New highs (the Harry Potter frenzy), new lows (butterfly ballots) and all that's in between as 2000 nears its end.
As 2000 leaks away and we all dig out from under a sea of chad, it might seem as though the presidential election was the only thing that happened this year. Not so. Have you forgotten The Dress?
Here, in no particular order, are our picks for top 10 people and happenings of 2000.
Thanks, Budweiser, for this classic addition to the American lexicon. A tribute to male bonding, Whassup?! was first heard in a beer commercial featuring four guys engaged in that most manly of activities: "watchin' the game, drinkin' a Bud." Before you could say "mass media," everybody was Whassup?!ing each other _ radio deejays, sportscasters, TV characters and 9.9 out of 10 American males.
Cell phone resentment
Remember when cellular phones were the newest thing? Remember when we all started to hate them? 2000 will go down as the year cell phone users became pariahs, displacing smokers from the national hit list. They drive slowly in the left lane, phones clamped to their ears. They babble loudly in the grocery line. They take inane calls during the sixth-grade choral concert. It's annoying and we want it stopped. In fact, we propose that the world be divided into two sections: PHONE and NO PHONE.
At the Grammy Awards in February, Jennifer Lopez wore a $15,000 tropical-print handkerchief, er, dress that titillated a TV audience of millions. Tastefully accessorized by a belly button brooch and double-sided tape, the down-to-there Versace design was a triumph in the art of non-illusion. Similar versions were worn _ fetchingly, we might add _ by Today host Matt Lauer, on Halloween, and one of the South Park creators, at the Oscars. People magazine named it the Dress of the Year in its Dec. 18 issue.
The bottled water shortage
This year seemed especially tiring to the many celebrities who were admitted to hospitals worn out, troubled and very thirsty. Among those treated and released were: Matthew Perry (stomach ailment); Anne Heche (shaken and confused); hip hop singer Usher (exhaustion and dehydration); Ally McBeal's Lisa Nicole Carson (exhaustion) and Calista Flockhart (exhaustion and dehydration); Winona Ryder (exhaustion and anxiety attacks). Imagine how sick they'd be if they drank or used drugs.
Reforming the body
Studies show that six out of 10 Americans are overweight, more than ever before. Maybe that's why so many of us spent 2000 pigging-out on proteins, in slavish devotion to an Atkins knock-off diet that declared carbos toxic. When we weren't "dieting" on steaks, we were drinking the spicy milk tea called chai, a blessed relief from the green tea craze. This year's chi-chi exercise program was Pilates, in which you work out on machines resembling medieval torture instruments _ one of them called The Reformer.
If you got Christmas cards from friends in other states who wrote Florida jokes below the greeting, you know what we're whining about. Ever since Election Day, Florida has been the national punching bag. E-mail chain jokes and late-night comics ridiculed our butterfly ballots, our dimpled chad, our heavily rouged secretary of state. Hey, we did our patriotic duty; we got off our beach chairs and voted on Nov. 7. Now go back to shoveling snow and leave us alone.
Scoot, scoot . . . crunch
To kids, scooters are a hybrid skateboard/bike _ a blast from the past updated for 2000. To Razor, and all the copycat companies that followed, the skinny piece of metal on wheels is a big, fat dollar sign. As so often happens, though, cheap knock-offs ruined some of the fun by causing injuries. Even though the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled some scooters, interest in this shiny mode of transportation shows no signs of reaching a red light any time soon.
The year of Reege
He titled his 1996 autobiography I'm Only One Man, but in 2000 he did the work of 10. Ratings for his morning talk show, Live with Regis, went up 19 percent after co-host Kathie Lee Gifford left in July. Menswear maker Van Heusen knighted him with the Regis Collection, featuring suits inspired by his wardrobe on his nighttime gig Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. He also coined a phrase that now rings from shore to shore, like a national anthem: "Is that your final answer?" In September, Philbin penned Who Wants to Be Me? and later battled rumors of infidelity.
Potter for president
If the name Harry Potter had been on the ballot in November, he would have won by a landslide. The release of the fourth book in J.K. Rowling's series, the 734-page Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, created the literary buzz of the year. Sleepy parents drove their children to bookstores at midnight to snatch a copy as soon it went on sale in early July. Then came the inevitable marketing blizzard: Harry Potter board games, puzzles, T-shirts, candy, you name it. On Halloween, thousands of little bespectacled wizards rang door bells all across the country.
You can't spell enemies without Eminem
We all learned what a bad boy Eminem was this year when he dished out The Marshall Mathers LP, full of vitriol for everybody including his mom, his wife, Kim, Christina Aguilera, gays, lesbians _ basically anyone with a pulse. Then Em got himself arrested for a scuffle in a Michigan parking lot, after he pulled a gun on some dude who tried to smooch Kim. The couple split up, dissed each other in the papers and she tried to kill herself. Now they're back together, swooning in that peculiar brand of hip hop mad love. With his awesome lyrical flow, grisly tales worthy of Edgar Allen Poe, and bad behavior, Eminem proved that white guys, too, can rap it up.