Cougar of the Year: Liliane Bettencourt. It's all good, two adults each in corpore sano mens sana entering into this thing with their eyes wide open. She: Europe's richest woman; He: a world class raconteur. Each is getting what they want. From NYSocialDiary:
The most interesting news over the weekend (at least the news that wouldn’t make you want to kill yourself) was about Liliane Bettencourt, the 87 (or 88) year old L’Oreal heiress who has been having an intense friendship/relationship with a much younger man – by twenty-five years (he’s 63 this year) – the artist/playwright/photographer/international social gadfly and world class charmer Francois-Marie Banier. Are they sleeping together, you ask? Is that something we really need to know? Or even want to know? Chances are they’re not. But that’s only my definition of 'chances.' However, whatever they are doing together (and this is the 'intense' part to a lot of spectators), the heiress personally owns 31% of L’Oreal’s stock (her father, a chemist, started the company almost a century ago). She has given M. Banier a variety of gifts and promises of gifts (including art, insurance policies and a private island in the Seychelles) that tally up to more than $1.3 billion ... To the outside world, it may look like M. Banier is the classic example of 'just a gigolo' ('everywhere I go; people know the part I’m playing'). That would be a mistake. The multi-tasking/artist/playwright/best buddy/connoisseur is quite famous in his world – the international world of the rich, the chic and the shameless."
Funniest Person of the Year: Olivier Zahm. In the future only authentic, interesting and eccentric people will be allowed to become famous and monopolize our collective attention spans and pop cultural conversation. And Olivier will be an internationally beloved sleazy French photographer who is constantly trying to score himself a choice piece of ass. People will just be like "Oh, Olivier's just being Olivier." And then gently swat him away before continuing their conversation.
The Corsair doesn't mean this in a snarky, nasty, brutish kind of way. We really and truly find Olivier Zahm hilarious and sometimes touching and always -- always -- sleazy but we would secretly like to be his pal. We could hang! If Olivier Zahm did not exist we would have to invent him and The Corsair is lobbying hard to get him in the Zoolander sequel.
Olivier Zahm, if you don't know, is a vaguely louche French photographer who likes to take sexy pictures of stunning women -- but not in a pedophilic hyper-sleazy Terry Richardson kind of way (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment). No -- There is something tender at the core of Olivier while there is nothing but industrial grade steel and greasy darkness at the core of Richardson.
Zahm also has a Tumblr chronicling his life with his daughter, Asia, travelling from hotel to hotel in Europe for these photoshoots, usually during the night, with all these beautiful women. I think the fact that Olivier has a daughter that he really loves and is trying to raise right mitigates somewhat the fact that he is a terrible skirt chaser. Anyway: He is, like the French, very honest about his desires.
Zahm's English is not perfect so there's the added Frenchiness of it all to the existential quality of travelling around Europe's best hotels and art shows taking photographs and blogging. It just works as a sophisticated comedy routine -- but this is actually his life. If there were such a thing as an SNL for our type of people, dear reader, this blog would be read aloud.
This year Olivier broke up with his girlfriend who left him. For another lover. For some reason Olivier decided it would be a good idea to put this on Tumblr. I do not know why people put things this intensely, insanely personal on their blogs. The result of Olivier's confession though was touching -- and, of course, a bit funny. From Purple-Diary:
To all the anonymous friends who follow my life on the Purple Diary, I have to tell you that I’m in a lot of pain. Natacha Ramsay dumped me on Sunday. She ran away with her lover (with whom she has had a long romance that I was aware of and accepted) for a summer of love. She called me to tell me that she loves him, that we are finished. I asked her to come back two times and she said no two times. As you know if you follow the Purple Diary I try to create and promote an alternative love lifestyle (that I used to call in French La Communauté des Amants). Natacha’s decision to leave me so brutally and painfully will certainly be seen by conservative people as a clear feminine revenge against the lifestyle Natacha and I used to share, and think that I’m a dreamer. Right now I’m just a mess. But I will hopefully recover soon and offer you some more pictures of love and sex.He's so sincere.
The Corsair is not heartless. We really do feel his pain. That having been said, we just about lost our shit when Olivier went all "La Communauté des Amants." That was just too fucking much.
We love you, Olivier, are big fans of your blog and hope all these months later you are over the messy breakup. Let's hang in the '11.
Biggest Disappointment: TV Undercovers. After the first African-American President was elected it seemed a no-brainer that a show on Must-See NBC Thursday in prime time starring two astonishingly attractive African-American actors created and executive produced by the legendary JJ Abrams would succeed. How could it not?
It unfortunately didn't. From Deadline:
Is a spy drama with two black actors as the male-female romantic leads a revolution for network television? At TCA today, the producers of NBC’s upcoming Undercovers, which is just such a show -- hemmed and hawed in answering the question that really shouldn’t be a question in 2010 but, well, still is. First of all, take note that it is incorrect to call stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Boris Kodjoe African-American players – she’s British, he’s German, and both are of mixed race. But Kodjoe and executive producer Josh Reims both said on today’s show panel that you can’t really step back from the social significance of the casting.Unfortunately the show was not must-see TV. The writing was not very intense, not very funny. But the true tragedy is that it may take some time before another TV executive takes the gamble of a prime time show in a key position in their lineup headed by two people of color.
Mr. Unpredictable: Mayor Bloomberg The 23rd richest man in the world lives up to his Aquarian sun sign. Utterly unpredictable, Bloomberg is a wild card -- no one quite knows what he will do next politically. He spent, out of pocket, $102 million fucking dollars for a third term as Mayor. Self-funded, he is the "Elder Brother of America's Mayor's."
