Get on board for trolley tour of Wilmette celebrity homes

Kathy Hussey-Arntson and Patrick Leary, director and curator of the Wilmette Historical Museum, were discussing ways to promote their new "Local Legends" exhibit, when the notion of a Hollywood Homes of the Stars tour came to mind.

"We thought it would be fun, in a cheesy kind of way, to do a Hollywood thing like that in Wilmette,'" Patrick said.

So, that's precisely what they're going to do when the museum offers two morning trolley tours July 9 to roughly 15 homes of famous Wilmette residents in various fields. Each bus can hold a maximum of 30 people.

Charlton Heston's old house is on the tour, as is the apartment above a funeral parlor where Ann-Margret's family first lived when they moved there. And others as well, though Leary and Hussey-Arntson are still seeking okays from current homeowners before they're announced.

The tour also will feature the homes of somewhat lesser-known Hollywood celebs as well, although they were certainly famous in their day: Ralph Bellamy, for example, who was a star from the 1930s to 1990, when he appeared in "Pretty Woman." And Hugh O'Brien (born Hugh Krampe), who made his name in the mid-1950s on TV's "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp."

As well as the homes of more local celebrities, such as Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse and Frazier Thomas of TV's "Garfield Goose and Friends," "Family Classics" and "Bozo's Circus."

In addition, famous names from the fields of business, landscape design and cartooning, among others, will be represented by the homes of Charlie Trotter, Jens Jensen and Chester Gould — who created "Dick Tracy" while living in Wilmette.

"People will get to see the actual house where Dick Tracy was born," Leary said with a laugh.

Hussey-Arntson and Leary emphasized that they had a lot of fun putting the "Local Legends" exhibit and bus tour together and that they learned lots of surprising information (which they will share as trolley tour guides). Such as the fact that Charlie Trotter was an excellent gymnast who competed for New Trier High School. And that the macabre illustrator Edward Gorey not only attended the same defunct middle school (Wilmette's Stolp School) with Charlton Heston, but that his father, after divorcing his mother, married the woman who plays guitar and sings in the "Marseillaise" scene of "Casablanca" — then divorced her and remarried Gorey's mother.

Yet they also emphasized that putting the exhibit and tour together was a surprisingly challenging task, mainly because there are far more famous people in Wilmette than they have room for. Though it helped that some that didn't make the cut for the gallery exhibit could be included on the bus tour and vice-versa. Even so, some, like Christie Hefner and Pete Wentz of the rock band Fallout Boy, don't appear in either lineup, primarily because they couldn't find all the information needed.

"Regardless, we're pretty confident people will find them satisfying — both the exhibit and the tour," Leary said. " "Especially the people who have heard of these folks and maybe sort of knew they lived somewhere around Wilmette, but never knew where — and were curious.

Wilmette Celebrities Trolley Tour

When: 10 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. July 9

Cost: $10 for museum members; $15 for non-members. Admission to the museum exhibit is free.

Tickets: 847-853-7666; www.wilmettehistory.org.

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