Year in Review 2009
but Not Forgotten
Edward M. Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, Michael Jackson, Robert
McNamara, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Merce Cunningham, John Updike,
Les Paul, Ed McMahon, Kim Dae Jung, Claiborne Pell, Jack Kemp,
Corazon Aquino, Oral Roberts, Alfred A. Knopf Jr., Jett Travolta.
Journalists and commentators Don Hewitt, Paul Harvey, Irving
R. Levine, William Safire, Robert Novak, Irving Kristol, Sidney
Zion, George Michael.
John Hughes, Roy E. Disney, Steven Bach, Jack Cardiff, Claude
Berri, Dan O’Bannon, Ken Annakin, Howard Zieff.
Actors Karl Malden, Jennifer Jones, Bea Arthur, David Carradine,
Natasha Richardson, Ron Silver, Betsy Blair, Patrick Swayze,
Farrah Fawcett, Ricardo Montalban, Dom Deluise, Patrick McGoohan,
James Whitmore, Joseph Wiseman, Gale Storm, Collin Wilcox,
Henry Gibson, Brittany Murphy, Pat Hingle, Cheryl Holdridge,
Gene Barry, Don Galloway, Anna Karen Morrow, Paul Burke, Conrad
Fowkes, Connie Hines, Edward Woodward, Marilyn Chambers, Harve
Presnell, Carl Ballantine, Dorothy Coonan Wellman, Richard
Musicians Ellie Greenwich, Koko Taylor, Vic Chestnutt, Mary
Travers, Jay Bennett, Al Martino, David “Fathead” Newman,
Liam Clancy, Ron Asheton, Bobby Graham, John Martyn, Maryanne
Amacher, Jack Rose, Mercedes Sosa, Larry Knechtel, Sky Saxon,
Willy DeVille, Rashied Ali, Dewey Martin, Estelle Bennett,
Huey Long, Billy Powell, Jimmy Boyd, Blossom Dearie, Maurice
Writers Frank McCourt, Horton Foote, Jim Carroll, J.G. Ballard,
Norma Fox Mazer, Budd Schulberg, Milorad Pavic, Dominick Dunne,
James Purdy, Donald Harington, Billy C. Clark, John Mortimer,
Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Gordon Burn, Tim Guest, Stanley Middleton,
E. Lynn Harris, Christopher Anvil, Robert Holdstock, Stephen
Dance figures Pina Bausch, Pearl Lang; visual artists Andrew
Wyeth, Jeanne-Claude, Dash Snow, Frederick Gore, Ernie Barnes,
Yiannis Moralis; photographer Irving Penn.
Sports figures Kay Yow, Brad Van Pelt, Steve McNair, Chuck
Daly, Mark Fidrych, Ingemar Johansson, Doc Blanchard, Lou
Saban, Norm Van Lier, Preston Gomez, Andrea Mead Lawrence,
“Prince”Joe Henry, Randy Smith, Bill Werber, Nick Adenhart,
Chris Henry, Lou Albano, Harry Kalas.
Political leader and civil-rights activist Percy Sutton; Habitat
for Humanity founder Millard Fuller; historian John Hope Franklin;
philanthropist Leonore Annenberg; businessman Oscar G. Meyer
Jr.; murdered family-health-care provider George Tiller; economist
Paul Samuelson; education-reform advocate Theodore Sizer;
French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss; pioneering doctor
Willem Kolff; former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell; former
U.S. Sen. Clifford Hansen; Manson Family member Susan Atkins;
pitchman Billy Mays; comedian Soupy Sales; caricaturist David
Levine; Mickey Mouse voice Wayne Allwine; pets Socks and Gidget;
and Gertrude Baines, believed to be the oldest person in the
Local notables Jack McNulty, Clarence Getty.
Fox, Corey Ellis, Shawn Morris, Bobby Jindal
and Back Again
Convention Center, Quintessence, Eliot Spitzer, Julia Child’s
cookbook, butter, state Senate Democratic majority, Lydia
Kulbida, Jaycee Lee Dugard
and Good Riddance
Edwards, Betty Barnette, Jim Tuffey, Joe Bruno, the Bush administration,
Madoff, Thomas Spargo
Going . . .
