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Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 6th Annual Pirate Awards

The end of the Aughts ought to be celebrated with a certain solemnity. But this is not that place.

Six years this blogger has been on the beat. Six years of reality TV, media social mountaineers (myself being excepted) and enough online mayhem to stun a yak at 30 paces. Here are my awards for some of the most dubious (and sometimes noble)achievements of the year now ending, not with a bang but a whimper. Keep checking back on this page as I will be posting all week. Basta:

Heroes of the Year: The Iranian Students. It is the students, the intellectuals, risking life and limb and family for those related ideals of freedom and of justice. The Iranian students are fighting for their country, which has been hijacked by the military, hoping to reverse a rigged election. They face prison, rape, the batons of the bloodthirsty Basij and even, as in the case of Neda Agha Soltan, death.

The Green Movement is also providing leverage that President Obama needs to bring about a peaceful resolution to the nuclearization issue. The more vulnerable the Mullahs appear, the lower the price of oil, the less maneuvering room Ahmadinejad has in achieving his end goal of a nuclear Iran, an event that would throw the already combustible region into a weapons brinkmanship. And with ultra right wingnut Bibi Netanyahu at the helm of a nuclear Israel, who knows how that scenario might play itself out. The stronger the students movement, the stronger President Obama's hand. We applaud and acknowledge the grit and determination of the Green Movement before the negative forces of political repression.

Breakout Performance of the Year: Kerry Washington. Reviews for David Mamet's Race have been mixed. Some critics have loved it, others not so much. But the general consensus -- mine included -- is that the effervescent Kerry Washington, President Obama's most beautiful supporter on the campaign trail, shone in the role of Susan. Just ... just give her the Tony. And Kerry -- Call me?

Prick of the Year: Bernie Madoff. We'd award Madoff "Prick of the Year," but as Cindy Adams reported earlier this year, the Ponze scum's pricker -- ahem -- is, apparently, nothing to write home about (AKA, The Jude Law Problem). Honorable Mentions: Kanye West and Anthony "Crook Astor" Marshall.

Feud of the Year: Demi Moore Versus Perez Hilton. There were so many titanic media battles this year -- Leno versus Stern; Kate versus Jon; Palin versus Johnston's Johnson -- but for one day in September, an A-List Hollywood star took on an A-List blogger in the Twittersphere. There were no handlers, mediators or lawyers involved. Anything could have happened and one got the impression that history -- or, rather, herstory -- was being made. And it was good. Of which I wrote: "It speaks to the vast sea-change that the media landscape has undergone that these two outsize media personalities were going at it -- unmoderated by any outlet other than that Deus Otiosus, Twitter -- for all the world to read. It gathered steam quickly, it reached it's peak, then petered out, gradually, in rhetorical exhaustion. Is this the future of media fights? Are we in for more bareknuckled brawls like this in cyberspace?"

The Porn Star That Almost Made Good: Sasha Gray. It nearly happened, anyway. Americans -- and New Yorkers, particularly -- love a redemption story. And what could be more "redemptive" than a porn star actually becoming a film star (Sylvester Stallone excepted). When Sasha Gray was cast as a lead in a Steven Soderbergh film, the media went banannas. But then there was the ill-timed feud with Howard Stern, which might have been interesting and indeed actually empowering for porn stars everywhere had she taken up his challenge in his studio (for all the nude strippers that Stern has pelted over the years with cold cuts).

But Sasha didn't. Plus the film kind of fizzled, despite all that inital buzz that might have launched her into the Hollywood mesosphere if not the actual thermosphere of American celebrity. For a while there the prospect of a porn star going legit in Hollywood -- a region, we cannot fail to note, where all the powerful film directors have extensive porn libraries -- appeared to be a distinct possibility. Even Francis Ford Coppola in an earlier incarnation helming a number of softcore porn flicks. If only Sasha had crossed that thin line. It was kind of an intersting little thing that ultimately wasn't.

The Time To Retire Hef Award: Hef. Speaking of porn ... Hugh Hefner is a sort of pop cultural superhero to a certain type of louche Hollywood misogynist (and, of course, mansion regular Courtney Love). But Izabel St. James' Bunny Tales revealed how , no pun intended, the sausage is made. The former Playmate and Hefgirlfriend reveals, among other things, that Hef spits while he's talking ("Every time thereafter, when he started eating pizza and turned to her to speak, we would just burst out laughing"), that Hef was a goddam pharmaceutical trailblazer ("One year on his birthday when he received 'gift-wrapped goodie bag' from his doctor at his annual mansion birthday party -- one of the first prescriptions written for Viagra in Hollywood") and, finally, Hef likes to lube himself up ("hef would lie on his back in the middle of the bed, and as some of us were getting stoned or drinking Dom, he would cover himself with baby oil") OK Then!

