Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

ValleyWho: Game Central (updated)

Welcome to ValleyWho, our bracket-style tournament featuring some of the central San Joaquin Valley’s favorite folks. ValleyWho looks much like the NCAA basketball tournament bracket. There’s a big difference between this and a basketball game: You control the outcome. Your votes will decide which FresNotables move on in each round. Think about it: Who’s more loved, Kopi or Chris Colfer? Christopher Gorham or Tom Seaver?

It’s easy to participate: You can sign up, vote and check results on our special ValleyWho game page here. For lots more info on the contest, continue reading this post for an introduction, a FAQ section and extended descriptions of our 64 contestants.


Who is the Valley’s most beloved icon? That’s what we’ll spend the next two weeks determining in ValleyWho — a bracket-style tournament featuring some of the central San Joaquin Valley’s favorite folks.

The Beehive crew brainstormed, argued and made some tough calls to come up with 64 people who, in one form or another, are pop-culture Valley icons. But who is the best of the best? That’s for you to decide.

ur field of 64 — featuring people from The Bee’s coverage area from Tulare to Merced — includes people from various disciplines: acting, music, sports, news, etc. Plus some faces from our community that aren’t “famous” to the world but are still beloved by us.

Voting begins at 7 a.m. Thursday on the tournament page. You can swing by today and get signed up, if you like. The sign-up is quick and easy, we promise. Voting for the first round will end at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 18.

Round by round, contenders will be whittled down until the winner is revealed March 31 at Beehive Birthday VII. So follow along, vote for you favorites, campaign, rally your friends and help us crown our ValleyWho champ.

While we certainly welcome debate, questions and gripes of being totally wrong (that’s the fun of this, right?) — here a few things we figure should address up front.

CHER: She didn’t make the cut. We didn’t think she lived here long enough. Just like Joanna Kerns and Kevin Costner. Sorry.

THIS IS NOT A SPORTS BRACKET: Yes, some people from the world of athletics are on here, but we tried to pick the top ones in their fields, the ones who had more pop culture cachet. We could probably do a sports-only bracket. This, however, is not it.

WE’RE AN ENTERTAINMENT/POP CULTURE BLOG: So that informs our selections. We’re not a political blog, a business blog, etc. So, you’ll notice that Mayor Ashley Swearengin didn’t make the field.

WE PROBABLY FORGOT SOMEBODY: And you’ll probably tell us about it. Hey, it happens. What’s a best-of-list, bracket or award ceremony without snubs?


Peach Regional

1. Audra McDonald — Four-time Tony winner and Broadway powerhouse who has starred on the TV shows “Private Practice” and “Mister Sterling.” Graduated from Roosevelt School of the Arts.


16. Crazy Bernie — Furniture pitchman who dares to be punched in the face.


8. Mike Connors – Fresno-born actor best known for playing detective Joe Mannix on the television show “Mannix,” which ran from 1967-1975.


9. Planet Asia — Grammy-nominated king of Fresno rap.


5. Bobby Salazar – Founder of a string of Mexican restaurants, Bobby Salazar’s, located throughout the San Joaquin Valley.


12. Josh Koscheck — UFC bad boy who trains and owns MMA gyms in Fresno.


4. Kevin Federline — The dancer, rapper, model and actor is best known for his two-year marriage to Britney Spears.


13. Anthony Taylor – Actor, director, Internet personality.


6. Pop Laval — A contemporary of Ansel Adams, he documented in photos Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley.


11. Robert Ogata – Highly regarded Fresno artist and early ArtHop stalwart repped by big-deal galleries in San Francisco and Scottsdale.


3. Jerry Tarkanian — One of the winningest coaches in college basketball history with a record of 729-201. He guided the California State University, Fresno, men’s team from 1995-2002 and coached UNLV to the 1989-1990 national championship.


14. Creed Bratton — Actor, best-know for portraying a fictional version of himself on “The Office,” and musician.


7. Ross Bagdasarian Sr. – Fresno-born singer, songwriter and actor who used the stage name David Seville, created the Chipmunks, cousin to William Saroyan.


10. Laura Berg — Softball star and four-time Olympic medalist who helped Fresno State win the 1998 Women’s College World Series.


2. Ray Appleton — Opinionated KMJ (AM 580) radio talk show host who began his radio career in Fresno in 1969. He joined KMJ in 1987. Regular participant in local Civil War reenactments.


15. Jenifer Alcorn — She is a retired IWBF, WIBA and IBA World Champion professional boxer. Her family was on a 2006 episode of “Wife Swap.”

