The whole SOX fiasco hogtied our industry and gagged the leaders, but there are still some great voices out here. Take Dr. T from National Instruments: Passion personified. And then startup CEOs like Brett Fox of Touchstone (nice interview, by the way, Brian)who are making good headway and making no bones about it. But, alas, your point is still valid, echoes in the silicon corridor, "Is there anybody out there?"
Successful businessmen do not always make for good theater or good EE Times interviews.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page may not come off as mad scientists or swashbuckling pirates, but they've done their fair share of meaningful work.
Flashiness is over-rated.
Furthermore, this is a time where even inhabitants of third-world villages know what comes out of Silicon Valley. Its success stories are treated like rock stars.
I wouldn't worry about the allure of engineering being diminished in recent years.
I think you hit the nail on the head. The mavericks of yesteryear inspired people, and they occasionally spoke first and thought it through later, sometimes with negative results. I would argue that these kinds of people are still running Silicon Valley companies, but everyone has gotten way more careful. Statements are more carefully vetted in the era of Sarbanes-Oxley and heightened concern over day to day stock price fluctuation. Being careful has its merits, but we do lose something.