Stars will be stars

A statistical slice-and-dice of the celeb stories that had us talking: The marriages, divorces, babies, drug arrests and bathroom brawls -- from Britney to Mel and beyond.


Scott Lamb
December 29, 2006 7:00PM (UTC)

If you can cast your mind back to the early days of 2006, back to those slightly more innocent first few weeks of the year when James Frey was still considered more memoirist than novelist and Mel Gibson's anti-Semitism was a presumption, not a documented fact, you might remember a time when the orbital paths of the celebrity world seemed eerily close to the more mundane, humble revolutions of the average person. At long last, Paris Hilton's star seemed to be on the wane, Britney Spears was settling into an apparently happy and uneventful domestic rut with Kevin Federline, and Lindsay Lohan was finally fessing up to some of her food issues. Even Angelina Jolie seemed content with having a baby the old-fashioned way, announcing to the world she'd actually made one with Brad Pitt. The stars were getting downright average, or so it briefly seemed.

But it wasn't long before events -- just around the start of February, with the announcement of the Heather Locklear/Richie Sambora split, the unearthing of Paris Hilton's personal diaries and Britney Spears' visit from the Department of Children and Family Services for driving with her baby on her lap -- served to remind us all that there's a massive difference between the everyday world, full of house chores and grocery shopping, and the universe inhabited by the souls whose names populate the gossip pages.

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From that point on, 2006 was basically a yearlong reminder that, despite what Us Weekly wants you to believe, stars are not just like us -- for instance, we don't bounce our cellphones off the heads of our hired help, or go on racist tirades during our arrests or stand-up acts, or fly our 150 closest celebrity buddies to 15th century Italian castles to attend our Giorgio Armani-tailored weddings.

Lest there be any doubt on that point, researchers at University of Southern California released a widely cited report in September -- billed as "the first systematic, empirical scholarly study of celebrity personality" -- that reached the not-exactly-stunning conclusion that celebrities are, indeed, more narcissistic than you or I. Using something called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, they subjected more than 200 anonymous celebrities to diagnostic analysis and then compared their findings with those of similar studies performed with both MBA students and, you know, normal folk. Surprise -- the celebrities had "statistically significantly higher narcissism scores" than everyone else. (Also worth noting: Reality TV personalities scored the highest overall, beating actors, musicians and comedians in the competition for the title of world's most self-centered demographic.)

While the study's results may not have been exactly groundbreaking, you did have to admire the authors' bracing attempt to treat celebrity life with scientific rigor. In the gossip netherworld of slippery innuendo and hard-to-confirm assertions -- is there a clear hierarchy between a source and a source close to the couple? -- it's nice to occasionally have a hard nugget of fact to hang one's hat on. And so in sifting through this year's gossip trailings, the Fix has decided to imitate the researchers' approach, at least in spirit, and attempt to use the inflexible laws of math and science to help illuminate what were really this year's biggest stories, trends, themes, memes and moments -- and, we hope, make clear other ways in which celebrities are special. Using the most technologically advanced tools available, including Google, Nexis and Microsoft Word's word-count feature, we've analyzed the year that was -- using the Fix as a primary source text but linking far and wide -- to give you a handy, at-a-glance index to what happened in gossip in 2006.

It's not always pretty, and while some of what we found was predictable -- Britney Spears was the most-mentioned celebrity -- other facts may surprise you. (Drug addict/Kate Moss boy toy Pete Doherty, a personal favorite in the D-list pantheon for somehow being less stable than the old Courtney Love, got more mentions in the Fix this year than did Jennifer Aniston.) We also have a survey of the year's marriages, divorces (it will probably not come as a huge surprise that the latter far outnumbers the former) and babies, a rundown of the year's biggest fights, and all the numbers that made 2006 such a very special year in gossip.

Frequency-analysis index

To start off, we went back through every issue of the Fix as a kind of litmus test for celebrity appearances in the news -- looking at how many times any one person came up over the course of the year. When Britney Spears announced in May that she had another baby on the way, we knew it was going to be a Spears-heavy year, and indeed the pop starlet matriarch appeared the most often in these pages over the past 12 months, with 82 appearances in the Fix, for a total of 6,280 words, or about 30 double-spaced pages. By contrast, Mel Gibson, despite a high-profile arrest/racist outburst and a box-office-topping film, garnered a scant 27 mentions, for 2,865 words, which makes for only about 14 double-spaced pages. Other big names this year:

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Tom Cruise: 80

Paris Hilton: 76

Lindsay Lohan: 60

Madonna: 58

Angelina Jolie: 56

Brad Pitt: 54

Katie Holmes: 54

Kevin Federline: 45

Pete Doherty: 33

Jennifer Aniston: 30

Nicole Kidman: 29

Tale of the tape

Every year has its gossip fights -- the skirmishes between Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton have gone on unabated all year, despite reports that they're now actually friends -- but 2006 saw more than its fair share of fistfights, an oddly large number of which seemed to take place in bathrooms.

