What a year it has been! A whole lot of action went down in the Year of Our Obama, 2008. For us at Intel, coming to work every day was like going to the circus (Okay, a slightly less fun and physically active circus) We had the presidential election and the Spitzer scandal and the financial crisis performing out on the main stage, and meanwhile dozens of other players rudely — and sometimes hilariously — gesturing to us to come check out their sideshows. We almost always did, although sometimes we felt dirty afterward. Anyway, now that it's over, we have a hell of a hangover. We feel a little bit dizzy and nauseous — but we can't deny that we had a great time, and we'd like to offer a heartfelt thanks to the people who made 2008 the 2008-est. It's not always the best, most goodhearted people that made this year fun to write about: it was often the craziest, most rogue, and sometimes, most evil. Herewith, our slideshow of the People of the Year. How is this one different and more exciting than all of the other year-end wrap-ups you've been reading this month? Ours is Obama-free. Because really, like that guy needs any more encouragement.
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The Democratic State senator from the Bronx became his party's pooper when he joined a three-person revolt against the new Dem majority in November. Diaz prevented his former caucus from controlling the body by refusing to vote with them, drawing the line over his dislike of leader Malcolm Smith and his distaste for gay-marriage rights. Smith decided to ditch the majority rather than compromise party ideals, and gays just did what they do best -- launch a grassroots campaign of passive-aggressive harassment and shaming.
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Mild-mannered Manhattan securities trader Bernie Madoff's sudden reveal that he was running a $50 billion, international Ponzi scheme was like a grandmother pulling an Uzi out of her handbag and shooting everyone within range dead. No one will ever trust financial advisers (or grandparents) the same way again.
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What can you say about Rod Blagojevich? Despite his best efforts, he didn't manage to stain Barack Obama's pre-inauguration reputation. What he did do was throw Illinois politics (still dizzy from their November triumph) into complete disarray. After he was wiretapped (while already under federal investigation) doing his best to sell Obama's Senate seat, he was asked to step down immediately. He didn't -- and now nobody knows who can pick the next senator, if they should continue to work with him, and whether he will even be impeached. The silver lining? If Blago remains in office (which he very well may), we'll be entertained by his shenanigans (and hair) until 2010.
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Less than a year after we learned that Neil Diamond wrote "Sweet Caroline" about the sweetest, most inoffensive member of the Kennedy family, JFK's daughter had thrown in her lot with Barack Obama and called him "a president like my father." By the fall, she had ignited controversy by throwing her hat in the ring to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate, despite a complete lack of previous service in public office. Press reports call her a "front-runner" for the post, which seems to irritate Governor Paterson (who gets to actually decide) to no end. No one knows whether appointing her would be a good idea, but it's becoming increasingly entertaining to watch the media and her rivals hate on the seemingly stain-free American princess.
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When Tricia Walsh-Smith was dumped by her husband, Shubert Organization president Philip Smith, she felt like she had no options. She was trapped by a prenup, opposed by his family, and soon to be evicted from her apartment. So she took to YouTube, in a series of confessional videos that ultimately proved humiliating for her husband (remember the porn and Viagra stash, and the sexless marriage?), and would have been humiliating for her as well had she not been blessed with the sort of crazed hubris that made the clips so riveting in the first place.
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Chuck Rangel couldn't get away with anything this year. When he wrote to business leaders asking for money for his vanity project library, the media was all over how he used his congressional stationery. When it was discovered he was inhabiting four rent-controlled apartments, his Harlem neighbors revolted against him. When he changed his mind and decided to support tax breaks he had opposed for an oil company after they pledged $1 million to his personal library, the Times said it was untoward. When he protested, they smacked him down and called for his dismissal. He even got busted for a remark he made during a press conference he called to defend himself against the taxes he forgot to pay on his Dominican villa. Can he help it if no one speaks English down there?
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McCain's message guru can rest assured that he won't go down in history as the person who lost the Republicans the presidency in 2008 -- Sarah Palin saw to that. But he'll still be remembered for his audacity in concocting controversies, faux outrage, attacks and stunts, which grabbed headlines and kept the ball in McCain's court for much of the early fall. Schmidt was a master at detecting Barack Obama's rare soft sports, but he didn't quite detect America's waning patience for hothead politics.
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The former governor achieved a lot this year: He shocked even the most cynical New Yorkers by appearing as Client 9 in a tawdry prostitution-ring bust, he was the first New York governor to resign amid scandal in nearly 100 years, he hid from the media for months, and then he got a new job as a columnist. Oh, and also he invented an awesome new facial expression. And he managed to do it all without even a modicum of grace -- that's so 2008.
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Everything changed for Raffaello Follieri in 2008. In February he was living in the Trump Towers, hobnobbing with the Sultan of Brunei, and attending the Oscars with his movie-star girlfriend, Anne Hathaway, but he dug too deep a hole for himself with his real-estate scheme, and by late spring he had fallen into it. This year, Follieri will ring in 2009 from the Brooklyn Metropolitan Dentention Center.
