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CONNECTING the famous with Oklahoma

Updated:
TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ John Venture drops Oklahoma names with the same alacrity as he drops Tulsa names.

Did you know, for instance, that music greats Eric Clapton, John Denver, J.J. Cale, Ty England, Conway Twitty and Boz Scaggs have Oklahoma connections?

Or did you know that Mr. Ed the ``talking horse'' is buried in Tahlequah?

Then, there are TV personality Kathie Lee Gifford, who attended Oral Roberts University; actors Clark Gable, Tony Randall and Joan Crawford who all have Oklahoma ties.

Even flamboyant basketball player Dennis Rodman lived for a while on Oklahoma soil.

``To me Oklahoma is one of the most unpromoted states, and I think it's a great, great place,'' said Venture, president of Profile Press.

Profile Press does just what its title implies _ profiles people with an Oklahoma connection.

John Owen, a friend of Venture's, came up with the idea for creating a poster celebrating famous Oklahomans.

``Originally, I wanted to use photos of everyone, but that proved unworkable,'' said Owen, who is the designer of the posters. ``I think it's been intriguing finding all the people and the curious ways we found out about some of them.''

Owen noted that retired Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, whose Senate seat was filled by Hillary Rodham Clinton, was born in Tulsa. His family had moved to Tulsa from Okmulgee, and his father worked for The Tulsa Tribune. Also, Clark Gable worked as a roughneck on an oil rig in Barnsdall before heading to California and stardom.

When Owen mentioned his idea to his friend, Venture was between working on albums. Several years ago, even though he had no musical training or background, Venture felt compelled to start writing words and music after hearing the song ``Surely the Presence of the Lord'' at a workshop. Today, the business helps finance his music ministry. Venture has written 150 songs and nearly four albums, he said. Venture together with Owen's wife, Betsey, spent months researching through museums, historical societies and libraries to find names of people who lived, worked or died in Oklahoma.

``Most people can identify about 50 percent of the people on here, and others can't believe they're all on here, but I can assure you if they were on here and it was not correct, we would be sued,'' said Venture, pointing to a poster. ``So believe me, we did a lot of work to ensure these were correct.''

The company's ``Famous Oklahomans'' poster features names of 180 individuals arranged inside an outline of the state in borders of red, dark blue or light gray. Likewise, the Famous Tulsans poster consists of 150 individuals from the greater Tulsa area. Among them are Gene Autry, actor-singer; Mary Kay Place, actress-writer; Nancy Lopez, golfer; Machine Gun Kelly, gangster; and Johnnie Lee Wills, band leader.

Production of the Tulsa poster was halted a few years ago in order to add the Hanson brothers' name after the boys became an overnight singing sensation. The name of Ernestine Dillard, who touched the world with her singing at the Oklahoma City bombing memorial service, was also added.

Posters can be personalized and an individual's name added to the list for graduation, retirement, service recognition and anniversary gifts. Posters and T-shirts of the same design also are sold in hospital gift shops, hotels and frame shops. The business more recently has released the ``Sportstars of Oklahoma'' poster and is gathering data on Oklahoma musicians.

Over time, the business has branched into a third component: The promotion and marketing of eight individuals who are well-known inspirational-motivational speakers, authors or performing artists.

Among them are City Councilor Todd Huston, Debra Ramirez, Wesley Brainard, a mime who studied under Marcel Marceau in Paris, Victoria Lee, author of ``Movers & Shakers,'' and Jean Holmes, author of ``Do Dogs Go to Heaven?''
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