Musto Occupies 2011: A Rich Year for Gossip
New York became fun again in 2011!
Thanks to a global economic meltdown! The lingering desperation in the air brought down our emotional walls, and New Yorkers became friendlier and more open than we've been in ages, most of us no longer propped up by elitism as we reached out to one another like we were having a massive midlife crisis together—in a good way.
Even better, activism replaced bottle service as we saw the rise of Occupy Wall Street, a grassroots movement hating on the corporate greed and corruption that has led to drastic social inequality, unemployment, and crappy pizza. The marchers stomped against financial institutions all over the city—and ultimately, the world—while the OWS home base at Zuccotti Park brought back a '60s-ish rebel-yelling community, complete with old-style folk singers, fringed ponchos, and new-style celebrity drop-ins. (What would an anti-bank protest be without Capital One spokesman Alec Baldwin? And what would a thriving home base be without capitalist giant Bloomberg clearing it the hell out, celebs and all?)
Slideshow: Musto Occupies 2011
Like the Tea Party movement, Occupy Wall Street targets the way our economy is run, but The New York Times took pains to point out that at least OWS is against the right people. That became clear with their detailed demands, like minimum wage for members of Congress and "removal and arrest of all CEOs responsible for the Great Recession." The generation being propelled into the hopelessness of someone else's making wasn't going to take it in a prostrate position, even if incidents of police brutality and neighborhood antagonism were trying to wet-blanket the excitement. "Get a job!" yelled the idiots, forgetting that this uprising was happening because there weren't any!
Well, at Least His Job Will Be Open
As unemployment stayed at unworkable levels, President Obama's popularity plummeted even more than my money-market fund. Still, he managed to squeeze some triumphs through the gridlock of our deadeningly partisan political system. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was shot down in September, finally closing one of the darker chapters in U.S. military history. (Do you really want to launch bogus wars, then hire a doorman to turn away soldiers based on whom they sleep with?) Whatever their sexuality, troops no longer had to keep fighting in Iraq, Obama mandating them home by the end of the year (though he had no jobs for them). And as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approached, Osama bin Laden was creamed in May, proving that Dubya hadn't really been trying all that hard—no, really!
In the midst of playing out all these life-and-death issues, the president had to make time to provide his long-form birth certificate to the world, so he could shut Donald Trump up for a second, generously not demanding that Trump show his immigration papers from Queens or his certificate from the Hair Club for Men in return.
That moment of diversionary absurdity would have been a perfect time for the entire planet to implode, but alas, everyone had to wait until May 21 for that to happen, according to fulminating radio host Harold Camping.
We dutifully packed our luggage and held on for the Rapture as promised, but Camping shockingly turned out to be wrong, so he simply rescheduled the end of the world for a later date! More packing!
As the globe kept spinning, the Republicans were forced to choose from a bevy of intolerant oddballs in hopes of regaining the White House and undoing whatever human rights advances had taken place in the past three years. Overexposed Sarah Palin wisely decided to stick to TV, by golly, but Michele Bachmann seized her chance at the Big Top while trying to live down mounting reports that the counseling clinic she and husband Marcus own has urged people to pray away the gay (something one wondered if colorful Marcus needed to start doing himself).
But you couldn't pray away Herman Cain, as the seeming joke candidate and his relentless 9-9-9 tax-overhaul plan gained prominence right next to Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and all the other nightmares. Cain (a/k/a "6-6-6") wouldn't go bye-bye even after old sexual-harassment charges surfaced around the same time his manager smoked during a badly conceived campaign commercial. When adultery claims hit the press, Cain still swore he was able, proving there was hope for Obama after all. But then he decided the bad press he was getting could hurt his wonderful family, so he went back to square 0-0-0 and dropped out. Not his actions, mind you—the write-ups about them! Family values are so vulnerable to being reported on!
Politicians Made for Strange Bedfellows
But these screechy hopefuls were behavioral icons compared with the year's truly self-destructing politicos, which we learned about thanks to Rupert Murdoch's nonstop phone hacking. (I mean hack coughing. Or maybe it was just WikiLeaked.) Cain's alleged antics paled next to those of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who 14 years ago fostered a love child with his hotsy-totsy housekeeper. The moment this tawdry news dribbled out, Maria Shriver said, "Hasta la vista, baby"; son Patrick Arnold Schwarzenegger changed his Twitter name to Patrick Shriver; and I turned my Jingle All the Way poster into a crotch guard for my Conan the Barbarian doll.
For equal time, Democratic ding-dong Anthony Weiner insanely "sexted" crotch shots to at least six women, his name alone providing fodder for several months' worth of late-night comedy monologues. The U.S. rep was urged down from office, as wife Huma Abedin—personal aide to another cuckolded broad, Hillary Clinton—stood by her man and even started showing a bump, much like he'd shown his, and with just as much misguided pride. And now the really little Weiner has emerged!
And since the gays are on top of every trend, Puerto Rican senator Roberto Arango was caught on the hookup app Grindr, seemingly posing for a very alluring rectal examination. As I wrote at the time, "Another anti-gay asshole revealed!"