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Ledger's death by accidental overdose took us all by surprise, and then made everybody sad until The Dark Knight came out, and everybody was secretly a little thrilled by how good he was. We'll miss this guy and will always use that as an excuse to watch 10 Things I Hate About You marathons.
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Sarah Jessica Parker
We can't help but wonder: If the Sex and the City movie had come out as the financial crisis was roiling instead of sneaking in just under the wire and coming out right before, would the conspicuous consumption the movie reveled in been greeted as rapturously? Or would it have looked as wrong and overdone as Carrie on her wedding day?
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Since buying the Observer a few years ago and starting to date Ivanka Trump in 2007, handsome, young Jared Kushner has been on New York's social radar. But it was a feat he pulled off this year that really launched him into the city's power elite: He managed to get Ivanka Trump, perhaps the city's most notorious and eligible blonde shiksa, to convert to Judaism. Even The Donald never tried that.
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After a seemingly endless amount of time -- seriously, how many times have we heard the jerking-off-into-a-towel story, and over how many years? We've lost track -- Jeffrey Epstein finally went to prison. There, he discovered a taste for weenies.
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Bear Stearns CEO had a good run. Thirty-nine years he spent at the firm before it all fell apart, leaving him with a pile of worthless bonds, a weakened prostate, and a wrecked reputation, because if there's one thing that everyone will remember about the collapse of Bear Stearns in March 2008, it will be that Cayne was off playing golf or bridge at pretty much every single time shit went down.
During the October 15 presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, the phrase "Joe the Plumber" was uttered so many times that it seemed like some kind of shared gag. Then the joke was on us -- non-licensed plumber Joe Wurzelbacher (real name: Sam) remained in the headlines for nearly two weeks, as the McCain campaign's icon for working America and the ills of Obama's tax policy. Now, after a reported book deal, a series of low-budget TV ads, and possible record contract, he's just another icon for the ills of putting real people on television.
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John Paulson made an absolute killing this year by betting against the subprime-mortage market. He then toasted his success with a few cases of $500-a-bottle Chateau Lafite as the rest of the world around him went up in metaphorical flames. We still can't decide if we want to punch him in the mouth or have sex with him.
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When you're a national politician, getting busted for a DUI is bad enough. Admitting in the aftermath that you've been having an affair is worse. But having your four-year-old secret second family (including daughter) brought out into the public eye? Well, that's an entire year's worth of anti-drunk-driving PSAs.
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The Montauk Monster
In a year of blockbuster political and financial news, one figure towered above the rest: A hairless, slithy-toved creature that captivated a nation when it washed up on the beach near Montauk. It wasn't a person. But what was it? A raccoon? A dog? A "sea turtle without its shell"? (Everyone kept saying that, despite the fact that sea turtles shells don't actually come off). Whatever it was, it was definitely dead. But it lives on in our hearts.
Nineteen-year-old Peaches has been a highly entertaining addition to New York since she began attending NYU in the fall. She talks all kinds of crap at parties and in her Nylon column, and she recently made her own magazine. But she's not ours forever. "I like New York," she recently told the U.K. Sunday Mirror. "But I like London more." Curses.
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The shamefully public divorce trial between Christy Brinkley will go into the canon of Great/Horrible New York Divorces. The trial, which touched on such hot-button maritial issues as age and Internet porn, was arguably defined by this exchange:
"Is it correct, sir, that you have masturbated in front of a Web cam?"
"Yes, I have, privately, secretly -- never at home, never in front of my children."
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The receiver who caught the pass that won the Super Bowl for the Giants this year (even if that wasn't the turning point of the game) has always been a diva. So it wouldn't have surprised us that he thought he could bend the rules and carry his own unregistered gun around to protect himself and his jewelry. But even we were stunned when the gun went off by accident at a midtown club and he was left suspended from the game with a hole in his leg. Still, with the economy collapsing around us this fall, it was nice for once to be able to laugh at an empowered jerk who was only hurting himself.
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Rachel Maddow joined MSNBC this year, and everyone fell madly in love with her, because she was (a) not a sweaty crazy maniac and (b) seemed to actually know something. Anderson Cooper got totally jealous about a Rival Smart Gay infringing on his territory and lashed out calling her "snarky." Cool out, Manderson. There will always be a special place for you -- at least in our hearts.
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President-elect Obama is widely regarded to be the coolest person to occupy the West Wing in a long time. But we know better -- the axis of cool at the top of the ticket this year orbited around Reggie Love, the former Duke basketball player who served as Obama's body man and all-around buddy. They watched ESPN together and sipped light beers, played pickup ball and exchanged music tastes. Sure, shirtless Obama is all the rage these days, but we'd like a little extra Reggie love, please.
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The CEO of Lehman Brothers went from rock star to public enemy No. 1 in the wake of the investment firm's collapse. What contributed more to his demonization: his arrogant testimony in front of Congress or his furrowed brow and aquiline features? We may never wholly know.
