The REAL People You Should Know

2 Jul

When I worked for the Georgetown News-Graphic, we had a feature called “People You Should Know.” It was a bald-faced lie, as the piece rarely featured anyone a conscientious reader actually had any real need to know. It would have been more honest — but less popular — if we had called it just “People Who Happen To Live Around Here But Aren’t Newsmakers.”

We ran a PYSK five days a week, meaning there were 260 people Georgetownians should know each year. That’s absurd. I don’t even want to know 260 people. I was thrilled when I got my Facebook friend list down to 274.

But I was thinking the other day about the term. When Rafael Nadal got bounced from Wimbledon and ESPN ran the Breaking News graphic, I said something along the lines of “Wow.” My brother, in the room at the time, looked at the graphic and got uppity with me, as he is wont to do.

“Why do you care so much?!” he said. “It’s tennis; why do you care?!”

In truth, I don’t. He’s right; it’s tennis. I’m aware of it, can name more than a handful of players and history and the like, but I’m no aficionado. On the other hand, it’s Rafael frickin’ Nadal. I can’t very well consider myself a sports guy and not be at least a little wowed if he gets upset. My brother, though, didn’t have a clue who he was. That’s not necessarily a failing on his part, but I don’t consider it a positive attribute, either.

See, I take things too far. I know I do. There is no reason for 96.4% of the population to know and describe in awkward detail people like Daniel Negreanu, Carlos Bernard or Ugueth Urbina. On the other hand, we all want to describe ourselves as “well-rounded.” It seems to me, then, that there is a certain roster of people a “well-rounded” individual should be able to identify. I don’t mean in-depth, like knowing Ugueth Urbina’s middle name (Urtain — I’m a dork), but I genuinely believe that, if I say “Lionel Messi,” some part of your brain should be able to ping on the word “soccer.”

So I spent the last few days making a list. A few things. Everyone on this list is alive (as far as I know; you never know what will happen with Lindsay Lohan). For the most part, they’re actively doing whatever it is they do, for the simple reason, that I don’t know the active-in-the-1960s folks as well as I probably should. And the list is always in flux. Casey Anthony is on my list right now. In, say, six months, she won’t be relevant enough anymore. I briefly had Anthony Davis on there, as a recent primo newsmaker. I cut him today, but he wouldn’t have been long for the list regardless, as I only thought he should be known for his recent newsworthiness, not his general work.

And I won’t remotely claim that I was familiar with all the entries when I started — I made a big list from my brain, but I also didn’t know, for example, the president of China. And I think the leaders of the other megacountries out there, the Chinas and Japans and Russias, are names we should at least know in passing. So I looked it up, and now I know Hu Jintau. That is literally all I know about Hu Jintau, but now the list of things I know about Hu Jintau is longer than it was before.

My main standard, really, was this: If a person dies, and I told someone about it, would it be weird if they had to ask who that was? Like, I would love it if everyone could identify Will Clark, but they can’t and that’s OK. But if Derek Jeter dies? I should be able to mention that to my father, mother or co-worker, and they should have something to say in return. If I tell someone that Derek Jeter died, and they say “Who?”, that’s just weird.

That means that these aren’t all people I want to know. I have no desire to know who Kim Kardashian, for example, is. But I do think it would be seriously weird if she died and someone had no idea who she was.

Maybe you disagree. Maybe, like my brother, you think there’s no point at all in knowing the names Rafael Nadal, Kate Upton or R.L. Stine. But it seems to me that they are all people who have done enough to warrant, at the very least, a Brain Ping.

Anyway, this is the list. For people who go by nicknames, I’ve included both their full name and their nickname, because you should know who Eminem is, not Marshall Mathers. Who did I forget? Who did I include that we shouldn’t really know? Am I wrong about this, and it’s stupid to know Zac Efron’s name? And can you spot the one I had a little fun with?