More info on Hef than anyone, under any circumstance, ever needs to know.

Conspicuous Consumption Pirate: Robin Quivers. If The Howard Stern Show exhibited extreme conspicuous consumption on Sirius radio early in the year and the media wasn't there to hear it, did it happen. Of course it did -- and this blog was there to chronicle. The Howard Stern Show is deeply rooted in the idea of being for and by The Everymen. At least it was when they were on terrestrial radio at the beginning. They entertained the working class, the truck drivers and contractors with the soap operaish minutiae of their lives which, up until the big move, had been pretty much not unlike ours (excepting, of course, the $5.9 million Manhattan condo). They busted each others balls, like at any construction site, and occasionally a celebrity interview or a sex discussion would interrupt the mayhem. It was the very first "show about nothing." Then in 2006, Stern bought his co-star Robin Quivers a $91,000 Mercedes-benz SL-Class 5.0. There is also, we cannot fail to note, the touchy matter of Stern's $80 million a year salary and the previously mentioned move to satellite that has placed the show somewhat out of the financial reach of Average Joe Sixpack.

But the whole "Everyman" angle evaporated entirely like a glass of fizzy champagne left unattended when it was revealed that Robin ordered several bottles of $800 wine at a staff dinner. From

Howard said he had dinner with the crew over last weekend and allowed Robin to order the wine - only to find out she had ordered an $800 bottle: 'I looked at the bill and it took my breath away." Howard laughed that one would have been ok, but it took three bottles to serve the whole table, bringing the wine tab to over $2,400. Robin explained that she ordered a special wine for a special occasion ('You should've ordered yourself!'), adding: 'I don't even look at the price when I take you out. I pay.'

"Robin claimed she was going to pay Howard back for the cost of the wine: 'I'm going to give it to you and you're going to take it.' Howard insisted that he would never accept Robin's check, so Robin repeated: 'I don't care what you say. I'm paying for the bring this up is very rude. Don't take me to dinner ever again.'

Let them eat cake (but only if it's extra-rich).

Best Unintentional Comedy: Obsessed. What? Obsessed was not a comedy? It was a social X-ray? Really? A drama? Mamma says Wha-a? A commentary on "Race in America," you say? Mm-hmm? We thought -- forgive us, dear Lord -- that it was a drinking game. A Brobdinangian farce; a great, rollicking bonfire of our collective insanities. John Ridley in The Wrap summed up our feelings at this silly, harmless cinematic taffy thusly:

(B)y accident or design -- I'm guessing accident – 'Obsessed' carries the most social-political wallop entertainment's had to offer since the Obama and Clinton stand-ins got into a tussle on WWE. First, Elba and Knowles play a middle-class, happy-but-bored married couple who are feeling the stress of raising their first child ... And they just happen to be black. What? How'd all that get past the fake liberal studio execs who rarely if ever portray middle-class black families in lead roles in films? And the black man's got a white person working for him. And she's a she. And she's hot for the black man, all of which is a flip on a grip of social fears that have been pervasive on film going back to 'Birth of a Nation.' And to protect her family, the black wife of the black man -- SPOILER ALERT … unless you've seen the trailer -- kicks the crazy white woman's pale backside. That makes the film the biggest black woman's wish fulfillment revenge fantasy that doesn't star Tyler Perry in drag ever!

Charmed, I'm sure.

Survivor Pirate: Gore Vidal. All of his literary rivals have shuffled off the mortal coil. Buckley. Mailer. Capote. Nabokov. Even the category "literary celebrity" itself has receded into remote mists of History. And yet Gore Vidal persists, writing sharp essays on politics and culture in syntactically elegant prose in an educated voice. He is independently wealthy and elderly, so he writes fearlessly, speaking Truth to Power. And while we disagree with his conspiracy theories about Pearl Harbor, we enjoy just about everything else he writes, particularly his essays on Empire, Ancient History and the American Presidency. We hope that he never desists.

Fashion Accessory of the Year: Boy Toys. Madonna, once again, is so very fashion forward. She has given us so much -- buff power arms, fake British accents, Latin American men -- and now: Manchildren. Levi Johnson, for example, is a manchildren. Dumb twentysomething man-meats was as essential to the go-getting woman of the Aughts as their Jimmy Choos. If the name Jesus Luz sounds forgettable that's because it is (or will be once Madonna stops fucking him). Madonna's hunting for young manflesh -- preferably Latin American -- launched a thousand web posts opn "Cougars." But it is the boytoy, in his glazed and honied man-haminess that is THE fashion accessory of the year.

