Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

September 15, 2013

Kokomo has had its share of famous personalities


"I used to think it was incredibly cool,” Kroft said of the old Kokomo gas tower in a 2003 interview. “But then I got to a certain age where I actually thought it was pretty ugly. I'm going to miss the fact that it's not going to be there.”Ryan WhiteRyan White, who has perhaps the saddest and yet most uplifting story of anyone who ever called Kokomo home, gained international fame before succumbing to AIDS at age 18.White, who lived on South Webster Street, was denied entry into Western Middle School after contracting the HIV virus from his clotting treatment for hemophilia. With support from a cast of A-list celebrities, including Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Elton John, Ryan became the humanizing face of the AIDS epidemic.He and his family left Kokomo, claiming they’d been subjected to prejudice both in Kokomo and in Russiaville, where he went to school. Rightly or wrongly, Kokomo became synonymous with bigotry in the national media at that time. He moved to Cicero, where he made friends and wasn’t subjected to the kind of vitriol he’d received from Kokomo talk radio.It was only five years between when Ryan was diagnosed and his death, but his life permanently changed the way people look at HIV.Rupert BonehamRupert Boneham ran as the Libertarian candidate for Indiana governor in 2012, ditching his trademark tie-dye shirt for a suit but keeping his shaggy beard, his longish hair and the crazy glint in his eye.The Haworth grad, known in school as kind of a quiet kid, blossomed in his time on the Pearl Islands of Panama, becoming the most popular cast member in the history of the "Survivor" television show.Boneham, 49, will be taking part in an unprecedented fourth season of "Survivor" this month, along with his wife Laura, as the show does a “friends and family” competition. He won $1 million on "Survivor All Stars" in 2004 after winning a fan popularity vote.After high school, he left Kokomo to study nursing at Cisco Junior College and San Angelo University in Texas. He lives in Indianapolis, where he is a vocational and clinical mentor for troubled teens.Tavis SmileyTavis Smiley, who grew up one of 10 kids in Bunker Hill, turned an internship with the Los Angeles mayor’s office into a connection with syndicated radio talk host Tom Joyner, who helped him on the path to becoming an award-winning author, journalist, political commentator and talk show host. He has worked for "BET Tonight," National Public Radio, and currently hosts the late-night television talk show "Tavis Smiley" for the Public Broadcasting System and "The Tavis Smiley Show," which is distributed by Public Radio International. He is the new host of "Tavis Talks" on BlogTalkRadio's Tavis Smiley Network.

In addition to his radio and television career, Smiley has authored 14 books. In 2009, Time Magazine named Smiley one of "The World's Most Influential People."

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