Patterson, money from the state budget, Oprah
and Back and Gone Again
Baron Cohen, Carrie Prejean
and Back and Please Go Away
in a Cloud of Smoke
Lake Champlain Bridge
and Back from the Future to Destroy the Universe
Large Hadron Collider
and Thank You
in Albany, Saratoga Winners, Bill Moyers
to Divorce Court
Joe Lieberman, the Kardashians, the New York State Senate,
Judd Apatow, Octomom, Sandy Horowitz, Jim Cramer, Orly Taitz
Gone but Hung On
4, 2008 was a day for celebration, but Jan. 20, 2009 kicked
off Barack Obama’s historic presidency with an inaugural event
that counts as one of the most widely observed events by a
global audience ever. The pomp and circumstance included performances
by Aretha Franklin and Yo-Yo Ma, an invocation by controversial
evangelist Rick Warren, and an inaugural address in which
Obama called for the “remaking of America” before a crowd
of 1.8 million.
Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, ill for some time with
brain cancer, passed away and left a state and a nation in
mourning. Even his conservative rivals in the Senate had great
praise for Kennedy’s legislative skills and decades of public
service; his ability to cross the aisle to make deals earned
him respect and friendship among some Republicans and the
fierce love and loyalty of his constituents. In spite of a
series of tragedies and missteps in his personal life throughout
much of his career, ultimately he was the Kennedy who mattered
most. In a mantra oft-repeated in the coverage of his passing,
many Massachusetts residents felt that as long as Ted was
in office, everything would be OK.
it’s not official. It’s sure as hell not what progressives
wanted. But it looks like we really are going to get a watered-down
form of national health-care reform that will be possible
to build on. Cheer up, and look it up—even Social Security
wasn’t built in a day.
disgruntled children of Reagan bravely donned their tricorner
hats and grasped the shaft of their shared American dream
this spring, proclaiming the battle cry of the Boston Tea
Party whilst tossing their Lipton teabags in the face of Communist
Tyranny. “Grassroots” rallies of real ’Mericans sprung up
all across the country, bravely, to protest the reckless spending
and taxation and bailouts and abortions and world government
that our new socialist fascist black Muslim Kenyan President
Barack Obama portends.
campaign promise that Obama has been able to live up to was
launching a troop surge of 30,000 Americans into the mountainous
Graveyard of Empires to chase down and kill about 100 Muslim
extremists. How can this fail?
Year in Nukes
is making them. North Korea isn’t. Or is it the other way
around? No, it’s both. And we’re just letting Pakistan sit
there, right? With everything else to freak out about, we
as a nation have forgotten to freak out over the fact that
we’re all going to be nuked into oblivion before long. Again
with the priorities, people!
Obama administration moved to have the accused 9/11 terrorist
“masterminds” brought to justice in a federal court in New
York City. About damn time.
missing George W. Bush administration e-mails turned up last
month. All 22 million-plus of them. Guess W. just needed a
better IT department, huh?
Queen of the Quitters
was a banner year for every teabagger’s favorite snowbilly,
Sarah Palin. First she quit her job as governor of Alaska.
Then she went on a tour for her get-even book, Going Rogue,
that only took her to places she considers “real America.”
The Capital Region didn’t make the cut, but Rochester had
a high enough yokel quotient for the former Empress of Wasilla.
Bill Clinton a Superhero?
there any other way to explain how he flew to North Korea
and saved those two journalists in the time it takes us to
eight years of an oil-industry-fueled administration that
refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and generally aligned
itself with climate-change deniers, the election of President
Obama made the progressive world community optomistic for
the United Nations Climate Change Conference this month, dubbing
the meetings “Hopenhagen.” What emmerged was dysfunction,
intransigence and a weak accord that is nonbinding and not
legally enforceable, and promises little in the way of long-term
global carbon-emissions reductions.
Nah Nah, Dubai
no one saw this coming? A globalized desert wonderland of
water parks, crystal towers, 12-million-square-foot shopping
malls, fountains visible from space and manmade islands that
form palm trees and a map of the world, built on the backs
of indentured foreign workers and the money-crazed vision
of a crown prince—sunk, almost overnight, by billions of dollars
in outstanding debt.
New Naughty Euphemism:
the Appalachian Trail.” The credit, of course, belongs to
South Carolina’s Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, who, after
disappearing from office for six days, was reported by his
staff to be engaged in said activity, only to return from
Buenos Aires with the humbling confession of an extramarital
affair. Usage may also apply to Sen. John Ensign and Rep.
