Catalina Island Visitor Information
Notable Catalina Island Visitors and Residents
As you might imagine, a glamorous resort such as Avalon on the island of Santa Catalina has drawn its fair share of celebrities. Catalina is even the birthplace of one noted TV and film actor - and was the site of the demise of another.
A B Actor Gets his Start
The radio announcer from Illinois by way of Des Moines was all of 25 years old when he came to Catalina Island in 1936 in order to report on the Chicago Cubs spring training session. Avalon was not far from Hollywood however, and film moguls were always on the lookout for new talent.
Ambitious and looking to advance his career, he took a screen test that resulted in his being cast in a major film the following year. A remarkably successful B actor, he would appear in over 30 films before exchanging his movie career for politics.
His name: Ronald Reagan.
A Future Sex Goddess
Lieutenant James Dougherty attended basic training on Catalina Island before being sent overseas during World War II. He had been accompanied by his young wife, Norma Jean. Left behind, Norma occupied her time babysitting for other servicemen's families before going to work for a radio company, where a movie producer discovered her. After this, she stopped writing to her husband and ultimately filed for divorce.
Bleaching her hair, she went on to personify sex itself in numerous films before her death from an overdose at age 36.
By then of course, she had changed her name to Marilyn Monroe.
The Birth and Death of a Celebrity
Few today remember Gregory Harrison, who was very busy in TV and films from the late 1970s throughout the 1980s. He may, however be Catalina's most famous "native son," having been born on the island in 1950. Some of Harrison's credits include the Michener mini-series Centennial and the brilliant "Dallas" spoof, Fresno as well as the short-lived Trapper John MD. Most recently, Harrison appeared in a Broadway production of Chicago.
Sondheim fans who remember the film versions of West Side Story and Gypsy also remember Natalie Wood, who drowned off the coast of Catalina in 1981 while vacationing with her husband, Robert Wagner.