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When we first learned about Rielle Hunter in October of last year, it was only through rumors and innuendos in the National Enquirer and the Huffington Post. She seemed to fall off the radar until photographers caught former presidential candidate John Edwards leaving her Beverly Hills hotel room, after visiting her and her baby. Then we were overwhelmed by a cascade of awesomeness. She was the drug-addled actress who Jay McInerney wrote a book about. She was in the movie Overboard. She was a self-help guru, and she has an entire cabal of crazies around her, including the random dude who claims to be the father of her baby. When Edwards finally admitted to an affair with her (but before his wife, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he insisted), it was almost anticlimactic. But we still wanted to punch him in the face.
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In 2008, Alexander Rodriguez pulled off a feat we would have sworn was impossible. No, it wasn't when he made off with a $250 million contract with the Yankees and stole the thunder of the World Series itself. It was when he made pop star Madonna, who has been desperately trying to drop jaws for over nearly 30 years, actually surprising and relevant again. The two's reported affair cost them both their marriages, but it earned us something to celebrate: Madonna's triumphant return home.
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The manager of the fraudulent Bayou Hedge Fund went out big: He made an elaborate show of faking his own death, appropriating lyrics from the M.A.S.H. theme song for his suicide note, and went on the lam. He managed lived on campsite in Massachusetts for several weeks before turning himself in. Later, his girlfriend told Marie Claire he was a "joker" who "liked to sneak up on her, once while wearing sunglasses on his penis." Nothing is sacred.
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For the next few decades of American politics, presidential candidates will likely heed the advice of Seth Meyers: "A lesson for anyone picking a running mate in the future would be not to pick someone who looks exactly like one of the most famous comedians in America." Tina Fey got herself a multi-million-dollar book deal and a boost in ratings for her show, 30 Rock, after her series of dead-on impersonations of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. Like listening to our favorite song "Crush," by David Archuleta, we could watch those clips over and over again and still get a warm, wonderful feeling about America every time.
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Before this year, could we have predicted that hockey's designated asshole would take his enthusiasm for fashion all the way to the offices of Vogue as an intern? No. Could we have anticipated that he would ditch the city for Dallas? Probably not. But did we see it coming when he got suspended and then booted from the Stars for publicly mocking other players for dating his "sloppy seconds"? Well, yeah. We did.
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Call him Hank. Why not? As the financial crisis unfolded, we got to know the Treasury secretary with a fair degree of intimacy. We saw him smile, we saw him frown, we saw him kneel and plead at the elbow of Nancy Pelosi, we even saw him shirtless, and looking fetching. We had moments of anger at Hank (like when he tried to push a three-page bill through Congress) and moments of empathy (like when Congress said dumb, frustrating crap). But now, as the year comes to a close, we feel we've come to an understanding. He'll move on in January, and while we're glad to see him go, we suspect that we are better off for having had him in our lives. Plus, who can stay mad at a guy who's giving his entire fortune to endangered monkeys?
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What is there not to say about our own dear Cuddle Gov? He fell into the Governor's Mansion after Eliot Spitzer was felled by scandal, he caused scandal of his own by admitting to cocaine use and marital infidelity, he's the state's first black governor, (basically) the country's first blind governor, he makes dirty jokes, and he is now bravely facing the two biggest conundrums in state politics: solving a massive budget crunch and replacing Hillary Clinton in the Senate. Also, he's cute, cuddly, delightful, adorable, squeezable, lickable, nice-smelling, scrumptious, and all-around perfect.
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Nobody, not even Barack Obama, held America's attention as much as the former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, from the months of September and October. First we loved her because she was untested and ballsy. Then we loved her because she was tested, she failed, and she was still ballsy. And we still love her because even after she helped running mate John McCain lose the presidential election and retreated back to Alaska as governor, we're still afraid of what she's going to do to this country. Now that's power.
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The trailer of an upcoming episode of Gossip Girl suggests the Chuck's life is in danger, but we know better. They'd never kill Chuck. Ed Westwick's character, with his tortured mood swings and flamboyant wardrobe and tragic family life, became a focal point of the show this year. His spoiled, emotionally unstable character might seem cartoonish most of the time, but the occasional glimpses of vulnerability ring true, reminding viewers what too much money, too much freedom, and not a lot of love can wreak. Most important, Chuck keeps Gossip Girl grounded in New York. Without him, it would just be 90210 with overcoats.
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Before September of this year, self-professed "fuckin' redneck" Levi Johnston was having some tough times. He'd left high school, had some trouble with his family, and quit the hockey team in Wasilla, Alaska. Then he found out he'd gotten his teenage girlfriend pregnant. That's a lot to deal with for a (scorching hot) high-school student, and that was before his girlfriend's mother became one of the most controversial vice-presidential candidates in American history. Instantly, Johnston became internationally famous. His privacy was invaded by the media, he was dragooned into a shotgun wedding in the spring, and his mother was busted for drug dealing. You might just call him the most unlikely and short-lived celebrity of 2008. We just call him Sex on Skates.