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Gaffes, stunts and missteps: the best of 2011's celebreality

From Kim Kardashian to Amy Winehouse, Hugh Grant to Justin Bieber, here's our 2011 celebrity roundup.

The Only Way Is Essex won the YouTube Audience Award at The British Academy Television Awards at The Grosvenor House Hotel, London, on May 22, 2011.
The Only Way Is Essex won the YouTube Audience Award at The British Academy Television Awards at The Grosvenor House Hotel, London, on May 22, 2011.

It was a year when Paris Hilton, desperate for some publicity, gave a US$100 (Dh370) note to a beggar in Mumbai - only for the beggar's family, sick of the ensuing media circus, to rip it up in sheer frustration.

A year when The Only Way Is Essex star Jessica Wright tweeted an ill-advised "Rest in peace" on the death of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

And a year when the former Baywatch babe Donna D'Errico very publicly decided her next project would be a trip to Mount Ararat in search of the remains of Noah's Ark. It appeared not to matter that the legendary vessel has eluded humanity for thousands of years; D'Errico and her crack team of reality television producers would find it. They didn't. D'Errico decided to do a cookery show instead.

Yes, 2011 showed that our celebrities show no signs of joining the real world any time soon. And, frankly, in these miserable, recession-hit times, good for them - and for us.

After all, where would we be without the frankly bizarre antics of Kim Kardashian? Rewind 12 months and yes, she was famous enough for her reality show, clothing line and friendship with Hilton. But something truly ridiculous was required for her to reach celebrity's premier league. And meeting a basketball player, getting engaged, married and divorced within 12 months was just the ticket.

Enraged pro-marriage protesters - or pro-television protesters, it wasn't exactly clear - signed "No More Kardashian" petitions. It mattered not: more than 3,000 went to Dubai Mall to see our Kim open her milkshake shop.

It sparked the immortal sentence in The National last month: "Kardashian's divorce from the professional basketball player Kris Humphries, which came 72 days after their August wedding, was captured in a two-part special." Of course it was. It's said she made $17.9m from slavering celebrity magazines anxious to cover the nuptials. The woman is a genius, clearly.

A reality television genius at that, and the format certainly proved it still had legs in 2011. Not least in the shape of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It's difficult to work out whether the show really is laughing at the ridiculously pampered lives of California's ladies who lunch or is actually celebrating the excesses of women who include Hilton's aunts, Kelsey "Frazier" Grammer's wife Camille and the generally troubled soul Taylor Armstrong.

Take this press release from Bravo, which makes the show, heralding a new episode: "Meanwhile, another bond is breaking as Camille gets word from her husband that he wants to end their marriage." No, this wasn't Dallas or Dynasty, this was real life. And, indeed, death - Armstrong's husband Russell put a slight damper on events by killing himself in August. No matter - a swift re-edit, and the show continued.

Sadly, nobody could edit Amy Winehouse's death in July from alcohol poisoning into anything other than a really sad waste of a talent. Almost as depressing as her death were the tributes outside her London flat - among the flowers were whisky bottles. Did people think this was funny, apt or thoughtful? It was just plain wrong.

Happily, The Only Way Is Essex lightened the mood in the UK. This strangely compelling British television show - equal parts soapy drama, documentary and, yes, total trash - somehow beat Downton Abbey to major awards earlier this year.

But it was must-see trash which made stars of its actors (if indeed we can call them that). And the show surely has the best disclaimer of all time: "This programme contains flash cars, big watches and false boobs. The tans you see might be fake but the people are all real, although some of what they do has been set up purely for your entertainment."

The brilliance of TOWIE lies in blurring the lines between reality and drama. But then, that's what all the best celebrities do all the time.

It was difficult to judge, for example, if Angelina Jolie was telling the truth when she revealed she had a qualification in undertaking on American television. But you certainly wanted to believe her claim that she was so angered by her grandfather's big send off that she decided to do a mail-order degree. Even if she was only 14 years old at the time.

It was certainly one of the better answers to the perennial question: "What would you have been if you hadn't made it?"

In loveable toff Hugh Grant's case it appeared, for a few odd months, that the answer could have been prime minister. The actor found himself touted for the role after a few impressively impassioned speeches surrounding the phone hacking scandal that enveloped the United Kingdom. Perhaps he could tackle the debt crisis and North Korea next.

Actually, he wouldn't have the time because it was also revealed that Grant has a secret love child.

Which in no way brings us to Justin Bieber, who valiantly fought off a paternity case. Of course, this whiter-than-white pop poppet was proved entirely justified in doing so - though he didn't help matters by tweeting "Judge me on the music" or auctioning off his pet snake called Johnson. No sniggering at the back, please.

And if you didn't win the snake, how about a cheeky and slightly mawkish bid for the very bed in which Michael Jackson died?

Or you could also have done battle with - here she is again! - Kim Kardashian for some of Elizabeth Taylor's jewellery.

But denying Kim the chance to own three jade and diamond bracelets once owned by the late superstar would have deprived the world of priceless nuggets of Kardashian wisdom, such as: "If you have a piece of jade, the energy goes into the piece and you absorb the energy. So I can feel Elizabeth in the piece."

Enough Kardashian for this year. In any case, she has some way to go to top Jolie's outlandish behaviour. The actress may have revealed a hidden desire to deal with the dead. She may also have bought her six children a Shetland pony each. But the dilemma she faced when realising that she must transport her husband Brad Pitt and their kids from London to Glasgow was too much for any film star to bear. The car would take too long. The plane was too much of a hassle. So they chartered an entire passenger train, just for them. Yes, the whole train.

Now, that's a celebrity.

artslife@thenational.ae