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The Year in Review 2009

Gone but Not Forgotten

Sen. 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.

Filmmakers 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 Todd.

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 Jarre.

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 Toulmin.

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 world.

Local notables Jack McNulty, Clarence Getty.

Gone and Forgotten

Sandra Fox, Corey Ellis, Shawn Morris, Bobby Jindal

Gone and Back Again

Albany Convention Center, Quintessence, Eliot Spitzer, Julia Child’s cookbook, butter, state Senate Democratic majority, Lydia Kulbida, Jaycee Lee Dugard

Gone and Good Riddance

John Edwards, Betty Barnette, Jim Tuffey, Joe Bruno, the Bush administration, Lou Dobbs

Gone to Prison

Bernie Madoff, Thomas Spargo

Gone Quit

Sarah Palin

Going, Going . . .

David Patterson, money from the state budget, Oprah

Gone and Back and Gone Again

Sacha Baron Cohen, Carrie Prejean

Gone and Back and Please Go Away

Bob Mirch

Gone in a Cloud of Smoke

The Lake Champlain Bridge

Gone and Back from the Future to Destroy the Universe

CERN Large Hadron Collider

Gone and Thank You

Democracy in Albany, Saratoga Winners, Bill Moyers

Gone and Missed

Analog TV

Gone to Divorce Court

Jon and Kate

Please Go Away

Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Kardashians, the New York State Senate, Judd Apatow, Octomom, Sandy Horowitz, Jim Cramer, Orly Taitz

Almost Gone but Hung On

Mayor Mike Bloomberg



Nov. 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.

The Lion Sleeps

U.S. 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.

Hello, Health-Care Reform

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.

Teabagging Goes Mainstream

The 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.

Escalating Disaster

One 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?

The Year in Nukes

Iran 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!

Bring ’Em Here

The 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.

Here They Are!

Those 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?

The Queen of the Quitters

It 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.

Is Bill Clinton a Superhero?

Is there any other way to explain how he flew to North Korea and saved those two journalists in the time it takes us to get lunch?


After 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 Nah Nah, Dubai

Really, 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.

Best New Naughty Euphemism:

“Hiking 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.

A NASA Ballistics Expert’s Wet Dream

That’s 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.

Spitzer for Comptroller

Remember 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.

Dropping a Deuce

If 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.


If 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.

The King in Waiting

Everyone 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!

On the Wrong Side of History

Turmoil 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.

Dishonest Service

At 80 years old, it looks like former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno will need to get used to his latest, and well-earned, title: convict.

Shut Them Down

At 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 DWI charges.

Ghost Tickets

Albany’s 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.

“The Truth Is the Truth and That Is the Truth”

Albany’s 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 old heave-ho.

Jennings, Meet Criticism

After 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.

You’ve Got No Mail

Just 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.

Young Men, There’s a Place You Can Go—the Suburbs

In 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.

Nobody puts Harry in a Corner

Poor 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.

Well, Hello Dalai

Question: 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’.

Bob Mirch, Champion of Justice

Well 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?


Too 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.

Albany Landfill Expansion

Albany 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.

The (Alleged) Worst Person in Schenectady

The 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.

The Worst Person in the New York State Senate

Sen. 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?

The Worst Person in the World

Connecticut’s 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, Mr. Grinch.

Obama Holds Class at HVCC

President 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 away.

Ted Williams’ Head

If 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.

Happy 400th, Henry!

Local 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.

Goodbye, Oprah

Oprah 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?

Hello, Hollywood on the Hudson

Albany’s 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.

Goodbye, Wellington Row

After 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 the facades.

Goodbye, Chief Tuffey

More 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.

Go Home, Already

Albany 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.

We’ve Got it ALL in Albany?

After 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 Wellington Row?

Coming Soon to the Electric City

Price Chopper is moving its corporate HQ downtown. Now the employees can discover the delicious pies served up by the Pizza King.

The Last Hurrah

Republican 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.

This Is Hardly “It”

The 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.

Year of the Douche

Gawker 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.

The Greatest Filly in America

OK, 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.

Whither H1N1?

We 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.

Vampires 4EVAH!

It’s 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.

Black Ice

We 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.

Out With a Blaze

In 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.

Two Words: Man Cave

We 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.

Jon and Kate Plus Eight Minus Dignity

This 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 glee.

White House Party Crashers

We 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.

The Roots!

Former 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?

Fallon Walks

Listen 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.

Worldwide Pants

The 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 . . .

Tiger Woods

Man. Oh man. Really. Uh . . . Wow.


Unfortunately 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 for priorities.

Imma let you finish . . .

Speaking 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.


Twitter 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.

Eight Times a Lady

2009 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.)

That Won’t Float . . .

For 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

The 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.

New Stations on the Subway Series

Both 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.

Meanwhile, in East Rutherford . . .

The 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.

Pokerface? I Hardly Even Know Her Face!

David 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?!)

For Your Entertainment?

The 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?


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