We’ve made our list and checked it twice, and now it’s time to remember who’s been naughty and nice in 2008. Santa’s helper is Allanah Starr (pictured here and featured on the cover), the perfect emblem to sum up this year’s crazy brew of excitement and vice—since she’s often caught in between things. The adult film star (she won AVN Award for Transsexual Performer of the Year in Jan. 2008) makes her living being naughty but is super nice, handwriting thank-you cards whenever we feature her in Bash Compactor. Everyone on our list—from the bad man who swindled billions to the new celesbian who wants to be a Jew—could learn a thing (or two) from her.
Bernard Madoff (The Worst Jew)
So many people lost money this year—savings, investments, salaries, bonuses—that it seemed almost impossible to point to one culprit or scapegoat for the mess. And then this dude came along, allegedly swindling rich folks out of over $50 billion in a good ol’ Ponzi scheme.
How 20th century of him! While it would be easy to write it off as the predicament of a rich cabal of fat cats, more information has come to light that shows that charities, nonprofits and philanthropic foundations have also been hit hard. While we’re not crying over DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg’s lost millions, it’s a shame that the JEHT Foundation and The Rockit Fund, two Manhattan-based civil-liberties organizations have said they will close up shop in January, and others are teetering on the bring of collapse. People are calling for Madoff’s head. And no one’s likely to stop them.
Richard Fuld (The Lehman Bros. Dick)
He may have just been up to business as usual—juggling dubious ventures in a lucrative market to get ahead like every other investment firm—but as the symbol of a corrupt system and the guy in charge when the shit hit the fan, the Lehman Brothers CEO has become an easy scapegoat. After the collapse—which sent reverberations around the world—Fuld remains.
Eliot Spitzer (Wandering Schlong)
Oh, our white knight was tarnished so quickly. What to say about stupid payments for stupid, unprotected sex with a stupid prostitute? Men are so easily swayed by their penises, it doesn’t even merit much discourse. But really, we aren’t mad at you, Eliot. Just disappointed in all the lost potential.
Speaker Christine Quinn (Good Girl Gone Bad)
She used to be something of a golden child. She was honest, motivated, ambitious and a likable lesbian. Christine Quinn was going places. She was doing things. But that all changed this year. First was the career-damaging news that the Council Speaker had allowed millions to be allocated to phantom organizations. Then she seemed to be in Bloomberg’s pocket when he sought to overturn the city’s two-term limit. And now, the lady who seemed to be headed to become the city’s first female mayor is no longer so likeable.
Gerard Mortier (The Opera Diva)
Who can’t put on a few operas for $36 million? Gerard Mortier figured he couldn’t, ditching his coveted role as GM and artistic director of the New York City Opera this November because they didn’t cough up $60 mil. How do you say “recession” in Flemish, Gerard? Now Philip Glass’ Walt Disney opera might never see the light of day and neither will that Brokeback Mountain adaptation. That’s a lot of broken hearts pal; casting wouldn’t have cost you a dime…
Madonna Constantine (Hanged to Dry)
We were on her side at first. After all, the lady found a noose on her Teachers College office door. It seemed like old-fashioned racism and the Columbia University community and the rest of the city rallied to her defense. But the ostensible victim here turned out to be a victimizer once it was revealed that Constantine (who has one of the best names we’ve come across in some time) had plagiarized from her own students. Now we know those academics steal from one another all the time, but to go from object of pity to pitiful plagiarist just doesn’t sit right with us.
Apollo Braun (The Village Idiot)
Orchard Street fashion designer Doron Braunshtein (aka Apollo Braun) ruffles feathers for a living, but his “Who Killed Obama?” Tshirt range this year squeezed more than a few titties. The follow-up “Jews Against Obama” and “Obama Is My Slave” Tshirts only added fuel to the fire: death threats, assaults and a lawsuit. He’s yet to realize that his “Apollo Braun Is A Cockdrip” range would be the real goldmine.
Olafur Eliasson (Mr. Arty Pants)
Danish artist Olafur Eliasson makes invisible houses, five-dimensional pavilions, inverted shadow towers and, oh, waterfalls that kill trees. Sure, the $15 million art installation brought in some tourism revenue, but the Brooklyn Bridge waterfall started making trees in the nearby River Café’s garden go brown. Despite crazy amounts of study to make sure that fish wouldn’t be harmed and East River ecosystems would be left untouched (really?), a Parks Department spokesman said the trees were “clearly showing signs of stress.” Mama Nature’s already in pain, Olafur— you gotta play nice!
Alex Rodriguez (Madonna’s Bitch)
If adultery alone put us on the naughty list, I would bet that the vast majority of New Yorkers would end up with a heaping pile of coal. But come on, you can´t cheat on your wife while she’s practically giving labor to your second child. And with Madonna? As if Santa and US Weekly wouldn’t catch you for that one.
