Lesser-known Indiana is linked to pop culture


Indiana is everywhere, if you look closely enough.

We all know about Hoosier State’s precious presence in popular culture, thanks to TV shows like “Parks and Recreation” and “Stranger Things” using Indiana as a backdrop for many years. Some references to Indiana have been more prominent (and perhaps not so flattering), like when actress Ellie Kemper escapes her cult “Indiana Mole Women” and moves to New York City on “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”.

Then there is the pride and starry joys, revered performers and celebrities we can proudly call fellow Hoosiers. Gary, Indiana, claims to be the birthplace of pop star Michael Jackson. A native of Indianapolis and a graduate of Ball State University, David Letterman is often back in Indiana for the Indian 500 as part-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

But some people have more subtle connections to the Hoosier state. Even though they were only there for a brief period, Indiana served as a stop for their life journeys. Here are some famous people and popular culture items related to Indiana that you may have forgotten:


Amelia Earhart

After becoming the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo, Earhart became a career counselor and counselor in the Department of Aeronautics at Purdue University. The aviation pioneer inspired young people there from 1935 to 1937, before her ill-fated flight.

Amelia Earhart (Photo / AP File)

Earhart was trying to become the first woman to fly around the world. About a month after their flight began, Earhart and her navigator lost contact with the U.S. Coast Guard after radio and weather difficulties, according to Purdue University. Their remains and the plane were never found.

Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger

Have you ever flown with Chesley Sullenberger III?  I have known Captain Sullenberger for over 30 years and have flown with him several times.  We were so close in terms of seniority that we never flew as a crew, but I flew in his jump seat and he flew in my jump seat.  I appreciate his friendship and the professionalism he shows.

Another former Purdue aviation student, Sullenberger received a master’s degree in industrial psychology from the university in 1973. In January 2009, in what is now known as “Miracle on the Hudson,” the pilot skillfully landed a US Airways airliner over the New York River. A flock of geese had destroyed the two engines of the plane, but Sullenberger was able to make the unprecedented emergency landing and save the 155 people on board.

Sullenberger came to West Lafayette recently as a guest speaker, marking the 10th anniversary of the incident.

Ryan murphy

Meryl Streep and James Corden star as Broadway actors trying to save their careers in

The award-winning screenwriter of “Glee” and “American Horror Story” is originally from Indianapolis and a former student of Indiana University. Murphy has spoken of his upbringing in the Midwest in the past, noting that he had a similar experience to his first Netflix movie “The Prom,” when his alma mater Warren Central High School advised him not to bring his boyfriend at prom in the early 1980s. He told The New Yorker in 2018 that he grew up in “Irish working class Indiana” and was a “rebellious teenager”.

‘Prom’:Ryan Murphy’s first Netflix movie

See again:How Netflix’s ‘The Prom’ Musical Depicts Indiana

Orville Redenbacher popcorn

Orville Redenbacher, circa 1979

Orville Redenbacher, founder of the popcorn brand of the same name, grew up in Brazil, Indiana and started growing his own corn at the age of 12. He then studied agriculture at Purdue University. By 1965, according to the Orville brand story, Orville and his business partner had perfected their popcorn hybrid because it was “light and chewy”, leaving “hardly any unpopulated kernel.”

Redenbacher promoted his brand himself, appearing in television commercials until his death in 1995 at the age of 88.

Today, the brand is owned by Conagra Brands, headquartered in Chicago.

RetroIndy:How Hoosiers changed the popcorn industry

Jenna fischer

She was only there for a short time, but actress Jenna Fischer was born in Fort Wayne. Her family moved to Saint-Louis before she was two years old.

The former “The Office” star returned to speak at DePauw University in 2018.

“Broad Ripple is burning”

The 2008 song, written by former Indianapolis rock band Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, names the beloved neighborhood of Broad Ripple and Fountain Square. The song takes on a sadder tone than the bustling neighborhoods it mentions, but the melancholy lyrics have reached people near and far, including pop star Billie Eilish. It has over 24 million streams on Spotify.

After:Billie Eilish Presents ‘Broadripple is Burning’ on Custom Playlist

“The pleasure of painting”

Bob Ross in 1986

Painter Bob Ross’s iconic TV show “The Joy of Painting” was produced in a Muncie studio inside Lucius L. Ball’s historic home from 1983 to 1988. After 1988, the show transferred production at Ball State University. Ross grew up in Florida and served in the military, but his passion eventually brought him to Hoosier State for his longtime show, celebrated for his calming, one-on-one teaching style.

The Minnetrista Museum now honors Ross’s life and career with the “Bob Ross Experience”.

Contact Rashika Jaipuriar at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @rashikajpr.

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