Citrus Regional

1. Chris Colfer — Golden Globe winning actor who stars on the hit FOX series “Glee.” The Clovis East graduate has written and stars in the movie “Struck by Lightning.”


16. California Raisins — Internationally known animated raisins.


8. Fashawn – Fresno-born rapper best known for his album Boy Meets World, has toured with Ghostface Killah, Brother Ali, Wiz Khalifa, and Blu and Exile.


9. Trent Dilfer – Former Fresno State and NFL quarterback, won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens.


5. Kopi Sotiropulos – Co-anchor of KMPH’s “Great Day,” face of Fresno’s annual Greek Festival, hairpiece enthusiast.


12. Terry Lewis – Longtime Fresno community-theater actor and accomplished tenor known for everything from clean-cut musicals to a recent revealing performance at the Rogue Festival.


4. Paul Rodriguez – Comedian, actor and activist.


13. Mike Scott - KGPE Channel 47 television personality.


6. Arthur Dyson – Accomplished local architect who studied with Frank Lloyd Wright; designed University High School and Woodward Park Regional Library.


11. Grace Lee Whitney — Coarsegold resident who played Yeoman Janice Rand on the original “Star Trek.”


3. Theodore Kuchar — Named music director of the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra in 2001. Became artistic director of the Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela in 2011. He’s recorded more than 90 compact discs in the last decade.


14. Timmy T – Fresno-born singer known for the 1991 #1 single “One More Try.”


7. Sharon Leal - Actress and singer known for movies Dreamgirls and Why Did I Get Married? and television show “Boston Public,” graduate of Fresno’s Roosevelt High School.


10. Brad Myers — Acclaimed Fresno State theater director and professional Shakespearean actor.


2. Philip Levine – The Pulitzer Prize winning professor emeritus at Fresno State was named poet laureate of the United States in 2011. He’s written 20 collections of poems.


15. Jacqueline Antaramian — Fresno State theater alum with a significant New York and regional career, including Broadway’s “Master Class.”

Raisin Regional

1. William Saroyan — An Armenian American dramatist and author whose play “The Time of Your Life” won him a Pulitzer Prize and Oscar for Best Writing, Original Story. Has a theater named for him in downtown Fresno.


16. Parker - Beloved furry mascot of the Fresno Grizzlies


8. Barry McGuire - Singer/songwriter behind the 1965 No. 1 hit song “Eve of Destruction.”


9. Dot Marie Jones — A Fresno State shot-put All-American and world arm-wrestling champion, her acting career turned gold with an Emmy nomination for “Glee.”


5. Lorenzo Neal - Lemoore High and Fresno State alumnus, NFL fullback, founder of tailgate food company Fan Foods.


12. Astrid Plane — Lead singer of 1980s new wave band Animotion, frequent Good Company Players actress.


4. Dan Pessano – As managing directing of Good Company Players, he has worked with the likes of Audra MacDonald, Christopher Gorham and Sharon Leal. There is a Dan Pessano Theater in Clovis.


13. Sayra Vazquez – Univision (KFTV, Channel 21) news anchor.


6. Al Radka – Radio and TV icon regarded as “Mr. Fresno.”


11. Kasey Kahl — Turned a run on TV’s “The Bachelorette” into pop-culture currency, thoroughly annoyed everyone by repeatedly saying of the alpha female on the show that he’d “guard and protect her heart.”


3. Tom Seaver — The Fresno High School graduate is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He compiled a 311-205 record pitching for the Mets, Reds, White Sox and Red Sox. Was the 1967 NL Rookie of the Year.


14. Barbara Van Arnam – Gallery 25 stalwart and noted local artist.


7. Bob Mathias – Olympic gold medalist, decathlete, actor and Congressman.


10. Joyce Aiken — Nationally prominent feminist artist who steered the Fresno State art department in the post-Judy Chicago years, a founding member of Gallery 25 and former director of the Fresno Arts Council.


2. Sid Haig – The Fresno High School graduate worked in classic TV series such as “Batman” and “Charlie’s Angels” but is best known for horror films like “The Devil’s Rejects” and “House of 1000 Corpses.”


15. Heidi Blickenstaff – Good Company Players alum turned Broadway star, including the hit “[title of show].”


Almond Regional

1. Alan Autry — After playing for the Green Bay Packers and starring in TV series like “In the Heat of the Night,” served two terms as Fresno mayor.


16. The Waving Lady on Hwy 41 – She greets you almost every day with a big wave from the Highway 41 overpasses.


8. Graciela Moreno – Emmy-award winning anchor of ABC 30′s “Action News at Six” and “Action News at 6:30,” host of “Latino Life.”