Axl Rose vs. Tommy Hilfiger:
The Scene: Rosario Dawson's birthday party at the Plumm, a Chelsea nightspot, May 18
The Fighters: Axl Rose, Guns N' Roses frontman; Tommy Hilfiger, red, white and blue fashion designer
The Beef: Rose said, "I moved his girlfriend's drink so it wouldn't spill," and Hilfiger started smacking him, telling him to put the drink back. Things escalated, and Hilfiger punched Rose in the face before security dragged him away.
The Winner: Axl, for keeping his cool. "Axl was a gentleman and had the good sense not to retaliate," said Plumm owner Noel Ashman in a release provided by Rose, "as he would have done some serious damage to Hilfiger." Later the same night, Rose took the Plumm's stage to perform "Crazy," which he dedicated to "my good friend Tommy Hilfiger."

Jeremy Piven vs. Stephen Dorff:
The Scene: New York club Bungalow 8, June 6
The Fighters: "Entourage" actor Jeremy Piven; hunkish actor Stephen Dorff
The Beef: Piven was reportedly waiting in line for the bathroom when Dorff pushed past him. Then followed an exchange that sounded scripted for Piven's HBO show:
Piven: "Yo, what are you doing? You know you don't need to cut the line!"
Dorff: "I can do what I want!"
Piven: "No, you can't!"
Dorff: "Yes, I can!"
Piven: "You're a has-been!"
Dorff: "At least I am a
movie star -- you're only on TV! Cable TV!"
A scuffle ensued, but was quickly broken up by security. Piven used the toilet and left; Dorff reportedly skulked around all night, muttering "I am going to kick Jeremy Piven's ass!"
The Winner: Draw

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Axl Rose vs. security guard:
The Scene: The Berns Hotel, Stockholm, Sweden, June 27
The Fighters: Axl Rose, Guns N' Roses frontman; anonymous hotel security guard
The Beef: Unclear. Swedish tabloids at the time wrote that the guard had attempted to intervene when Rose started arguing with a woman in the hotel lobby. All parties agree on what happened next, though -- the guard tried to get Axl to leave, and Axl attacked, at one point biting the guard's leg.
The Winner: That poor guard

Tommy Lee vs. Josh Duhamel:
The Scene: Los Angeles' Bella nightclub, June 27
The Fighters: Rocker Tommy Lee; "Las Vegas" actor Josh Duhamel
The Beef: Duhamel, in a hurry to go to the loo, was pounding on the men's room door when, according to a spy, someone said, "Stop, Tommy's in there," to which Duhamel responded, "Tommy who? Tommy Lee, who cares?" Lee came out; words were exchanged; Duhamel ended up on the floor (it's not clear if he was pushed or punched). Duhamel fled as soon as he regained his feet, while Lee got the boot from security.
The Winner: Clearly Tommy Lee

Tracey Emin vs. unknown partyer:
The Scene: The lakeside Summer Party in London's Kensington Gardens, July 11
The Fighters: Controversial British artist Tracey Emin; unknown female party guest
The Beef: Emin, apparently drunk, lost her patience waiting for a stall in the bathroom, and lit into the anonymous guest when she finally emerged. We'll let the report from the 3 a.m. Girls describe what Emin did next: "She shouted: 'Why the fuck were you taking so long, you fucking ugly bitch?' Tracey pulled her out of the cubicle and actually ripped some hair out of her head. The woman was begging her to stop but she rammed her head against a wall. She managed to push her away but Tracey grabbed her hair again. Luckily security came in and broke them up."
The Winner: No one

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By the numbers

Percentage points, sales figures, drunken-driving fines: Sure, numbers are fun, but they're even more fun when they're attached to the stars. So let's see what the raw data gives us!

60: Number of brand-new toilet seats Madonna went through on her 2006 "Confessions" tour -- her tour rider stipulated that she be provided a new one at each of her shows.

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$193.7 million: Madonna's gross on the tour, making it the highest-earning tour ever by a female performer.

$16 million to $17 million: Fee that Nicole Kidman can reportedly ask for per film, making her this year's highest-paid female actress.

$50 million: Earnings of Kurt Cobain's estate in 2005, making him the richest dead celebrity in the world.

7:Number of consecutive films grossing more than $100 million in which Tom Hanks has starred, an achievement that earned him a Guinness world record for -- wait for it -- "actor with most consecutive $100 million-grossing movies."
$1,216,595,987: Total gross from those seven movies.

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1: Number of Guinness world records held by Paris Hilton. Her superlative? "Most overrated."

$15,000: Nicole Richie's bail amount for her December DUI.

$15,000: Haley Joel Osment's bail amount following a DUI arrest in July.

$60,000: Snoop Dogg's bail amount on drugs and a firearms charge in November.

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$5,000: Mel Gibson's bail amount after his drunken-driving arrest.

9: The number of times Pete Doherty has been arrested this year.
2: The highest number of times he was arrested in one day.
1: Number of mics he kicked out of a reporter's hand during a melee after one of his sentencing trials.

2: Number of times George Michael was arrested this year on drug charges.
2: Number of times he was found asleep at the wheel of his car.
1: Number of times he was both found asleep at the wheel and arrested for drugs.
58: The approximate age of the "jobless van driver" he was found in the bushes with in a London public park.

