The 5 Most Famous People Originally From Utica
The people of the Utica area are proud of many things, including those from the area who’ve gone on to become famous. At least three generations of Utica area residents have admired some their famous neighbors – pop culture icons Annette Funicello and Dick Clark, baseball player Dave Cash, musician Fran Cosmo and pollster John Zogby.
Annette rose to fame in the 1950’s as a teenage star in Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club. Along with co-star Frankie Avalon, she went on to symbolize the glamour of America’s sun culture in the legendary series of Beach Movies in the 1960’s. Her talents in singing, dancing, and acting combined with her sweet demeanor and beauty made her one of America’s most recognizable sweethearts during her long career.
Annette’s contemporary, Dick Clark, was born in Mount Vernon but got his professional start working for WRUN, the radio station his father owned in Utica. His marathon run on American Bandstand and his apparently eternal boyish looks earned him the unofficial title of “World’s Oldest Teenager”. After graduating from Syracuse University, Dick continued in radio and television, becoming the host of American Bandstand which began its fulltime runs on TV in 1957. The show would continue with the ageless host for the next thirty years. The video is a broadcast of ‘This Is Your Life’ where Dick’s parents touch on his time in Utica.
While Annette and Dick remain instantly recognizable to people of the Mohawk Valley and to Americans everywhere, they have many colleagues in the ranks of celebrities who hail from their home region who are no longer quite as well known. Before Mark Lemke and Andy Van Slyke became stars in Major League Baseball, Utican Dave Cash set the bar high for local athletes. From 1969 to 1980, Cash patrolled second base for four MLB teams most notably the Pirates and the Phillies. He helped the Pirates win the World Series in 1971, and was a three time All-Star. He retired with over 1,500 hits and continues to coach in professional baseball. That’s Dave singing on ‘Phillies Fever!’
Fran Cosmo is another Mohawk Valley native who made it big. Fans familiar with the 1970’s super band, BOSTON, remember Fran’s vocal performances on the Walk On album and as a member of the group’s 1995, 1997, 2003 and 2004 tours. He has also worked with Barry Goudreau and Orion the Hunter. Fran remains active in the band, Cosmo, where he shares the stage with his son, Anton.
Leaving the world of popular culture – movies, TV, sports, and music – behind us, it’s also important to note the contributions of Utican John Zogby to U.S. politics and journalism. Zogby is an internationally renowned pollster whose data daily contributes to political strategy and news media reporting. He founded his polling service in 1984 and became prominent in 1992 after predicting that Andrew Cuomo would be defeated in an election face-off with President George H. W. Bush. The results probably played a major role in forcing Cuomo to bow out of consideration which opened the door for a relatively unknown Bill Clinton to challenge Bush. His remarkably accurate presidential polling results for the 1996 and 2000 elections continued Zogby’s rise to the top of the industry.