Their faces are instantly recognizable from the world of sports and entertainment. But at one time, these notable individuals walked the streets of Alexandria, playing with childhood friends, attending Alexandria schools and performing in local theater productions.
In August of 1967, “Light My Fire” by The Doors was atop the charts with Jim Morrison having graduated only a few years earlier from George Washington High School. In front of a crowd estimated at more than 4,000, Morrison gave what is reported to be his only performance in his hometown when The Doors performed at the Alexandria Roller Rink on North Saint Asaph Street (now the site of the Sheraton Suites). The group would go on to sell more than 100 million records worldwide.
Willard Scott was America’s jovial weatherman, entertaining viewers of the Today Show with lighthearted antics and his trademark centenarian birthday wishes. But before the world took notice, Scott was just a kid from Alexandria with an early passion for radio.
“When Willard was very young, he built a crystal radio,” said Tom Hulfish, who would play with Scott near the Scott home on Commonwealth Avenue. “Every afternoon he would get on his radio and broadcast the news to the neighborhood. Mind you he was only 8 or 9 years old when he did this.”
Scott parlayed his boyhood passion into a lifelong career in broadcasting, spending 65 years with NBC, first in Washington then in New York.
“I don’t think anyone who knew him growing up was surprised at the success that he achieved,” Hulfish said of the 1951 George Washington High School graduate and class president.
Other notable graduates of George Washington High School, now GW Middle School, include John Philipps and Cass Elliott of the Grammy-award winning Mamas and the Papas.
Philips played basketball at George Washington High School, where he graduated in 1953, while Elliott, born Ellen Naomi Cohen, graduated in 1961.
T.C. Williams High School, now Alexandria City High School, has seen its share of graduates go on to national fame, including Chip Esten of the TV show Nashville, Casey Wilson of Saturday Night Live, and world champion and Olympic bronze medalist Noah Lyles, who delivered the commencement address for his alma mater in 2020.
Olympic boxer Troy Isley grew up in Alexandria and got his boxing start in the third grade when he joined the Alexandria Boxing Club at the Charles Houston Recreation Center.
“Even here in Alexandria, we don’t all have the same advantages,” said Isley during a recent visit to Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, where he graduated in 2009. “But whatever your circumstances, if you stick to your goals and don’t lose focus, it is possible to make it out.”
Actor Chris Meloni of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit was the captain and quarterback of the 1978 undefeated St. Stephen’s football team while NFL Hall of Famer Joe Namath made his pro football debut on Aug. 7, 1965, in Alexandria.
Namath and the New York Jets took on the Houston Oilers in a preseason game at what was then George Washington High School. Namath had just signed the richest contract in pro football history and as the Alexandria Gazette reported at the time, “the eyes of the sports world will be focused on Alexandria to see just how he fares against the play-for-pay boys.”
Sports history was made when Earl Lloyd, who grew up in a segregated Alexandria, became the first African American to play in the NBA when he took to the court for the Washington Capitols on Oct. 31, 1950, in Rochester, N.Y.
In the arts, Academy award winner Marci Gay Harden and actor Dermot Mulroney both graced the stage at the Little Theatre of Alexandria early in their careers while television personality Monte Durham, a longtime Alexandria resident, opened Salon Monte at the Alexandria waterfront.
“While I was raised in West Virginia, I have called Alexandria home for decades,” Durham said when he opened his salon. “There is no place else I would rather be.”
Jim Morrison, standing rear second from right, and The Doors pose with DJ Jack Alix, holding a copy of GO Magazine between his teeth, before The Doors’ show at the Alexandria Roller Rink on Aug. 18, 1967. Also pictured are members of the Blades of Grass and the Jackettes Go-Go Girls. The show is believed to be the only time that Morrison, who graduated from George Washington High School, played in Alexandria.
Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters fame briefly attended Bishop Ireton High School and Annandale HS before dropping out to pursue a European concert tour.
Actor Chris Meloni of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit was the captain and quarterback of the 1978 undefeated St. Stephen’s football team.
Joe Namath talks with New York Jets coach Weeb Ewbank during Namath's professional NFL debut in Alexandria on Aug. 7, 1965. The Jets played their first preseason game against the Houston Oilers at what was then George Washington High School.
World champion and Olympic bronze medalist Noah Lyles began his track and field career as a student at T.C. Williams High School.
Actor Dermot Mulroney was born in Alexandria and got his acting start at the Little Theatre of Alexandria.
Alexandria’s Earl Lloyd (11), playing in an NBA championship game in 1955, made history as the first African American to play in the NBA when he took to the court for the Washington Capitols on Oct. 31, 1950, in Rochester, N.Y.
Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden got her theatrical start at the Little Theatre of Alexandria
Actor and 1983 T.C. Williams graduate Chip Esten returned to Alexandria to perform a benefit concert for the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria.
Television personality Willard Scott, left, was born in Alexandria and graduated from George Washington High School in 1951.
Television personality and longtime resident Monte Durham opened Salon Monte at the Alexandria waterfront.
Local boxer Troy Isley, center, represented the U.S. in the Tokyo Olympics.
Actress and Saturday Night Live alum Casey Wilson was born in Alexandria and is a 1998 graduate of T.C. Williams High School.
Jim Morrison as a senior at George Washington High School.