4: Minimum number of groupies appearing in the Scott Stapp/Kid Rock sex tape.

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78 days: Period of time midyear that Britney Spears and Kevin Federline went without being photographed together.

81 days: Length Keith Richards had to take off from the Rolling Stones' 2006 world tour after injuring himself in a palm-tree-related fall.

20.8 million: The average number of people watching prime-time network TV during the week of July 4, the lowest-rated week of TV in recorded history.

8 hours, 14 minutes: Average amount of time Americans spent in front of the TV every week during the 2005-06 television season, a new record high.

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120 percent: The return on its investment that Lions Gate Entertainment made on Tyler Perry's two Madea films, making him, by Business Week's estimate, the best investment in Hollywood.

$42 million: How much Universal Studios reportedly paid for the worldwide distribution rights to Sacha Baron Cohen's next movie, to be based on his character Bruno.

5 weeks: How much time passed between Steve Irwin's death by stingray and his 8-year-old daughter Bindi's return to work on a series of animal-focused TV shows.

7 years: Number of years in a row Wesley Snipes allegedly failed to file tax returns -- Snipes has said that he's done nothing wrong and has been made "to be the scapegoat."

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$101,100.51: Amount the two shirts worn by Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis del Mar (Heath Ledger) in "Brokeback Mountain" sold for in an online charity auction.

$220,000: Amount gossip writer Jared Paul Stern allegedly attempted to extort from supermarket magnate Ron Burkle in exchange for favorable coverage in Page Six.

$4 million: Reported amount People paid for the first pictures of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt.

22: Total number of pages devoted by Vanity Fair to the Suri Cruise photo spread.

Coupling index

2006 wasn't a great year for big celebrity weddings. The Cruise-Holmes nuptials, alternately hyped and doubted for months before they arrived, were anticlimactic despite all the pomp surrounding them. Pamela Anderson's multiple weddings to Kid Rock were kind of exciting for a while, but then we knew how it would end -- and we were right. Nicole Kidman's wedding to Keith Urban was a generally happy affair though, tainted only slightly by Urban's heading off to rehab a few months later.

But what the year lacked in veils and vows, it more than made up for in court filings and irreconcilable differences. The year in divorce began with David Hasselhoff splitting with wife Pamela Bach; while it at first looked like the divorce would be amicable, in March, Bach accused Mr. Baywatch of domestic abuse and said she would be seeking sole custody of their two children. In February, Heather Locklear filed for divorce from Richie Sambora, kicking off a wave of broken marriages, most of which, honestly, we didn't care that much about: Matt LeBlanc and his wife, Melissa; Gillian Anderson and Julian Ozanne; Hilary Swank and Chad Lowe; Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson; Christie Brinkley and ratty Peter Cook. Sure, the Paul McCartney/Heather Mills divorce provided some good copy (she was a prostitute? he stabbed her with a wine glass?). But in terms of emotional impact, there were really only three big events. News that Reese Witherspoon had filed for divorce from Ryan Phillippe, while not exactly a shock, made us feel a little sad inside. Britney Spears and Whitney Houston kicking their no-good men to the curb, though? That felt good.

Clip-'n'-save guide to quickie marriages

Couple Date of wedding Date of divorce Time together
Eminem and Kim Mathers (second wedding) January 14 March 2 6 weeks
David Lynch and Mary Sweeney Early May June 12 4 weeks
Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock July 29 November 27 17 weeks

Baby index

Meticulous research shows that the average weight of celebrity babies this year is 7 pounds, 7 ounces. OK, so we made that up. Who cares? Not you, because no one cares how much celebrities' babies weigh! When it comes to the offspring of the famous, there's really only one question: What is she/he called? No real science here; 2006 was a good year for babies, so a list of highlights is in order. To wit, here are the 15 most famous babies of the year:

Moses Martin, son of Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay singer Chris Martin

???, not publicly named adopted daughter of Ewan McGregor and Eve Mavrakis

Suri Cruise, daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes

Grier Hammond Henchy, daughter of Brooke Shields and Chris Henchy

Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, daughter of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

Henry Chance Aronofsky, son of Rachel Weisz and Darren Aronofsky

Makani Ravello Harrelson, third daughter of Woody Harrelson and Laura Louie, whose birth announcement read: "In this crazy patriarchal world we live in, we are doing our part to balance the energy. We are proud to announce the completion of our goddess trilogy with the birth of our third daughter."

Isabella Damon, daughter of Matt Damon and Luciana Barroso

Agnes Charles Guggenheim, daughter of Elisabeth Shue and Davis Guggenheim

Quinn Stone, adopted son of Sharon Stone

Tennyson Spencer Crowe, son of Russell Crowe and Danielle Spencer

Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern, daughter of Anna Nicole Smith and Howard K. Stern

Jayden James Federline, son of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline

Ramona Sarsgaard, daughter of Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard

David Banda Mwale Ciccone Ritchie, son of Madonna and Guy Ritchie

Any stats you think we missed? Overlooked hard facts that desperately need mentioning? Let us know in the comments section below!

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For more Salon year-end stories, click here.


Scott Lamb

Scott Lamb is a senior editor at BuzzFeed.com.

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