Founded in 1851, Seattle spent its first hundred years being known for logging and shipbuilding; then as a home to the Boeing airline manufacturer. However, today Seattle is known more for its music, arts, and technology, contributing to a massive influx of new residents over the last two decades. Currently, Seattle-prime is home to about 750,000 residents, with a Greater Seattle/Metropolitan area (Everett, Bellevue, Renton, Tacoma) population of about 3.8 million.
It could be argued that Seattle has a long history of supporting the music and arts, with nearly two-dozen jazz clubs operating downtown from 1920-1950, welcoming such legendary musicians as Ray Charles, Ernestine Anderson, and home-town hero Quincy Jones. But well into the early 1980s Seattle was thought of primarily as a small-town, with Boeing being the primary employer that kept the city running.
The Seattle of today bears little resemblance to the city that I grew up in not so long ago. Seattle’s evolution can be traced to a strong spirit of creativity, charisma, and entrepreneurship. Here are ten “not-so” hidden figures who helped change the way the world thinks of Seattle.
The Author ~ In 1983 Debbie Macomber wrote her first romance novel, titled Starlight. Since its publication she had gone on to write dozens of titles and has sold over 3 million books! Six of Macomber’s individual novels have become made-for-TV movies, and her Cedar Cove series was developed into a 3 season television series starring Andie MacDowell.
Through her written works, Macomber has invited the world to experience the passion, intrigue, and romance of the Pacific Northwest.
The Pastor ~ No, Macklemore hasn’t started a church. This is the original red-headed, stadium-filling, microphone wearing vocalist, Pastor Casey Treat. The Christian Faith Center, which was founded by Treat in 1980, serves over 10,000 visitors every Sunday through its 3 locations in Federal Way, Mill Creek, and Gig Harbor, Washington. Treat hosts his own television show titled Your Unlimited Life, and his Sunday morning service is broadcasted by TBN/Trinity Broadcasting Network, allowing Treat to share his message with millions around the world.
The Hero -~ Phoenix Jones (secret identity Ben Fodor) gave Seattle something unique in the world, a real-life-superhero! (aka RLSH to the cool kids).
The original, best known, and arguably the most legitimate of the RLSH community; Phoenix Jones actually fights crime. Even to the point where his own life has been put at risk, the victim of attacks by assailants armed with guns, knives, and stiletto heels. Phoenix Jones is the real-deal; we’re talking patrol, confront, engage, contain, and physically apprehend criminals on the streets of Seattle. Like the legendary Dark Knight of Gotham, Jones has been at odds with city leadership and law enforcement for what they see as vigilantism; but those that Jones has defended on these mean-streets are thankful to have him watching over them. When people across America speak about real-life superheroes, they talk about Phoenix Jones. And when they talk about Phoenix Jones they talk about Seattle.
The Chef(s)~ Ezell Stephens and Lewis Rudd founded the world famous Ezell’s Fried Chicken chain in 1984. Today there are 12 locations throughout the Northwest and one in the United Arab Emirates. In 1990 Oprah Winfrey made a request to have her birthday party catered by Ezell’s, shooting them to instant fame and fortune. Today, Ezell’s is solely owned by Rudd, while Stephens owns and operates Heaven Sent Chicken.
The Advocate – In 2013 rapper Ben Haggerty and Ryan Lewis (together known as Macklemore) reached #1 on Billboards Hot 100 with their album Thrift Shop, and one year later solidified their status as the new faces of hip hop winning four awards at the Grammy’s.
Haggerty has used his platform to advocate for a number of social issues, as well as launched the Residency, a youth-art program aimed at providing access to underserved youth interested in pursuing a career in the music industry.
The Business Man ~ Jeff Bezos moved to Seattle in 1994, and soon after launched Amazon, the global leader in technology that would soon make Bezos the richest man in the world; with an estimated fortune of over $100 Billion dollars. Did you get that? Read it again. $100 Billion dollars.
The Rapper ~ Graduating from Roosevelt High School in 1981, Anthony Ray saw the birth and evolution of hip hop from a front row seat. By 1983 he was hosting dance parties at the YMCA and the Boys Club and had established himself as Seattle’s premier rapper with the release of his first widely distributed song 7-Rainier.
The song was recorded at his home and dubbed to a handful of generic cassette tapes, and the music was distributed throughout the city primarily through bootleg copies of those tapes. Fast forward to 2019 and this Grammy winner has amassed multiple platinum albums, awards, and a worldwide cult following. Ray keeps connected to the streets with regular performances throughout the NW, and a morning radio show on Hot 103.7FM.
The Poet ~ The face of Seattle’s alternative music scene, Kurt Cobain, lead what many consider to be the greatest decade of music production in Seattle’s history. Although Seattle’s music roots run deep with platinum selling artists such as Quincy Jones, Kenny G, Heart, and Jimi Hendrix ~ The 90s music scene launched an astonishing number of world-shaking musicians and introduced a new grungier style of music to the world. This new sound was something different and undeniably “Seattle,” giving the NW a style and identity all its own. Cobain passed away in 1994.
The Genius ~ In 1975 Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded a little tech company called Microsoft, and over the next few decades gifted the world with technology beyond our wildest dreams. Today, Gates spends less time at the Microsoft campus and more time focused on humanitarian issues through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. His net worth is slightly below that of Jeff Bezos (our #4 pick), at $95 Billion dollars.
Holy cow. Does anyone reading this magazine know either Bezos or Gates personally? Can you put in a good word for me? Need anything done around the house? Lawn needs mowing? Car needs washing? I’ll work for tips.
Seattle is a hotbed of inspiration and creativity, with monolithic sized juggernauts blazing new paths around the globe. The world is watching us ~ and I can’t wait to see what we do next.