Friday, December 14, 2012

Question the Queen City: Some stars in Charlotte

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2012 at 10:37 AM

Editor's note: In this series, local author David Aaron Moore answers reader-submitted questions about historic places in Charlotte. Submit inquires about unusual, noteworthy or historic people, places and things to

Who are some of the most famous people with roots in the Queen City? - Richard Khan, Ballantyne.

There are actually quite a few, both dead and alive, in numerous fields, but I can't cover them all here. So, I've chosen a handful from the entertainment industry that, in my opinion, have captured the most media attention. Keep in mind that they vary in time from the 1920s to the early 21st century, so some of the names might not be as immediately familiar to you as others, but that shouldn't lessen their notoriety or accomplishments.

Randolph Scott

  • Scott

Scott was born in Virginia while his parents were on vacation, though he grew up in center city Charlotte and later in Dilworth (the house still stands at 1132 Dilworth Rd.). As a young man he worked with his father George, a city alderman and the CEO of the accounting firm Scott, Charnley & Company in Latta Arcade. The restless youth wasn't satisfied with life in Charlotte and quickly took to exploring what the world had to offer outside North Carolina. Eventually he landed in Hollywood, where he was cast in his first role in the 1928 production of the film "Sharp Shooters." It wasn't a big role but it did kick start a career that would span four decades and included a number of very popular western films, among them "Colt 45," "The Stranger Wore A Gun," "Tall Man Riding" and "Ride The High Country." He appeared in more than 100 films. Upon his death in 1989, he was buried in Charlotte's Elmwood Cemetery.

Fantasia Barrino
  • Fantasia

The winner of the 2004 season of "American Idol," Barrino was born in High Point and is probably best known for her hit song "Baby Mama" and her reality show "Fantasia For Real." However, she has accomplished a good deal more during her lifetime, including selling two million albums, nabbing a Grammy Award and starring as herself in the film "Life Is Not A Fairytale." She's also appeared in the film "Soul Kittens Cabaret," the TV series "American Dreams" and supplied a voiceover for a cartoon character in "The Simpsons." Following her win on American Idol in 2004, Barrino took up residence with her family in Charlotte, where she has continued to maintain a home base, although the house is reportedly now for sale after a near-foreclosure. Her most recent album is entitled "Back To Me" and she is currently at work on a new collection - slated to release in March 2013 - which she describes as "rock-soul," citing such influences as Elton John, Aerosmith, Queen and Tina Turner.

Daisy and Violet Hilton
Daisy (left) and Violet Hilton
  • Daisy (left) and Violet Hilton

British-born conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton were Vaudeville stars for many years before they appeared in the Tod Browning film "Freaks." They would continue performing onstage and in nightclubs in the years that followed and star in another movie, "Chained For Life." In the 1960s while making a guest appearance at a revival screening of "Freaks," they were abandoned by their road manager and left stranded in Charlotte. Through the good will efforts of the late Charles Reid, owner of the now-defunct local grocery-store chain Park 'n Shop, they were given jobs as produce clerks at one of his stores and eventually a home owned by the church he attended (Purcell United Methodist) nearby. In the years that followed, the once global sensations led a modest, yet comfortable, life until their deaths from the Hong Kong Flu in 1969. They are buried in Forest Lawn West Cemetery. Since their passing, they have been the subject of a Broadway play - "Sideshow" - and a biography, "The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton: A True Story of Conjoined Twins."

Clay Aiken
  • Aiken

Another veteran of American Idol, Clay Aiken hails originally from Raleigh but was a student at UNC Charlotte when he was plucked from virtual obscurity and thrust in to the national spotlight for his croons that made pubescent girls swoon following his second-place winning in 2003. Prior to his "Idol" success, Aiken lived in an uptown Charlotte condo and reportedly now resides in the Raleigh-Durham area again. Among his career accolades are the RCA albums "Measure of a Man," "A Thousand Different Ways," and "On My Way Here," among others. He has since signed with Decca and released two additional albums, "Tried and True," and Steadfast." He is now on tour, with an upcoming performance in Anaheim, Calif. on Dec. 21.

Alicia Bridges

  • Bridges

Originally from Lawndale, Bridges is the recording artist responsible for quite likely the most famous disco song ever: "I Love the Night Life." Following the success of the smash single back in 1979, Bridges made the "disco round" promoting the tune before she settled into a gig as a much lauded DJ in Atlanta. Today she lives in Columbia, S.C., but during her Charlotte stint prior to "Nightlife" she reportedly hung on the Wilkinson Boulevard nightclub strip with the likes of infamous stripper and "Kissing Bandit" Morganna, local drag diva Boom Boom LaTour and (notorious as of late) country singer Randy Travis.

Stephanie Mills

  • Mills
Mills burst onto the public spotlight as a teenager when she captured the role of Dorothy in the Broadway play "The Wiz" in 1975. Only 18 at the time, she would go on to garner numerous hit pop, R&B and dance music singles during the late 1970s and throughout much of the 1980s, including the Grammy Award-winning "Never Knew Love Like This Before," "Put Your Body In It," "What Cha' Gonna Do With My Lovin'" and "Sweet Sensation." A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., she has called Charlotte home for the past several years. Currently on tour, her most recent performance was in San Francisco on Dec. 12.

Moore is the author of "Charlotte: Murder, Mystery and Mayhem." His writings have appeared in numerous publications throughout the U.S. and Canada.

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