9. Gary Soto — Famed Fresno poet and former student of Philip Levine, winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize.


5. Richard Kiel – 7 ft. tall actor best known for playing Jaws in Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, currently lives in Coarsegold.


12. Stefani Booroojian — KSEE news anchor icon and Emmy winner instrumental in bringing the station’s “Buddy Check” program to the San Joaquin Valley.


4. Nick Watney — The Fresno State graduate plays on the PGA Tour. His biggest victory was wining the 2011 WGC-Cadillac Championship. His cousin is former KMPH (Channel 26.1) reporter Heidi Watney.


13. Patrick Contreras – Rock violinist popular on local music scene.


6. Andy Finch – Olympics snowboarder, attended Fresno’s Bullard High School. Took a run around the world as contestant on “The Amazing Race.”


11. David Mas Masumoto – A third generation organic farmer and author of four books.


3. Christopher Gorham — The Roosevelt High School graduate has starred in the TV shows “Popular,” “Jake 2.0″ and “Ugly Betty.” He currently stars in “Covert Affairs.”


14. Gnarley Charley – Popular radio personality on Kiss Country 93.7.


7. Pat Hill – Former Fresno State football coach.


10. Ryan Beatty — The Internet is calling this teen pop singer the next Justin Bieber.


2. Steve Perry –The former lead singer of Journey grew up in Hanford. The band had 18 Top 40 singles in the United States before he left to follow a solo career.


15. Boogaloo Sam & Popin’ Pete – Breakdancing innovators, credited for inventing pop-locking.

Responses to "ValleyWho: Game Central (updated)"

Famous says:

I super like this idea and think y’all did a pretty darn good job with the picks.

While I understand the reason, I would say Mike Oz would have a better chance than at least a dozen of your choices. Just saying.

Mike Scott says:

This should be fun! Thanks for including me on the list, Mike!

Larry Rubinow says:

Not a bad list. I could quibble about a few entries (no Henry Ellard? no Roger Rocka?), but I can only think of one name missing that, beyond question, should be there.

No Rafer Johnson? Seriously?

Sam Hansen says:

Parker vs. William Saroyan’s Mustache would be a tough battle. But Parker vs. Saroyan the man himself…no problem.

Kris_gee says:

Great picks! Diverse group & clever regional titles. All leading up to the Beehive Bday. Genius! Let the voting begin!

Jeff says:

Where is Blackie Gejeian on your list?

forgot the sausage bandit

Michael says:

Kudos on literary representation, not too shabby.Would’ve like to see Pho represented instead of the California Raisins, by the way.

Stephen says:

Not bad. BUT.

Anthony Taylor, while beloved by those who know him, that list is rather small in the overall scheme of things. Joel Abels is the better pick.

Barbara Van Arnum???

Where is Boyd Grant? Rafer Johnson I understand, I guess, not being there – as this isn’t a sports competition.

I get that you all eliminated yourselves, but how does Scoopy not beat out the outdated California Raisins?

No Roger Rocka is okay cuz Dan Pessano is there.

Any list without Chris Terrence is rough. Rougher still is Kerry Yo Nakagawa being snubbed.

You took an Hispanic anchor/female, I assume to meet some quota, but you should’ve picked Gil Garcia Padron. He’s been on the air and promoting longer than any other Hispanic anywhere.

No John Wallace????

The Almond regional is certainly the toughest. I predict a VERY early set of upsets there (Alan Autry could be the first #1 seed to go down to a #16 seed ever).

Patrick Contreras vs Nick Watney is a tough match-up. Pat Hill as the 7 could come up against #13 Contreras in a series of upsets.

My overall final four has gotta be: Audra, Kopi (or Levine), William Saroyan, and in the Almond? Whew….maybe Booroojian in a major upset??

Overall winner: Saroyan.

Stephen says:

Oh, and delightful idea! What great fun, and very well done!!

jackrodwell83 says:

ray appelton a number two seed lol. what a joke

Jackki Hirahara says:

Pitting Sid Haig against someone who you don’t even know the name of the Broadway “hit” she was in? Inconceivable!!

Mike Oz says:

Jackki: The title of the play is “[Title of Show].”
Just to clarify that.

And, well, Sid is a pretty high seed.

Mike Oz says:

We didn’t really go for the “notorious.” Thus, Marcus Wesson, Amber Frey, etc. not being on the list.

Mike Oz says:

One thing I’ll add on Anthony Taylor — it’s not just his local theater credentials taken into his account. But his role as the an all-around local personality. From a web show host, social media dude, new Pecha Kucha host, etc.

