As 2006 prepared to kick the bucket, a funereal pall hung over the city. Former president Gerald Ford, who never actually told the Apple to drop dead, passed away himself, leaving a ghostly message through medium Bob Woodward that the Iraq invasion had been a “big mistake.” James Brown was mourned at the Apollo; thousands paid their respects to the Godfather, whose designated hair heir, Al Sharpton, escorted his body to New York. A Christmas Day blast pushed the body count of U.S. troops in Iraq above the number of those who perished in the World Trade Center attacks. John Edwards, who failed to resuscitate the flatlining 2004 Kerry campaign, announced plans to take Hillary Clinton’s scalp in the 2008 primaries. The murder rate in the city began once again to rise; the NYPD blamed “reclassified homicides,” with victims who refused to give up the ghost until this year. (Can-do employees of Leona Helmsley’s Park Lane Hotel may have helped the cause by dealing guns out of the swanky sleepery.) Rumors of the Big Apple’s demise as a tourist destination were greatly exaggerated; a record 44 million visitors arrived last year, most of them black-clad Germans strolling midtown sidewalks at a Bataan Death March pace. The Pataki administration spent its final hours trying to get the Moynihan Station project off political life support. Nas topped the Billboard album chart with his eulogistic Hip Hop Is Dead. A construction worker rehabbing a Harlem brownstone told his family, “I’m going to die on this job,” at their Christmas Eve bash, then proceeded to do so when the building collapsed two days later. A pair of crooks did not go gently enough into the good night when they nabbed more than $20,000 in Christmas Mass contributions from a Queens church and were busted days later. Grim Reaper–ish actor Vincent Gallo declared that PayPal should “breathe some death gas” if it refused to accept fans’ $50,000 payments to sleep with him. And the Humane Society pressured Diddy to put a line of Sean John jackets to sleep when the “faux fur” was shown to have come from dogs who’d been skinned alive.