Even though I’ve traveled to all 50 states in the U.S. and have been to every major city and most midsized cities, I’ve never been to Kalamazoo (metro pop. 326,589). I have been to Grand Rapids, Michigan and South Bend, Indiana— so I’ve been close. But did you know there’s been some big league talent from Kalamazoo? Hollywood talent.
Since this is a blog on screenwriting why don’t I start with one of the highest paid screenwriters in the history of motion pictures—Terry Rossio. Born right there in Kalamafrickin’zoo before he went on to pick up major checks for co-writing Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and the upcoming The Lone Ranger.
Novelist Edna Ferber whose work made it to the big screen many times including Cimarron, Show Boat, and Giant (which starred Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean)—yep, she was born in Kalamazoo.
McG who directed We Are Marshall and Terminator Salvation as well as executive producer on The O.C. and Check—born in Kalamazoo. Actor Tim Allen (Home Improvement) attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where he majored in television production and worked as a DJ on the school radio station.
You can visit this IMDB link to see others in the film business with a connection to Kalamazoo, but perhaps the biggest name, highest achiever from Kalamazoo really does play in the big leagues. That would be Derek Jeter who has played shortstop for the New York Yankees for the past 18 years. His list of accomplishments is astonishing; Rookie of the Year, American League MVP, All-Star Game MVP, World Series MVP, Golden Glove, and collector of five World Series rings. Recently he became just the 28th player in the history of baseball to cross the 3,000 hit plateau.
Jeter moved to Kalamazoo when he was four and played baseball at Kalamazoo Central High School where he was named USA Today’s High School Player of the Year his senior year in 1992. According to Wikipedia, when the Yankee’s were reluctant to draft Jeter because they thought he might take a scholarship to the University of Michigan, Yankee scout Dick Groch said, “The only place Derek Jeter is going is to Cooperstown.” And when Jeter’s career is over, he is in fact a sure bet to head to Copperstown, New York—home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Once again proving that talent comes from everywhere.
P.S. According to the Kalamazoo Public Library, Kakamazoo appears to be a Native American word from the Potawatomi tribe and the word is generally believed to mean something like “boiling pot,” ‘where the water boils,” or “reflecting river.” The name of the village of Branson was changed to Kalamazoo in March 1836. A 1823 Atlas identifies the area as “Kikalemazo.”