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Famous Chicago People

Updated: February 26, 2015

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Chicago likes to claim many amazing actors, musicians, entrepreneurs and Abraham Lincoln.  (He is OURS! We are the Land of Lincoln after all.)  Here is a list of some of the most famous folks who lived in or were from Chicago.

Derrick Rose.  Born, bred, and now dominates in Chicago.  I love this guy.  Rose is the starter for the Chicago Bulls basketball team.  He was awarded the NBA Most Valuable Player at 22 years old (which is the youngest to receive this honor).  The best thing about D. Rose is that he is totally humble.  While receiving the MVP award, he thanked his mom.  HIS MOM.
Tour Tip: D. Rose lives in the Trump Tower which you can see on the Riverwalk Tour.


Chicago Walt Disney Walt Disney.  That’s right.  Walt Disney was born in Chicago in 1901.  Admittedly, his family moved away in 1906.  But obviously his formative years where he developed his creative genius was between 1901-1906.  As an adult, Disney ended up in Burbank, California with little more than the shirt on his back and become literally the most famous animator in the world. Plus, Disneyland!  DISNEYLAND! Good news:  There is talk that Disney’s childhood home with become a museum.  I will get a season pass.


Chicago John Belushi John and Jim Belushi.  These brothers were born in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, IL.  (My dad went to high school with them, actually.  Small world.) John Belushi is most famous for his epic Chicago movie with Dan Aykroyd The Blues Brothers and his time spent on Saturday Night Live.  Jim is most famous for his T.V. show According to Jim, Saturday Night Live, and the movie Curly Sue.  The Belushi brothers are comedic genius’ and we are proud they are from Chicago.


Chicago Oprah Winfrey Oprah Winfrey.  Okay, so Oprah is not actually from Chicago.  Not even close.  She is from Mississippi.  But Oprah CHOSE Chicago to be her home and the location of Harpo Studios where her award-winning talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show filmed for 25 years.  We love Oprah because she is truly representative of the “city of broad shoulders” that is Chicago.  Work hard and do well.  She is currently one of North America’s only black billionaires.  Plus, she does nice stuff with all of her money!  She is a big-time philanthropist.  Now if only she would come back and do her “Favorite Things” show on repeat.  With an audience of me.


Hugh Hefner.  Yup!  Hugh was born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, IL.  He is most famous for being the creator of the magazine Playboy.  Playboy Enterprises had their home on Michigan Avenue in the Palmolive building from 1965-1989.  During that time the building was renamed as The Playboy Building.  The Playboy mansion ALSO used to reside in the windy city along the gold coast.  Of course those bunnies are LONG gone now.  It was too cold for them.  Now I have to hand it to Hugh since he is another one of those hard-working folks who started from nothing and built something HUGE.  That is a Chicago trend.
Tour Tip:  You can see the old Playboy mansion and the Palmolive building on the Gold Coast Tour.  Apparently Vince Vahn still lives in the penthouse of the Palmolive building.  (Another Chicagoan).


Chicago Bob Fosse Bob Fosse.  This one might be a little obscure to certain crowds.  Fosse is a famous director, actor, dancer, and choreographer.  He actually grew up in Ravenswood area and went to Amundson High School!  Some of Fosse’s most popular films are Sweet Charity, Chicago, and Cabaret. He is most famous for developing a specific style of jazz dance that includes turned-in knees, rolled shoulders, and jazz hands.  Fosse really popularized “jazz hands”.  Did he invent them?  Not sure.  But he made them awesome.


Chicago Al Capone Al Capone.  I guess you have to name the bad with the good and Al Capone is one of our most notorious bad guys.  He was from New York but caused the most trouble as a gambling, bootlegging gangster here in Chicago.  During prohibition (this is when America decided that alcohol should be illegal), Capone made his money by illegally smuggling alcohol and operating Speakeasy clubs (secret bars).  He is considered responsible for the St. Valentine’s Day massacre which involved the group murder of a rival gang. He was eventually put into jail and the ripe age of 33 for tax evasion.
Tour Tip: Many establishments still exist that Capone frequented including The Green Mill Jazz club and the Jeweler’s building.  You can see the Jeweler’s building on the Riverwalk Tour and get a taste for gangster activity on the Lincoln Park Tour.


Kanye West and Common. Two incredibly gifted hip-hop artists who grew up in Chicago.   In fact, they have even collaborated!  Now everyone knows who Kanye West is.  He won’t let us forget.  Plus he is married to Kim Kardashian.  We are all very familiar with his beats, his attention to deal with inner rhyming and samples (love that), and his totally bizarre behavior.  Common, also known as Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr. is also very talented and very versatile.  He is an actor, musician, model, and has even voiced a few video games!  So, Common doesn’t live here anymore…. But here is one of my favorite things he said:  "At times I contemplate movin' to a warmer place. Then the Lake and skyline, give me a warm embrace."


Other folks worth mentioning:

  • Michael Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls.
  • Shel Silverstein the author of The Giving Tree was born in Chicago
  • Carl Sandburg a famous poet lived in Chicago
  • Mandy Patinkin the actor was born in Chicago
  • Mr. T the actor was born in Chicago.

+++Check out our walking tours of Chicago and join us on a tour. Who knows which famous Chicago person we are going to meet.+++


About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo,, and more.
Updated: February 26th, 2015
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