Newsmakers ’09: Winners

The year’s winners

Usain Bolt
From afar, the six-foot-five sprinter towers above his rivals as though his real trick is to cheat perspective—he looms larger because he’s already closer to the finish. At 23 he has won 25 consecutive races in two years. In August at the Berlin world championships he broke his own records in the 100- and 200-m races, a repeat of his dual golds at the Beijing Games; his part in winning a third for Jamaica in the 4 x 100-m sprint relay made it a hat trick.

Susan Boyle
Surely, when Stephen Harper crooned a little Ringo this fall, he was channelling the spirit of a frumpy Scottish lady—too old and too unkissed to be called a lass—whose appearance on Britain’s Got Talent cast us all in the role of hidden understudy or unpolished diva, capable of reducing a mob to tears. Boyle’s careening rise, with its uncertain makeovers and tantrums, has yet to eclipse that first magic shock.

Sidney Crosby
Partway through the second period of game seven, Crosby finds himself crumpled against the boards after a hit from Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen. In pain, he hobbles into the Pittsburgh Penguins’ dressing room, but is back before the night’s done to lift the Stanley Cup above his head—at 21 the youngest NHL captain ever to do so, and just four years after arriving as the No. 1 selection in the draft. Nuff said.

Senior citizens
Despite its oddly adult opening sequence—which follows Carl and Ellie Fredricksen from kiddie courtship to dotage and on to death—the animated film Up did gangbusters at the box office, making it Pixar’s 10th consecutive film to break US$100 million. Off-screen, too, it was good to be a geezer. The over-60 set learned it needn’t worry about H1N1 due to a youthful exposure to something similar. Paul Anka awoke at 68 to hear This is It, a tune he’d written with Michael Jackson years ago, on the radio, and earned a mint for his troubles. Willard Boyle of Halifax won a Nobel for physics at 85, for work put to bed 40 years ago, and McGill neuroscientist Brenda Milner a $1-million prize for her work on memory—at 91. Dame Vera Lynn, whose WWII anthem We’ll Meet Again we know from Dr. Strangelove, hit No. 1 in the U.K. with a greatest hits CD.

Michael Bublé
It wasn’t just that his new CD, Crazy Love, shot to No. 1 within days of its release; at 34, Bublé suddenly seemed comfortable being Bublé. The crooner had tired of being the big-band throwback mums and daughters love: the squeaky-clean routine didn’t fit with a lady-killer who likes a drink and may well Bublé your joint (to coin a phrase). He admits to the illicit fun-making now, and fans seem to love him no less.

Japan’s Democratic party
After nearly 54 years of rule by the Liberal Democratic Party, the notoriously cautious Japanese voter decided in August to try something different and cast a ballot for the Democratic party. The landslide made Yukio Hatoyama PM, a moment Barack Obama recently called a “political earthquake,” even if it did little to fix a Japanese economy still burdened by a recession that took hold in the 1990s.

Lady Gaga
In the early 1970s, Bette Midler emerged from the bathhouses of New York with a stage show in which the outrageous costumes and setpieces were as important as the music. Strip away Midler’s irony and sense of fun and you get Gaga, a 23-year-old Yonkers gal who’s sold over four million copies of her debut, The Fame, and 20 million digital singles. If she wears bits of fly screen on her fingernails, she still sounds refreshingly expert singing solo from behind a piano.

Anthony Calvillo
At 37, he’s a little longue dans le dent to be up for his second straight MVP nod. Quarterback Calvillo, a 14-year CFL vet, was also among nine Montreal Alouettes named to the league’s all-star squad, and his 26 touchdown passes were tops. In July he let fly the 335th scoring pass of his career, shifting him into second. He came in third in passing and only tossed out six interceptions in 550 attempts.

Jerry Mitchell
Even as cost-cutting continues to gut investigative journalism, Jerry Mitchell, a reporter with the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., is a wonderful anomaly. Over 20 years, his work to probe civil-rights era killings has put four Klansmen in prison, including Byron De La Beckwith, convicted in the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers. This fall he won a US$500,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”; he plans to continue his reporting.

Jon Hamm
In a series of Vanity Fair photographs featuring Hamm with his so-beautiful-it-hurts Mad Men co-star January Jones, Annie Leibovitz presented a fairy-tale creature whose veins run with ink from the Harlequin presses. But it was his turn on 30 Rock as Tina Fey’s fling, Dr. Drew Baird, that convinced the hitherto unimpressed. That self-deprecating take on a man so handsome he’s oblivious to his shortcomings led to one of two Emmy nominations—the other was for Mad Men.

Privacy commissioner
The social networking site Facebook changed the way it handles personal data provided by users all over the world, in part due to a report issued by federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart blasting Facebook for violating Canadian privacy law. Among other things, it will make it clearer how to delete accounts and to choose what personal info is sent to third parties.

Though released late last year, Beyoncé’s video for Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), settled into being the secret heart of 2009. It was the one Kanye West felt should have won over Taylor Swift’s You Belong to Me. It became the subject of countless YouTube homages, creating the first dance craze of the 21st century. Greeting Beyoncé in January, Barack Obama flapped his hand in glorious Ring on It mimicry. With the grace of a balletic giraffe, Beyoncé demonstrated her infinite self-possession.

Moammar Gadhafi
In flowing golden robes and trademark sunglasses, flanked by seven “traditional kings of Africa,” Gadhafi arrived in Addis Ababa in February to assume the leadership of the African Union. His ascendency was not without controversy. Gadhafi waited until 2003 to renounce terrorism and appeared to want the leadership merely to help propel Libya from the shadows of international isolation. Next stop . . . Mugabe?

Alec Baldwin
Who said there are no second acts in American lives? F. Scott, meet Alec Baldwin, the leading man-turned-celebrity-divorcé-turned-awful-voice-mail-dad, whose role on 30 Rock spawned a comeback. This year he’s earned an Emmy, starred alongside Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated as a man cheating on a trophy wife with his aging ex, and was named co-host (with Steve Martin) of the 2010 Oscars. Alec, grab that winning streak and start marketing Schweddy Balls—now.