The 20 Most-Read Village Voice Stories of 2010
This really felt like a breakout year at the Voice, with our big NYPD investigative series, the Runnin' Scared, Sound of the City, and Fork in the Road blogs blowing up, and, um, you know, we're still in print and stuff.
Can you guess which Voice story made the biggest splash this year? Before we reveal that, we'll remind you what topped the charts the last two years, when we actually started counting up all these pageview things everyone seems so obsessed with.
In 2008, our most-read story was David Mamet's surprising conservative coming-out party, "Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal."
For 2009, it seemed notable that a simple blog post outpaced everything we actually put in the print newspaper (a milestone?). Readers are still happily lapping up screenwriter Josh Olson's stemwinder, "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script."
And now, without further ado, here are the 20 stories of 2010 that you, the readers, found most fascinating:
Our legendary food writer Robert Sietsema starts things off with this, er, delicious takedown at the Fork in the Road blog: meals aimed at tourists clogging Times Square.
Times Square must be the bad-eats capital of the city, because every abject chain, no matter how awful, has pitched its tent there. If you stand in the center -- newly appointed with outdoor tables and chairs to encourage lingering, say, five minutes over your Big Mac -- you'll see tourists pass by wolfing down some of the most disgusting food on the planet.
Readers, naturally, had plenty of suggestions of their own. Bleeccch!
When Robert Sietsema noticed that the Chicago Tribune had compiled a list of 10 often mispronounced food words, he decided to do the Trib one better and provide a longer list at our food blog, Fork in the Road. "Coq au vin" made the list (co-ooh-vin), as well as "huitlacoche" (wheet-lah-KOH-chay), "muffuletta" (MOO-fa-la-Tuh), and "Pouilly-Fuissé" (poo-yee fwee-SAY). Readers responded with suggestions of hundreds more. "Mascarpone," anyone?
In November, we ran a cover story, "Shock the Junkie," that described the latest debate about Ibogaine, a miracle drug with the potential to cure hard-core drug addicts, but which also comes with a controversial hallucinogenic trip of its own. Researchers are working to produce a non-trippy version of the substance, but as one expert told us, outright cures like Ibogaine are less profitable for pharmaceutical companies than the drugs patients take repeatedly over the course of perhaps their entire lives, and that never cure them. Curious about that statement, Jason Parham looked into which were the 5 most profitable drugs on the market (Lipitor, Nexium, Plavix, Advair, and Seroquel). Sure enough, none of them ever cures the condition they are prescribed to treat. Readers of Jason's Runnin' Scared item were alternately outraged and nonplussed, as the short piece spread around the nets.
Was Foster Kamer really only here for nine months in 2010? Here's part of the path of destruction he left in his wake: at the height of debate over the proposed downtown Islamic community center, he grabbed this killer image put together by Tumblr's editorial director, TopherChris, and then went on a patented Kamer rant:
Maybe we'll care what you have to say when you stop bothering us for directions in the subway on how to get to Ground Zero so you can go there and buy some dumb, tacky knickknack you can take home and give to friends to let them know that you spent money on a shake-a-snow where a few thousand people died. Maybe then. But probably not. Shut up, go away, and also, stop lying, or at least tell your politicians to stop lying. It might help you recognize the truth, which is that you're wrong, and you're attacking vital American freedoms by going against this Mosque. The truth is that you're terrorists in your own right. You are striking against America by going against this mosque. You are, in effect, almost as bad as the ones who killed people on 9/11. Okay, not quite, not really, but kind of, because you're fighting against what 9/11 victims died for: religious freedom, which said terrorists don't have and don't want anyone else to have.
But now you have a map to see how wrong you are, okay? Now: Fuck you. Fuck you and shut up, you assholes. Shut up and leave New York alone.
As one reader put it: "Someone NEEDED to write this. Thank you."
Ward Sutton continued his mind-bending full-page comic takeouts for the Voice by imagining R. Crumb, off the success of his take on the Book of Genesis, taking on Genesis, the band. Sutton channeling Crumb channeling Genesis: a progrock instant classic.
Frequent Sound of the City contributor Christopher Weingarten wrote this moving account of the too-short life of Vancouver's Carton, who had become Twitter's most reliable tipster to leaks of new music. His body ravaged by cancer, Carton kept providing Internet tips to music fans virtually to the point he slipped into a fatal coma. He died on January 16.
In August, Nick Denton's sports site, Deadspin, announced its latest "athlete dong" scoop, news that Brett Favre had allegedly sent photos of his penis to Jenn Sterger. But at that point, photos of his member hadn't yet showed up online.
That changed in October, but just before the photos showed up, former Denton employee Foster Kamer used our Runnin' Scared blog to announce their imminent appearance. Apparently, just mentioning "Brett Favre's Penis" is enough to flood the Internets with readers.
After the photos did appear, Kamer then made a call for a Photoshopped version of Brett handling his member. Our favorite was "RandyMossDong" (above), submitted by Cassandra T. Seale (@cassandrats). Touchdown!
In our most popular Queer Issue in years, the Jersey Shore boys stripped down for a cover that became a story in itself. Seems we didn't tell Ronnie Magro, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, and Vinny Guadagnino that we were going to celebrate them as gay icons when we took their pictures. Slipped our minds, somehow.
Inside the issue, Tony Phillips described the down-low Guido scene on the shore, highlighted by an 18-man hot tub its owner calls "a big bowl of cute boy soup."
We'd heard time and again that the FDNY's miserable minority record was being caused by "racist" entrance exams -- the federal court has said as much many times. But how, we wondered, do you actually make a firefighter test racist? Staff writer Steven Thrasher obtained copies of the exams and found, to our surprise, that there was nothing discriminatory at all about the questions we found there. (In fact, some are so obvious, Thrasher subsequently put together a follow-up, "The 10 Most Idiotic Questions from FDNY Entrance Exams.")
