x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

The year in celebrity

It has been a year not soon to be forgotten as celebrities both shone and sputtered in 2009's limelight.

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This earns its place on the list not in celebration, obviously, but to mark the early demise of a pop legend. People around the globe shed a great, collective teardrop on June 25 when it was announced that Michael Jackson had moonwalked his way to the great gig in the sky. What would happen to his children? To Neverland? A spell of London comeback gigs had to be cancelled, Joe Jackson had to be tidied up so he was presentable to the public and brother Jermaine dribbled out a few lines about holding a memorial gig in Vienna because Michael "loved castles". Was it the fault of Doctor Murray? His pushy record label? None of that mattered, though, because like a candle in the wind, Jackson's light had gone out and all that was left for the family was some undignified squabbling over the will.


Usually, when a promising act waltzes on stage in front of Simon Cowell on one of his many reality television shows, you will see dollar signs light up in his eyes. "You may just be the one to beat," he will trot out, or something similarly predictable. But even SiCo himself couldn't have anticipated the hysteria that developed after Susan Boyle's appearance on Britain's Got Talent in April. Within nine days, videos of her online had been watched more than 100 million times, breaking internet records. Plain-faced, angel-tongued SuBo had gone viral. Trouble lay ahead, though. Boyle surprisingly lost the final to the dance group Diversity, cracked with exhaustion under the pressure and was dispatched for a spell of rehab in The Priory. Several days later, however, she emerged smiling, and so was sent spinning straight into a tour, glossy magazine makeovers and the recording of her debut album, I Dreamed a Dream. It has topped British and American music charts for several weeks, giving both Boyle and Cowell a very merry Christmas and new year indeed.


Although they are a very British celebrity couple, the fallout from their separation has great implications for the world and the legal profession as it is perhaps the first split to take place mostly on Twitter. "Im still keeping a dignified silence I have made no comments they are made up im heart-broken I never wanted any of this we all miss pete," Jordan eloquently scribbled on Twitter when news broke in May. She continued this dignified silence on Twitter for several months, regularly mouthing off about her ex-husband. "STRAWBERRY PICKING...WHAT NEXT!!?" she screamed online after photos of Peter's day out with their children appeared in tabloids. "I have only ever spoken in my new mag and all other stuff is made up," said Peter, hitting back at stories of his new romances. He showed a firm grip on maths, too. "There is nothing going on with me and Chantelle 1000 million per cent," he revealed of new rumours in July. Sadly for those wanting more, his witterings extend only as far as Twitter. "No plans to do a kiss and tell. that's not what I'm about," he wrote again in July. Phew. Those Booker judges can rest easy, then.


Kanye West was rightly vilified after he jumped onstage during Taylor Swift's acceptance speech for Best Female Video at the MTV Video Music Awards ceremony in September. "Taylor, I'm really happy for you, and I'm gonna let you finish," he said generously, having snatched the microphone from her mouth. "But Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time." The audience jeered, Taylor looked like she'd been smacked in the face with a wet fish and the incident became a matter of national emergency in the US. Even President Obama was unable to let the incident go without comment. Kanye later apologised online. "I feel like Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents when he messed up everything and Robert De Niro asked him to leave," he wrote. It's perhaps not as fulsome as Taylor would have liked, but let's not forget this is the lyrical genius who penned gems such as "standin' at my podium, I'm tryin' to watch my sodium". The apology is about as poetic as Kanye gets.


What exactly happened between the former lovebirds on that pre-Grammys night in February is still not totally clear. What we do know, however, is that some kind of violent altercation resulted in Chris Brown presenting himself at a Los Angeles police station shortly afterwards and pictures of a bruised Rihanna being leaked on the celebrity news site TMZ. He was sentenced to five years' probation in August. A restraining order means he has to stay 100 yards away from Rihanna at all times, apart from public events, when he can come within 10 yards. Still, why not make some capital out of it, eh? Brown's song Changed Man apologises for the unhappy incident, and rumour has it that Rihanna's track Silly Boy is about her former boyfriend. "You had a good girl, good girl, but didn't know how to treat her," she sings in it. That'll tell him.


Think back to the beginning of February for this one, when a voice clip of Christian Bale made its way online. "You and me, we're done professionally," he screams at a technical worker who had supposedly blundered on to the set during filming. Most of the four-minute transcript is unprintable, because it's peppered with expletives. Some on set bravely attempt to calm him down: "No, I will not take a minute," he petulantly shouts back. One of the film's associate producers, Bruce Franklin, afterwards rode to his rescue by explaining that the interruption had come during a particularly emotional scene. "He is intensely involved in his character," said Franklin, defending his star. But surely celebrities should know by now that in this age of camera phones and digital media, every single burp they make will be recorded and instantly uploaded? A lesson Bale learnt the hard way.


This story can be filed under "still pending", but who knew that golf was so fascinating? A seemingly innocent car crash kick-starts a nuclear reaction in Tiger Woods's life. Turns out, the golden boy of the golf world wasn't so golden at all. Slowly, and then a bit faster, women started putting up their hands and admitting to adultery with Tiger. Not one, not two, not three but, oh, dozens probably by now. (We lost count after the first handful.) Despite his marriage to pretty Elin Nordegren, two small children, a record-breaking career and sponsorship deals worth bazillions of dollars, Tiger didn't have quite enough excitement in his life. He has since gone to ground, offering only a "profound apology" for his behaviour. Still, chin up, Elin. The good news is that you will clean up in the divorce settlement.


Given that she's just been crowned the celebrity of the decade - in Britain at least, with 45,000 articles penned about her there since 2000 - it seems only fair that Madonna gets a look-in. It's a spot earned thanks to all that frantic toing and froing between Malawi in attempts to adopt three-year-old Mercy James from her home country. Initially, a Malawian court came down against Madge because she hadn't been living in the country for between 18 and 24 months, or even one month, if we're being honest. But happily, just two months later a more understanding judge deemed that Madonna's devotion to child welfare hadn't been taken into account and he overturned the previous ruling. It's a fairy tale that warms the cockles.

It wouldn't be a complete celebrity list without an appearance from Li Lo. Her biggest travesty this year was not, however, due to relationship angst or overdoing it on the party scene, but from gamely trying her hand at being creative. Signed up by the fashion label Emanuel Ungaro as "artistic adviser", her first collection for the house (sequinned, heart-shaped tassels, anyone?) was roundly laughed at when it showed in Paris last October. Her talent for designing was apparently comparable to her acting abilities. (We refer you to Herbie Fully Loaded.)


Like a 21st-century butterfly, Lady Gaga flittered hither and thither this year, lighting up the world with her outlandish dress sense. There is no single moment to celebrate in particular, just a string of them to cherish. She first stamped herself upon public consciousness in February, when Just Dance, her debut single, started gaining serious airplay. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to maintain her status as pop oddity of the year. She dressed as a teacup for the Brit Awards, barely covered herself in a bubble-wrap dress for a performance in San Diego, plastered herself in fake blood at the MTV Awards in September and has never knowingly been photographed wearing a pair of trousers. Gaga by name, gaga by nature. And we salute her for it.

@Email:smoneycoutts@thenational.ae