22 Chicago "celebrities": It's a dubious distinction

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  • Billy Dec

    Who he is: Baseball cap-topped nightlife impresario, often seen giving the Zoolander blue steel look in photos with visiting celebs in his bars and restaurants.
    Why he�s Chicago famous:
    His ability to shamelessly self-promote, as evidenced by this.

  • Miss Foozie

    Who she is: Boystown�s most famous drag queen
    Why she�s Chicago famous: Her hair looks like a pineapple. And she becomes every new-to-Chicago gay�s best friend. Or at least his or her friend on Facebook.

  • Tamale Guy

    Who he is: Claudio Velez, late-night seller of tamales in Wicker Park/Bucktown bars
    Why he�s Chicago famous: Our Arts & Culture editor, Laura Pearson offers this first-person account of Velez�s fame: "I was standing outside the Rainbo Club with a friend from out of town, both of us famished. 'Normally, I'd say we should just wait around for the Tamale Guy, but I don't have any cash on me,' I told him. Not a minute later Velez rounded the corner with his signature red cooler full of homemade tamales that he sells at bars all over the city. 'Tamales, tamales?' he asked me. 'I wish! Outta cash,' I replied. 'It's okay. You pay me next time,' he said, handing me a bag of cheese tamales on his way into the bar. In one fell swoop I had the rare pleasure of introducing my friend to a Chicago celebrity, Midwestern hospitality and the best drunk food-er, late-night food-Chicago has to offer. (And yes, I paid him back. Wouldn't want to mess up so crucial a relationship.)" For his whereabouts, follow @tamaletracker.

  • Chaz Walters

    Who he is: Coldwell Banker real estate agent
    Why he�s Chicago famous: His face appears on billboards around town next to the words Hot Property. See what he�s doing there? He�s having you wonder, Gee, are his condo listings hot, or is it he of smoldering gaze who is the hot property? The answer is: yes.

  • Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

    State Street Preacher

    Who he is: F.K.A. Old Navy Preacher, Rev. Samuel Chambers has been preaching on the corner of State and Washington, which used to house an Old Navy and is now a Gap, for decades using a mic and portable speaker.
    Why he�s Chicago famous: For the vile things he says about homosexuals, smokers and anyone else he deems sinful.

  • Photograph: Ian D Merritt

    �Hot� Doug Sohn

    Who he is: Owner of Hot Doug�s, an encased meat emporium with a cult following
    Why he�s Chicago famous: Waiting in the interminable line snaking outside his hot dog stand and ordering from the man himself, who is always behind the counter, is a Chicago rite of passage.

  • Tom Skilling

    Who he is: Weatherman extraordinaire on WGN-TV
    Why he�s Chicago famous: His savant-like knowledge of weather systems, and contagious delight in reporting on them, make him Chicago�s go-to meteorologist-even though we don�t know what the hell he�s talking abut with that El Ni�o shit.

  • Betty Loren-Maltese

    Who she is: Disgraced former Cicero town president, ex-con
    Why she�s Chicago famous: Well, you know, the crimes and stuff. But also her ability to stay in the news after she was let out of jail. To make some much-needed cash, she had a massive garage sale and took a job as a hostess at an Oak Park pizzeria, and made sure the media knew about it.

  • Michael Powell

    Who he is: Velvet-voiced Red Line train operator
    Why he�s Chicago famous: While most El operators let the automated voice do the talking, Powell stands out by offering quips like �I just work here� and �Enjoy your dinner. Tomorrow�s a new day.�

  • The Landan twins

    Who they are: Jon and Andrew Landan are neon-clad, deeply tanned identical twins who show up together to nearly every party in River North.
    Why they�re Chicago famous: The air of mystery surrounding them: Do they have a trust fund? What do they do for a living? How do they keep getting invited to these parties? Our story cleared it up: They�re basically party planners.

  • Ronnie �Woo Woo� Wickers

    Who he is: The Cubs� most vocal fan
    Why he�s Chicago famous: He shows up to nearly every Cubs game to shout, �Cubs woo!� and other variations of noun + woo. Turns out the poor guy may have wooed his last woo: He is losing his voice.

  • Eddie and JoBo

    Who they are: Longtime radio personality duo Ed Volkman and Joe Bohannon
    Why they�re Chicago famous: They hosted a morning-zoo-style radio show on B96 for more than 20 years. Now they�re more �famous� for their wonderfully awful United Auto Insurance commercials, as spoofed by the WGN Morning News.