Hank Aaron
Adele Adkins
Christina Aguilera
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Bashar al-Assad
Muhammad Ali
Pamela Anderson
Jennifer Aniston
Casey Anthony
Lance Armstrong

Michele Bachmann
Alec Baldwin
David Beckham
Ben Bernanke
Joe Biden
Justin Bieber
Larry Bird
Usain Bolt
Barry Bonds
Tom Brady
Richard Branson
Drew Brees
Tom Brokaw
Garth Brooks
Chris Brown
Dan Brown
Kobe Bryant
Jimmy Buffett
Warren Buffett
George H.W. Bush
George W. Bush

David Cameron
Jim Carrey
Jimmy Carter
Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter
Fidel Castro
Hugo Chavez
Dick Cheney
Madonna Ciccone
Bill Clinton
Hillary Clinton
George Clooney
Stephen Colbert
Bill Cosby
Simon Cowell
Cindy Crawford
Tom Cruise
Miley Cyrus

Matt Damon
Ellen DeGeneres
Robert DeNiro
Johnny Depp
Edson “Pele” do Nascimento
Bob Dylan

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Clint Eastwood
Zac Efron
Rahm Emanuel

Brett Favre
Roger Federer
Robyn Rihanna Fenty
Will Ferrell
Tina Fey
Aretha Franklin

Bill Gates
Neil Gaiman
Stefani “Lady Gaga” Germanotta
Gabrielle Giffords
Newt Gingrich
Al Gore
Wayne Gretzky
John Grisham
Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso

Tom Hanks
Neil Patrick Harris
Tony Hawk
Stephen Hawking
Hugh Hefner
Paul “Bono” Hewson
Hulk Hogan
Eric Holder
Hu Jintau
Arianna Huffington

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson
Mick Jagger
LeBron James
Jenna Jameson
Ron Jeremy
Derek Jeter
Jasper Johns
Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Angelina Jolie
Joe/Kevin/Nick Jonas
Michael Jordan

Kim Kardashian
Toby Keith
Daniel Kelley
Kim Jong Un
Stephen King
Henry Kissinger
Beyonce Knowles
Ashton Kutcher

Jay Leno
David Letterman
Monica Lewinsky
Rush Limbaugh
Jeremy Lin
Lindsay Lohan
Jennifer Lopez
Prince William Louis

Bernie Madoff
Nelson Mandela
Peyton Manning
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Queen Elizabeth Mary
Marshall “Eminem” Mathers
Jenny McCarthy
Paul McCartney
Mark McGwire
Lionel Messi
Phil Mickelson
Kate Middleton
Pippa Middleton
Toni Morrison
Eddie Murphy
Mike Myers

Rafael Nadal
Benjamin Netanyahu
Yoshihiko Noda

Conan O’Brien
Shaquille O’Neal
Barack Obama
Michelle Obama
Ashley/Mary Kate Olsen

Al Pacino
Manny Pacquiao
Sarah Palin
Pratibha Patil
Danica Patrick
Robert Pattinson
Ron Paul
Nancy Pelosi
Tyler Perry
Michael Phelps
Regis Philbin
T.Boone Pickens
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
Colin Powell
Brad Pitt
Vladimir Putin

Dan Quayle

Daniel Radcliffe
Dan Rather
Pope Benedict XVI Joseph Ratzinger
Rachael Ray
Condoleezza Rice
Cal Ripken Jr.
John Roberts
Julia Roberts
Aaron Rodgers
Alex Rodriguez
Mitt Romney
Pete Rose
JK Rowling
Salman Rushdie

Adam Sandler
Jerry Sandusky
Rick Santorum
Cheryl “Cher” Sarkisian
Nicolas Sarkozy
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Ryan Seacrest
Jerry Seinfeld
Charlie Sheen
OJ Simpson
Will Smith
Aaron Sorkin
Britney Spears
Steven Spielberg
Jerry Springer
Bruce Springsteen
Danielle Steel
Howard Stern
Jon Stewart
Martha Stewart
Ben Stiller
Taylor Swift
Meryl Streep
Louis CK Szekely

Tim Tebow
Justin Timberlake
Daniel Tosh
Alex Trebek
Steven Tyler

Kate Upton

Vince Vaughn
Michael Vick

Barbara Walters
Betty White
Vanna White
Robin Williams
Serena Williams
Venus Williams
Oprah Winfrey
Tiger Woods

Boris Yeltsin

George Zimmerman
Mark Zuckerberg

One Response to “The REAL People You Should Know”


  1. 50 Movies for a Well-Rounded Film Fan | So … there I was - July 6, 2012

    […] friend of mine recently wrote about the 100 living people every well-rounded person should know, and while I don’t completely agree with the list, I agree whole-heartedly with the concept of […]

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