Most Interesting People 2009

Marlee & Steve Brown
Ages 29 & 32 | owners of Shoparooni

Why they’re interesting // A professional yo-yo player, Steve has competed in world championships. Marlee’s a graphic designer who opened the quirky Shoparooni boutique in 2007. Last year, their unconventional lives were broadcast nationwide when they participated in the ABC show Wife Swap.

His ups and downs //In the ’90s, Steve was a homeless artist living on the streets of Tallahassee, Fla. He befriended the owner of a kite store who told Steve that if he learned to yo-yo, he could work at his store. “I knew nothing about yo-yos, but said, ‘Sure, why not?’ ” Steve remembers. “Poverty is a strong motivator.”

His hardest trick is ... //“Convincing people to pay me. I’m definitely not the breadwinner in this family.”

An unconventional courtship //“We met on Friendster — back when people still used it,” says Steve. They met for a drink at the Winking Lizard on Coventry. “I thought he was a dork,” says Marlee. “I thought she was kind of a bitch,” Steve counters. But they kept running into each other. “Eventually, he was totally hooked,” says Marlee.

The big swap //For ABC’s Wife Swap, Marlee moved to a home in rural Idaho to live with a family of uptight taskmasters, while Steve’s freewheeling vibe was interrupted when his new “wife” moved in. He and Marlee’s 3-year-old son, Maverick, actually hid in the basement for most of the taping. Marlee, however, bonded quickly with her new family, buying art supplies for them to scribble all over the walls. In the end, “all the message boards agreed: We kicked butt!” says Marlee.

The outcome //As a reward for participating in the show, the Browns were given $20,000. “It sort of made up for the money we didn’t make while we were planning for the shoot,” Steve says.
Jorge Delgado
Age 41 | I’m the director of international relations for the Cleveland Foundation

Why he’s interesting //
Born in Communist Cuba, Delgado was sent by the Soviets to Russia to study at the age of 18, fled to Germany and, in the following years, visited 60 countries, earned three degrees, became a business leader and was recruited by the Cleveland Foundation to serve as its director of international relations in 2007.

His mission //“The biggest opportunity for Cleveland to really become a functional and strong city is to start looking for global opportunities and global partners.”

Say Cleveland is too small ... //And Delgado will say, “Let’s do this: Fly together to Rio de Janeiro and try to do some business. After a week, I promise you’ll be happy to go back to Cleveland and enjoy that you don’t have the dirt, the air, the dangers and the congestion. A city to be beautiful, to be functional, to be great does not need to have 17 million people.”

His sweeter half //Delgado’s Bavarian wife, Susanne, owns Delgado Chocolate Pleasures in Munich. Their apartment there serves as Delgado’s European base of operations.

Luther Norman
Age 62 | I’m a fisherman

Why he’s interesting //
After working as a carpenter for 34 years, Norman retired in 2000 to focus on his favorite pastime, fishing. These days, you’ll find Norman under a big Panama hat on his boat at the Intercity Yacht Club. As a charter boat captain and instructor for the Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs program, he’s exposed hundreds —young and old — to the wonders of the lake.

Gone fishing //When Norman was 9, he convinced some local fishermen to take him on their next excursion. To prep for the trip, he bought every fishing magazine he could find. The fishermen didn’t make good on their promise, but Norman wasn’t deterred. “Reading all that information about fishing ignited a passion in me,” he says. A few weeks later, Norman got a chance to hit the water, and he was hooked for life.

Job benefits //“The most wonderful thing you could experience is the joy you see on a child’s face after they catch their first fish. Regardless of whether it’s small or large, it’s a moment that will remain dear to them for the rest of their lives.”

His biggest catch //A 7-foot shark while deep-sea fishing off the coast of New Jersey

Favorite fishing spot //Lake Erie, where there are ample walleye, yellow perch and smallmouth bass

His ride //A 26-foot Trophy by Bayliner

Bob Golic
Age 51 | Former NFL football player,
radio-show host and restaurateur
Why he’s interesting // This Willowick native has been a nose tackle for the Cleveland Browns, actor on Saved by the Bell: The College Years, football analyst, sports reporter and sports anchor. He now hosts an afternoon radio talk show on WNIR 100.1 in Akron. This fall, he opened Bob Golic’s Sports Bar and Grille.

