Let us all pause to reflect upon the people in the news during 2003. My reflections may differ from yours. If you want to do your own list, get your own column. We'll be working our way up from No. 10 to the Person of the Year, Numero Uno, the Big Enchilada in the News.
10. MICHAEL JACKSON. I'm a mother and grandmother, and Michael Jackson is my worst nightmare. This surgically altered baby dangler continues to have supporters, continues to have "sleepovers" for kids. In my opinion, this guy is a freak. He is promoting the most bizarre image since Tiny Tim. I have no problem with a little cosmetic surgery, but this guy's over the top. Maybe he wears that mask to keep his plastic nose on when the wind blows.
9. DAVID LETTERMAN. He's a dad! Is he going to learn how to change diapers? Will he marry Harry's mum? Will he morph into Kathie Lee Gifford? (Thank God they didn't name their baby Cassidy! Sundance, however, might have been nice.) Hey! It's my list. I can put in whomever I want.
8. TRENT LOTT. While making congenial jokes at the 100th birthday party of a political dinosaur, he foolishly alluded to an alternate universe, one in which Strom Thurmond held news conferences in the Oval Office. Oops. There goes the old leadership role.
7. THE BELTWAY SNIPERS, LEE BOYD MALVO AND JOHN ALLEN MUHAMMAD. They were able to strike terror into the hearts of everyone on the whole Eastern Seaboard. That's the nature of terrorism. The perpetrators don't have to be foreigners. Remember Timothy McVeigh?
6. JESSICA LYNCH. This soldier was extremely brave. She told the world that she wasn't a hero, didn't fire her gun. She helped us understand the difference between propaganda and reality.
5. DICK CHENEY. The stealth vice president. He gets my award as "Stonewaller of the Year." We still don't know how much influence Kenneth Lay, of Enron fame, had on this administration's energy policy. We never will. Cheney's got this "undisclosed" thing down pat.
4. OSAMA BIN LADEN.The most wanted man on the planet. Even from his really good hiding place, he still manages to get media coverage (except the recent capture of Saddam Hussein has upstaged him a bit). Still, it's scary. I would much prefer to play "Where's Waldo?" As far as I know, good old Waldo doesn't even carry explosives in his shoes.
3. JAYSON BLAIR. This guy scammed the New York Times for a long time. He sent in riveting stories he knew nothing about, but he was very creative. Not many folks get to write fiction for the NYT. Apparently he writes well. He's writing a book about how he lied and got away with it. I think there's a career for him in politics.
2. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER. The Governator. Can a young man from the Tyrolean Alps find happiness as the husband of a Kennedy and the Republican governor of a U.S. state larger than his homeland? You bet! Another actor/governor from the same state famously said, "Go ahead, make my day." He borrowed the Dirty Harry line from Clint Eastwood. (There wasn't much quotable from Bedtime for Bonzo.) The Governator can quote himself. He's got the fundamentals down for a great political career. The news release about his inauguration included a product endorsement. (We were privileged to know that he wore a Prada suit.) Isn't that worth a campaign contribution?
1. TA DA! GEORGE WALKER BUSH. Our Esteemed President, Our Esteemed Commander in Chief, Our Esteemed Flight Suit Wearer, Our Esteemed Stealth Turkey Server, Our Esteemed Fundraiser General is clearly the Person of the Year.
Certainly he has garnered more ink, more column inches than anyone else on the planet this year. (So I have to add to that statistic, right?)
Those who love him do so fiercely. (I am not among them.) Those who don't love him really, really don't.
He seems to be a nice guy, if you're into hand puppets. There always seems to be a puppeteer near him. (Why else did Condoleezza Rice have to go to Iraq with him? To help carve turkeys?) Cheney probably was in an undisclosed location - just in case.
I'm sure many of you will feel that I've shortchanged somebody who wasn't included. Tough! After all, next year will provide a whole new crop of newsworthy people. Meanwhile, happy new year!
-- Write to Sheila Stoll c/o Seniority, the St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.