Plaxico Burress (Giants’ Moron)
The guy literally shot himself. In the foot (or thigh). Oh, and he decided to carry a weapon to a Manhattan club. So now he’s out for four games, which sucks for the Giants. And he’s out on his 200K paychecks per game—which sucks for him. Apparently, having a Super Bowl ring doesn’t require having a functional brain.
Simon Hammerstein (The Sleaze Box)
The grandson of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II always wanted to be naughty. He wanted his downtown nightclub The Box to be more cabaret than anything and managed to attract the glitterati with louche and lurid acts. We have no problem with that. In fact, we celebrate his efforts (although we can’t afford most of what goes on in the dinky space). But then came the complaints that he was sexually harassing and mistreating the entertainers. The cocksure producer/director seemed less wicked co-conspirator and more lascivious lout.
Annie Leibovitz (Shuttered Bug)
The photographer has been famous for a long time. In the beginning it was for striking photos of celebrities (from John Lennon and Yoko Ono to Bette Midler), but somewhere along the way she became the lesbience grise of celebrity photographers and started phoning it in for Vanity Fair and other glossies that pretend her photographs have real meaning (and don’t forget that Miley Cyrus imbroglio). This year the grinchy, straw-haired shutter bug and former Susan Sontag ladyfriend was slapped with almost $1 million in lawsuits claiming she defaulted on payments for everything from stylists to equipment rental, proving that while Leibovitz might think that basking in her glory is payment enough for those around her, the folks who actually make it possible for her to press a button (at the rumored fee of $2 million per year) aren’t so sure.
David Mamet (Played Out)
This year, that fucker David Mamet has given us Haley Joel Osment cringing his way through the Mamet-disowned, quickly euthanized revival of American Buffalo, in addition to the 85-minute revival of Speed-the-Plow that costs from $50 to $100 and gave star Jeremy Piven the chance to bore interviewers with how the stage is his first love before he suddenly quit the show and claimed the sushi defense. Thanks, Mamet! Too bad the behind-the-scenes Sturm und Drang was more interesting than either revival.
Penny Chung (The Tree Killer)
Eagle Restaurant Equipment owner Penny Chung was fined over $2,800 for arborcide (“tree killing,” you cretins) after slaying a defenseless tree by pouring toxic cleaning chemicals on it. The Japanese Pagoda sapling outside of her business was the site of a previous tree killing in 1998—trees will probably feel weird hanging out there for quite a while. Chung, whose sidewalk has received over 76 violations over the last eight years for “noxious liquids” and other mishaps, claims nobody poured anything, anywhere. Seventy-six violations? Nice try, Penny!
Mayor Michael Bloomberg (The Dictator)
The man who would be king was thwarted from becoming president, so Mayor Mike used his power and cashed in some favors to overturn the city’s term-limits legislation so he could run for mayor again. Seems like he’s been pretty naughty this year, but he’s also been supporting a bevy of nonprofits through his anonymous giving and has a convincing story about being the best capitalist to get us out of this financial mess. But benevolent dictators have a tricky way of turning on their vassals when they least expect it, so we hope he continues to be a nice guy in 2009.
Senator Hillary Clinton (Good Bitch)
She went from being the first serious female presidential candidate in our country’s history to a position in her competitor’s cabinet without a sign of ruffled feathers. Plus, she’s already publicly dealt with marital problems and weathers the media thrashings for any minor misstep with grace. That must make Hillary the nicest bitch we know.
Janette Sadik-Khan (Pedi Perfect)
We never imagined anyone would actually figure out a way to put cars in their place and allow pedestrians (and cyclists) to own the city’s streets. Sadik-Khan, the commissioner of transportation, not only managed this feat, she did it by transforming New York’s iconic Broadway so that now you can sit in the middle of the road just steps from the Flatiron building. The new bike lanes in Chelsea, the motor-free areas of the Meatpacking, it’s a strange new beginning for a city where most of us use our feet to get around. Who knew bureaucrats could be so nice?
Wanda Sykes (Centered Celesbian)
We’ve always liked Wanda Sykes. She’s mean to everyone in a way we wish we could get away with. And she’s insanely funny. This year, however, Wanda makes our list for coming out as a lesbian during a gay marriage rally in Nevada and continuing to go about business as usual. Unlike certain other famous lesbians who seem worried that coming out would ruin their lucrative careers as plus-sized makeup models, Sykes told the world about her business and didn’t let it turn into a circus. Also, extra points for subjecting herself to the inevitable Wanda Dykes jokes for the rest of time.
TLC Commissioner Matthew Daus (Card Shark)
Admit it: You love paying for taxi rides with your credit card. And we thank this guy for making it happen despite all the opposition.
