Star Potential

The world of entertainment is chock-full of Michigan denizens and expatriates. Some were just a blip on our radar screen, while others have steadily grown their roots. Collectively, the group has a net worth of $2.4 billion* and counting. Here, DBusiness shines the spotlight on 40 of the Great Lakes State’s best-known celebrities and gauges their star power


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It’s difficult to look at even a partial list of entertainers with deep Michigan roots and not marvel at the richness of our creative soil. Of course you can find more musicians, actors, playwrights, and others on the coasts, but most of them came from somewhere else — and often, that somewhere else is Michigan.

What makes it happen? How can one metro area produce Marvin Gaye and Eminem and the White Stripes and Iggy Pop and Bob Seger and Was (Not Was) and probably have a hand in whatever the next big thing is? Part of it is demographics. Part is geography. Part is culture. Part is the creative sparks that inevitably fly when people rub up against one another in the urban rock pile. And one part is probably forever indefinable. We’re just lucky to have it.

Consider Madonna will be making a personal appearance off the concert stage, supporting I Am Because We Are at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival in August. The film, a documentary she wrote and produced, is about orphans and poverty in the African nation of Malawi. Madonna’s father, Tony, owns and runs Ciccone Vineyard and Winery in nearby Suttons Bay.

The musicians aren’t the only ones who’ll be busy. Jeff Daniels has a film out this year and several more in the pipeline. Whether it strikes joy or dread in your heart, Moore has a new project slated for 2009. Even Farmington Hills native Elizabeth Berkley — you remember her, the poor, kicked-around laughingstock of Showgirls — is back on her feet, hosting Step It Up and Dance, a new reality show on Bravo.

With a new tax-incentive package already drawing filmmakers to Michigan, expect more entertainers to join the long line the state has already spawned.

Star Ratings

***** Powerhouse
The earnings just keep coming and coming.

**** Heavyweight
A major player, with plenty in the pipeline.

*** Treading Water
Plenty to write home about, but not lately.

** Fading Fast
Reaching the end of a prominent career.

* Dim Light
There was something there once.

Mitch Albom ****
Columnist, author, radio host
Born 1958, Passaic, N.J.

Did someone say newspapers are sinking? If so, this multimedia outlet will be in one of the first lifeboats; you can’t say the guy hasn’t diversified. Still, it’s his post at the Detroit Free Press that gives him prestige — and a credential for whatever sporting event he wants to cover. Residence: Bloomfield Hills. Body of work: Lots of people dismiss Albom and his paint-by-numbers output (the columns with their one-sentence paragraphs and dramatic repetition; the books that simultaneously jerk tears and cleave nicely to screenplay structure; the nice-guy radio persona), but whatever he’s selling, people buy in bulk. Current project: For One More Day, newly out in paperback; untitled project with Adam Sandler, set for 2010.

Tim Allen  **** 
Born 1953, Denver, Colo.

He moved to Birmingham as a teenager, and got his start in comedy by taking the stage at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle on a dare. He worked in advertising locally before moving west to try showbiz. While most of his time is spent in Hollywood, he still maintains a home in Birmingham. Residence: Los Angeles. Body of work: Home Improvement made Allen a household name, but steady work in films has sustained him since. From the voice of Buzz Lightyear (“To infinity … and beyond!”) to one of the aging little boys in Wild Hogs, he always seems to be working somewhere. A diverse actor, he’s played everyone from Santa Claus to Joe Somebody. Current projects: Toy Story 3, The Six Wives of Henry Lefay.

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