higham’s 1987 book, Brando: An Unauthorized Biography, the family rented an east-facing, two-story house at 1044 Judson Ave. The biography describes how Brando, his sisters and other neighborhood children would spend their summers playing at Greenleaf Street and Lee Street beaches, heading to the local soda fountain, watching Westerns at Main Theater and “Howard movie shows”, and “[shouting] at the crazy lady on Sheridan Road by the lake.”
Marlon’s sister Frances later described Evanston as a “thrilling, even glamorous environment”, the prefect-sized town for the children to explore on their bikes, according to Higham’s book.
Brando’s family later moved to an apartment at 524 Sheridan Square. Shortly after, he began attending nearby Lincoln School, where his teachers later described him as a bright, mischievous kid who often fought to defend playground underdogs.
According to the book, the Brandos finally left Evanston in 1938 after Marlon’s mother developed a scandalous reputation around the dry town as an alcoholic who had bought bootlegged liquor during Prohibition years.
While including famous Northwestern University alums in a catalogue of notable Evanston connections would generally stretch, bloat and cheapen the list, Seth Meyers makes the cut because he was also born in Evanston Hospital. Though Meyers was raised in New Hampshire, the future Saturday Night Live head writer and 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner host returned to Evanston to attend Northwestern University and graduated with a “degree in radio/television/film” from the School of Communication in 1996.
“Buff Joe's was a big freshman place for me,” said Meyers in a 2011 interview with The Daily Northwestern, “and then Tommy Nevin's was definitely another good one towards the end of school. Once you go there, you feel like an adult. And I'll probably feel really old when I go back there now… Even though I grew up in New England, Evanston still has a really special place in my life even where I am now. The people that I met there have really helped me get to this point.”
Meyers returned to Evanston in 2011, when he served as Grand Marshall for Northwestern’s Homecoming Parade and Pep Rally.
Before Pearl Jam front-man Eddie Vedder became the second most recognizable face of Seattle’s early-90s grunge movement, he spent several years of his youth living in Evanston.
According to Kim Neely’s 1998 book, Five Against One: The Pearl Jam Story¸ Vedder was born in 1964 in Evanston, where his biological father had a job with the Seaboard Finance Company. After his parents 1965 divorce, his mother’s remarriage and a short-lived relocation to Texas, Vedder’s family returned to Evanston in 1968, settling down at 825 Forrest Ave.
As a child, Vedder worked as a child model for local retail store catalogs, appeared in several television ads and even made an appearance on the Bozo the Clown show. Later, Vedder’s parents headed an Evanston-based group home, located on Chicago Avenue, where they were paid to provide a stable home for six boys.
Vedder eventually moved to San Diego and later up to Seattle, but he returned to Chicago’s North Shore for long enough in his teens to earn his GED from Oakton Community College.
Evanston Hospital connections
Evanston Hospital serves many North Shore communities, and, as such, some famous folks with Evanston connections were only born in Evanston and never raised here. Notable names of those born in Evanston include Academy Award-winning actor Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur, The Ten Commandments, El Cid, Planet of the Apes), former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, REO Speedwagon lead-vocalist Kevin Cronin, many of the names on Patch’s famous ETHS alum list and more.