Ivanka Trump (The Best New Jew)
Wealth and beauty usually make you an immediate target, but Ivanka Trump gets in our good books this year for her devotion to herbeloved—by converting to Judaism! Engaged to Jewish businessman Jared Kushner, Ivanka won’t be a shiksa much longer either, recently starting the conversion process at an Upper East Side synagogue. Aww, she’s just a sukkah for love…
Leona Helmsley (Dead Bitch)
Billionaire bitch and octogenarian hotel magnate Leona Helmsley (aka the “Queen of Mean” and for uttering “only the little people pay taxes,”) made our “Nice” list this year by doing the kindest thing she possibly could: dying.
David Byrne (The Dude)
He likes to help other emerging musicians. He never stopped being an artist, even when he could have rested on his musical legacy. He actually cares about the city he lives in (and designed some nifty bike racks for it) and gave us one of the coolest gifts this year: a building that sings!
M.I.A. & Amy Poehler (Knocked Up)
Pregnant ladies are terrifying. Not only do they have little people growing inside of them, but they’re full of anger from strangers rubbing their bellies and having to wear maternity garb. It’s amazing then that this year both Saturday Night Live alum Poehler and Bed-Stuy-based singer M.I.A. have pulled off being knocked up with gusto and panache. When M.I.A. took the stage at a party on the Brooklyn waterfront earlier this year, her belly was ginormous, but she still owned the stage and made everyone else look like a pussy for not being up the stick. Likewise Poehler, who gave birth in October, was funnier than ever on her last season of SNL, and she made us wonder why that lady we gave our seat to on the F train couldn’t crack a smile, let alone make a few jokes.
Lindsay Lohan (The Converted)
Practically everything LiLo does is naughty by nature, but over the course of a year she hasn’t flashed her puss or crashed too many cars. Instead she’s made strong appeals to two of the toughest crowds we can think of: lesbians and Jews. To the delight of young dykes everywhere, Lindsay seems to love being with her girlfriend DJ Samantha Ronson. She then appealed to the Chosen People by looking into converting to Ronson’s religion: Reform Jewish rabbis have officially supported same-sex marriage since 1997.
Tim Geithner (A Treasure)
For his industrious work thus far with the Wall Street bailout, Geithner deserves a line on the nice list. But since we’ve yet to see how these decisions will play out in the long run, he won’t be getting his actual gift until the Dow goes back up 14,000 points.
Jhumpha Lahiri (Evil Genius)
Do you remember the girl in school who looked pretty but shy and seemed really smart? It was like you were each other’s missing half. Then when you went up to talk to her she shot you down before you could stammer out half a sentence. That’s Jhumpa Lahiri. The brilliant writer, whose Unaccustomed Earth was one of the best books of the year, is especially hesitant to talk to the press but has also given us the stink eye for smiling at her across a party. The first lady of letters in Fort Greene, Lahiri makes the list because we really can’t think of anyone who pulls off smart and evil so well—and because we’ve run out of other ways to get her attention.
Stew & Heidi Rodewald (Strange Company)
We can’t think of nicer, more genuine people to get a chance to share their artistry with the world. Although we wish thousands more could have had a chance to enjoy Passing Strange on Broadway, it’s probably best it didn’t win that Tony for Best Musical: They would have had to suffer the slings and arrows of fortune longer. Plus, the musical collaborators did it all after ending their romantic relationship without any nasty gossip being spread. Now Stew and Heidi are free to work on the next big project. And we can’t wait.
Mohamed Khalil (Fit as a Fiddle)
Newark cabdriver, Mohammed Khalil was introduced to the world in May, after returning a $4 million Stradivarius violin left in his cab by Grammy-nominated classical violinist Philippe Quint. Khalil received a City of Newark Medallion, its highest honor; but better yet, Quint thanked Khalil (and 50 of his fellow cabdrivers) with a complimentary concert.
Hettie Jones (The Tenant)
For two years, the poet (and former wife of Amiri Baraka) had to live with constant drilling, hammering and moving cranes that surrounded her house on 27 Cooper Square, where she has lived since 1962. But she remembered Claude Brown stopping by and hearing the sound of Archie Shepp’s sax waft through her window, so she and her neighbor Katy Abel stayed put. While the developers probably don’t agree that she’s been nice, her determination to stay showed how New Yorkers can positively affect their neighborhood as it gentrifies. Now, a solitary row house hangs on—or, rather, it’s been consumed by—that soaring airplane hangar known as Cooper Square Hotel, which, post-crash, already looks like a vestige of a bygone era.
Contributors: Joseph Alexiou, Matt Harvey, Stephanie Lee, Jerry Portwood, Adam Rathe, Andy Seccombe