She's flown in a hot air balloon over Amish farmlands; camped out in the mountains of El Salvador with shepherds; eaten high altitude donuts atop Pikes Peak while searching for Big Foot; narrowly missed a plunge into quicksand while outracing a sudden winter storm on Colombia's rugged Sierra Nevada mountain; stoked the flames of a wood stove for light and warmth in the darkness of a sod house in the Plains; and slept beside mountain lions in a North Dakota zoo.
She's hung out with Steven Tyler and been hugged by Oprah; hunted for geodes in Iowa; spent time on an Idaho potato farm; worked in an Alzheimer's Day care unit; visited bombing sites; spent weeks in a primitive bamboo house in the Andes mountains; tented beside Devils Tower while watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind; and attended Hollywood premieres. She's met 25 governors; worked with migrants in Steinbeck's Salinas Valley; partied in Key West; and escaped a threatening encounter with banditos in Mexico. She's mingled with the Secret Service; participated in the America's Cup; and visited the Queen of England's residence.
Cliffy from Cheers saddled up onto a bar stool beside her and presumably was so awed by her knowledge that he couldn't bring himself to give her any words of wisdom.
Al Roker and Barbara Walters have interviewed her; she has experienced the underwater world of the manatee; put fear into the white meat of Abacos conchs; and gambled in the finest casinos of the world. She is a television personality; the author of several books; a publisher; a freelance travel writer; a noted Florida real estate agent (recently appearing on an episode of HGTV's House Hunters); a blogger; and the owner of a tourism center in Naples Florida. She's tenacious; she has survived great tragedy and great betrayal which will undoubtedly be a tear-jerker book down the road; and she is said to be a MARVELOUS kisser. Perhaps most risky of all, she is a single mother with two grown children who have become quite interesting in their own rights.
But, no, we are not through yet. She is perhaps a major record holder: She has visited all 50 states of America THREE TIMES in her life, spending a solid year on the road each time ...
A QUICK RUN-THROUGH ON THIS MOST INTERESTING LIFE ... THEN MAKE YOUR OWN SUGGESTIONS ON HOW THE STORY SHOULD CONTINUE ...
On her first 50-state trip, Marlene was a teenager traveling with her parents, Paul and Maria Smith, and brother Joey, then 15, in of all things, a VW Beetle. (They did use an American Airlines plane to Hawaii since they weren't sure about the "Bug's" floatability -- not to mention the time that would be involved. However, the Bug DID make it all the way up to Alaska on the ALCAN.)
This trip was to be the family's tribute to America during the Bicentennial. Marlene's mother was the daughter of a peasant maid in South America and her father was a cottonpicker's son, and though their early life was stacked against them in so many ways, these two determined together that their lives and that of their children would not be ones of despair. Though they lacked money, they wanted their children to appreciate America as they did -- and so they headed out for the unknown with $500 and no financial safety net. Money for this journey was made by doing migrant work and "odds and ends" around America.
This first 50-state adventure as a teen led to her writing for SEVENTEEN magazine, the Kansas City Star, and the Nevada Daily Mail. The family was featured on hundreds of media outlets including Paul Harvey.
SECOND AND THIRD 50-STATE ADVENTURES ...
Now it was some 20 some years later. Marlene had graduated the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism (putting herself through college by holding down three jobs) and launched a successful career as a television reporter, anchor, producer, and eventually television media entrepreneur, producing several of her own shows. She was seen on stations in LaCrosse, Wisconsin; Wichita, Kansas; and Springfield, Missouri, and covered such stories as President Reagan's campaign for the oval office. In her mid-twenties she married, became a mother, left her then-job selling advertising for the Kansas Business Journal, and launched her own newspapers in Wichita, Kansas. Before it was over she had founded WestSide Story, Wichita Family Ties, Wichita Wedding, Wichita Homes, the book Spotlight on Wichita, and took over the flailing Wichita Hi-Lighter, for which she would later produce a television program on a local NBC station.
Ten years later she was on the road AGAIN, this time with her own family, husband Craig and her children Courtney and Collier, traveling all 50 states in a red, white and blue van, visiting nearly all the National Parks and Monuments and all the state capitals. Out of that she wrote the book "Headfirst Into America," and was one of the early "reality stars" of the internet, documenting her family's day-by-day adventures. That led to many people writing to the family asking them to visit their towns and often their homes. To save money, the Grahams generally slept in their van, often in parking lots, but occasionally on the floors and in guest bedrooms of people they met through the internet. During this time she also photographed and produced a television show for WAM! America's Kidz Network in which her daughter, Courtney, was the talent.
