If I were to get holiday gifts as nondescript and boring as what Hollywood offered in the way of movies this year, I might not want to celebrate any more.
There was hardly anything worth remembering entertainment-wise, so most reporters were stuck documenting the dismal behavior of the Hollywood element — the substance abuse problems of Ben Affleck and Paula Poundstone, the meltdown of the melodious Mariah Carey, and, of course, Sean "Puffy" Combs prevailing despite major legal wranglings.
Then came Sept. 11, and nothing could seem less significant than celebrity peccadilloes.
Media and celebrity bigwigs alike put aside their backstabbing ways long enough to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for charity and create some memorable music. Indeed, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks changed the world in many significant ways. But they also covered up the fact that there was really very little worth remembering for the movie-going, TV-watching, music-listening public.
I agonized over how to come up with 10 truly significant things that took place this year in the world of entertainment. Some things immediately jumped out — Shrek and Harry Potter on the silver screen, the groundbreaking 24 on the small screen.
The end result: it took me longer to find 10 things than it did for me to gain 10 pounds eating bonbons and Chex Mix while Google searching. Of course, my idea of significant may not be yours, and these events are in no particular order, but here goes:
Top 10 Entertainment Stories
1. A Tribute to Heroes — All major television networks and most cable channels, for the first time ever, simulcast a show. Some 60 million people watched this commercial-free, two-hour telethon, helping to raise $150 million for the families of victims of the Sept. 11 tragedies. The cast included George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Will Smith, Billy Joel, Elton John and many others, plus a star-packed group manning the phones. And this was just the foremost in countless tributes.
2. Pottermania — Harry Potter got on his magic broom and made movie history, taking in an estimated $93 million in its first weekend. It heads into 2002 destined to become perhaps the highest-grossing film of all time. Director Chris Columbus has already started the sequel, set for a November 2002 release. After that, he's on board for two more.
3. Soderbergh's Big Score at the Oscars — Steven Soderbergh became the first director to have two films simultaneously nominated in the Best Picture category. He won the director's award for Traffic. Julia Roberts won for Best Actress in Soderbergh's other nominated film, Erin Brockovich. In other Academy Awards news, Gladiator won for Best Picture. Jennifer Lopez got lots of notice again, not for her acting, but for what she wore to the festivities. She was considered nearly naked, but this time, only on top. Meanwhile, Bjork was more than adequately covered in feathers as she sported a swan dress with an egg purse.
4. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman Break Up — After nearly 10 years of marriage, one of Hollywood's most prominent and private couples called it quits. Actually, it was Tom who found the "Mission" of marriage quite "Impossible" and asked for the divorce. The whole thing turned Kidman many shades of pink as the Moulin Rouge star claimed she had no idea the end was near. Cruise has since been cruising with Cruz — Penelope, that is — while Kidman isn't kidding when she says she's still alone. Also on the Celebrity Divorce Court Callendar: Ted Turner and Jane Fonda; Eminem and Kim Mathers; Phylicia and Ahmad Rashad; Kim Bassinger and Alec Baldwin. Julia Roberts and Benjamin Bratt, although never married, also split up.
5. Robert Blake's Wife Killed — Bonny Lee Bakley was shot in the head at point-blank range while sitting in the couple's car outside Vesuvio's restaurant in Los Angeles. Blake says he was inside the restaurant when the incident occurred, retrieving the gun he had left behind at the table where they dined. To date, no one has been charged. Reports revealed Bakely had a past more checkered than a taxi. Blake got custody of the couple's young daughter.
6. The Mariah Meltdown — Just before the release of a new album and her first major motion picture, multi-octave diva Mariah Carey hit the skids. She had a virtual meltdown, displaying some bizarre behavior during a visit to MTV's Total Request Live. Afterward, she was hospitalized for exhaustion. She made it out in time for the premiere of the film Glitter, but she should've just stayed there. The reviews were so bad, they would've made anyone sick.
7. Michael Jackson's 30th Anniversary Tribute — The 40-something man of music reunited with his brothers for a two-night extravaganza at New York's Madison Square Garden. The concert, taped for broadcast, included various artists paying tribute to Jacko and collaborating onstage, including 'N Sync, Usher, Mya, Destiny's Child and a very skinny Whitney Houston, not to mention Jackson's dates, Elizabeth Taylor and Liza Minnelli. The show was a success for fans, despite rumors that The Gloved One's nose fell off during the event.
8. The Death of George Harrison — Known as "the Quiet Beatle," Harrison lost his battle with cancer at the age of 58. He passed away peacefully, having said goodbye to fellow bandmates, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, just a few weeks prior. The music world also bade a tearful farewell to the very young Aaliyah, who died tragically in a plane crash in the Bahamas. The show business community also lost Jack Lemmon, Isaac Stern, Carroll O'Connor, Anthony Quinn and Joey Ramone.
9. The On-Again, Off-Again Emmys — The Primetime Emmys had been scheduled to air Sept. 16, but five days before the big show, tragedy befell the nation as planes struck the World Trade Center and Pentagon. It seemed callous to have stars strut on a red carpet under the circumstances, so the event was rescheduled for Oct. 7 — the very day U.S. airstrikes began. For a while, it seemed unlikely that stars from the East would fly West. Finally, the show ran on Nov. 4. Ellen DeGeneres hosted and did a fabulous job. West Wing took home a lot of Emmys.
10. David Letterman's Return — After the Sept. 11 attack, the show business world effectively shut down. When it was time to go back to work, Dave returned with a touch of class.
So, there you have it. See what I mean?
Happy holidays and wishes for a peaceful, prosperous and entertaining 2002.
Heidi Oringer is director of entertainment programming at ABCNEWS Radio.