  • Photograph: Chris Strong

    Alpana Singh

    Who she is: Master Sommelier, former host of Check, Please! and owner of restaurant the Boarding House
    Why she�s Chicago famous: Check, Please! has a mystifyingly rabid following, and she was, depending on whom you ask, unfailingly charming or bizarrely wooden. But her husband, author Charles Blackstone, is rapidly ascending the �Chicago famous� ladder with his cringe-worthy new novel.

  • Bob Rohrman

    Who he is: Owner of many car dealerships in the Chicago area, commercial king
    Why he�s Chicago famous: What are the odds that a dude named Bob Rohrman would physically resemble a lion? Very low. That is why he is famous.

  • Eagle Man ladies

    Who they are: Two women who looked like they were dragged out of a Blue Island slashie at 3am to star in one of the most bizarre commercials of all time.
    Why they�re Chicago famous: �Oooh, look at those low rates!�

  • Courtesy of the artist

    Jan Terri

    Who she is: An outsider musician with luxurious hair
    Why she�s Chicago famous: The early days of YouTube exposed this suburbanite's grainy, campy videos for bizarro earworms like "Get Down Goblin" and "Journey to Mars" to the world and made a fan in Marilyn Manson. But the cult singer's comeback, which we reported on a couple years ago, didn't amount to much beyond some live gigs and releasing a video for "Skyrockets," keeping Terri a locals-only fave.

  • Walter E. Smithe brothers

    Who they are: Three brothers who own a custom furniture empire
    Why they�re Chicago famous: Their commercials have been getting weirder and weirder, and less and less about furniture, peaking with this ad featuring wrestlers�and Billy Corgan.

  • The Puppet Bike guy

    Who he is: Artist and inventor of the Puppet Bike, a mobile puppet theater
    Why he�s Chicago famous: His wooden puppet hutch, attached to a bike, is the best kind of street theater. Charming, cute, funny�and there�s no one to give you the stink eye if you don�t tip.

  • Photograph: Andrew Nawrocki

    Tony Tag

    Who he is: Tony Taglia, a Sammy Hagar-on-a-bad-day look-alike
    Why he�s Chicago famous: He�s often seen tooling around River North and the Gold Coast in a red Ferrari (which you can rent, by the way) , often shirtless or wearing the smallest thread of a tank top. And that hair.

  • Phil Ponce

    Who he is: Affable host of Chicago Tonight
    Why he�s Chicago famous: He is perhaps the nicest guy on TV, and he�s sired some Chicago-famous children: Dan Ponce, a reporter and anchor for WGN-TV; Anthony Ponce, a reporter for NBC-5; and Maria Ponce, an accomplished photographer.

  • Photograph: Rebecca Gizicki/Courtesy of The Numero Group

    Syl Johnson

    Who he is: Litigious soul singer
    Why he�s Chicago famous: Syl Johnson sued his way into the spotlight. Deservingly. A soul fixture in the late-'60s, early-'70s, the South Sider fading into record bin obscurity-until most of the hip-hop world started sampling "Different Strokes." The outspoken septuagenarian took action against Kanye West and Jay Z for an unlicensed sample in "Otis" and continues to club around town these days after a revival of his material from local label the Numero Group.

  • Sharkula

    Who he is: Prolific rapper, CD hawker
    Why he�s Chicago famous: If you looked up at one of the advertising box lights on an El train in the last decade-plus, there�s a good chance you've spotted a promotional postcard, sticker or flyer for Sharkula. Or perhaps the batty rapper handed you a burned CD of one of his three dozen albums. The man born Brian Wharton is a natural hustler as much as an MC, as documented in the 2010 film Sharkula: Diarrhea of a Madman. We've written about him; one of our interns wrote about him. It's part of the ritual of covering Chicago music: You gotta do the obligatory Sharkula piece.

Billy Dec

Who he is: Baseball cap-topped nightlife impresario, often seen giving the Zoolander blue steel look in photos with visiting celebs in his bars and restaurants.
Why he�s Chicago famous:
His ability to shamelessly self-promote, as evidenced by this.

Did we miss any? Add to our list in the comments section!


Last week, BuzzFeed took a break from writing about the 27 signs you're in your late twenties (No. 1: You are in your late twenties) and put together a list of "celebrities" only famous in New York. Of course, that got us thinking about who would make the Chicago list. Check out our picks below.



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