I’ve profiled dozens of these celebrities and the best place to look for a complete list of all Montana celebrities is in my post, Famous Montana Celebrities #6.
In this post we’ll profile five more. Enjoy!
It was called “Wacko magazine’s long-time editor now a Montana resident; he and his ‘usual gang of idiots’ warped kids’ minds from the 1950s on.”
We’re talking about Al Feldstein, who moved to the Paradise Valley outside Livingston in 1992.
He’d first got interested in the West in 1989 while on a skiing trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and moved there that year. Feldstein was done with MAD Magazine at that point, and was getting back to his roots as a painter, particularly landscapes.
The death of his second wife from cancer in the late-80s gave him a new perspective on life, and when he remarried his new wife introduced him to skiing. It was likely a literal pain at times for the 62-year old to learn the sport, but he did, and fell in love with the West in the process.
Rocky Mountain Legends Gallery in Livingston displayed his work in 1996. Awards started coming as well.
In 1999 Billings’ Rocky Mountain College awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Arts and in 2003 he was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame, the comic book industry’s Oscar. In 2011 he received the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement fro the Horror Writers Association.
Al Feldstein died at his Paradise Valley home on April 29, 2014. He was 88 years old.
Grady likely learned the art of storytelling from his father – a movie theatre manager – and Richard Hugo – a UM English Department poet that he took classes from.
It paid off. One of his most well-known books is “Six Days of the Condor,” which was turned into the 1975 film Three Days of the Condor, starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway. Grady wrote the book while living in “a tiny apartment in Helena.”
Grady was a bit more than just a novelist, however. While still in college he went to work for one of Montana’s U.S. Senators, Lee Metcalf. He was an aide during the Watergate impeachment proceedings. That gave him a new perspective, something that he used to craft his muckraking journalism pieces.
Those pieces appeared in Slate, The Washington Post, The New Republic, Parade, and many other periodicals.
Grady had this advice for young novelists when he was interviewed by the Shelby Promoter in 2004.
“When you first start out as a novelist, you have the whiff of arrogance that you can write about the great themes and issues. If you’re lucky, you get that beat out of you really quickly.”
In 2001 Grady won the French Grand Prix Du Roman Noir award, in 2003 he won Italy’s Raymond Chandler award, and in 2013 he won the America Edgar Award award.
Grady’s ability to write about the “dark underbelly” of America is what endears him to foreign readers. John Grisham cites Grady as a literary influence as well.
Grady is currently 67-years-old and lives in Washington, D.C.
Musburger would attend Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and got his first gig for the Chicago American newspaper. It wasn’t until the late-1960s that he got into television, even working alongside another famous Montana celebrity, Connie Chung.
It was in 1973 that Musburger first started doing play-by-play announcing for NFL games on CBS. In 1975 he moved over to The NFL Today. By the late-1980s, Musburger was the #1 sportscaster on CBS.
Starting in 1990, CBS began to restructure. On April 1, Musburger was fired by the network. The LA Times reported on April 6 that:
“the network’s decision not to renew his contract was the result of a vendetta against him by CBS Sports President Neal Pilson and executive producer Ted Shaker. Musburger claimed they are ‘spreading venom’ and out to ‘defame’ him.”
Musburger went on to tell ABC’s Sam Donaldson that “these two men decided I was too big for my britches, and that they were going to take me down a peg or two, that I was uncontrollable.”
At the time Musburger was making around $2 million a year. Following his firing he went to work for ABC, focusing largely on college sports. ABC soon merged with ESPN, however, and that allowed Musburger to really branch out.
In 1986 the IR reported that “Musburger still owns a ranch near Big Timber.”
When he bought that ranch is unclear to me, but I do know that he and his wife Arlene split their time between it and a home in Connecticut and another in Florida. The Big Timber ranch is about 2,600 acres and can be described as an “absolutely sprawling horse ranch.”
Jonathan Kimble Simmons was born in Grosse Pointe, Michigan on January 9, 1955. The family moved to Ohio when J.K. was 10-years-old and then to Missoula when he was 18. It was 1973 and J.K.’s father had gotten a job as a music teacher at UM.
J.K. Simmons attended the University of Montana’s theatre program. He’d gotten his start in theatre in 1977 at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse on Flathead Lake “because I could sing and they needed somebody to be the lead in a musical.”
J.K’s father was Pat Simmons and he worked as chair of the UM Music Department and that’s where J.K. got his love of music. He actually started with guitar performances in coffee houses before getting into acting.
Simmons graduated from UM in 1978 and went to Seattle for stage work. He always came back to Bigfork to do plays there, however.
It was during one of these return trips, in 1979, that Simmons and several other theatre workers started up a softball tournament. It just had it’s 37th year.
