IN ANY HUMAN AFFINITY GROUP, of whatever size, there are always one or two people whom “everybody knows” — be it for their work, skills or sheer ubiquity.
This is the concept of Secret Fame: celebrities of the specialty worlds lying hidden all around us.
Secret Fame isn’t something you can claim for yourself. Like the terms “rebbe” or “saint,” it can only be bestowed. For example, if you were into Star Trek fandom in the late 1960s through 1970s, you’ve likely come across the name of fan extraordinaire Bjo Trimble. Ms. Trimble was singlehandedly responsible for two massive and pivotal letter-writing campaigns: the first, in 1967, saved Star Trek from second-season cancellation; the second, in 1976, resulted in President Ford renaming the first United States space shuttle from Constitution to Enterprise. She also compiled the Star Trek Concordance (an exhaustive guide to the original and animated series), and has since become a prolific writer and artist in her own right.
Let’s say you enjoy fiddling with telescopes. You’re sure to have heard of Al Nagler, who designed eyepieces for NASA’s early astronaut training program. He later put his craft to use for the amateur astronomy market as the founder of Tele Vue Optics. The eponymous “Naglers” are some of the best-quality, most coveted telescope eyepieces available today.
Is Northern California’s historical-reenactment scene your passion? Then you probably know Will Wood, who plays famed privateer and circumnavigator Sir Francis Drake at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire (and Father Christmas at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair) in larger-than-life tones. He is perhaps the most recognizable public face of both events, and has been for the past several decades. You can’t count yourself as a Fair(e) habitue without knowing Will, at least by sight.
The Secretly Famous are lighthouses pointing the way to friendly (if self-referential) shorelines, and the lands beyond are vast and rich with interesting people, memorable places and fascinating things. Professor Harold Hill said, “You gotta know the territory.” But as Ivan Stang would say, “It ain’t what you know — it’s who you know.”