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David Hasselhoff, Nancy Reagan, Harrison Ford, Mike Krzyzewski

David Hasselhoff

David Hasselhoff Actor
Lyons Township (1970), La Grange

Dorf on Acting: Before he was king of the Baywatch babes, before he earned that other monosyllabic moniker, Hoff, David Hasselhoff was known simply as Dorf. “I have no idea where the nickname came from,” says an intramural softball teammate, Peter King. “It was just there.” Just there, as was Hasselhoff’s desire to act. “He was very ambitious, even the very first time I met him,” says a fellow Lyons grad, John Honeycutt. “He said, ‘I want a career in TV and the movies,’ and he was on his way to do it.”

 

Despite his good looks, friends say, Hasselhoff—also a member of the speech club and president of the school choir—wasn’t a heartbreaker. “He had a girlfriend, so he didn’t see how attractive he was to girls,” says a schoolmate, Duf Sundheim. “He was easy to photograph,” agrees the 1970 photo editor of the Tabulae, Deb Halberstadt, “but he wasn’t an egomaniac. I can think of a bunch of ladies’ men from high school, but I’d say David was more of a polite kind of guy.”

Talent Scouting: Did Hasselhoff’s classmates think he had the chops to make it in Hollywood? “He was definitely top tier, but I don’t know that I saw he was head and shoulders above everybody else,” says Honeycutt. Sundheim agrees: “He knew he was going to pursue [acting], but . . . he wasn’t the next Humphrey Bogart.” After graduation, when Hasselhoff headed to New York to make a go of acting rather than go to college, “people were kind of surprised,” King recalls. “But he came from a family that was really supportive of theatre.”

Though most of his drama pals say Hasselhoff was easy to work with (“I never saw him having one of these diva fits,” Sundheim says), one classmate, John Vullo, remembers an edgier side. The two acted in a summer community theatre production of The Fantasticks after having put on the same play at school the previous year. “One time, he went into this tirade with the director,” Vullo recalls. “Here was this 18-year-old kid, and this [director] was in his 30s, and David is saying, ‘I can’t believe what you’re doing; this is the most trite thing I’ve ever seen!’” But Vullo defends his friend; after all, their own staging had been “a very good high-school production.”  –J. W.

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nancy reagan

Nancy Reagan Former first lady of the United States
Latin School for Girls, Chicago
(1939)

Dressed to Impress? Her high-school sports uniform, a frumpy jumper worn with clunky black shoes, hardly anticipated the signature tailored suits in Nancy Reagan red. But the pretty, wide-eyed Nancy Robbins, as she was known through most of high school, wore the getup with aplomb as president of the Latin School for Girls Athletic Association Council. “In those days, we played more for fun,” recalls former field hockey teammate China Ibsen Oughton, who was a year behind Nancy.

The school dress code was not much better: “We wore horrible uniforms,” Oughton recalls. “We would see how we could pin it in to make it a little better looking.” Drab duds didn’t detract from what Oughton calls Nancy’s “very charming” personality; the drama clubber and student court judge, who dated Boys School student and lumber scion Sangston “Sock” Hettler, was popular with the opposite sex early on. According to the Vita Scholae, the yearbook: “While the rest of us huddled self-consciously on one side of the room, casting surreptitious glances at the men, aged 13, opposite us, Nancy actually crossed the yawning emptiness separating the two groups and serenely began a conversation—with a boy.”

photo of Nancy Reagan

Her ease with male peers didn’t preclude Nancy from the typical teenager’s starstruck fantasies. In his biography, Ronnie and Nancy, writer Bob Colacello quotes Nancy’s now-deceased bosom friend Jean Wescott Marshall: “We were all wrapped up in movie stars. I liked Ronald Reagan, and she liked Bing Crosby. She used to say, ‘I don’t see what you see in Ronald Reagan.’”

First Lady of Latin: Unlike most high schoolers, Nancy wasn’t just dreaming of Hollywood; she was brushing up against it. Thanks to her mother’s theatre background, “she would go to California during the summer, and we were all very impressed that she was with her ‘Uncle’ Walter Huston,” Oughton says of the family friend and iconic Broadway and film star.

In an unlikely foreshadowing, Nancy took her own star turn in her senior year as lead in the school production of First Lady, a drama detailing one candidate’s rise to the presidency and the woman behind him. This, from the Vita Scholae: “When the [première] comes, Nancy knows not only her own lines but everybody else’s. She picks up the cue her terrified classmates forget to give, improvises speeches for all and sundry. Just a part of the game for Nancy.” Nancy Davis (as she was called in senior year, having been adopted by her mother’s second husband, the surgeon Loyal Davis) went on to study drama and English at Smith College—and to temper her opinion of Ronald Reagan.  –J. W.

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harrison ford

Harrison Ford  Actor
Maine East, Park Ridge (1960)

Long Memory? The only high-school stage role he nabbed was as a “Tower Trotter” ballroom dancer in the annual variety show; his extracurriculars ranged from the vaguely uncool (social science club) to the downright dorky (audiovisual club, model railroad club); and word around the Maine East campus is Harry Ford knows how to hold a grudge. “There’s all kinds of rumors that float around here, but most center on the idea that Harry was with a group of kids who were talking about what they wanted to be someday,” says a longtime history and government teacher, Robert Paul Carlson. “He divulged the fact he wanted to be in the movies, and evidently the kids mocked him. Harry does not want to come back here, and I just don’t understand why he can’t get over that.”

A Solo Kind of Guy: Whether or not he remembers them bitterly, some former classmates thought of Harry as a bit of a wallflower—if they recall him at all. (“I really don’t remember him,” says Jon Tammen, Ford’s classmate and boss at the school radio station.) “He used to wheel in the movie projector for teachers to show films,” says a homeroom classmate, John Gaunt. “He certainly wasn’t like the movie star roles you see him in today.” And Gaunt says Ford hasn’t changed much in other ways. “He was a person who was very careful about the way he spoke. I’ve seen him in interviews and, to me, he’s still the same person. He’s very guarded, and he thinks through his answers well.”

Despite what Gaunt calls a “low-key personality, not one that stood out” in a class of nearly 700, Ford did have at least one Hollywood-here-I-come ace in the hole: a killer smirk. “I remember seeing him for the first time in decades as Han Solo,” says Karen Anderson Miller, Ford’s other student boss at the radio station. “And I thought, He hasn’t changed a bit.”  –J. W.

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mike krzyzewski

Mike Krzyzewski Head coach, Duke University men’s basketball team
Weber, Chicago (1965)

Knighted: At Weber, a Catholic boys' school made up largely of Polish and Italian kids from the Northwest Side, Krzyzewski served as vice president of his senior class, earned a place in the National Honor Society, and was the captain and point guard on the Weber basketball team in his senior year. “The short of it is, I remember him as one of the most focused and hardworking student athletes at our high school," recalls Chico Kurzawski, a friend and teammate. “He used to go up into the gym for hours on end even when they weren’t practicing. He would bounce the ball off the wall as if someone were passing it to him, and then he would shoot, over and over.” His hard work and success caught the eye of a young coach at the United States Military Academy named Bobby Knight. “I recruited him, like, over a sandwich in the cafeteria at Weber High School and then spent an evening at his house with his mom and dad,” recalls Knight. “He was just a good kid and didn’t have to be wined and dined.”

Leading by Example: “He wasn’t flashy,” says Frank Vainisi, a basketball teammate who is a year younger. “He was very regimented even then. As juniors we kind of had to look up to the older guys, but Mike was one of the guys you looked up to anyway, regardless of his age.” In 1965, when someone from the school newspaper asked Krzyzewski about his aspirations, he said he pictured himself becoming a teacher and a coach. “He was a typical Weber man,” says classmate Joseph Ptasinski. “We always said Weber men were gentlemen, and Mike was, is, and always will be a gentleman.” Weber closed in 1999 after 109 years.  –M. A.

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