Chip Pickering, members of a religious right-wing D.C. fraternal
group called “The Family,” who similarly confessed to infidelities.
NASA Ballistics Expert’s Wet Dream
right, to bomb the friggin’ moon. But the craziest part of
the story is that, after NASA’s Centaur rocket penetrated
a moon crater at twice the speed of a bullet, kicking up a
massive cloud of dust and debris—they found ice.
that one time that former attorney general turned New York
governor got caught in his party socks with a New Jersey prostitute
and everyone went crazy? The shame of his hypocrisy was so
much that the Sheriff of Wall Street resigned on TV, and everywhere
everyone stopped going to prostitutes because of the shame,
and then our economy collapsed? And then the governor’s mansion
was handed over to a dithering ex-cokehead partying philanderer
and, seizing upon the chaos, the Senate was overthrown by
a cabal of thugs, liars and a girlfriend-abuser? Well, hindsight
being what it is and all, maybe we New Yorkers are now thinking
to ourselves that we should have just gotten over our own
collective hypocrisy and cut Client No. 9 some slack. This
fall, the rumors started flying that Eliot Spitzer might be
eying a run for the comptroller’s seat—and that sounds to
us like a great opportunity for everyone to grow up a little.
we needed more proof of just how corrupt and petty our state
legislators can be, we got it this year when a pair of Democrats,
Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada, teamed up with Senate Republicans
to undercut their caucus leadership just so they could get
a little more power and money.
you want a sneak preview of the budget hell that’s going to
hit Albany soon, turn your gaze westward, to Sacramento, Calif.
There, Arnold Schwarzenegger—aka the Governator—is slashing
services and jobs at an alarming rate. And it’s nothing to
look forward to.
King in Waiting
knows that David Paterson is not going to win election as
governor next year. Everyone, that is, except David Paterson.
Waiting in the wings is Andrew Cuomo, the fighting attorney
general who is doing a superb job of keeping his mouth shut—for
the time being. Start packing, Dave!
the Wrong Side of History
in the Senate, economic anxiety, an apprehensive constituency:
There are a number of excuses that New York state lawmakers
have offered to justify the Senate’s heartbreaking rejection
of a bill that would have legalized gay marriage, but the
38-24 vote that found all Republicans and a handful of cowardly
Democrats rejecting the measure only served to highlight the
ongoing battle for a basic human right increasingly recognized
by progressive states and favored by a majority of New Yorkers.
80 years old, it looks like former Senate Majority Leader
Joe Bruno will need to get used to his latest, and well-earned,
the beginning of the decade during the 2000 presidential election,
then-U.S. Rep John Sweeney and Thomas Spargo, a longtime Capital
Region lawyer and judge, were leaders of the “Brooks Brothers
Riot” that played havoc with the recounts in Florida. In what
some people claim is karma, both are facing jail time at the
end of the decade: Spargo has been sentenced to federal prison
for attempted extortion and soliciting bribes, and Sweeney,
already with a DWI conviction, has been indicted on felony
Common Council did something pretty amazing this year. Instead
of just letting the mayor cover up allegations of extensive
abuse of parking enforcement in Albany under his watch, the
council launched an investigation. It wasn’t easy to get all
these legislators rallied to do something as time-consuming
as their jobs, but thanks to the outrage of their constituents
and the efforts of a few dedicated council members, they did
it. And what they found, and what they caused to be found
by the state comptroller, was a system of widespread abuse
of the parking restrictions by favored members of the city
workforce that spanned at least seven years.
Truth Is the Truth and That Is the Truth”
former city treasurer, Betty Barnette, denied and denied any
knowledge of the lengthy no-fine tickets scandal (actually
uttering without shame the remarkable quote that is our headline).
Yet, how the woman who had for so long run the office that
is charged with collecting parking fines, didn’t notice the
system of forgiving these fines for certain city workers and
VIPs, even after she received seven no-fine tickets herself,
is incredible. She was either lying and covering up, or she
hadn’t been paying the slightest attention to her job, allowing
the taxpayers to get screwed out of millions of dollars. Either
way, she had thoroughly proven that she wasn’t fit for the
job, and opting for her strong opponent, Albany gave her the
16 years, it was nice to see Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings break
a sweat. Although he would go on to win his reelection bid
this year with points to spare, the win didn’t come too easily.
