Fame is an interesting concept. According to Wikipedia, celebrity (the principal meaning of ‘fame’) is someone with a ‘prominent profile and commands some degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media. The term is often synonymous with wealth implied with great popular appeal, prominence in a particular field, and is easily recognized by the general public.
In the not so distant past, becoming famous was but a childhood dream and more often than not, nothing more. Celebrities, in general, were worshiped and they always had something extremely special or unique about them – a talent, a look – something that catapulted them into national awareness and the social fabric. Ever since reality TV came into existence in the late 1990s/early 2000s, fame has become somewhat of a more obtainable goal – even more so with the advent of social media and other internet-based tools.
As one would expect, these more recent changes in technology and viewing habits have significantly watered down the reasons for which one could become famous – look at Paris Hilton or the Kardashians (reality TV), Cousin Terio (Vine), Kevin Federline (dated a celebrity), Tila Tequila (MySpace)… the list goes on.
Now, as many people as we have who are famous for the sake of being famous, there’s also quite a number of people who had the potential for fame who either made terrible life decisions or actively decided not to become a celebrity. Some chose to leave a band or a company right before it took off, some were cheated, or some just felt that it wasn’t their path. Either way, for every spotlight hungry starlet there’s someone who couldn’t get past the velvet rope. And as much as they’d hate it, let’s give them the shine they never were truly afforded.
10. Eric Stefani – No Doubt
The older brother of über-famous Gwen, Eric Stefani was actually the driving force behind the extremely successful pop-ska band No Doubt. The group was formed back in 1986 after being inspired by British band Madness, and believe it or not, Gwen was just a backing vocalist. After a few years, Gwen moved up the ranks to become the lead vocalist as we know her today, and they recorded their breakthrough album Tragic Kingdom. Eric decided to split from the band after they recorded the LP but before they released it – meaning he missed out on their epic rise to fame and all the trappings that came with it. It was likely for the best, as he found his calling as an animator.
9. Kim Hill – Black Eyed Peas
Before Fergie, the Black Eyed Peas were actually good. Positioned as a funky, conscious group, their hit ‘That’s The Joint’ was dope and vocalist Kim Hill was an integral part of the crew. Working with them for five years, Hill cites ‘deteriorating chemistry’ between her and Will.i.am, along with constant pressure from the label to sex up her image – they even told her to ‘wear some rollerskates and some panties and call it a day’. A woman of class, Ms. Hill wasn’t having it and she saw the direction that the group was heading in – and ‘My Humps’ wasn’t something she wanted on her resume, as financially lucrative as it would have been. She’s now a well-known DJ.
8. Dick & Mac McDonald – McDonalds Restaurants
Ray Kroc is internationally known as the founder of the McDonalds fast food empire, but alas, he wasn’t the mastermind behind it all. Mr. Kroc sold milkshake machines for the McDonald brothers, who created the concept for ‘fast food’ in 1941 when they opened their first café in California. It was actually Ray who suggested the franchising idea, and by 1958 they had 34 restaurants, with another 68 opening the following year. For some odd reason, the McDonald brothers decided to sell their shares to Mr. Kroc in 1961, right when business was booming. They received today’s equivalent of $19 million – a pretty penny indeed, but nothing on what they would have received had they stuck around.
7. Tracii Guns – Guns N Roses
Those familiar with the infamous history of Guns N Roses won’t be entirely surprised by this one. Tracii Guns formed GNR with Axl Rose back in 1985, as they’d been in L.A. Guns together since 1982. Everything was going swimmingly until Mr. Rose showed his true colours and Tracii just had to leave. He stopped going to rehearsal, as their shows were more an Axl Rose lecture than a rock concert. It must have been difficult to see the band that bore his stage name blow up, but Tracii reformed L.A. Guns and achieved three platinum albums anyway, so it’s a happy ending.
6. Joe Green – Facebook
This is an all too familiar story – two partners create something awesome; one leaves, the other gets rich. While attending Harvard, Green and Mark Zuckerberg created a website where students could communicate with each other. They even hacked into the university’s system to steal photos of students, almost getting themselves expelled. So when Zuckerberg proposed they go into business together to create the social network The Facebook, Green refused and chose to continue his studies. This bold move cost him around $400 million based on the shares he would have had, however he ended up creating Causes, an online donation site that has grossed around $47 million so that’s not too shabby.
5. Dik Evans – U2
Before they were U2, they were Hype. And they had three guitarists. Bono decided to put his axe down to focus on his singing chops, while the remaining two – brothers Dik and Dane Evans – had to metaphorically fight it out for the last spot. Of course, the bloke with the cool nickname won – Dane is better known as The Edge, while his genius brother Dik (the government paid him to study computer engineering, and he has a PhD in artificial intelligence technology) departed the group in 1978. He formed The Virgin Prunes who went on to achieve cult status, so he didn’t exactly give it all up.
4. Ronald Wayne – Apple
Folks who have seen the ‘Jobs’ movie or read Steve’s biography would already be familiar with Steve Wozniak, but the lesser-known Ronald Wayne was the real loser in the situation. Co-founding Apple with Jobs and Wozniak in 1976, Wayne designed the company’s first logo and wrote the manual for their first computer. Two weeks after starting the company, Wayne decided to bail and took his $800 investment with him. He was shaken due to a bankruptcy he had with another company five years earlier, so his instincts told him to get out – quite likely the costliest decision on this list. He ended up making a career at Atari and tried to patent several gadgets but he could never find the funding.
3. Pete Best – The Almost Fifth Beatle
The most high-profile ‘almost famous’ musician here, Pete Best was the original drummer with The Beatles for their first two years, cutting their debut demo tapes and was promptly fired when producer George Martin privately wanted to replace him with a session drummer. Their manager Brian Epstein did the dirty work and fired Best, who was quickly replaced with Ringo Starr, and the rest, of course, is history. Some of Pete’s original work made it onto The Beatles’ Anthology series, so all wasn’t entirely lost. Well, except for the multi-millions of dollars and adoring fans.
2. Hubert Chang – Google
Hubert Chang’s story is one of the sadder ones. Chang met Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford in 1997, where they were introduced by a teacher and created PageRank – the backbone of Google to this day – as a class project. Page and Brin were presenting PageRank at a conference and they asked Chang if he wanted his name on it – he declined, as he didn’t believe it would come to anything and he felt he should be concentrating on his studies. In 2007, Chang returned to claim his co-authorship of PageRank, something that Page and Brin vehemently denied. The only proof of his participation was emails between the three with their professor who had unfortunately passed away, so there was no physical proof that he was involved in the project. Chang moved to Hong Kong and now works in the technology industry.
1. Nikola Tesla – Scientist
Thomas Edison is largely credited as being the creator of both electricity and light, but in reality the humble ethnic Serbian Nikola Tesla – former employee of Mr. Edison – was the genius behind many of our modern conveniences today. To give a quick snapshot into the mind of Mr. Tesla, some of his creations include the rotating magnetic field (which allowed alternating current to power an engine without first being converted to direct current); the AC motor (which put the former to work); the Tesla coil; radio (yup, everything we know as modern radio today was created by Nikola); hydroelectric machines that harnessed the power of Niagara Falls; the Death Beam (Google it); and a lot more. Tesla was not particularly adept at creating publicity hence his lack of notoriety, and he died broke and mentally drained.