DAYTON, OH–Ross Hudek, a 36-year-old claims processor at Northcentral Insurance in Dayton, still hasn't told co-workers about "Zanzibar," his three-month-old Billy Joel fanpage.
"I really haven't brought it up to the gang at work," Hudek said of the site, which features Billy Joel FAQs, photos and song lyrics, as well as links to other webpages devoted to the popular, Long Island-born singer. "I'm not hiding it or anything—it's right out there for the world to see–but I'd just feel kind of weird if I knew people at Northcentral were looking at it."
Hudek, who lists "Captain Jack," "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" and "Summer, Highland Falls," as his all-time favorite Joel songs, said he is "pretty sure" that none of his co-workers have ever visited the fanpage.
"[Claims adjustor] Glenn [Dietz] and I talk about Billy Joel every once in awhile, because he's also a fan," Hudek said. "He saw him on the Storm Front tour when he came through Cleveland in '89, and I was at the same show. But I don't think he knows about the site. At least, he's never mentioned it to me."
Hudek said he spends approximately 10 hours a week on maintenance and upkeep of the website, typing in trivia questions, scanning photographs he took at various Joel concerts, and posting the results of weekly fan polls.
"This week's question is: What is your favorite song on Turnstiles?" Hudek said. "Surprisingly, 'Miami 2017' is in the lead, with seven votes. I was sure it would be 'James' or, at the very least, 'I've Loved These Days.' Not that '2017' isn't a great song—it is. But the best on all of Turnstiles? My suspicion is that there's one person out there who really likes it and is casting multiple votes. Right now, there's nothing to prevent that."
"I'm pretty proud of what I've done," Hudek continued. "There's a lot of good stuff there: updates on what Billy's been up to lately, midi files, desktop images, and a whole bunch of other downloadable goodies. Still, I'd kind of rather keep it to myself for now."
Despite his reluctance to tell co-workers, Hudek said he has a good relationship with them. Furthermore, he insists he is not "hiding" the website and would tell his fellow Northcentral employees about it if it ever were to come up in conversation.
"They're good people," Hudek said. "Dave [Boniol] and Bill [Kerkseich] and Samantha [Deele], in particular, I would consider more than just co-workers, and actually friends. But still, there's a limit to what we talk about. Some things are more personal, you know?"
Hudek's co-workers may not have visited Zanzibar, but the fansite is not going unseen. Since its launch, it has received more than 200 visitors, and Hudek has received a great deal of positive e-mail from other Joel fans. He has even developed an ongoing "Billy Joel trivia exchange" with some of them.
"We e-mail back and forth and try to stump each other," Hudek said. "It's a lot of fun. I'm pretty tough to stump, though. You can't just ask me something easy like, 'What was the inspiration for "Big Shot"?' or, 'Who is the "Famous Violinist Incognito" who plays on "The Downeaster Alexa"?' Or even, 'Who is the Rosalinda in "Rosalinda's Eyes"?'"
Added Hudek: "A very bad date with Bianca Jagger; Itzhak Perlman; and Billy's mom."
Hudek said he decided to set up the fanpage after visiting a number of other Joel sites and finding them to be "big on graphics but sorely lacking in accurate, detailed information."
"If you're going to have a site devoted to the life and music of Billy Joel, you don't start your discography with Cold Spring Harbor," Hudek said. "You go all the way back to his pre-solo years with The Hassles."
"Not that I'm, like, a fanatic about him, or anything," Hudek added. "I love his music, but it's not the only thing I do. And I certainly wouldn't want to give my co-workers that impression."