A major media company wrote the family with the idea of having them star in a television show about traveling America. Marlene didn't respond immediately thinking it might be a hoax, but by the time she did respond, they had thought better of the idea since at the time the promoters were working with a fictional show of a traveling family called "The Promised Land" starring Gerald McRaney. Imagine if ICM HAD gone forward with the idea. They would have been one of the first "reality television pioneers."
Their adventure was however documented on such shows as The Today Show (interviewed by Al Roker)and The Home & Family Show where they appeared over three days with hosts Michael Burger and Cristina Ferrare and many famous guests including jazz musician Jean-Luc Ponty, tennis star Chris Evert and actor Ian Zeiring of Beverly Hills 90210 fame.
They also appeared on CNN; NPR; and The View where they were interviewed by Barbara Walters, Meredith Vieira (recent co-host of the Today show with Matt Lauer), Star Jones and Debbie Matenopoulos, and appeared as the only other guests with Raquel Welch. (This was AFTER ALL only the second week of The View and they didn't have many guests.)
People also read about them in hundreds of newspapers including the MIAMI HERALD and the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.
The second 50-state trip for Marlene's family was a volunteerism adventure to further intrigue and satisfy the thousands of people who now knew the Graham Family as a household name and didn't want their day-by-day soap opera to end. The Grahams thought this would be a great way to encourage volunteerism -- and so they took off as a family to do volunteer work across America. Their adventures were featured on Oprah, Donny and Marie and again thousands of other media outlets. Marlene also wrote for such publications as Ladies Home Journal, the Naples News , Naples Illustrated and N magazine. Marlene's book was found at the time in Wal-Mart stores, in select Barnes & Noble and Borders locations and on Amazon.com. Read reviews here.
AFTER THE TRIPS ...
After that second 50 state adventure (Marlene's third) the family moved to NAPLES FLORIDA from their home in Wichita Kansas where Marlene day-traded for awhile and did some freelance writing until prompted to join her husband in real estate. After only 5 years in the business locally, they were top-producing agents at one of the most noted real estate companies in Naples selling more than 300 homes in one year alone and doing property shows in London.
They left to launch their own real estate branch of the famed Downing-Frye Realty (the biggest real estate company in Naples) and when Craig died unexpectedly, Marlene continued on alone opening up to five offices, a tourism center and a souvenir store. She downsized when it became painfully obvious that it would take too many resources to outwait the economy, but still kept two offices in downtown Naples. Just over a year ago, she switched to her own brokerage TROPICS REAL ESTATE on 5th Avenue. Thankfully she is good at hanging tight by her teeth, so to speak.And now thankfully with the market turning around impressively, she will be saved the wrath of having buck teeth!
Marlene's daughter Courtney Graham-Smith (Yes she was a Graham and married a Smith! The opposite of her mother!) now works in real estate with her mother, as does Courtney's husband Paul Smith and Marlene's brother Joey Smith. Collier is 19 and as with others his age, his mother can't figure him out. He did originally plan to either become a chef or an architect, or possibly a combination of the two.
AND SO THE ADVENTURES OF THE MOST INTERESTING WOMAN IN THE WORLD CONTINUE ...
What future titles will this woman add to her shingle?
Consider this. She is heavily involved in the future of the internet as the owner of dozens of websites and more than 14,000 domain names including www.DomainingIndustry.com ...
Need we say more?
Will she open a matchmaking service? Will she become a jetsetter once the real estate industry once again thrives and she perhaps achieves financial freedom? Will she ever get over her fear of flying so she can comfortably become a jetsetter? Will she make a movie? Will she write another book? Will she someday be able to use the domain names MostFamousWomanInTheWorld.com and MostInterestingLifeInTheWorld.com with genuousity? Will she get the world to use her apparently made up word of "genuousity." Will she find the love of her life and get remarried?
Anything is possible.
IN CONCLUSION ... AND YOUR SUGGESTIONS ...
So in the final analysis: She's half-Colombian and she does drink Dos Equis on occasion, as does "The Most Interesting Man in the World". And though the aforementioned man is touted as having blood that smells of cologne, it is as of this date unclear whether The Most Interesting Woman in the World has blood that smells of perfume.
But this begs the question:
"Will the Most Interesting Man in the World ever have the opportunity to meet the Most Interesting Woman in the World?"
You can contact "The Most Interesting Woman in the World" at MarleneGraham@earthlink.net and perhaps give her suggestions (be nice now) on how to make her Most Interesting Life even more interesting in the future. With your permission we will post the most interesting suggestions!
Read past articles on Marlene Graham's 50-state odyssey:
Look at Marlene Graham's real estate sites:
See some of Marlene Graham's tourism sites: