Rediscover Orlando: Celebs & The City Beautiful

From the hottest boy band stars to sports legends, Orlando has been home to many superstars over the years.
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PHOTO CREDITS: Roberto Gonzalez (1); TDC Photography; Ron Adar; Hayk_shalunts; Blueee77

The Boy Band Connection

Known for its rich musical talent pool, in the ‘90s Orlando was dubbed the “Motown of pop music” for the sheer volume of boy bands it produced.

In 1992, a 14-year-old AJ McLean, who moved from West Palm Beach to Orlando to act in Nickelodeon’s short-lived sitcom “Hi Honey, I’m Home,” answered an advertisement for singers for a doo-wop group.  He was signed on the spot and the Backstreet Boys were born. Another transplant to Orlando, Nick Carter, was offered a $50,000 contract to join “The Mickey Mouse Club” but opted instead for membership in the nascent Backstreet Boys. Kevin Richardson, a character performer at Walt Disney World Resort, also signed on. Richardson’s cousin, Brian Littrell and Orlando native Howie Dorough rounded out the group.

Chris Kirkpatrick was passed over for the Backstreet Boys, but that didn’t stop him from forming his own pop group, NSYNC.

For more than a year, Kirkpatrick scouted for potential group members. While watching tapes of “The All-New Mickey Mouse Club,” he happened upon aspiring singer Justin Timberlake, who in turn recommended fellow Mouseketeer JC Chasez and Mississippi native Lance Bass, the only member of the group not residing in Florida at the time.

Later, Kirkpatrick remembered Joey Fatone from their days performing at Universal Studios Florida, and NSYNC was complete. 

Other boy bands with an Orlando connection include LFO and O-Town, a product of the ABC show “Making the Band.”

Disney’s various incarnations of “The Mickey Mouse Club” proved to be an incubator for talent, giving the world such pop icons as Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, as well as actors Keri Russell and Ryan Gosling. 

Sports-Star Central

With a proliferation of sports teams and golf courses in the Orlando area, it’s no wonder athletes flock to Central Florida. 

Arnold Palmer and Orlando go way back. On a 1965 visit, Palmer discovered Bay Hill, what was then a remote corner of the city on the edge of orange groves. Five years later, it would become the Bay Hill Club & Lodge and later Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge; in 1979, it became part of the PGA Tour. 

The March tournament, since christened The Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard, is a major stop on the tour, with Kurt Kitayama powering his way to victory at this year’s tourney. 

Palmer is also behind one of The City Beautiful’s most exclusive real-estate developments. In 1984, Palmer purchased the land for what would eventually become Isleworth Golf & Country Club in Windermere, a luxury development and golf course. 

Athletes who’ve called Windermere home include Shaquille O’Neal (almost 30 years), Charles Woodson (22 years), Tiger Woods (13 years) and Warren Sapp (7 years). 

Former NBA star and basketball analyst Vince Carter lives at in Windermere part time. His Mediterranean-style estate boasts a regulation NBA-sized gymnasium, an 82-foot-long swimming pool, nine bedrooms and 17 bathrooms.  

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Arnold Palmer was one of Orlando’s most famous residents. Photo by Roberto Gonzalez

Other Celebrity Residents 

Another former resident of Windemere, Orlando-born actor and producer Wesley Snipes, was raised in Brooklyn but returned to Orlando as a teenager and graduated from Jones High School. He bought the lakefront estate in the ‘90s during a high point in his career so he could be close to his mother, but sold it in 2004 in foreclosure.

Two members of rock band Creed have longtime ties to Orlando. Mark Tremonti, guitarist and founding member of Creed and Alter Bridge, moved to Orlando with his family when he was 15 years old. He and Orlando-native Scott Stapp, Creed’s lead vocalist, met as students at Lake Highland Preparatory School. They would go their separate ways until reuniting at Florida State University, where they formed the band in 1994 with Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips.  

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