He absorbs other popular Mayors into his already intellectually super-heavyweight organization. But to what end? Where do Bloomie's political ambitions end? He won't run for President as an independent in 2012. He will be too old in 2016. The Mayoralty of New York is, quite frankly, a steppingstone to nothing. Has he missed his chance? Is he out of luck? Has Fortune left Bloomberg?
Will he work for Obama as this blog suggests?
Then there are his recent troubles with the snow in which the student -- Cory Booker -- became the Master, showing the founder of an electronic media company a thing or two about electronic media.
The $64,000 political-media question for 2011: What is next for Bloomberg? Answer: Unclear.
Intellectual Crisis of the Year: Whither the Liberal Arts? Parallel to the decline of the West is the decline of the rationale to spend $100,000 on a degree in the liberal arts at a private college. We live in an age of mathematicians, specialized scientists and accountants -- do we really need Philosophers? Do we really need majors in Literature, Religion and Anthropology? Don't we as a civilization just need MBA's and coders and engineers to compete against China as the 21st century progresses?
Even as a musical code for Plato's works was found, adding almost inconceivable layers of depth to works like The Republic, people are asking themselves -- and rightly -- is it possible to make a living majoring in the liberal arts.
Clearly the liberal arts now have to do a better job in defending the practical benefits of knowing logic, language and the psychology of man. Previously graduates of liberal arts programs have coasted on their sophistication. Now it is not enough. Alan de Botton wrote, in of all places the business-friendly Wall Street Journal:
Hard-working, pragmatic types, who abound in the United States, have always been suspicious of university education in the humanities. What good does it do to study the works of Milton or Rousseau, let alone the enigmatic pronouncements of Buddha or the Zen poet Basho? The unemployment rate hovers near 10%, and the Chinese are feeding their undergraduates a strict diet of engineering and accountancy. How can we pampered, decadent sorts possibly still be indulging our youth with lectures on Roman poetry and Renaissance painting?Victor Davis Hanson, a neocon, writes:
Unfortunately, university professors in the humanities tend to get unproductively upset when asked to explain the importance of what they do. They know that their opposite numbers in the technical and scientific departments can justify their work in utilitarian terms to impatient government officials and donors. But fearing that they cannot compete effectively, the denizens of the humanities prefer to take refuge in ambiguity and silence, having carefully calculated that they retain just enough prestige to get away with leaving the reasons for their existence somewhat murky.
The liberal arts face a perfect storm. The economy is struggling with obscenely high unemployment and is mired in massive federal and state deficits. Budget- cutting won't spare education.
The public is already angry over fraud, waste and incompetence in our schools and universities. And in these tough times, taxpayers rightly question everything about traditional education — from teacher unions and faculty tenure to the secrecy of university admissions policies and which courses really need to be taught.
Opportunistic private trade schools have sprouted in every community, offering online certification in practical skills without the frills and costs of liberal arts "electives." In response, the therapeutic academic left proved often incapable of defending the traditional liberal arts. After three decades of defining the study of literature and history as too often a melodrama of race, class and gender oppression, it managed to turn off much of the college audience and the reading public. And cheek by jowl, the utilitarian right succeeded in reclassifying business and finance as core elements in general education.Both have good points. 2011 will be the year that intellectuals will have to battle it out in answer to the question: Is it "worth it" to get a liberal arts diploma with today's economic atmosphere?
The Endless Divorce: Michael and Diandra Douglas It never ends; it never ends. No wonder Michael Douglas makes so many movies about bad marriages and obsessive spouses. He has life upon which to draw upon! How many years have passed and Diandra is not letting this go. Still, Michael's rabid philandering during their marriage, his drinking and the fact that the diplomat's daughter was probably far too young should be enough reason for Diandra to head to the other side of the world to be as far away from Michael as is humanly possible. “He does everything with commitment,” DeVito told Vanity Fair. “Even if he’s damaging himself, it’s with commitment.”
And yet still Diandra ensorcells Michael and Michael ensorcells Diandra. This gladiatorial combat even involved ABC News. From Page Six:
"Elizabeth Vargas hosted a 'Good Morning America' discussion yesterday about Michael Douglas's battle with ex-wife Diandra over his 'Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps' cash -- but failed to mention she dated Douglas before his divorce with Diandra was finalized. Before interviewing two lawyers, a serious-faced Vargas said: 'A lot of people were surprised that 10 years after collecting in one of the most expensive divorces in history, taking $45 million home, that an ex-wife can come back and say: 'I get to have more.'' An ABC rep admitted last night, 'It was a mistake. It should have been disclosed [to viewers]. Elizabeth did tell her executive producer she had dated Michael, but he made the decision she should host the segment. George [Stephanopoulos] should have done it.'D'Oh! In the latest installment of this epic feud Diandra claims that she had a clause in their divorce contract that makes her eligible to collect a percentage of Michael's take from the sequel to Wall Street. Absolute disaster. let it go, Diandra. Let. It. Go.
The Ended Divorce: Peter Brant and Stephanie Seymore. If Diandra and Michael are the so-called "Endless Divorce" -- a living, breathing Baby Boomer nightmare -- then Peter Brant and Stephanie Seymour, in a slightly higher tax and taste bracket, are the exact opposite, having ended their messy proceedings that involved Peter -- who likes to collect beautiful things -- once petitioning for drug tests.
That was then, this is now. I have it on good authority that Peter Brant decided he wanted to reconcile after seeing those rather fucking sexy Mario Testino photos of Steph.