Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Suburban Man: Suburban Greatness
By Rick Kaempfer
I’ve given a few speeches to suburban high school kids about the challenges of succeeding in life as a “creative.” I can see the doubtful looks in their eyes when I tell them there is no reason it can’t happen to them. They think that living in the suburbs is somehow depriving them of the kind of environment necessary to create art.
Of course that’s ridiculous, but sometimes kids need to see real life examples around them to realize the possibilities. It’s only natural to think that living in the big city is necessary when you see how many famous and talented people come from a place like Chicago. What suburban kids don’t fully appreciate, however, is that many of these people who are identified as “Chicagoans” are actually suburbanites just like them.
The list is long and impressive.
How can a suburban kid from the Chicago area ever become a movie star? It certainly hasn’t hampered the careers of Vince Vaughn (Buffalo Grove), Gary Sinese (Highland Park), Denise Richards (Downers Grove), Joe Mantegna (Cicero), Marlin Brando (Libertyville), John and Joan Cusack (Evanston), or Ann Margret and Charlton Heston (Wilmette).
How can a suburban kid from the Chicago area ever become a comedian or comic actor? It’s not possible, unless of course you consider the success stories of Jack Benny (Waukegan), John and Jim Belushi (Wheaton), Bill Murray (Wilmette), Harold Ramis (Glencoe), Andy Dick (Joliet), Andy Richter (Yorkville) or Sean Hayes (Glen Ellyn).
How can a suburban kid from the Chicago area ever become a rock star? Ted Nugent (Arlington Heights), Jim Peterik (Berwyn), Liz Phair (Winnetka) and Billy Corgan (Glendale Heights) managed to do it.
A writer? The former Wheaton teenager Bob Woodward broke a fairly big story in the 70s, if I recall. Also, I haven’t heard of this guy named Hemingway, but Oak Park residents tell me he was pretty passable in his day.
When you’re a teenager, the suburbs may seem like a pretty boring place, but it’s certainly not holding anyone back. The truth is that most people don’t go into these high profile creative professions, and for those who don’t, the quality suburban school systems are providing the kind of education that is crucial. But even if your child finds the arts calling his name, and he decides he simply must pursue his dream…the trail has already been blazed by people who were just like him when they were teenagers.
Absolutely everything is possible. Even for suburbanites.
Are you telling me that growing up in Mt. Prospect, “Where friendliness is a way of life”, somehow hampered surly former Cubs slugger Dave Kingman? NO! He overcame that friendliness to be one of the biggest jerks on the planet.
Would you claim that a suburban kid from Lyons Township High School shouldn’t try to become the biggest recording star in Germany? Well, David Hasselhoff must not have gotten that memo.
Do you pity the fools in Lake Forest who told Mr. T. to go away just because he chopped down hundred year old suburban trees? Mr. T. didn’t end up on the B-team, folks. He ended up on the A-Team.
Would you claim that a suburban kid could also never make it in Washington? Tell that to the Senator from Park Ridge, Hillary Clinton, or the Speaker of the House from Yorkville, Dennis Hastert. Tell that to former Winnetka teenager Donald Rumsfeld. They might just disagree with you.
Just because you live in the suburbs, and you eat dinner at a non-descript corporate owned Applebee’s, and you shop at a generic corporate owned Gap, and you drink coffee at your local corporate owned suburban Starbucks, doesn’t mean you can’t become an artist, a movie star, a television star, a writer, a rock star, or even a politician. To the contrary; it’s good training.
Those corporations and other corporations just like them also own any and all outlets that will ever pay you money for your art if you want to make it in Hollywood or New York, or finance your campaign if you ever want to make it in Washington. If you can function in the suburbs, you have no idea how well that prepares you to succeed in the world today.
In fact, that should be in every one of our brochures.
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