People actually knew who that person was?
You mean at the time it aired? Possibly not, although he was already in a formal role and known to those in "the business" (can't be more specific without spoilers...). Now -- absolutely, he's got that facial recognition thing happening far beyond his region of origin.
I see his brother in a professional context on occasion, who tells me *he* is still very much a Star Trek fan. Trekkers really do come from all walks of life ... :-)