Power Coupling of the Year: Naomi Campbell and Vladmir Doronin. His name sounds like the nemesis in a Rocky film or some fucking Schwarzenegger joint. And yet this oligarch appears to have met his match in the incendiary, servant-beating supermodel. He has, to his credit, lasted longer than most. Naomi is a bit of a maneater (Watch out, Vlad, she'll chew you up).

?uestionable Explanation of the Year: ?uestlove of The Roots. It is okay when you are in your 30s and you have a family to compromise -- a little bit -- one's artistic integrity. Unfortunately, ?uestlove of The Roots feels that his audience couldn't handle that much raw honesty, so he gave a convoluted answer to Paper magazine when they asked the question everyone was asking, namely -- Why the Jimmy Fallon show?:

Papermag: Who initiated the arrangement of The Roots becoming Jimmy's house band?

?uestlove: My former boss did -- I used to work for The Chappelle Show, and our music supervisor Neil Brennan dared Jimmy to hire us, knowing that we wouldn't accept it. And just to spite Neil, we took the gig.

Papermag: Was there a financial motivation?

?uestlove: No, but survival for us is bar none. That's job one: It's one thing when you are in your twenties and you don't have responsibilities, and you can live in your parent's house. Once you have those financial responsibilities, people to take care of, and a staff to pay, you think differently. It's freed up time with our families. And actually, The Roots have already conquered every possible medium except television. This is our last frontier.

Dubious at best, ?uest.

Skeeviest Move of the Year: Bloomberg's Millions. Surprisingly, VH1 is not the winner of this year's skeeviest move, rather it is the cynical way in which NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg tossed tens of millions of dollars at any media outlet willing to run his commercials. By election day New Yorkers were having dream of Bloomberg, so frequent and obnoxious were the ads in all forms of media. What did Bloomberg's people know -- the pundits asked -- that we didn't? They knew, of course, that New Yorkers loathed the way he overturned the popular will. They know that billionaires, not unlike alpha male chimpanzees, tend to have tyrannical personal natures(for further reference see: H Ross Perot). And they knew that African-Americans and Latino voters are the majority in the city. They also know that money, when sprinkled liberally, can win even the slimmest of margins in a close race against an underfinanced opponent.

What the fuck happened: CNN. This Thumotic decade began, spiritedly, under the general media proposition that CNN would dominate benevolently. International affairs were front-and-center and it was widely assumed that, world events playing to its strength, the House that Ted Built would do for the Second Persian Gulf War what it did for the first. Solid investigative reporting interspersed with video game graphics, and all that. Imagine our surprise when that didn't happen. Instead, the upstart Fox cleaned CNN's clock leading us to ask: What-the-fuck-happened? Seriously.

Your 15 Minutes Are Up: Paris Hilton. As the Aughts began, Paris Hilton was ubiquitous in her obnoxiousness; Borborygmous in her boobosity. An experimental creation of that significant cultural artifact Page Six, Paris -- no relation to that Homeric hero -- proceded, post haste, to ruin a perfectly fine film festival. And things went downhill from there. Our friend David Patrick Columbia in NYSocialDiary (image via JH/NYSD) wrote in the thick of Parismania, "There’s nothing wrong with Paris Hilton that a little public ignoring wouldn’t change overnight." Time, or his son Zeus, hearing our Homeric pleas answered our collective Orphic Hymns. Paris is now plying her trade overseas (a sort of reverse Dutchess of York maneuver), causing all manner of mayhem. But the clock on the Continent -- as it was here -- ticks anew, ending, fer realsies, at a quarter past Fameball. One can only assume that Hong Kong remains fixed in her reptilian gaze.

Person To Watch: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Lula's fast-rising Brazil artfully navigated the Scylla and Charybdis that is Chavez's leftish stranglehold over the continent as well as America's Latin American policy with some aplomb. At year's begining we wrote: "Brazil's President, the 'B' in the fast-rising BRIC economies, will not be taking up his standing invitation to Davos this year." By year's end Lula had the Olympics under his belt (beating out international icon, Barack Obama, by a whisker)

TV Show of the Year: (tie) Fareed Zakaria's GPS and The Good Wife. There are so many great shows on TV -- Dexter, True Blood, Glee, Mad Men -- but The Good Wife was the best drama and GPS was the best show on international affairs in this age of international affairs. We suffer, dear readers, from a new golden age of television. If we were forced at gunpoint to pick one, it would have to be the one suffused with Julia Marguiles' magnificent, almost overwhelming Mysterious Older Woman good looks.

