“Who’s on your Mount Rushmore of presidents?” a co-worker recently asked, in jest, while traveling back from a long day of business meetings. After the laughter subsided, our group debated the merits of presidents, but soon segued into sports and pop culture. The “Mount Rushmore” question really is a fun one. You can apply it to so many subjects, from food to film, and rarely will two people agree on the monument’s makeup. So, who is on your Mount Rushmore of famous Missourians? Before you answer, here’s the criteria:
- They need to be relevant in today’s pop culture scene
- They have to have been born in Missouri
That second qualifier makes the list a little more difficult, because it means Missouri’s No. 1 pop-culture shoe-in doesn’t get mentioned. Brad Pitt was born in Oklahoma, even though he grew up and has family in Springfield. Okay, now that you see how this works, here’s a look at my list:
Aside from his outstanding work on the AMC show “Mad Men,” he was born in St. Louis, went to college at the University of Missouri-Columbia, worked as a teacher in Missouri and wears St. Louis Cardinals cufflinks on national TV. Hamm has comedic chops and earns raves for his hosting stints on “Saturday Night Live” and roles in films such as “Bridesmaids,” (even though he’s kind of a jerk in that one). He’s the George Washington of this Mount Rushmore.
A versatile actor, Cheadle was born in Kansas City, Mo. He earned an Oscar nomination for his work in the film “Hotel Rwanda,” and is a Golden Globe winner for acting in the Showtime series “House of Lies.” He had recurring roles in “Oceans Eleven” and its sequels (in which Pitt starred). Of recent note, he’s been in the last two “Iron Man” films and he’ll be in a sequel to “Marvel’s The Avengers” next year.
The multiple Grammy-award winner from Kennett, Mo., has been in the music business for more than 20 years and has enjoyed success of which few ever dream. She’s charted seven No. 1 singles and has appeared in TV programs and films. In the fall of 2013, she released her first country album “Feels Like Home,” which Billboard magazine rated as one of the year’s 10 best. Also in 2013, she served as a celebrity coach for Blake Shelton’s team on NBC’s “The Voice.”
This choice surprised me, too. Cooper was born in Kansas City and has both an Oscar and Golden Globe (for his role in “Adaptation”) to his credit. He’s been in some huge films, including “A Time to Kill,” “The Bourne Identity,” and “The Town” (in which Hamm also starred). In 2013, he had a role in “August: Osage County” with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. Later this year, and again in 2016, he’ll play Norman Osborne in the sequels to “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
So there you have it, unofficially Missouri’s official Mount Rushmore of modern pop culture icons. Love the list or hate it, leave comments below (but play nicely). And continue the conversation by adding your own choices, along with some explanation as to why they deserve to be mentioned. And if you ever need to kill an hour in the car, pose this question to your traveling companions. It’s sure to incite a lively debate.