Top Ten Portland Celebrities

Famous Artists, Musicians, Authors and More

We like to think of ourselves as a creative city and for the most part, it's true! Portland is an amazing place to be an artist, whether your craft is film, writing, music or another pursuit. Here's a list of people with Portland connections who've made it big.

  • 01 of 10

    Matt Groening

    Matt Groening
    Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

    Famous For: Matt's biggest credit is that he's the creator of The Simpsons. His comic strip, Life in Hell, was popular in the LA Weekly, and eventually turned into animated shorts on the Tracy Ullman Show. This was the big break that Matt needed. The shorts developed into the show starring Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa, ​and Maggie.

    Portland Connection: Matt Groening was born in Portland in 1954. He lived in Portland until going to Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA.

  • 02 of 10

    Chuck Palahniuk

    Famous For: Author, Chuck Palahniuk, is best-known for writing Fight Club in 1996, which then turned into a movie a few years later. Another book of his, ​Choke, was also turned into a film but didn't do all that well at the box office.

    Portland Connection: Palahniuk moved to Portland after attending journalism school at the University of Oregon. One of his books, Fugitives and Refugees, is an offbeat guidebook of Portland.

  • 03 of 10

    Gus Van Sant

    Famous For: Gus Van Sant is an Academy-Award nominated director. His credits include Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester, and Milk.

    Portland Connection: Gus Van Sant calls Portland home. His films Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho, and Paranoid Park were shot in Portland. 



  • 04 of 10

    Elliot Smith

    Famous For: Incredibly talented songwriter and musician who died in 2003 at age 34. Smith was nominated for an Oscar for his song Miss Misery, which appeared on the soundtrack for the movie Good Will Hunting.

    Portland Connection: Smith lived in Portland for a lot of his life, and his popularity grew significantly during his residence here. You can hear references to Portland in many of his songs. Listen for "Follow me down to the Rose Parade" in the song Rose Parade and "Driving up and down Division Street" in the song Punch and Judy.

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  • 05 of 10

    James Beard

    Famous For: James Beard was a famous chef and food writer. He's sometimes referred to as "the dean of American cookery." The James Beard Foundation provides scholarships to aspiring chefs and recognizes outstanding achievements in the culinary world.

    Portland Connection: Beard was born in Portland in 1903. He attended Reed College and later set up a cooking school in Seaside, Oregon, near where his family spent summers when he was a child.

  • 06 of 10

    Courtney Love

    Famous For: Courtney Love is an actress and musician. Her most popular music project, Hole, found most of their success during the 1990s. Courtney was married to Nirvana's Kurt Cobain.

    Portland Connection: Courtney spent some of her childhood in Portland. As a teenager, she was involved in the punk music scene here. She later took classes at PSU.

  • 07 of 10

    Carrie Brownstein

    Famous For: Carrie is a musician, actress, and writer. She stars in the comedy show, Portlandia. and she was formerly a guitarist for Sleater-Kinney.

    Portland Connection: Carrie lives in Portland, which makes her the perfect choice to make fun of the city in Portlandia.

  • 08 of 10

    Beverly Cleary

    Famous For: Cleary is a prolific author, mostly of books for young adults and children. Titles include Ramona Quimby, Age 8 and Dear Mr. Henshaw, both of which won literary awards. 

    Portland Connection: Beverly was born in McMinnville and then moved to Portland with her family when she was a child. There are several schools named after her in Portland, and there's a sculpture garden dedicated to her in Grant Park (NE 33rd + US Grant Place). Cleary's popular fictional character, Ramona, lived in Klickitat Street in NE Portland.

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  • 09 of 10

    Mark Rothko

    Famous For: Mark Rothko was a Russian-born abstract-impressionist painter. He passed away in 1970.

    Portland Connection: Mark's family moved to Portland, ​OR, when he was a child. He went to Lincoln High School. Rothko traveled extensively, but visited Portland regularly.

  • 10 of 10

    Tonya Harding

    Famous For: Tonya Harding was a skating champion. She is best known for the scandal involving clubbing fellow skater Nancy Kerrigan around the 1994 Olympics.

    Portland Connection: Tonya was born and raised in Portland. She used to practice skating at the Lloyd Center Ice Arena.