By Victoria Looseleaf
Because this would be an encyclopedia of egregious deeds if I included the horrendousness of 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, the Bush brigade, and all that came before November 4, 2008, I shall not dwell on those events and people, but instead start with the best: Yes, the very best thing to happen to America, if not the world, was the election of Barack Obama. And though your scribe happened to be in Cuba then (her most memorable destination of the decade, where she not only watches brilliant ballet, but revels with her novio Cubano), she found herself celebrating this incredible victory by, first, staring at disbelief at CNN Espanol, second, crying tears of happiness, and, third, finally shouting to the throngs gathered at Havana’s Hotel Presidente Bar, “Mojitos para todos.”
And while goodness is great, and greatness is good, The Leaf cannot resist a fabulous scandale—including the celebrity death—and we were gifted with some of the absolute best in the final year of the first decade of our new millennium. Is it crass to think that because the one and only Michael Jackson, who was brought to trial as a child molester as recently as 2005, died at the hands of an inept Houston doctor eager to inject propofol (and to collect $150K a month as the entertainer’s in-house physician), he was then turned into St. Michael of Hollywood? Seriously, Jackson’s prodigious talents as singer, songwriter, and mega-dancer somehow managed to put to rest his uber-peculiar past and those freakish foibles that characterized him for nearly 50 years.
As for the pure soap opera that is reality TV, here’s to the high-flying Heenes of Balloon Boy fame (let’s just hope that little Falcon has a good therapist); the Salahis, those White-House-party-crashing fools who give interlopers everywhere a bad name, not to mention that the wearing of a red sari is now verboten; and the most hated figure to ever buy diapers on this or any planet, Octomom. Let’s toast to what Joy Behar referred to as “Who knew she had a concierge working in her uterus?”
But for the Mt. Everest of falls from grace, we must turn to that once untouchable paragon of propriety: Mr. Tiger Woods. Yes, for best ongoing drama to continuously rock the nation and ensure that the end of the first decade goes out on a delectable note of debauchery, golf star Woods also has indirect connections to the reality genre. His mistress number two (with the count currently up to 16), Jamiee Grubbs, is a former Tool Academy hammerhead. Face it: The Woods’ unmasking is the coup de grace of graceless plummeting and couldn’t have been scripted better by Hollywood.
Which begs the question: Why? What is our neck-craning compulsion to delight in others’ misdeeds, also known as schadenfreude? Is it to escape the dreariness of our own lives that we retreat into the 24/7 world of dirt, deceit, and dastardly deeds? Is it because we are morally bankrupt as we continue to financially teeter on the brink of no return (and don’t even get me started on Enron or Bernie Madoff, the latter the biggest symbol of the Gordon Gekko, greed-is-good syndrome)? The Leaf could definitely write a book on the subject, but only if she’d get the funding by coming out as Woods’s mistress number 17.
Ah, perhaps we’ve hit bottom and we’ll soon be collectively climbing out of this abyss. Once in daylight, we then might actually choose to live in a more civilized society. I mean: Where is Emily Post when you need her? She’s Tweeting and Facebooking to the unseen masses who practice anonymous unaccountability. What other society, after all, could have bred the Gosselins, the Kardashians, and even Lady Gaga, whose manufactured image of art, fashion, and music takes Warhol’s 15-minutes-of-fame way too far. (Nothing would please me more than to see her float away in that ridiculous bubble dress and hook up with the late Timothy Leary’s ashes while she’s at it.)
But I digress. When you think about it, there probably is no reality other than what exists on the tube, the big screen, or in the media, including the digital world. At least that’s what tennis great Andre Agassi would have us believe, as evidenced in his best-selling memoir, Open. Written with Pulitzer Prize winner J. R. Moehringer, the book is a good read that spills some Agassi beans while provoking with Zen Buddhistic-like approaches to life. That the erstwhile wunderkind hated tennis every day of his life is only one revelation (along with the notion that he was a meth user who sported a Mohawk because he was actually losing his hair, thus warranting a hairpiece).
And while one can never really know what is fact in the memoir genre (remember James Frey, the fictioneer posing as truth teller, plugged—then chastised—by Oprah, whose departure in 2011 I await eagerly), the nadir of the decade on basically all counts is none other than Sarah Palin.
A stealth bomber in stilettos spouting sick rhetoric (death panels, anyone?), who totes around her Down’s syndrome baby, Trig, like so much moose juice, Palin is the perfect storm of politics, celebrity, and narcissistic personality disorder. That her book, Going Rogue, created an even bigger monster from the one last seen leaving her Alaska governorship for the more lucrative book-tour trail—one where she charges $16 to pose for photos—is an insult to journalism, decency, and, dare I say it, the human race.
I’ll take Levi Johnston, her former son-in-law-to-be, any day (if Kathy Griffin can give him up, that is). His lunkheadedness is refreshingly real next to Palin’s outright lies and inanities. For 2010 to be a good year, we need this woman to fall into a melting glacier and then get fished out as frozen food.
But before that ever happens (one can wish…), The Leaf wants to give a shout-out to the Lee Daniels film Precious, Meryl Streep in anything she does, and the documentary Four Seasons Lodge, Andrew Jacobs’s film about a group of Holocaust survivors who vacation for 26 summers in the Catskills. I also loved Richard Curtis’s Pirate Radio (talk about escapism), and Bob Dylan’s Christmas in the Heart, with his jagged, wildly lived-in vocals as wonderful as his giving all the proceeds to feed the hungry around the world. As for dance, Nacional Ballet de Cuba rules, as does Mariinsky ballerina Diana Vishneva and the incomparable Desmond Richardson.
And now it’s time to bid more formal adieus, including to the Susan Sarandon-Tim Robbins marriage. Pfft! Is nothing sacred anymore? Apparently not, as we in Los Angeles mourn the death of Public Access (fans can still tune in to New York’s Time-Warner Cable, where The Looseleaf Report still airs every other Thursday at 3:30 p.m. EST on channel 56). Meanwhile, The Leaf continues to rue the passing of The Sopranos, Eunice Shriver, Teddy Kennedy, and choreographers Pina Bausch and Merce Cunningham.
It’s also a fond farewell to Barbaro, the racehorse who won the Kentucky Derby in 2006 only to lose his battle for life after shattering a leg, after which numerous operations failed to keep him on his well-shod hooves. This equine creature captured the heart of a nation with his courage and dignity, proving a more shining example of heroism than our cheating politicians (the list grows exponentially, with Larry Craig, Mark Sanford, Eliot Spitzer, and John Edwards only a few who are doing their best—or worst—to keep their DNA in—or out—of the news).
Alas, the list of the departed is long, so I wish to also make mention of photographer Irving Penn, actors Heath Ledger, Brittany Murphy (news of her cardiac arrest will continue to emerge), Jennifer Jones, and Karl Malden.
After noting the myriad deaths, misdeeds, and triumphant-in-the-face-of-adversity acts, including airline passengers subduing would-be terrorists (and okay, we gotta mention Captain Chesley Sullenberger—but a two-book deal, including one of inspirational poetry…?), what do we have left after the climate and economic meltdowns are added to the mix?
We have a world that has become colder, starker, nastier, sadder, deadlier, and bleaker. But there is one thing we can still hang onto: hope. Obama campaigned on it and it’s what makes the glass half full of Veuve Clicquot, not half empty. Hope: It’s a beautiful thing.
So happy 2010, readers. May you enjoy a year of health, joy, prosperity, abundance, irony, gossip, all good things, and, above all, love—lots and lots of love.