By Joseph Neese - email
(RNN) - This was the year that high-profile celebrities couldn't get enough of behaving badly.
As Americans living across the Gulf Coast saw their entire livelihoods flash before the eyes in the midst of the worst environmental disaster in the nation's history, all that Tony Hayward, CEO of British Petroleum, the organization responsible for the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, had to say to the media was that he wanted his "life back."
Tiger Woods, Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen were recurring tabloid fixtures for their womanizing antics. Woods came out as a sex addict. Tapes of Gibson threatening to kill his ex-fiancee, Oksana Grigorieva, were released on the internet. Sheen escaped a harsh sentence stemming from a 2009 domestic violence conviction and then was hospitalized after partying too hard with a porn star in a Manhattan hotel in October.
Those are just a small few on the list that also includes Lindsay Lohan, Randy Quaid and Cecil Newton, father of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
But in spite of all of the negative, there were 10 people who were truly intriguing in 2010. They touched our hearts, grabbed our attention, inspired us and just plain made us laugh.
Here's hoping 2011 is just as intriguing.
Throughout 2010, the unemployment rate lingered at or above 9.5 percent. In the wake of the worst economy since the Great Depression, thousands were laid off across the country, while recently graduated college students faced dim hopes of getting their feet on the ground.
One average American struggling in the wake of the uncertain economic times is Patricia Reid, who has been profiled by the New York Times and CNN since she was laid off by Boeing. At 57, she is too young to retire but may never work again.
"That's what I spent my whole life in pursuit of, was security," said Reid in an interview with the Times. "Until the last few years, I felt very secure in my job."
Assange attracted international attention and ire after the website he edits, Wikileaks, published more than 250,000 classified U.S. State Department cables Nov. 28 detailing covert operations and sensitive diplomatic relationships. These were more in a long-line of secret government leaks, including top-secret Iraq war information. Assange ends the year under house arrest in England, after charges of rape and molestation were brought against him by the Swedish government. Assange's publishing tactics have raised new questions about journalism ethics and the right to know.
In a three-week span beginning in September, five young people committed suicide after being bullied for being gay. Tyler Clementi, perhaps the most-well known case, jumped off of the George Washington bridge after a private encounter between him and another man was filmed and streamed on the internet. The deaths spawned a national uprising and launched the now-famous "It Gets Better" video campaign. Governments and schools across the country are now grappling with how to better address bullying to prevent deaths like these from happening again.
The 40-ish actress, long known for her romantic comedy roles, took Hollywood by storm this year, winning the Critic's Choice, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and Oscar awards for her performance in 2009's "The Blind Side." Earning more than $255 million at the box office, "The Blind Side" also became the highest-grossing movie ever with a solo female headliner. America's sweetheart, it seemed, had finally earned her Cinderella moment. But Bullock didn't even have time to soak in the well-earned glory before the media revealed that her husband was a serial cheater, an incident that made her a front-page tabloid fixture for months. In April, however, she bounced back by adopting her new boy, Louis Bardo, from New Orleans. And in June, she was finally able to put an end to the madness with that ever graceful, self-deprecating humor, as she pleaded to the world as she earned the MTV Generation Award, "Can we please go back to normal, because therapy is expensive? Get back to making fun of me."
Elizabeth Edwards was the embodiment of the average American. As her husband campaigned twice for president, there was no other potential first lady who seemed to move the masses quite in the way that she did. But it was ultimately her tragedies rather than her triumphs that Edwards would become known for. On the same day that her husband lost the bid for vice president in 2004, Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since then, her two published books and numerous speaking engagements have served as an inspiration to people across the nation. In 2010, Edwards again made headlines in the midst of tragedy as her husband's admission that he had fathered a child with another woman led to their divorce. And in December, she passed away, after her cancer worsened.
"All of us have the day before we die," said Elizabeth Edwards in an interview with ABC News. "We don't know what it is. And all we can hope is that on the day we die we look back on the day before, and we think that was a day well spent."
White defied the rules of Hollywood, the eternal worshiper of youth, and had a more successful year at 88 than any woman half her age, a shocking occurrence for a career six decades in the making. A hilarious acceptance to her SAG Lifetime achievement award spawned a viral movement on Facebook that landed White as host of "Saturday Night Live," an appearance for which she would later win an Emmy. In 2010, White was also named an honorary forest ranger, became the go-to pundit for Sandra Bullock's divorce scandal, had the stand-out commercial from the Super Bowl and starred in an instant-hit series, TV Land's "Hot in Cleveland," for which she was nominated for best actress in a comedy series at the SAG Awards. Could this be the recipe for a repeat 2011? With the hard-working Betty White, a surprise is always in store.
Dodson proved to Americans that they can still raise themselves up by their own bootstraps in spite of the harsh economic realities that surround them. After a man allegedly tried to crawl into Dodson's home in a Huntsville, AL, housing project and rape his sister, Dodson appeared in a news interview with WAFF-TV, an affiliate owned by the parent company of this network, Raycom Media. Dodson's over-the-top personality drove the video to become the most-watched video of the year on YouTube, with more than 47 million hits. An iTunes song associated with the interview, apparel, Halloween costume, and Sex Offender mobile app allowed Dodson to move his family out of the projects and also do some good by raising awareness about childhood diabetes.
Will she or won't she? That's what media outlets across the land have been asking about Sarah Palin since the former Vice Presidential candidate helped the Republican Party achieve a landslide in the 2010 midterm elections. After publishing a second book, "America by Heart," and starring in a highly rated television series, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," it seems as if Palin is indeed positioning herself for the big move. But only time will tell if the self-described "Mama Grizzly" will be as successful as Nikki Haley, governor-elect of South Carolina, and other "no-nonsense" candidates who may owe their victories to Palin's endorsements.
The way that James, now basketball's best-known player, made his free agency choice defied the odds of any that had ever come before him. After seven years with the Cleveland Cavaliers, James announced that he would play for the Miami Heat via a nationally broadcast television special on ESPN titled, "The Decision." And while no one could blame him for his desire to move to Miami in the hopes of finally winning a title, James had made it seem to Cleveland, his home town, that he would never walk away. That unrequited love combined with the one of the worst PR decisions in history made the man who had never been a tabloid fixture in his life the subject of instant controversy and a case-study in America's obsession with fame.
In January, Republican Scott Brown shocked the state of Massachusetts when he was voted into the deceased Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat. Brown's win led him to become the first Democrat to represent the northern state in the Senate in more than 30 years. Many saw the vote as a public referendum on healthcare reform, what Kennedy had spent his whole life championing.
After losing her party's nomination for senator in the Alaskan Senate primary to Palin-backed Tea Party candidate Joe Miller, incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski launched a full-out write-in campaign to keep her chair in the highest chamber of Congress. Commercials and speeches teaching Alaskans how to spell her name paid off, as she became the first write-in candidate to win a senate seat since South Carolina's Strom Thurmond in 1954.
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