Final Word by Bob Yearick: A humor column about Delaware celebrities like Luke Matheny, Aubrey Plaza, Jennifer Behm, Ryan Phillippe, Teri Polo, Judge Reinhold, Elisabeth Shue, Randy White, Joe Biden and Valerie Bertinelli
The First State isn’t exactly first when it comes to famous folk … but we’re getting there.
illustration by Nancy Harrison
Luke Matheny. Aubrey Plaza.
Those names ring any bells? No? Then turn in your Delaware card. No more tax-free shopping for you.
Matheny, who won an Academy Award for his short film “God of Love,” and Plaza, who plays the uber-lethargic April Ludgate on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” are two of the latest additions to the list of First State celebrities. Of course, the newest name on the list is Jennifer Behm, the former beauty queen who cooked her way to the top in reality TV’s “MasterChef.”
Not exactly household names, you say? Well, hey, in Delaware, a celebrity’s oeuvre needn’t be lengthy or particularly remarkable to make our list. Take Ryan Phillippe and Teri Polo. While both have appeared on the cover of this magazine, much of Phillippe’s fame came from marrying, then divorcing, Reese Witherspoon, and Polo is best known for her minimal screen time as Ben Stiller’s squeeze in “Meet the Parents” and “Meet the Fockers.”
Sure, Judge Reinhold, co-star of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Beverly Hills Cop,” is a native, but Elvis has been spotted more often lately than our boy Judge. Elisabeth Shue, born in Wilmington, left us in her dust to grow up in New Jersey (New Jersey!). The Academy-Award-nominated thespian showed early potential, but last year’s “Piranha 3D” gore-fest did not exactly enhance her status.
In sports, the list pretty much begins and ends with Randy White, former Dallas Cowboy and Pro Football Hall of Famer. “The Manster” graduated from McKean High School before matriculating to the University of Maryland, where both his number and his grades were retired.
The Delaware celebrity who has demonstrated more staying power than a Christmas fruitcake is Valerie Bertinelli. The Claymont native first graced our television screens in 1975 as the cute and perky younger daughter on “One Day at a Time.” Despite a tendency to smile while delivering a punch line, she became a proficient comic and semi-dramatic television actress, maintaining a profile consistent with her native state—just under the radar, with occasional forays into prominence. She had a three-season run on “Touched by An Angel,” recently served as a Jenny Craig spokeswoman while shedding 50 pounds, and wrote a couple of books. Our gal Val is now in her third season as part of the ensemble cast of “Hot in Cleveland.”
Of course, with the 2008 election, Delaware finally got a legitimate superstar, thanks to longtime Sen. Joe Biden’s ascendance to the vice presidency. With the alliterative team of Biden and Bertinelli, the fame bar has been set a bit higher than one might expect for a state of our modest size.
And I have high hopes for both Aubrey Plaza and Luke Matheny. In addition to “Parks and Rec,” the pie-faced Ursuline grad does standup. Writer/director/actor Matheny, meanwhile, is creating his next screenplay, “Ron Quixote,” which is loosely based on—wait for it—Don Quixote.
Both these kids have potential, so please, try to keep up. Tax-free shopping is not a trifling matter.