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.
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12:00 AM EST
December 23, 2008