A number of scandals and a seemingly out-of-control scourge
of street violence plagued his administration, and his opponents
had the easy task of painting him as an out-of-touch and bloated
hypocrite, playing favorites to his rich developer friends
while letting the city fall closer to bankruptcy and chaos.
And then there was the debate, where Jennings did something
he rarely does: stood before the public and responded to the
at-times hostile criticism leveled at him by his constituents.
(There’s a big difference between facing down a hostile crowd
from behind a radio microphone and in person.) Albany residents
have serious complaints about the way he has run this city,
and while Jennings has a history of running away when he is
challenged, this time around he had to listen.
Got No Mail
when you thought government leaders everywhere had begun to
realize the wisdom of investing in livable cities with walkable
neighborhoods, the United States Postal Service announced
that seven area PO branches had been targeted for possible
closure—all of them, you guessed it, in walkable neighborhoods.
Since then the list has been narrowed to four, but urbanites
are still outraged that postal services may be lost in the
four neighborhoods that remain on the list.
Men, There’s a Place You Can Go—the Suburbs
December, the president of the Capital District YMCA met with
neighborhood leaders in downtown Albany to inform them that
unless membership took a sudden upturn, the Y would announce—in
January—that its flagship Washington Avenue facility would
be shut down by April. Whether the investment in suburban
Ys and the concurrent neglect of the downtown facility were
part of a master plan to abandon the city remains in dispute,
but residents are fighting back, and Y officials now claim
they do want to save the Washington Avenue Y.
puts Harry in a Corner
Harry Tutunjian, all alone in that big doomed corner office
of his, riding his Segway in circles as he ponders his limited
career path, and watches as his closest allies jump ship.
Term-limits are a bitch, aren’t they, Mr. Mayor? It can’t
be much fun, staring down the next two years as an embattled
lame duck to be tormented by a hostile city council controlled
overwhelmingly by Democrats. But the petulant Tutunjian earned
that reputation of his not by whimpering in the corner. He
earned it by lashing out at his enemies (Bill Dunne) and thumping
his chest over the important issues (like pay raises for his
political appointees). Nobody puts Harry in a corner, and
we’re anticipating his last two years will be marked by some
spectacular and costly temper tantrums.
What does it take to get Mr. Tibetan Holy Man himself to travel
to Albany, N.Y., to hand out a bunch of his world-class brand
of enlightenment and scarves? Answer: The efforts of one eccentric,
reclusive volleyball enthusiast, a cappella aficionado and
certified “smartest man in the world” and his wacky but lovable
“cult” of “Espians” that just happens to include a couple
of millionaire heiresses. Crack open the right size checkbook,
and it seems you just can’t keep the Dalai Lama away. Have
you ever seen the picture of His Holiness getting all chummy
with Aum Shinrikyo’s founder Shoko Asahara? Just sayin’.
Mirch, Champion of Justice
howdy, all dressed up in his Sunday best, Three-Job Bob announced
that he had done found evidence of dozens of incidents of
voter fraud in Rensselaer County. The Democrats, he alleged,
had stolen the votes of the poor and marginalized in the Working
Families primary, and surprisingly, considering the source,
this evidence was found serious enough that a special prosecutor
was tasked with an investigation. A number of top-ranking
Troy Democrats have been implicated and Republican insiders
are guessing that prison awaits at least one or two of them.
The irony, of course, is rich. How dare the Democrats try
to steal the third-party line that Mirch made an art form
out of exploiting?
Much Mirch. That’s what they say it was. “The Garbageman”
might have recast himself this year as the Champion of Justice,
but the voters didn’t buy it. Catching the Democrats (allegedly)
being stupid couldn’t erase his years of taking advantage
of every opportunity to bully and slander and treat government
like his trough. The voters were sick of him, and on Nov.
4 it showed. Ever the sore loser, Three-Job abruptly resigned
from the county legislature before his final term was up,
quit his day job as commissioner of Troy’s Public Works, and
ran away to his new home in sunny southern Florida.
has a problem with our trash, as in, we rely on the revenue
from our landfill to pay our bills, and our landfill is almost
full. Far from breaking news, Mayor Jennings responded to
the crisis not with years of careful planning, but by seeking
and securing permission to multiple this disaster by expanding
the landfill into the rare Pine Bush preserve.
