Winner: Katy Perry
For the third time in four years, this pop superstar makes my annual winners list and deservedly so. In 2010, she released her very entertaining sophomore album, Teenage Dream, which had already spawned three number one hits in America. The smashes would keep on coming in 2011.
Single number four, E.T. (which, in its remixed form, features the ubiquitous Kanye West), had actually been shipped to radio stations as early as August 2010. But in February, it was issued commercially and inevitably topped Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart. The same fate awaited the next release, Last Friday Night, which inspired a very cute video. The idea of the buxom Perry transforming into a nerdy, awkward teen while being secretly worshipped by a fellow geek at a house party that features a soloing Kenny G (who does not play on the actual recording) playing along with the hired band must’ve greatly amused all who heard it being pitched for the first time.
As if five consecutive number one hits weren’t enough, the album’s sixth single, The One That Got Away, has managed to land in the Top 5, as well. (As of this writing, it’s number four. Will it also climb to the top of the hit parade?) In that video, Perry bears a striking resemblance to Zooey Deschanel. (Have they ever been photographed in the same room together?)
Although she went 0 for 4 at the Grammys in 2011, she gets two more opportunities next year when Firework competes for Record Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. However, Perry did manage to win a few MTV Music Video Awards. That same night, she set a new milestone. No other act in the history of the awards has ever had four videos nominated in the same year.
Meanwhile, despite garnering mostly lousy reviews, The Smurfs was an enormous international blockbuster in its own right. (Perry voiced Smurfette.) It earned more than 560 million during its summer run. Unsurprisingly, a sequel has been scheduled for August 2013. (Look for the original on DVD on December 19.) She also popped up briefly in The Muppets, another successful family film currently in theatres.
Now if only people would stop speculating about the state of her one-year marriage to Russell Brand, everything would be perfect. (December 31 UPDATE: Katy Perry, I’m here for you.)
Loser: Horny Politicians
We are all sexual beings, some of us more so than others. And there are moments in our lives where we need to pause, to take the time to reflect on the wisdom of pursuing certain actions and activities. Long after we give in to these carnal urges, sometimes there’s a deep sense of regret for making bad choices that not only hurt ourselves but others, as well. If we are smart, we hope never to repeat these mistakes or risk further disappointment and alienation of our loved ones. Fortunately, when you live anonymously, few outside your social circle will ever know your dirty secrets that led to such painful periods in your life. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with the following three public figures who were all put in the uncomfortable position of having their sexuality fully exposed for all to ridicule.
In the fall of 2003, action star Arnold Schwarzenegger left a full-time career in Hollywood to replace Gray Davis as the Governor of California after winning a special recall election. His stint lasted seven years and was rife with controversy. Four months after his second and final term concluded in early January, it was reported in the Los Angeles Times that he had an extramarital affair with his maid (who retired the same month the Governor left office after working for his family for 20 years) back in the late 90s. (The revelation came a week after Schwarzenegger and his wife, First Lady Maria Shriver, announced their separation.) The tryst led to an unplanned pregnancy (to his credit, the Governor has long supported his fifth child financially, albeit discreetly) and the slow demise of the maid’s marriage. After being separated in the summer of 1997, the divorce curiously didn’t become final until 2008. (Schwarzenegger and his family actually attended the maid’s son’s christening.) How this was kept from his wife for more than a decade is quite remarkable.
The revelation of the Austrian-American’s teenage son ultimately doomed his 25-year marriage to Shriver who understandably filed for divorce not too long thereafter. (Amazingly, at the same time the maid was pregnant, so was Shriver with the couple’s fourth and final child. They were both born within the same week.) Plans to return to Hollywood were put on indefinite hold, despite several planned projects including a cartoon called The Governator.
Later, more women came forward to admit they had alleged affairs with the actor including Brigitte Neilsen. Needless to say, Schwarzenegger has kept a low profile for much of the year.
Meanwhile, New York Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner was becoming a little too fond of Twitter. Only married about a year, he was nonetheless hitting on women through the service and snapping narcissistic photos of his body to share with them. If only he had mastered the art of direct messaging. Because of a typo, one such photo (which would haunt his old schoolmate, Jon Stewart, for several episodes of The Daily Show) that was sent directly to one of his female followers (who wasn’t thrilled by the gesture) was accidentally but briefly seen publicly. Right-wing dirt merchant Andrew Breitbart caught wind of it and ran a story about the embarrassing incident on BigGovernment.com. Soon, the mass media picked up on it and it became a needlessly overcovered scandal.
Instead of just copping to being a bad boy, Weiner issued denial after denial after denial and foolishly suggested a frame-up. Some liberal writers naively went along with this until a few days later when the tearful and quite controversial Congressman finally admitted he loves taking snaps of his bulge for the ladies and deeply regretted his actions. I actually felt sorry for the guy. (Imagine if you were in his shoes at that moment. None of us are perfect.) Despite initially resisting calls for his resignation, Weiner would inevitably cave and leave his office in late June, nearly a month after the infamous clothed erection shot was first spotted. What a ridiculous reason to lose your job. He’s slipped under the radar ever since. (December 24 UPDATE: He just became a father.)
Which brings us to Herman Cain, the former Godfathers Pizza mogul who surprised many by briefly leading the pack of Republican Presidential contenders. Like a good number of his rivals, his lead at the top would lead to extra scrunity of his past. Soon, several women came forward to claim he sexually harassed them. (They all received undisclosed settlements.) Another claimed they had a longterm extramarital affair. She provided phone records as well as an oddly personalized autographed copy of his book as submitted evidence.
Unlike the other cases, it’s still not quite clear whether any of this is true. But Cain’s constantly changing memory (first he didn’t remember these women, then he did), continuous explanations (his alleged mistress was just a friend he was helping out financially) and repeated denials weren’t persuading anyone he was a victim of some kind of conspiracy. He just didn’t seem credible. While his campaign was plagued with more substantial problems, the media focused mainly on his alleged sexual misconduct. In the end, realizing whatever momentum he initially had in the race was fading fast, Cain made a contradictory public speech in front of a crowd of supporters that nonetheless led to him officially ending his dream of being the second Black President.
Two lessons to be learned from all of this: One, stories about horny politicians are best left to the tabloids since they very rarely affect people’s lives (unlike legislation) and two, always double check that the boner shot you’re about to send is 1) requested and 2) not available publicly.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, December 18, 2011