Thanks to Lee “Budgie” Barnett for this one. He nominated the first. I arbitrarily defined “modern” as born since 1900, and excluded people such as Banksy whose anonymity is part of their celebrity.
1. Dr Seuss. His real name was Theodor Geisel: Seuss was his middle name; and he wasn’t a doctor.
2. Pol Pot. There are a few photos on the internet, but I don’t remember seeing them at the time. Nominated by Jonathan Law.
3. Emma Clarke, who tells you to “mind the gap” on the London Underground. Thanks to Steven Fogel.
4. Stanley Kubrick. The filmmaker’s face was fairly well known (moustache, beard, intense eyes), but Alan Conway, a conman, got away with pretending to be him in the 1990s, and convinced people to pay for meals and drinks. Kubrick’s assistant Anthony Frewin wrote the screenplay for Colour Me Kubrick, in which John Malkovich starred as Conway. Nominated by Paul and No Ordinary Cat.
5. The Michelin restaurant inspector, The Economist correspondent and the Twitter troll. Triple nomination from John Peters.
6. Arthur C Clarke. Science fiction author who foresaw a lot of today’s technology. Nominated by Irv Swerve.
7. Tim Berners-Lee. The inventor of the world wide web (as foreseen by Clarke). Nominated by Kevin Mohan and David Head. Some people who know what he looks like disagreed, but I think the ratio between the number of people who know who he is and the number who know what he looks like is high.
8. David and Frederick Barclay. Identical twin billionaires who own The Daily and Sunday Telegraph, plus The Spectator. Nominated by Nicky Ramone.
9. The Tank Man of Tiananmen Square. The man who stood in front of the tanks in 1989. Thanks to James of Nazareth. “Fortunately the Chinese security services never found him,” added Xlibris1.
10. The prime minister’s official spokesperson. James Slack, a civil servant, is about to be supplemented by a political appointee as an on-camera “spokesperson for the prime minister” at televised daily briefings.
No room, then, for Thomas Pynchon, Mark Tuckett’s favourite author, who “even appeared on The Simpsons with a paper bag over his head”.
Having ruled out Banksy, I also had to exclude the Secret Barrister, who in 2018 wrote an influential critique of the criminal justice system (nominated by Steven Fogel, Carl Gardner and the G Man), and Elena Ferrante, the Italian novelist (Stan Anson).
There is always one. Darren Jones nominated Sir Edward Davey. And sometimes there are two. Star Man nominated Rod Stewart (I had to think about that one).
Next week: Bad losers – prompted by Donald Trump’s pre-emptive whining about election rigging.
Coming soon: Greatest political errors of all time, inspired by Jo Swinson’s decision to allow Boris Johnson to have an election.
Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to [email protected]