Grossest Media Event: Quentin Tarantino's Foot Fetish. Keep it in your goddam shoes, you filthy bastard! Must we be forced to experience "Q.T.'s" disgusting foot fetish, easily the most recognizable celebrity sexual obsession outside of Charlie Sheen's That "experience" rankles. It annerves us to no end that Tarantino injects pedi-erotica into his overbaked Virginia ham of an oevre. It is so wrong. multiplicity of Caligulesque perversions? How long will The Lord of Hosts forsake us?

Most Startling Event: Dakota Fanning's Precipitous Decline. Paralleling, if only vaguely, the decline of the West, the Decline of the Fanning proceeds in a similarly Spenglerian fashion. There is a whisper of twilight and end times in the schadenfreude surrounding Dakota's alarming demise. In March, I wrote: "The veering of Dakota Fanning's film career into increasingly edgy waters proceeds full steam ahead. Fanning, who has been parodied by SNL's Amy Poehler as being freakishly precocious for her age, was discovered by Steven Spielberg, who said in the Washington Post at the time: '(Dakota) has the perfect sort of otherworldly look about her, an enchanting young actress called upon ... to carry a great weight.'"

Just who is looking out for this little junebug's career? Fanning starred in "Hound Dog," which featured a controversial rape scene, that gathered buzz at Sundance but naught else much afterwards. Fanning, at the tender age of 15, is scheduled to play Cheri Currie in 'The Runaways,' the biopic of the '70s all-girl band starring 'Twilight' star Kristen Stewart playing Joan Jett. We expect, but are not looking forward to, the almost certainly forthcoming People-prescription drugs cover story (a small closing *cough* of feigned detachment).

Butterface of the Year: Bruce Jenner's Cranium. What happened, brother? One minute he was the epitome of 1970's manliness. Although, yes, Bruce always had a sort of hard, unyielding, severe butterface, but he embodied a sort of anaerobic masculine ideal in a decade where excercise generally consisted of athletic fucking and some robust disco dancing ("Hey, Baby, What's your sign"?). Now Bruce Jenner resembles -- no offense intended -- naught else but a middle aged caucasian lesbian. And there is nothing wrong with looking like or being a middle aged caucasian lesbian, except, of course, if you are a heterosexual man.

Idea of the Year: Smart Power. SecState Hillary, in her Senate confirmation hearings, unveiled this concept. All year it has been unveiled, to greatest effect in the negotiation of peace between Turkey and Armenia. Of "Smart Power" I wrote: "There are almost as many variations of Power nowadays as there are practitioners of that Dark Art. There is 'hard power,' 'soft power' and 'dark power.' Near as we can tell, 'smart power,' which was famously advocated by former Senator Hillary Clinton in her Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of State, is an amalgam of all the best aspects of hard and soft power -- i.e, military might and cultural influence."

Strangest Media Event: (tie) Governor Mark Sanford's Argentina Moment & Ron Jeremy At Fashion Week. It was strange that lowlife porn star Ron Jeremy was "at the tents" at this year's Fashion Week shows (Then again, pornish Jenna Jameson showed up in a previus year). Stranger still, however, was South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's rambling explanation of his mysterious unreachability on the Appalachian Trail.

Political Comeback of the Year: Andrew Cuomo. We toyed with the idea of naming The Clintonians (tm), considering just how many of Bill Clinton's old posse ended up in the Obama administration -- particularly, alas, on the financial side of things. But Andrew Cuomo truly and fairly made the most waves, resurrecting himself from his previous political ashes. We wrote: " Eliot Spitzer (and, to a lesser degree Jerry Brown) made Attorneys General cool, vital, relevant just as the loathsome Rudy Giuliani, post-September 11th, made Mayors cool (then squandered his political capital in a quixotic run for President, la). Now, in the hour of the wolf, Attorneys General like Andrew Cuomo are holding the financial bad guys' feet to the fire and becoming the stuff heroic folklore in the American popular imagination. Cuomo's legendary anger -- in his messy divorce, in his clumsy exit from a Governor's race he had already clearly lost -- almost proved to be his thumotic downfall. Now, aimed at the big banker scumbags who have put the United States it is well served. If only he could be as hard against the real danger of Medicaid fraud, which, in the era of Obama's stimulus package, could approach Wagnerian dimensions."

We are not particularly fanboy of the idea of hereditary monarchy. Cuomo, however, a second generation pol, is showing himself to be the most qualified and the most able of the current contenders to reclaim his father's old seat at the head of the Empire State. He cannot be any worse than the last three occupants of that post who have been, we cannot fail to note, Unmitigated. Fucking. Disasters.

Part the Third, tomorrow.

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