Cleveland eats //Golic’s restaurant offers classic Cleveland fare and bar food. It may also soon serve some of the stuff his mom used to make on Sundays. “It was pork, dumplings and sauerkraut. Not every Sunday, but enough to make it a very strong memory.”

Hometown kid //“Being able to play football in my hometown was it for me.” He says every game he played in a Cleveland Browns uniform was special to him.

Sibling rivalry? //Golic says there isn’t one. He says he has been there, done that when it comes to his younger brother Mike’s radio and TV career with ESPN. Now Bob prefers to spend more time with his wife and kids. “I want to get out of work, hop in the car and hurry over to whoever’s game is going on.”

Yeah, OK, but who was the better football player? //Golic says it’s a “no-brainer” when you compare his 14 seasons in the NFL and three Pro Bowl appearances to Mike’s nine seasons and zero Pro Bowls.

Zack Morris or A.C. Slater? //While the women swoon for Saved by the Bell ’s Zack Morris (aka Mark-Paul Gosselaar), Golic says he’s closer to Mario López. The actor was even a guest at Golic’s wedding.

Alia Kate
Age 23 | I’m an exporter of Moroccan rugs

Why she’s interesting //She’s a 23-year-old Oberlin College grad who started Kantara Crafts last year, a fair-trade business that exports Moroccan rugs and other goods to the United States, thus helping provide a living wage for Moroccan families.

How does a 23-year-old do this? //Kate took a break from Oberlin with a plan to spend six months in Morocco learning Arabic and volunteering for a group to end child labor. While there, she learned about the plight of women rug-weavers exploited by larger industries. “Middlemen would buy the rugs for next to nothing and sell them to tourists in big cities for higher prices.”

Kantara ... //Means “bridge” in Arabic

How it’s helping //The profits from Kantara Crafts are used to help increase the standard of living in Morocco and to provide better education in Moroccan schools. Kate also collaborated with Peace Corps cooperatives to ensure decent living conditions for Moroccan workers.

Surf’s up //While in Morocco, Kate had plenty of visitors at her place via the CouchSurfing network, an online site that helps link travelers with people who are willing to host them at their home. Kate’s place was quite popular with travelers from Europe, Asia and the United States. “There was a three- or four-month period where we had a couch surfer every night of the week.”

Ellen Rudolph
Age 36 | I’m the curator of exhibitions for the Akron Art Museum

Why she’s interesting //She’s worked at Sotheby’s in New York City and alongside Toby Lewis, who built Progressive Corp.’s massive corporate art collection. Now Rudolph spends her days bringing the public face to face with great art at the Akron Art Museum.

Artistic start //“When I went off to college, I was encouraged to get a liberal arts college education because my parents didn’t think that being an artist would be fruitful. I immediately started taking art history classes. I discovered that it was my ideal way to learn about history and culture visually.”

Favorite artist //“I tend to be pretty fickle about art. But Mark Rothko is one of my all-time favorite artists. He is an abstract expressionist, and his paintings are these floating rectangles of color. It’s very, very emotional — the colors just sort of resonate this amazing emotion.”

Putting together a collection //“I am in the midst of organizing an exhibition comprised of art works from 13 different artists from all over the world. What I am doing is identifying work that I want to include in the exhibition, and then I contact the artist, the gallery or the museum that has the work. It’s a complicated process. It’s exciting to organize an exhibition from scratch.”

Working with Toby Lewis //“She has an incredible stamina for art that is definitely contagious. I saw a ton of art, and the Progressive Collection is really amazing for a corporate collection. They have all the superstar artists from the last 30 years.”

Tips for enjoying art //“Be open to it. Don’t feel like you have to analyze or understand it.”
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