By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
Paris Hilton was clearly the steeliest of the three—a Teflon heiress whose scandals only made her bigger, as she rose, dumb as a fox, in almost every medium. The crafty little thing wouldn't even look for a BFF unless cameras were trained on her for a prime-time series.
Paris seemed indestructible—even in a recession—and so did rising star Lady Gaga, a self-created mass of bubbles, carnival masks, fake blood, and real stamina. And along came the heavily made-up Adam Lambert, who proved just how quickly things happen nowadays. A few days after it came out that he told a magazine not to make him appear too gay, the American Idol runner-up thrust a guy's face into his crotch for a mass audience and kissed his male keyboard player. His CD debuted very well—but it still paled next to that of middle-aged reality-show sensation Susan Boyle, who survived a nervous breakdown to make a smash CD of gospel tunes available at CVS checkout counters.
Alas, other icons were dropping like hookers' panties, caving in to a shocking overreliance on prescription drugs doled out by well-paid quacks and enablers. As Anna Nicole Smith, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, DJ AM, and possibly Brittany Murphy all tragically expired after proverbial visits to Duane Reade, it was up to the public to decide whether they'd acted out a form of assisted suicide, been cruelly Kevork'd against their will, or just had a terrible mishap. Whatever the case, the pharmaceutical remedies turned out to be way more dangerous than the ills they were trying to resolve.
Cinematic anti-anxiety came via a return to musicals, though the public was generally too savvy for the old-school device of breaking into song. So in Moulin Rouge, the numbers were presented as hyper-edited dreamscapes; in Chicago and Nine, they were gussied-up fantasy turns; and in Dreamgirls, they were mostly onstage or in recording studios. Scoring bigtime were vampires (Twilight drew pubescent blood) and wizards (Harry Potter wanded nerds of both sexes), as well as ghosts, zombies, and any other type of far-fetched presence representing the chance for an afterlife. The mass audience was so ballsily self-possessed, they clung to the idea that not only do you get your old life back via Facebook, but after you die, you get to return for more.
The same went for the movies themselves, which automatically spawned sequels, The Lord of the Rings cranking out three mumbo-jumbo-filled time passers at once. The gamble paid off handsomely, though the money-bleeding stage musical version proved the Hobbit could definitely be broken.
And speaking of outcasts bearing golden rings, gay marriage became the decade's lightning-rod issue and a test of religious people's willingness to rethink the oppressive belief system they claimed came from on high. In California, the same-sex marital right was vengefully repealed by the reverent, though gays kept their veils in the closet and plotted a repealing of the repealing. All through this, gay-dissing beauty queen Carrie Prejean held up the Bible with one hand while desperately trying to keep her clothes on with the other.
In the zombieland of New York, Mayor Giuliani projected a stoicism that helped guide us out of 9/11, but by then, he'd already drained a lot of the life (and nightlife) out of the city by making it a glossy theme park aimed mainly at outsiders and condo owners. His successor, Michael Bloomberg, continued the club crackdowns, which reflected a startling citywide sanitization—though at least burlesque shows started popping up in Brooklyn and on the Lower East Side as a crafty way of bringing the sex back by calling it art.
That almost made up for the growth of the Meatpacking District as a soulless triangle where anyone willing to flaunt a credit card could get VIP treatment from a blonde waitress with a rack and a tray. By the time that area's abandoned elevated train tracks were refurbished and called Highline Park—while Times Square was being converted into a street mall for aimless tourists with no money—the camera wielders who'd stayed away because of the falling buildings were now parking their fat asses in lawn furniture, apparently never to move again. To summon Ms. LuPone again: "Who do you think you are?"
Farewell, Naughty Aughties. Here's hoping the Tempestuous Teens are more of a Tweet. LOL.