(Alleged) Worst Person in Schenectady
scandal surrounding accused terrorist bomber and jailed former
Schenectady school district employee Steven Raucci gets weirder
and darker by the day. One would almost get the impression
that the current school board would wish it all away; the
Daily Gazette’s Carl Strock and the Times Union’s
Lauren Stanforth won’t let them.
Worst Person in the New York State Senate
Hiram Monserrate was convicted of a misdemeanor for bringing
his girlfriend to obtain medical care in a manner which closely
resembled smacking her around. Will his fellow senators have
the cojones to show his sorry ass the door?
Worst Person in the World
junior U.S. Senator, Joe Lieberman, cemented his status as
a truly spiteful, awful human being last month by killing
both the public option and a Medicare buy-in for folks over
55 in the health-care-reform bill. The latter effort really
put the “lie” in Lieberman, as he had expressed support for
a Medicare buy-in provision not long ago. You’re a mean one,
Holds Class at HVCC
Barack Obama came to the Capital Region this fall to shine
his presidential glory onto our drab lives. The Teabaggers
came out to greet him with their Republican slogans and T-shirts
and chanted and marched and saved freedom while Obama read
a speech for 20 minutes about education and science to a crowd
of politicians and businesspeople in a garage at Hudson Valley
Community College. Then he got back on Air Force One and flew
you have ever considered having your corpse cryogenically
frozen, so that the Chinese can one day thaw it out and make
you a Communist, you might want to read the cautionary tale
about when Ted Williams’ frozen severed head met an empty
can of tuna and a wrench. Yikes.
museums and historical societies celebrated the Hudson River
Quadricentennial—the discovery of the river by Henry Hudson—in
grand style this year. Kudos to the Albany Institute, the
Tang Teaching Museum, the New York State Museum and many more
organizations. And you know who else celebrated this? The
Dutch. So, a tip of the hat to our wooden-shoe-clad forefathers.
Winfrey announced that her long-running, fabulously popular
and profitable talk show will be coming to an end in September
2011. Whose couch will Hollywood jump on now?
Hollywood on the Hudson
maze of Interstate ramps subbed for Washington, D.C., and
Angelina Jolie herself came to town for the filming of her
latest thriller, Salt. The good people from Sony/Columbia
Pictures returned later to do some second-unit filming at
State and Pearl streets for another flick—but this time we
only got the Rock’s double.
a dozen-plus years of malign neglect by its then-owner, and
a peculiar lack of curiosity about said neglect by Mayor Jennings,
the Wellington Hotel and its neighbors on State Street in
Albany finally came down. The consolation prize? They saved
tears were shed for the Wellington than for Albany Police
Chief James Tuffey, who quit before he was asked to leave
in the wake of the “ghost tickets” scandal and allegations
that he used a racial slur.
County Executive Michael Breslin implemented a program of
involuntary, pay-free furloughs for county employees. It’s
like a pay cut—well, actually, it is a pay cut. Sorry,
comrades. We took pay cuts, too.
Got it ALL in Albany?
an awards vetting process that resembled nothing more than
a low-rent beauty contest, Albany again won the designation
All-America City. Maybe they can put up one of the signs near
Soon to the Electric City
Chopper is moving its corporate HQ downtown. Now the employees
can discover the delicious pies served up by the Pizza King.
Mike Hoblock isn’t a bad guy. But the longtime local politician
couldn’t make a comeback against Colonie’s Democratic town
supervisor, Paula Mahan. Mahan led the way in cleaning up
a budget mess the Republicans left behind—and the people of
Colonie decided to let her continue, rather than give old
dog Hoblock a new lease on political life.
Is Hardly “It”
passing of pop icon Michael Jackson on June 25 was a cultural
event, sparking candlelight vigils and all-star tributes and
fail whales galore. Entertainment news outlets reported on
the death and surrounding controversy for months. His music
became the soundtrack of the nation for weeks to follow. The
huge sales spike for Jackson’s albums pumped some life into
a dying recording industry. A movie, pieced together using
footage from his final rehearsals, turned out to be a pretty
solid piece of work, and a smash to boot. Dude was nominated
for an Artist of the Year award and he hadn’t even made a
new album. The biggest star of our time, hands down.
of the Douche
may have selected Girls Gone Wild mastermind Joe Francis
as the Douche of the Decade, but this year gave us a bumper
crop of worthy contestants. In addition to the ones you’ll
read about elsewhere in these pages, we submit for your consideration:
Jon Gosselin, “Speidi,” Harvey Levin, Carrie Prejean, Perez
Hilton, Tucker Max, Rush Limbaugh. . . . Look around you,
dear reader, you may be in the presence of douche.