Lots of good suggestions on there. I agree that the Almond is tough.

Katie Johnson says:

I’m outraged that Kopi’s toupee is not on this list.

Anthony Taylor is the new Travis Sheridan!

Great list. Makes me proud to be from such a talented community.

hootzie says:

Proud to have been listed as your first quibble with this activity, sir.

hootzie says:

No one could ever be the next Travis Sheridan.

At least…not until you are dead.


hootzie says:

Happy to be considered. Here’s hoping K-Fed doesn’t activate his dozens of fans!

bradley says:

i love the match ups. i laughed my way through them — well done!

The Fresnan says:

Well done, hivers. Considering how tough it is to put a balanced field, nice job.

Tommy says:

Who’s voting?Is it just the usual bee-hivers…what’s being done to ensure the most valley correspondence?

Mike Oz says:

Anybody can vote. It’s already getting pretty good media attention already and word is spreading around the Internet since many of the people involved are campaigning.

Tommy says:

Nice!Let me know if you would like me to zap my contacts with an event written exactly how you would word it.We’re already friend on can message me there if you like :)

Tommy says:

Oh I see what you mean..everyone can campaign to the best of their abilities with their preferred picks?Right?

Chango Martinez says:

Joyce Aiken! Joyce Aiken! Joyce Aiken!

HEY – I am the accessory to the greatest Weatherman on Earth !!! The King of Koke. The Heir of Hennessy. The love slave of Graciela Moreno herself – BOW DOWN FRESNO !!!

Angel Rodriquez says:

Considering some people are simply from the Fresno area and not Fresno, specifically, I would have liked to have seen Tom Flores on the list. Then again, I missed the input part of this competition. Interesting idea.

Becca says:

RYAN BEATTY RYAN BEATTY RYAN BEATTY…Now that I got your attention :) he’s amazing and deserves this :)

Skylar jewel says:

Ryan Beatty , he is super talented if you do not know who he is you need to check him out on youtube (TheRyanBeatty)his voice is so beautiful i love it soooo much <3 he inspires me to be myself and do whatever i want to do in life because a kid from fresno CAN live there dream. I Love You Ryan <3

Kalie says:

Ryan Beatty,he’s my inspiration,he more amazing than words can describe.His voice is angelic.If u see this Ryan plz plz let me know

Nick Haas says:

Awesome List, My Final Four: Trent Dilfer, Audra McDonald, Andy Finch, and Parker. Thats Parker beating Neal in the Elite Eight!

Tony Persons says:

I suppose someone will need to ask Waving Lady (16) what her name is before this competition is over….she just might win it!!!


Waving Lady will be waving goodbye to Bubba as she will be upsetting the #1 seed. William Saroyan should win this hands down, but you never know. I got Patrick Contreras upsetting Nick.

Cookie says:

Not too bad of a list, but come one Raisins???? And a mascot to a team who has a multimillion dollar stadium they cant fill half way! Where’s Tim McDonald?

Mike Oz says:

Hey, just trying to have some fun.

Tommy says:

With so many rounds I wouldn’t have the time to keep tabs on the progression of this contest.Sounds fun though :)

Dwight says:

Just a few names for the boomers that would have been fun…Warren Zevon,Jim Doval and Dean and Don…Good job guys this is fun!

Joe Herzog says:

This is a most impressive list, but it is greatly diminished with the absence of Dutch Warmerdam. Multiple world record holder, first person ever to vault over 15′ and he’s in EVERY hall of fame, everywhere. Coached Fresno State to it’s first ever NCAA championship, in 1964 (NCAA College Division Track and Field Champs.)

jojosim says:

What’s the deal with the bad pic of Graciela Moreno? Did you catch her having lunch or getting out of a car? One needs to be more selective on the photo selecticn process.

Stephen says:

Well, you’re certainly appealing to all ages.


Jim Doval??? I’m 48, never heard of Jim Doval.

I can also tell by the voting so far that Fresno Magazine isn’t in on this – first off no one has demanded Stacy Johnson-Klein be on here, nor Melanie Warnor.

Cuz otherwise Ray Appleton and Alan Autry would be way winning…damn liberal voters. (heee!)

Stephen says:

For the record, I’m thoroughly enjoying this.

But the seeding committee will need more work this year – the idea is to have a couple of upsets, but there’s no WAY a #16 should be a #1, and it might happen twice!

#15 Heidi Blickenstaff is also bombing Ray Appleton, which only means Ray hasn’t mentioned it on his show yet.

I am glad to see the mid-level challenges are going about as expected with expected upsets.

