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A person in power who operates in secret, posing behind a facade or puppet. Their intentions may be nefarious or may be good.

The term derives from the Wizard of Oz, in which the "wizard" is eventually revealed to be an old man behind a curtain projecting a terrifying persona through a Tesla-esque smokescreen.

Edith Bolling Galt Wilson is an example of a man behind the curtain. Her husband, President Woodrow Wilson, had a stroke during his second term. During that time, Edith effectively ran the Executive branch in secret, carrying "messages" from her husband's bedside that were actually her own orders. By all accounts, she was a decent president.

Another example is James Baker III, who served as President Reagan's Secretary of State (1981-84) and of the Treasury (1984-89). It is widely speculated that President Reagan suffered from nuerodegeneration brought on by his old age during his second term. During that time James Baker effectively ran the country as if he were Reagan.

During the Cold War, many communist states were "ruled" by shadow governments under the thumb of the USSR. In such cases (like Cuba, for example), Moscow was the man behind the curtain and the curtain was the shadow government.

Synonyms include: secret boss, puppet master, brains of the outfit.
While the Beatles were great in their own right, their producer, George Martin, was the man behind the curtain and was responsible for much of the band's success.
by BillieJeanIsNotMyLover August 07, 2018
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