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Instant celebrities
by Susan Pierce
Tuesday, March 25, 2014    |   
Corky Corker
Corky Corker

Many television talents have called Chattanooga home before heading to Hollywood.

Jim Nabors, with his aw-shucks persona Gomer Pyle, starred in Chattanooga Little Theatre productions before joining the cast of "The Andy Griffith Show" in the early 1960s then his own spinoff, "Gomer Pyle, USMC."

Former Signal Mountain resident Rachel Boston was in theater productions at Girls Preparatory School before she was cast in "American Dreams" and now as Ingrid Beauchamp on "Witches of East End."

Comedians and UTC alumni Leslie Jordan and Dennis Haskins became synonymous with sitcom roles they created. Jordan won a 2006 Emmy Award for his portrayal of cynical Beverly Lesley on "Will & Grace." Haskins is still known to TV viewers as Principal Belding, even though a decade has passed since the "Saved By the Bell" gang graduated high school.

While these acting careers were built slowly over many years, other Chattanoogans have become instant celebrities via reality TV.

The most recent reality TV experience took place in The Pickel Barrel in downtown Chattanooga in February when the deli was the subject of a bar makeover taped by Two Rivers Production Co., which handles projects for Food Network and The Cooking Channel. As of press time, it was undisclosed as to what show the episode was taped for.

Here's a roundup of other local reality talents:

* Lauren Alaina: The Rossville singer was a high school sophomore when she tried out for Season 10 of "American Idol," ultimately coming in runner-up to Scotty McCreery. Since "Idol," she has released two albums, opened tours for Jason Aldean and for Sugarland, sang for President Barack Obama, and was named one of CMT's Next Women of Country. She recently got her own apartment in Nashville, where she is working as a singer-songwriter.

* Corky Coker: The owner of Coker Tire Co. made his TV debut in an episode of "American Pickers" when he purchased a couple of signs from show hosts Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz. His own reality series, "Backroad Gold," launched in February on the Travel Channel. Each week, he and son-in-law Greg Cunningham search the South's barns and backyards for classic cars and motorcycles they can restore.

* Joan Koplan: AMC ran two seasons focusing on Koplan's private investigation and security company in Ringgold, Ga. The show was known for scatological humor, crude language, Koplan's wisecracks to her employees, and wildly inappropriate business operations.

* Millie Smith and Chuck Shankles: This pair came in fifth on Season 4 of "Amazing Race."

* Mary Alice Haney: Haney was one of the first hosts, or style agents as they were called, on "Ambush Makeover." In each episode, she would surprise a girl on the street and update her look with new hairstyle, makeup and clothing.

* Lisa Robertson: The former Miss Tennessee has been a fan favorite and top hostess on television retailer QVC since 1995.

* Kelley Brooks Simoneaux: The Ooltewah High School graduate was featured on an episode of "Say Yes to the Dress." Lanae Patterson of Dalton appeared on "Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids."

* Jan Chenoweth and Roger Halligan, Sandra and Lamonte Bagby: These couples' homes were subjects for episodes of HGTV's "You Live in What?" The Bagbys converted an old chicken house in Apison into their home. Artists Chenoweth and Halligan renovated a Jehovah's Witness meeting hall in Red Bank to be their home/studio.

-- Compiled by staff writer Susan Pierce