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The Curious Case of William Bradley Pitt



Inked onto the toned upper left arm of the most beautiful woman in the world are seven lines of letters and numbers. They are latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of places in Cambodia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Namibia and two identical listings for a city on the French Riviera, denoting the birthplaces of each of her children.
The newest line, the seventh, reads: N 35° 19' 44" W 96° 55' 26"

Location: Western Hemisphere.
Nation: United States of America.
State: Oklahoma.
Town:  Shawnee.

The arm belongs to Angelina Jolie; the new coordinates are to the birthplace to her paramour, fourth-generation Oklahoman William Bradley Pitt, born in Shawnee 50 years ago this month, on December 18, 1963.

Shawnee looms large in the history of the Pitt family. His great-grandmother, Una Coker, was part of the 1920 high school diploma program at Oklahoma Baptist University. His father, William Alvin Pitt, grew up in Shawnee, was president of the Shawnee High School Class of 1959 and met his wife-to-be, Jane Etta Hillhouse, in town, while both were students at Oklahoma Baptist. They married in 1962, at the age of 21.

Their eldest child, William Bradley Pitt, drew his first breath at the ACH Hospital in downtown Shawnee the following year. The young family left for Tulsa in 1964, and soon settled in Springfield, Missouri. But they returned to Shawnee every year for Thanksgiving, and for a week in the summer to visit family, including William Alvin Pitt’s mother, Betty Russell, who still lives in Shawnee. Fifty years later, there is little indication that one of the most recognizable men in the world is from this town of 30,000.

Inside Santa Fe Depot, sprawling home of the Pottawatomie County Historical Museum, there is no mention of Brad Pitt: Golden Globe winner, four-time Academy Award nominee and philanthropist, whose two-syllable name has become shorthand for a kind of effortless hunkiness, and spawned a dozen ancillary meanings in the international urban dictionary.

Do they get people who come to the museum wanting to see items having to do with Brad Pitt?

“Those that know will ask. I think I saw something once that had his picture on it, but I can’t remember where it is.”
So there’s nothing in town about Brad Pitt?
“Well, there is a brick. In front of the old hospital.”

The place is downtown, on East 9th Street, set back from the brick-paved streets, located between the old movie palaces – the Hornbeck and the Ritz – and next to the grand nine-story Aldridge, which has been converted to apartments for residents 62 and older. Out front, installed between the sidewalk and the curb, are a few dozen bricks paying tribute to residents and businesses. In the bottom left, three rows below the big stone for Wall’s Bargain Center, is a brick, 4 inches by 8 inches, memorializing:

Wm. “Brad” Pitt

Dec. 18, 1963

As I crouch down to photograph the walkway, a woman coming out of the senior center with a cigarette and lanyard calls out: “Are you OK?”

Yeah, I’m fine, thanks.

“Oh, I thought you fell.”

No, I’m just taking pictures.

She looked over and shrugged, leading me to believe that the Brad Pitt brick was not a tourist draw along the lines of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Back in Hollywood, reminiscing about the role as cowboy hitchhiker J.D. in 1991’s “Thelma and Louise,” Brad Pitt recounted how his background played a part in the performance that launched his career: “It was a character who was from my area, pretty much, so I got to use my accent there, which helped.”

In Shawnee, you could drive by the Louise Fluke monument at Centennial Park, down Wanda Jackson Boulevard and past the Gordon Cooper Technology Center. Don’t be fooled by the sign for Tangles Salon on North Harrison, next to B & M Firearms and Ammo, which looks like it might have an image of a young Brad Pitt on its sign. Upon closer inspection, it turns out to be a clip-arty ’80s-era blond man with blow-dried hair.

It does not matter that his hometown does little to acknowledge its most famous native. Hollywood’s reigning golden couple carries with them, tattooed onto her arm and infused into his DNA, a bit of Shawnee.


Editor’s Note: This installment is part of author M.J. Alexander’s “77 Counties” series, chronicling her travels across Oklahoma. The full series is available at sliceok.com/travel/

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September 2018

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
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Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
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This year will mark the eighth time the John F. Kennedy Awards have been celebrated, honoring individuals making a significant contribution to Oklahoma, its communities and its people, while paying...

Cost: $300

Where:
Skirvin Hilton Hotel
1 Park Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Sponsor: Santa Fe Family Life Center
Telephone: 405-840-1817
Contact Name: James Timberlake
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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
Website »

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Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
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Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
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Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
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Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
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A fabulous art auction to raise money to help support Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO.

Cost: $100

Where:
CHK|Central Boathouse
732 Riversport Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73129
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Sponsor: Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO
Telephone: 405.974.3791
Contact Name: Heather Bryant
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The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
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Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

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Join supporters in communities across the nation for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This family-friendly event raises funds to support the...

Cost: $10 for adults or children six and older

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S. Lake Hefner Drive
Oklahoma City , OK  73116
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Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

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Let’s end childhood cancer. Together! This September, supporters across the country will unite to participate in the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, an exciting, family-friendly...

Cost: $10 for Registration

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S Lake Hefner Dr
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
View map »


Sponsor: ALSAC St. Jude Oklahoma City
Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

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Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

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