The appeal of lesser-known celebrities

Last week I met Roy Underhill. If you are wondering “Who is Roy Underhill?” you are not alone. Before HGTV and the DIY Network, there was PBS. After outgrowing the Saturday morning cartoons, I watched the trifecta of do-it-yourself shows. First came "This Old House," followed by "The New Yankee Workshop," hosted by Norm Abrams. Finally there was "The Woodwright’s Shop," with Roy Underhill.

The "New Yankee Workshop" was interesting, but I assumed that the rest of the audience had an unlimited budget. Norm would say something like, “After you’ve run your boards through your jointer and thickness planer, cut slots with your biscuit jointer…” Not only did you need a budget for all of these exotic power tools, you had to have a building the size of The Q to house them.

Roy Underhill used hand tools, the kind I imagined I could someday afford. His show was not only filled with information about how to build a desk the same way it would have been built in the eighteenth century, but it was also filled with the host’s incredible sense of humor. I could relate to Roy Underhill.

Thanks to a generous gift from the people of Advent Westlake, I attended a week at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Roy Underhill was teaching another class there. As he passed through the class I was taking one day, he noticed my toolbox that my grandfather made by hand and said, “Nice toolbox.”

I am ashamed to admit that I felt a little like a giddy teenager. Of all the tool boxes in the room, he noticed mine.

Over the phone that night, I told my son the story. He asked, “Who is Roy Underhill?”

I was not surprised. Although "The Woodwright’s Shop" is still on PBS, my son hates any DIY show.

Next, I told my wife. She asked, “Who’s Roy Underhill?”

I tried to prompt her memory, "You know, 'The Woodwright’s Shop.'"

“What’s 'The Woodwright’s Shop'?” she asked.

It was worse than I thought. It wasn’t an age barrier. I am a woodworking geek. Not only do I know who Roy Underhill is, I know names like Marc Adams, Michael Fortune and Christopher Schwartz. Most of the world has to Google them, but to those of us who love woodworking, they are celebrities.

At that moment I knew what my daughter feels like when she says something about Lee Min Ho, the fans’ choice for the best K-drama actor. K-drama is the Korean version of soap operas for teens. For a reason I cannot understand, my daughter loves K-dramas. I felt a new bond to her. She is a K-drama geek. I am a woodworking geek.

I think I prefer the lesser known celebrities. They are celebrities to those of us who are geeks in some way. They are celebrities to those who share a passion, and being passionate about something makes the world more interesting.

RJ Johnson

I have been a priest for 16 years.  I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010.  If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.

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Volume 7, Issue 9, Posted 9:22 AM, 05.05.2015