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Jan. 25, 2020

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Clark County boasts fair share of current, former celebrity residents

From ‘The Rock’ to Willie Nelson to Bill Gates and Paul Allen, actors and big names dot area's walk of fame

By , Columbian Features editor
Published:
14 Photos
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (Columbian files)
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (Columbian files) Photo Gallery

A drive down Officers Row is enough to inform you that former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant and Nobel Peace Prize winner George C. Marshall once lived in Vancouver.

But did you know that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, blockbuster film star and former professional wrestler, lived in Vancouver as a kid?

His local Twitter followers lost their minds when they saw his December posts touting his connection to the area. He recently invested in the Portland-based ice cream chain Salt & Straw.

“I lived in Vancouver, WA when my old man wrestled for Portland based wrestling promoter, Don Owens,” he tweeted. It wasn’t the first time he has mentioned living in Vancouver, although he didn’t answer follow-up questions about which neighborhood was his or what school he attended.

Just the same, it made us think about other famous people who have ties to Vancouver and its environs.

Actors

Actor Sam Elliott, known for his gravelly cowboy drawl, graduated from Clark College in the 1960s. He transferred to the University of Oregon and made his way to Hollywood. He was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in the 2018 movie “A Star is Born.”

Tobey Maguire, star of the movies “Spider-Man,” “Cider House Rules” and “Pleasantville,” moved to Vancouver at the age of 2 with his parents before moving to Los Angeles at the age of 12.

Jonathan Jackson, who grew up in Battle Ground, played Avery Barkley on the TV show “Nashville,” which aired from 2012 to 2018. He won five Daytime Emmy Awards for his role as Lucky on “General Hospital” from 1993 to 2015.

His brother Richard Lee Jackson is best known for his role as Ryan Parker on “Saved by the Bell: The New Class” (1993), but also appeared other shows, including “Ally McBeal.” The brothers are in the band Enation together.

The band drew another famous person to Battle Ground in the late 2000s. Bethany Joy Lenz is best known for playing Haley James Scott on the drama “One Tree Hill,” which aired from 2003 to 2012. She was married to Enation keyboardist Michael Galeotti. The couple have since divorced, and Galeotti is no longer a member of Enation. Lenz moved to Los Angeles.

Musicians

Country music legend Willie Nelson moved from Texas to Vancouver in 1956. He worked as a disc jockey for KVAN radio in Vancouver and played with a couple of bands in the area. He moved to Nashville at the age of 27, rolled out a series of country classics and won eight Grammy awards.

Bob Bogle moved to Vancouver in 1986 where he lived until his death in 2009. He co-founded The Ventures, a popular band in the 1960s and ’70s, best known for the hit song “Walk, Don’t Run.” The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

Rob Hotchkiss lived in Battle Ground for a while, and still owns a house there. Hotchkiss co-founded the band Train, which won a Grammy for the song “Drops of Jupiter” in 2001.

Cubby O’Brien lived in Amboy from 2003 to 2013. He was a cast member on the original version of “The Mickey Mouse Club” and was later a drummer on “The Lawrence Welk Show” and for The Carpenters.

Athletes

Gretchen Fraser, described in newspaper archives as a “Vancouver housewife,” was the first non-European to win an Olympic skiing medal. She won a gold medal in the slalom and a silver medal in the combined event in the 1948 Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Figure skater Tonya Harding lives in Clark County. Now Tonya Price, she first gained fame in 1991 as the first American woman to stick a triple axel in competition, winning a gold medal at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. In 1994, she was implicated with her then-husband and associates in bashing skating rival Nancy Kerrigan’s knee before the Winter Olympics. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution. The 2017 movie “I, Tonya” dramatizes the skater’s rise and fall.

Professional stock car racing driver Greg Biffle graduated from Camas High School in 1988. In June, he won the SpeedyCash.com 400 at Texas Motor Speedway, his first NASCAR Trucks series start since 2004. He won the Truck title in 2000. In the NASCAR Cup Series, he won 19 races. He also won the championship in what’s now known as the Xfinity Series in 2002.

Writers

Karen Kingsbury, New York Times best-selling author of what she has trademarked as “life-changing fiction,” lived in a 10,000-square-foot house near Salmon Creek for many years before moving to Tennessee. One of her many books, “Like Dandelion Dust,” was made into a movie released in 2009.

Best-selling author Chuck Palahniuk has a home near Washougal in Skamania County. He’s best known for “Fight Club,” which was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.

Magnates

Before Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft, they roomed together near the Ross Substation just north of Vancouver in 1972. They were hired to work on programming for a major Bonneville Power Administration project called RODS (Real-Time Operating and Dispatching System).

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