They could, of course, be called the 25 Most Important People of the Year. Or the Most Memorable. Or the Most Provocative. And every September when the editors begin planning the end-of-the-year issue, someone suggests changing the adjective. (Someone always suggests changing the "25," too—to 1 or 10 or 15 or 37; that's another story.)
But not everyone who has appeared on the list is really Important, at least not with a capital "I." For example, neither baseball eccentric Charlie Finley, on the first squad of 25 in 1974, nor Vanessa Williams
, on this year's list, are likely to dominate the thoughts of historians 100 years from now.
Quite honestly, some of our Intriguers aren't even memorable in the short run. Any trivia buffs recall Carter Heyward from the 1974 list or Randall Forsberg from 1982? They were, respectively, a leader of the campaign to have women ordained Episcopal priests and a leading proponent of a nuclear freeze. These personalities and others like them reflect changing times and concerns of the moment.
Of the 275 entries on our Intriguing lists, 20 people have made the final cut twice, including Anwar Sadat, Lech Walesa, Jesse Jackson, Brooke Shields
, Ted Turner and Robert Red-ford. The only people to appear more than twice are U.S. Presidents, Jimmy Carter in 1976-77-78, and Ronald Reagan in 1980-81-82-83.
There is one quality shared by all these people—and the odd creature, such as King Kong, Miss Piggy, E.T. and graybeard Thoroughbred John Henry this year. It is that they came to prominence, or reestablished themselves, during the year they made the list. And they generated curiosity; we wanted to know more about them.
Our 40 million readers can be counted on to agree on one thing about our list: They don't agree with it. Our choice of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 generated the most adverse reader reaction. Everybody who sees our issue, though, can immediately think of three or four names that nobody in his right mind could have omitted.
That kind of give-and-take is what makes the list fun and—don't fight the temptation to say it—intriguing.