Greatest Filly in America
there’s some dispute about that. But Preakness and Belmont
Stakes winner Rachel Alexandra brightened the Saratoga Race
Course with her win in the Woodward Stakes.
prefer to call it the Swine Flu. That’s more descriptive than
H1N1, though less piquant than the name the political blog
Wonkette bestowed on the illness (“pig AIDS”). Oddly, it hit
kids and pregnant women hard, but left the old people alone.
And it may come back again, according to the New York State
Department of Health.
the genre that won’t die. Anne Rice may have found Jesus,
but author Stephanie Meyer has taken her place as queen of
the vampire story. This year her Twilight series—in
book and movie forms—hijacked pop culture and sucked it dry.
And there’s no end in sight.
collectively held our breath waiting for news updates after
we learned that the Albany River Rats’ team bus had slid off
the icy Mass Turnpike in Becket in the wee hours after a game
at Lowell in February. Fortunately, everyone survived, most
with just cuts and bruises, although two of the players’ injuries
were serious enough that they have not played hockey since.
The one upside to the frightening incident was that the emergency
teams from Berkshire County and Berkshire Medical Center got
to put their much-rehearsed, well-coordinated response into
practice—to glowing reviews.
With a Blaze
April, Saratoga Winners, a music venue that hosted Radiohead,
the Counting Crows, Blind Melon, Sepultura, White Zombie and
countless others burned to the ground under suspicious circumstances.
A jury is currently deliberating charges against owner Akiva
Abraham, who faces five to 15 years in prison for arson in
an attempt to collect $500,000 in insurance.
Words: Man Cave
wish we could get righteously indignant about this one. After
all, two state janitors usurped $28,400 in taxpayer-funded
overtime sleeping, watching the tube and smoking the devil’s
weed in a secret break room in the Empire Plaza’s East Garage,
but after the press dubbed the space a “Man Cave” (and inspired
The New Yorker to run an essay on the demise of the
“den”), the whole thing simply tipped over into the ridiculous.
Contender for 2009’s best local meme.
and Kate Plus Eight Minus Dignity
year, you couldn’t make it through the grocery store checkout
line without being reminded of Jon and Kate and the octuplets
that made them reality TV/tabloid celebrities. Things were
hunky dory until Jon cheated, or something, then maybe they
got divorced—we lost track. But it was curious to watch people
cling to their drama, either out of sympathy or sick sadistic
House Party Crashers
hesitate to even mention these shameless, narcissistic attention
whores—because it’s just what they want us to do!—so, instead
of rehashing the story of two reality TV-aspiring socialites
who crashed a state dinner and sparked inane media babble,
we’ll simply ask that you do the same and flush this meme
to annals of Wikipedia.
Metroland employee Jimmy Fallon got a pretty sweet
gig at a late-night TV show. We hear he’s pretty stoked. His
parents are gone this weekend and he’s having a double-kegger
to celebrate. Meanwhile, a long-awaited regime change finally
came on June 1 when Conan O’Brien became host of NBC’s The
Tonight Show. Finally, no more Jay Leno! But waitaminute—where’d
my Special Victims Unit go?
kids, here’s how you earn a BA in communications the “Jimmy
Fallon way:” Enroll in St. Rose’s computer science program,
switch your major when it gets too hard, work as a receptionist
for Metroland, drop out of school during your senior
year, move to L.A. to start a career in stand-up comedy, land
a gig on SNL, smirk and giggle your way through the
sketches, make some B movies, take over hosting Late Night
from Conan O’Brien, and trade that portfolio in a decade
later for your diploma. Presto.
ratings beneficiary of Leno’s relocation, David Letterman,
had some drama of his own this year. In June, a monologue
joke gone awry, about one of Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s
daughters, sparked a war of words between the talk-show host
and the former vice presidential candidate—a war which nobody
really won. Then there was a not-all-that-shocking intern-diddling
revelation this fall, an event that history should properly
remember as the failed extortion plot that it was.
So that was the biggest celeb sex scandal until . . .
Oh man. Really. Uh . . . Wow.
we, as a nation, spent a lot more time obsessing over Tiger’s,
er, digressions than we did chastising pop star Chris Brown
for beating fellow pop star Rihanna half to death in February.