And let's not forget that a French flirt—International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn—was arrested for forcing sex on a hotel maid. (Between this and Ah-nold's situation, the satirical Sondheim ditty "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid" was starting to become a world anthem.) But Strauss-Kahn denied it was rape, and the maid had a shady past, so the charges were dropped, Strauss-Kahn nobly admitting that cheating on his wife was a "moral failing." So true—a tip on the pillow would have surely sufficed.
When You Dish Upon a Star
Celebs kept messing up, too, making for a colorful array of sickening headlines that kept topping one another like whores with strap-ons. Charlie Sheen launched his defiant "Violent Torpedo of Truth" tour, though it turned groveling when he begged audiences to help him nab his high-paying sitcom job back. After getting skewered in the least-funny but highest-rated Comedy Central roast ever, Charlie scored another series, this one based on Anger Management. ("A real stretch," the frazzled actor joked with rare self-awareness.) Meanwhile, Ashton Kutcher didn't let the network down as Charlie's Two and a Half Men replacement, proving that all prime-time womanizers are apparently interchangeable in the public's eyes.
But just before Demi demoted him to singlehood, Kutcher stepped in Twitter poop when he defended Joe Paterno (the fired Penn State coach who didn't tell the cops about that long-brewing child-molesting scandal), as we were reminded that no one famous was safe from social media and/or cell-phone videos. After all, surreal designer John Galliano had been captured assaulting fellow cocktail-bar patrons with anti-Semitic slurs that were cut on the bias ("I love Hitler!"), while Tracy Morgan's inelegant bout of "comedy" surfaced on Facebook (if his son were gay, he'd better talk to him like a man, or Tracy would knife him) and had the comic praying for some immediate Rapture action.
Speaking of killing kids, "Tot Mom" Casey Anthony got off after her lawyer argued that baby Caylee had drowned—though in all of Casey's many alibis, that one never seemed to have come up before. And while extraordinary singer Amy Winehouse went to the rehab center in the sky, her parents swore she didn't die drowning in booze because Amy had just gone cold turkey on the stuff. Alcoholics took that as a message to just keep on guzzling, until the coroner's report shot through the denial and said Amy definitely died by the bottle, and it wasn't all that festive, even if her posthumously released Tony Bennett duet got a Grammy nomination.
And moments later, Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, proving that nightly propofol cocktails are even more damaging than double mai tais. I guess the jury didn't believe that Michael administered the final dose himself—though I bet he probably would have liked to, sadly enough.
'Do You Take This Trick...?'
The sanctity of hetero marriage was destroyed once again when Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries shockingly said "I don't" after only 72 blissfully wedded days of camera-seeking and photo-selling. The word "fraud" was tossed around so much after Kim filed for divorce that even Humphries used it in his follow-up request for annulment!
But New York State gays could finally have fake weddings, too! Same-sex marriage was approved here in June, providing good news for caterers, photographers, and cover bands, while boosting the number of people suddenly looking for Mr. Right rather than just Mr. Right Now. And that suddenly changed the game plan for so very many of the people mentioned above.
On Broadway, religion came out of the closet, with
The Book of Mormon hilariously spoofing the wacky quirks of lying evangelical recruiters who transformed a Ugandan village, while Sister Act had nuns bumping their crotches to music as coached by a lounge singer on the lam. Both seemed to grin and say, "Fuck you, God, in the cunt!"
When Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark finally stopped hurting people in the head, it gained respect for its moneymaking skills, while War Horse provided a safe and lucrative stab at stage wizardry, audiences only feeling disappointed when young Joey didn't get the final curtain call.
And War Horse became Oscar bait, too, though most films stayed species-specific, thanks to star-driven biopics about J. Edgar, Margaret Thatcher, and Marilyn; rose-tinted odes to nonverbal communication (The Artist, Hugo); and Harold Camping–style films about the end of the world (Melancholia, Take Shelter) that made you root for the end of the movie.
The Help was Dominique Strauss-Kahn's worst nightmare, while the funniest film of the year—Bridesmaids—went beyond the sink-crapping to create a smart and likable shit pie about female friends learning about one other. Only the icky love interest brought it down to the gutter level.
Verbal diarrhea stank up the Oscars themselves, with producer Brett Ratner stepping down after blithely saying "fags" at a press conference, and host Eddie Murphy following him out the door as the gays cheered and threw things.
On TV, Chaz Bono broke new ground as the first transsexual on Dancing With the Stars (since Marie Osmond, I guess), but the show continued to stop short of having a same-sex couple take the floor. Apparently, not only can't gays get married in California, but they can't dance there, either!
Oh, well. Even with the TV on, NYC was Fun City, as waiters dropped the attitude, locals willingly gave tourists directions (even correct ones), and groups of giddy-despite-it-all nut jobs were spotted doing drunken line dances on the street. People I know who moved far away from Manhattan when it got too glossy visited and found the city a hoot again, the trust-fund babies having given way to a ragtag bunch of nouveau hippies ready for all kinds of expression. It's too bad it took economic devastation to get us here, but still, this could turn out to be the craziest free party in decades. And if not, the Rapture is coming anyway!
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.