I agree with the commentor above, we might have to get more familiar with the Overpass Wave Lady soon – she could make it to the final four!

Dwight says:

Jim Doval was the singer and leader of a band called the Gauchos…They were the house band on a show called Shindig on network TV in the Sixties

Susan Rush says:

16. Crazy Bernie — Furniture pitchman who dares to be punched in the face. — is # 1

Ray Arthur says:

Just completed my entries. Most of my picks were with the majority but my musical masters Patrick Contreras and Timmy T.(sorry Ted)are getting creamed. What’s up wit dat?! Also pulling for Sid Haig and Ross Bagdasarian (Come On People – THE CHIPMONKS!) but it doesn’t look good.

FresnoYouth says:

I’ve never realized how many famous people are from the Central Valley thanks for the history lesson.

Yeti says:

Loved the set up in the Bee and I am exited to watch this elimination Game. Wondering how well I do.Good luck to all the participants and may the most popular personality win

I say we just step into the ring….(lol)

Come on now guys, yes, my 3x undefeated boxing record is cool, wifeswap (well, ok, national attention)

But I would much rather be noted for my love of the community through fitness boot camp and support of local charities – I am

“helping the masses change their a**es on a** at a time!”

Fitness Commander Alcorn

Esther says:

I admire all these people however, Jenifer Alcorn in my book is number one! Not only is she the ultimate athlete she finds the time to give back to her comunity. Her commitment to helping others whether it’s in a weight loss journey or helping those in need. She is dedicated to helping thos less fortunate then her; veteran, families, the Fresno Blood bank giving back to this comunity is what she does. I am honored to know such an amazing woamn who is kind, generous, and giving. Jen you are awesome thank you for all you do!

Cheryl says:

Valley Who: Dr. Paul S. Chaffee “Doc”, The Fresno Chaffee Zoo???? How could we forget the beloved Dr. Chaffee???… Snubs are funny, but that was sad…. I know how much “Doc” gave to our entire community as the Zoo Director for 30 years. Particularly when we take our children to the ZOO…. and how much they love it… RIP “Doc” you will always be remembered! There are many other wonderful people you forgot also in your “staff” vote…. but this one was personal.

Long time customer says:

Why not give us some “write-in” brackets Mike for “wildcard” slots to vote for the forgotten ones…(you know, a little nostalgia) for those who greatly impacted our Valley that you guys didn’t seem to recall??… Now that would be a fun twist for everyone to vote….

memepinkette says:

“Chris colfer” est la plus talentueuse des personne vivant sur c’ette terre,le plus courageux et le plus incroyable et est surtous un putain d’incroyable acteur Chris the best..

Tim says:

Cher was a student at Fresno High, according to Wikipedia.
“Due to severe, undiagnosed dyslexia, she left Fresno High School at age 16.”

Anonymous says:

Big-time name omitted —LARRY BALAKIAN – BIG contributor to the ARTS in Fresno

Chris says:

Where is Paul Loeffler the radio voice of Fresno st Athletics and ESPN Spelling bee analyst

John Macy says:

This has been fun. but maybe you should have called for sugestions for some of the names and you would have missed some of the names that should have been on the brackets John Wallace, Warren Zevon, and Chris Terrence certainly deserved to be on the list although maybe that’s old school somewhat, but still, they made good contributions.

FresnoGalVal says:

IMHO, This is obviously skewed for the younger generation as I have never heard of these young punks (well maybe I shouldn’t use that word) I have no idea who the “internet” sensation is.

I am Fresno born and raised and they aren’t my FRESNO ICON-albeit I was born here many moons ago….

Could it be because older folks don’t have access to the internet or do not want to be bothered with this as they knew it would be skewed and geared toward “internet” savvy people?

Why wasn’t there a call in instead of voting on-line? I bet if you had printed it in the BEE and then had only one call per number you would have more votes. Bad marketing.

Mike Oz says:

I’d say the fact that among our final eight you’ll find Saroyan, Lavel, Mathias and Levine means that this isn’t about “young punks.”

DV says:

Here’s my current beef. I prepare to vote in the next round to find out some of my choices were–wrong? Ouch. Are we supposed to vote for our favorites or is this an elaborate form of Family Feud, where we just try to guess what most people would pick? Does anybody else find that “wrong” thing annoying?

Mike Oz says:

I think the “wrong” thing is just a glitch — there are “wrong” answers in this. It’s a voting thing. If you choose someone and they don’t win their matchup, then obviously you can’t vote for them in the next round. But it’s not “wrong.” I dunno why that’s showing up, but I’ll ask.

Terry says:

wasn’t Slim Pickens from around here?