Sure, his new album is selling below expectations, but that
still means there are a few hundred thousand people willing
to publicly support this dirtbag and his shitty music. Yay
let you finish . . .
of celebs behaving badly, Kanye West achieved the ultimate
superstar status marker in this post-everything age: an Internet
meme. His verbal interjection into an acceptance speech by
pop-country star Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards
in September became part of the cultural vernacular within
hours. For weeks, everyone from Jay Leno (dick!) to your mother-in-law
argued about what could have made him act like that (it’s
because he was right about the Beyonce video), boosting Mr.
West to a kind of meta-stardom that his music alone could
never have achieved.
was the reason Kanye’s words were heard ’round the world,
and also why we knew everything about everybody, especially
people we didn’t know in real life, and the world got somehow
more impersonal despite the tsunami of minutae. (Right?) Yes,
it gave voice to the protestors in the wake of the Iranian
presidential election. On the other hand, there was @courtneylover79.
Twitter was also a sturdy cultural measuring stick: We now
know that Ashton Kutcher is more popular than Larry King,
and that Britney Spears loves Satan more than her own children.
That about sums up where our heads were at, culturally, in
2009. There’s nowhere to go but up.
Times a Lady
kicked off with a bang. Actually not so much a bang as the
sound of a million journalists bonking heads with one another
in an attempt to get an interview with Nadya Suleman, the
California woman who will forever be known as Octomom (which
was apparently a better nickname than Uterus Fantasticus)
after giving birth to eight babies in January. Naturally,
she turned out to be a crazy person, and, naturally, the media
shadowed her every move for what seemed like most of the year.
(Because it was.)
Won’t Float . . .
a few hours one October afternoon, the nation’s eyes were
on a janky- looking Jiffy Pop container floating through the
skies above Fort Collins, Colo. For this magical vessel, it
was “reported,” might contain a missing 6-year-old boy, one
Falcon Heene. (Yes, his name is Falcon. Just so you know it’s
Colorado.) Quick timeline of what happened next: Boy turns
out to be hiding in attic; media freaks the hell out; boy
sells out his fruitcake dad’s shitty publicity plot on, ironically,
numerous high-profile national TV appearances; dad goes directly
to jail, does not pass go, does not collect reality-TV deal.
. . But This Will
one public figure who didn’t seem like a total loon this year
was Chesley Sullenberger. The smooth-as-silk commercial pilot
safely landed a disabled US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson
River on January 15, saving the lives of all 155 passengers
aboard. In all appearances to follow, he came off as the coolest
cucumber ever to fly the friendly skies. A real American hero.
Stations on the Subway Series
of New York’s Major League Baseball teams moved into snazzy
new digs this year. The Yankees celebrated by bringing their
27th World Series title home to the new Yankee Stadium (next
to which the old one still stands). Meanwhile, much to the
chagrin of Mets fans, about the only good thing to happen
so far at the new CitiField was a series of Paul McCartney
concerts in July.
in East Rutherford . . .
New York Giants and Jets both played out their last season
at Giants Stadium, which will be replaced with yet another
new arena next year. The Jets’ had a halfway decent season
under rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, and may even luck their
way into the playoffs. (They play the decisive final game
in the old stadium on Sunday, Jan. 3.) The Giants, on the
other hand, went into free-fall after a 5-0 start, and missed
the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
I Hardly Even Know Her Face!
Cross once joked that living in New York City is difficult
because at all times you’re forced to choose between looking
at a beautiful woman or a really crazy guy. This August it
was rumored that Lady Gaga, the biggest new American pop star
of the year, is both. Irrefutable evidence (read: a bunch
YouTube videos) asserted that Gaga was actually hiding a p-p-p-penis
beneath whatever that thing was that she called an outfit,
though the rumor was later debunked. (Or was it?!)
biggest new machine-made pop star of the year was American
Idol runner-up Adam Lambert, who was a talented singer
and performer, and also gay. We mention the second item because
it came up in just about every shred of mainstream media coverage,
and quite possibly cost him the (deserved) Idol win—most
unfortunate, because he’s actually pretty good. This fall,
Lambert further courted controversy with an American Music
Awards performance, broadcast on ABC, that found the eyeliner-wearing
star grabbing a dude’s junk and making out with a male keyboardist.
Anything for ratings, right?