Polish People of Pop Culture

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

If you're Polish like me, no doubt you cringed every time Archie Bunker called his son-in-law Michael Stivic a "dumb polack" (when he wasn't calling him "meathead") on All in the Family. No ethnic group was spared Archie's fiery big mouth, but because he was related to one through marriage, Poles seemed to have it the worst. I cheered at the episode where Archie used the ethnic slur in front of a Polish American police officer, thus landing him another night in the pokey (which he was just released from.) I also seem to remember him reminding Michael that there were no famous Polish people who actually accomplished anything.

It's high time to give a thumb in the eye of Archie Bunker. There are so many notable Polish and Polish American people in pop culture history. Let's face it, they don't always get the credit that they deserve. We could all name several famous Italian and Irish people, but how many Poles could we name? (Other than Pope John Paul II and Mike Waleska.) So, here's a brief education of some famous folks who proudly fly the red and white Polish flag (please note that I am not including people of Jewish decent - even though many were born in or have parents that immigrated from Poland.)

*Major league baseball player Carl Yastrzemski

*Mike Ditka, former football player and coach of the Chicago Bears

*Pola Negri, silent film femme fatale star of the early 20th century

*Stefanie Powers, who starred alongside Robert Wagner on Hart to Hart, is Polish American

*Jerry Orbach, the late star of Law & Order, Dirty Dancing. Orbach also had a lucrative early career starring in Broadway productions.

*TV personality Jenny Jones eats pierogi and kielbasa

*Ted Knight, who was born Tadeus Wladyslaw Konopka and went on to star in The Mary Tyler Moore Show

*Loretta Swit, aka Hot Lips from the TV show M*A*S*H*

*Rocker Pat Benetar, whose birth name is Patricia Mae Andrzejewski, scored many hits in the 80s

*Singer Peter Cetera, lead singer for the group Chicago for many years, is half Polish American

*So is Huey Lewis - his mother was a Polish refugee and had a romance with a famous Polish poet before immigrating to the United States

*The flamboyant Liberace was Polish

*So is singer Bobby Vinton, who was nicknamed "The Polish Prince." He topped the charts with "Blue Velvet", "Roses Are Red, My Love" and "Mr. Lonely" in the 1960s. However, one of his biggest hits was the 1970s "My Melody of Love", which is partially sung in Polish:

"Moja droga" means "my love", by the way.

*Guitarist Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi has a Polish father and an Italian/Polish mother.

*Roman Polanski these days is more well known these days for being a child rapist, but he rose to fame in the 1960s as a director and husband of actress Sharon Tate.

*Barbara Mikulski, US Democratic Senator for the state of Maryland

*International recording star Basia, who is going to get her own post one of these days. She scored several hits overseas in the 1980s.

Of course, there are many other Polish Americans who gained notoriety in history, politics, sports, and entertainment.

So there you have it. And up your dupa*, Archie Bunkie!

*Dupa = ass


  1. Let's hear it for the Poles!

    Given that they spent much of their history being occupied by either the Russians or Germans, the Poles have done pretty well for themselves, from Chopin to John Paul II we should definitely recognise the achievements of Poles (and Polish-Americans).

  2. Thanks, Richard...of course I forgot perhaps the most famous modern Pole right now, Martha Stewart!

  3. Wow. That Ted Knight photo sure brings me back. I LOVED him on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He was a funny guy.

  4. 50sme - I love Ted Knight, too. I mostly watched Too Close for Comfort since I grew up in the 80s, but love the old MTM episodes as well.

  5. I wasn't aware of most of these in your list. Wonderful post!

  6. The only one that I knew about was Liberace. Thanks for posting this -it was very interesting. I'm mostly Polish and some Ukranian.

    My brother and I love Jerry Orbach and Ted Knight. I must be a bad Bon Jovi fan for not knowing about Richie.


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