Even worse, Thrasher found that a larger number than ever of Black and Latino applicants had aced the most recent exam, but because the courts determined it, too, was racist, these non-white applicants haven't been hired.
#11. Pazz & Jop 2009
2009 was Jay-Z's year, and naming his single "Empire State of Mind" best of our 37th (or 38th?) Pazz & Jop poll really resonated with readers. In albums, Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion took the honors. And now, we're just weeks away from Pazz & Jop 2010! Make sure to check back with us the third week of January.
Plenty has been written about the "Most Hated Band in the World," and sure, it would have been easy for staff writer Camille Dodero to turn in yet another mocking piece about the band's followers, known as "Juggalos," at their annual Illinois summer blowout.
Instead, Dodero's piece electrified fans of good music writing because she took the time to learn about the Juggalos on their own terms. Amid the rampant drug use, ridiculous behavior (using Tila Tequila for target practice, for instance) she found a community of misfits that revel in how much they're reviled by the rest of us.
Another list from Robert Sietsema, this one dared to suggest that among all the crap at fast food outlets, a few truly edible items can be found. Naturally, readers came to praise and bury Sietsema for his choices, which included his #1: baked spuds at Wendy's.
Sure, these photos were leaking out all over the Internet, but when you have captions by Foster Kamer, it's pageview gold!
In practically his first week on the job, Foster Kamer scored a major scoop by leaking Playboy's pictorial of Ashley Dupre, famous hooker to disgraced governor Eliot Spitzer.
We're still not really sure why Foster covered up the naughty bits, however.
If you've been to a big summer music festival, you've noticed them: sellers hawking balloons filled with nitrous oxide, a drug that delivers a quick, cheap high and is derisively called "Hippie Crack." Freelancer John H. Tucker was aware that musicians and many music fans hate the presence of the balloon sellers, but he wanted more than complaints from the detractors of nitrous. What makes his account stand out is the obvious effort he put into infiltrating the "mafia" itself, which turned out to be run by two east coast syndicates.
Four years ago, we first wrote about D. Bruce McMahan, a wealthy hedge fund manager who was sued by his own daughter, Linda Schutt. She claimed that he'd had a years-long sexual relationship with her and even "married" her in Westminster Abbey.
We thought we were done with that story, but recently McMahan has been trying to drag us into court for his legal battle with his fifth wife. Irked by his attempts to depose us, we figured we might remind readers what brought Bruce to our attention in the first place. Addressed as a memo to Bruce himself, the piece got more attention than our original cover story!
We were given an unprecedented opportunity to see the contradictory orders given ordinary policemen as a statistics-obsessed police department tries to increase "activity" -- low-level arrests and stop-and-frisks -- while downgrading actual crimes and intimidating actual victims from pursuing their cases.
That rare opportunity came via the stunning recordings of Adrian Schoolcraft, who secretly taped his colleagues for nearly two years, capturing hundreds of roll-calls and conversations by his superiors and fellow street cops. Other parts in the series and many online followups included shocking allegations that incidents of felony rape are being downgraded to misdemeanors by the department.
For blowing the whistle on the NYPD, Schoolcraft was hauled off to the mental ward of a hospital. He managed to catch that on tape, too.
It was the day after the election. Runnin' Scared's Jen Doll was feeling like a lot of other New Yorkers, a little stunned by the Tea Party wavelet that that washed over the middle of the country. Here in the Empire State, however, results bucked that trend, and Jen thought it was worth celebrating.
She found inspiration in something author R.L. Stine tweeted after election results were in, "I'm so glad I live in New York City and not in the United States."
Sometimes life seems hard here -- the crowds, the expense, the 24-hour-living-and-working lifestyle...But then there are days, like yesterday, when we're ever so glad we live in New York City.
She then proceeded to list, with help from interns Myles Tanzer and Averie Timm, 50 reasons to love this city, including gems like this:
24. When you fly back into the city after a vacation or business trip, no matter how long you've lived here, you get that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling.
The list blew up on Facebook as readers proclaimed their own love for the city (and others proclaimed their hate, prompting a followup by Jen), and was followed by various imitations and parodies.
From its opening lines, Steven Thrasher's pre-election essay grabbed hold of America's frontal lobes and wouldn't let go:
About 12:01 on the afternoon of January 20, 2009, the white American mind began to unravel.
It had been a pretty good run up to that point. The brains of white folks had been humming along cogently for near on 400 years on this continent, with little sign that any serious trouble was brewing. White people, after all, had managed to invent a spiffy new form of self-government so that all white men (and, eventually, women) could have a say in how white people were taxed and governed. White minds had also nearly universally occupied just about every branch of that government and, for more than two centuries, had kept sole possession of the leadership of its executive branch (whose parsonage, after all, is called the White House).
But when that streak was broken--and, for the first time, a non-white president accepted the oath of office--white America rapidly began to lose its grip.
A country fed up with Tea Party silliness and Fox News wankery came gratefully to Thrasher's thesis, that electing a black president had simply sent much of white America over the edge.
But even more people showed up to read our number story of the year, which, combined with its photos, dwarfed everything else...
Well, there was no question, was there? Readers across America heard about this one, that a woman named Debrahlee Lorenzana had filed a lawsuit claiming that she was fired from a job at Citibank because her bosses found her distractingly good looking.
Staff writer Elizabeth Dwoskin not only convinced Lorenzana to tell her story to the Voice, art director John Dixon also had Lorenzana photographed in revealing outfits and suggestive poses. The resulting slideshow nearly melted our servers, with about 13 million pageviews in a single week, half again as much as we get in a typical month.
And for that, we thank you, readers of The Village Voice. Now, brace yourself for 2011.
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