Simmons didn’t catch many breaks and he eventually headed to New York. It was in the early-90s that he finally started getting some traction, then his role on HBO’s series “Oz” came, as well as some work on “Law and Order.” Films soon followed. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2014.
Simmons has maintained his Montana connections, despite losing his father in 2012 and then his mother in 2014. Both were strong members of the Missoula community. J.K. continues to be a strong member of the Montana community.
Things did not go well for Seagal in Montana, however, and for two main reasons.
In the film The Patriot, Seagal attempts to save the Montana town of Ennis from “a deadly biochemical toxin.” In real life, however, Seagal got a lot more problems from the Montana militia.
Reports from the Deseret News in September 1997 told us that “the film crew has called the FBI because of anonymous threats from callers identifying themselves as militia members.”
Supposedly the film’s script had Montana militia members stealing the toxin, which then ends up killing several people in the town.
The militia didn’t like that and may have made some threats. Despite this, the Bozeman-based group denied those allegations.
The Montana Seagal stories down until October 1998 when the same newspaper reported that “Steven Seagal has finally run into a foe that is too much to handle.”
Nope, it wasn’t the militia again, but a more serious problem – knapweed.
The newspaper suggested that Seagal was selling his 19,000-acre Montana ranch “rather than fight the knapweed that is overrunning the property and threatening native grasses.”
David Schultz, the director of the Madison County Weed Control Board, said “Mr. Seagal was very unwilling to deal with the knapweed problem four years ago when he purchased the property.”
The ranch was an “important piece of the ecosystem surrounding Yellowstone National Park, but according to Schultz, Seagal “just didn’t consider the weed a priority.”
Seagal sold the ranch to Roger Lang for $55 million in 1998. Lang then:
“put the property under a unique management plan meant to promote wildlife and open space on the riverside property while continuing ranch operations. He put a vast majority of the ranch under a conservation easement, then carved out 10 home lots and put them on the market for between $5 million and $8 million. It was an idea he hoped could make conservation profitable and lead to 1 million acres being put under conservation over the next 10 years, he told the Chronicle in 2008.”
The ranch was sold to Sun Ranch Partners for $42 million in April 2009 after the economic downturn of 2008.
Sun Ranch Partners was created that year and managed by Richard C. Adkerson, the CEO of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. A total of 98% of the ranch was then put under conservation easement.
“Brent Musburger.” Montana Kids. 2007. Web. Retrieved 7 May 2016. http://montanakids.com/cool_stories/famous_montanans/musburger.htm
“Brent Musburer’s Wife Arlene Musburger.” Player Wives. 14 December 2014. Web. Retrieved 7 May 2016. http://www.playerwives.com/miscellaneous-sports/media/brent-musburgers-wife-arlene-musburger/
Herbert, Steven. “Musburger: CBS Firing a ‘Vendetta’: Television: Ousted announcer tells ABC audience his former bosses are ‘spreading venom.’” Los Angeles Times. 6 April 1990. Web. Retrieved 7 May 2016. http://articles.latimes.com/1990-04-06/sports/sp-783_1_brent-musburger
Marsh, Kristin. “Author James Grady reflects on his Montana roots and creative inspiration.” Shelby Promoter. 14 April 2004. Web. Retrieved 7 May 2016. http://www.cutbankpioneerpress.com/shelby_promoter/news/article_0f020904-0084-51ba-846f-da42b66f62a0.html
“Montana Connection: Writers, actors, musicians, heroes and villains, the high and the mighty, they all had a link to the Treasure State.” Independent Record. 26 October 1986.
“Montana militia making life hard for ‘Patriot’ star.” Deseret News. 23 September 1997. Web. Retrieved 7 May 2016. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/584638/Montana-militia-making-life-hard-for-Patriot-star.html?pg=all
Pickett, Mary. “Wacko magazine’s long-time editor now a Montana resident; he and his ‘usual gang of idiots’ warped kids’ minds from the 1950s on.” Independent Record. 29 September 1996.
“Sun Ranch Near Yellowstone National Park Sold.” Raich Montana Properties. 3 February 2010. Web. Retrieved 7 May 2016. http://tracyraich.com/sun-ranch-near-yellowstone-national-park-sold/
Tabish, Dillon. “The Making of J.K. Simmons.” Flathead Beacon. 4 March 2015. Web. Retrieved 7 May 2016. http://flatheadbeacon.com/2015/03/04/the-making-of-j-k-simmons/
“Weeds run Seagal out of his Montana ranch.” Deseret News. 3 October 1998. Web. Retrieved 7 May 2016. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/655271/Weeds-run-Seagal-out-of-his-Montana-ranch.html?pg=all