Off Beat: Namesakes spur speculation about local celebrities

By Craig Brown and Susan Parrish

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In the news business, not every story checks out. That was proven time and again last week when two potential stories dealing with local celebrities surfaced.

On Monday, a longtime reader sent this note: "Is the Ricky Lee Jackson on the jail roster the local doctor, musician and conservative? Thanks."

Wow. That would be quite a surprise. Not only is Jackson, a Battle Ground physician, prominent and successful in his own right, he is the father of Jonathan Jackson, a cast member of the CBS soap "General Hospital" and recent winner of a fifth Daytime Emmy award. Another son, Richard Lee Jackson, joins Jonathan in the indy rock band Enation.

A check of the jail roster showed that a Ricky Lee Jackson was, indeed, in jail for violation of a Superior Court sentence.

The story quickly started to fall apart. The man in jail was five years younger than the doctor, and listed a modest Vancouver duplex as his address.

Furthermore, this Ricky Lee Jackson has a criminal record. The current charge had stemmed from an old drug possession case in which Jackson received a court-appointed attorney because he was unable to afford counsel, and then had to set up a payment plan to cover a small fine. Certainly, they are different people.

Scratch that story.

Tuesday brought another possible brush with celebrity: Laural Porter and Joe Smith of Portland took out a marriage license in Clark County. Hey, don't they both work on-air for KGW-TV? And aren't they both married? What's going on over at Channel 8 besides Olympics coverage?

Again the facts got in the way of a good story. Joe Smith and Laural Porter did indeed take out a marriage license. He's a 48-year-old personal trainer and she's a 45-year-old administrative assistant. They live together in an apartment.

A quick check shows that these are different people. Just last month, KGW's Porter posted her wedding photo on her Facebook page and notes that it was her 25th wedding anniversary. But we called the station, just to be sure. Porter took a moment to call us back.

"Joe and I have been laughing over this," she said, still laughing. "We got a big kick out of it."

But we will persevere. If someone named Christine Gregoire takes out a building permit, we'll be on the phone to Olympia.

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.