A few weeks ago, Barbara Walters revealed her traditionally boring Most Fascinating People
list, which included such snooze-worthy "celebrities" as Kate Gosselin and Adam Lambert.
But we much prefer the word interesting
around here. It's like fascinating
, but it can refer to things that kind of suck, too, so long as we're totally captivated by them (looking at you, Octomom
). So while we may not be huge fans of everyone on our list of the most interesting people of 2009, we'd be lying if we said that we didn't wake up every morning slightly more enthused about the world because get to watch, read and hear about them.
Without further ado, these are the people who best held our attention over the past 12 months.
10. Kurt Fearnley
Kurt Fearnley could absolutely humiliate you in a race, and he doesn't even have functioning legs. The Australian-born, three-time Paralympics gold medalist is the definition of mantastic
. This year, his accomplishments included climbing the 1,504 stairs of Sydney's tallest building in 20 minutes using his hands
(the average, legged person does it in 25), he won the wheelchair division of the New York marathon
, and he crawled
the 60-mile Kodoka trail in Papua New Guinea. Lance Armstrong
probably wants his autograph.
9. Will Phillips
"With all due respect, ma'am, you can go jump off a bridge," is what this 10-year-old said to a substitute teacher after being told that he needed to stand for the pledge of allegiance -- something that he refused to do because the country doesn't offer equal rights to gays and lesbians. Phillips has become something of a media superstar, and it gets him some grief in the hallways. "It's always the same people, walking up and calling me a gaywad," he told the Arkansas Times. But the kid's still standing, er, sitting for what he believes in.
8. Barack Obama
Remember when this guy was super-popular? Back before health-care reform and his financial policy made the people who had previously silk-screened his face onto T-shirts call him a sellout
, and even the people who thought he secretly wanted to be the president of Muslimtropolis
hadn't yet started openly fantasizing about overthrowing him in a military coup
? He's still pretty well-liked, sure, and a good speech would probably get some of the old "Yes, we can!" chants fired up again, but the man has had one heck of a topsy-turvy year
7. Aung San Suu Kyi
Suu Kyi spent 2009 like she spent most of the past 20 years -- trapped in her house by a military junta after being elected prime minister of Burma in 1990 (and thus unable to assume office). 2009 also saw her inch ever closer to release
, with new promises from the military government that she'll be freed next year to organize her party for the coming election. Meanwhile, all of the days we spent without leaving the house in 2009 playing "Ultimate Alliance 2" make us feel pretty lazy by comparison.
6. The Tea Party protesters
The antiwar movement of the Bush years saw huge numbers of people take to the streets, only to be subsequently ignored in the media. The anti-Obama protesters of 2009, on the other hand, got all of the attention they could handle -- thanks, in part, to news anchors from their own cable channels speaking at the events
. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the Tea Partiers' position, they succeeded in making political street theater relevant again.
Hova became an even bigger star in 2009, just like he did in 2008, 2007, 2006 -- you get the picture. It's improbable that a guy who retired on top of his game in 2003 would only continue to get bigger as he crawled toward 40 -- especially given hip-hop's previous lack of interest in elder statesmen like Chuck D and KRS-One, but Jay's done exactly that, capping it off with his best record since coming out of retirement. And his newfound endorsement of indie rock
has solidified bearded dudes from Williamsburg who don't make much money as the new mainstream rock stars.
4. Jaycee Lee Dugard
Kidnapped in 1991, at the age of 11, Jaycee Lee Dugard was only reunited with her family in August. The 29-year-old had spent the previous two decades living in the back yard of her kidnapper, Phillip Garrido, until investigators finally found her -- and the two children she had with Garrido, aged 11 and 14. A People magazine report
seems to indicate that Dugard is doing well, all things considered.
3. Balloon Boy's family
We spent many years building to things like the Balloon Boy hoax, but 2009 was the year that reality TV contestants realized that they didn't need to bother waiting for producers to come knocking, or to hustle off to L.A. looking for a some '80s star to marry -- they could just convince the world that their child was in danger, and enjoy the subsequent fame that would come either from the world's sympathy or scorn. A guilty plea
is a small price to pay if you're that crazy to get on TV.
2. Rom Houben
Hey, it's the guy who survived pretty much the worst nightmare we never even knew we had! Houben was in a car accident in 1983 and spent the next 23 years in the hospital, presumably in a coma. Except he wasn't in a coma
. He was conscious the entire time
and spent over two decades paralyzed and unable to communicate. He's now got a computer attached to his wheelchair and he told UK news station ITV, "I notice a big difference now I'm back in contact with the world." Yeah, we bet he does.
Time declared the 2006 Person of the Year to be "You," after YouTube and Facebook and "Second Life" brought us all out of our shells, eager to communicate with one another. By 2009, however, the urge to hear about "you" was really overtaken by the urge to talk about "me" -- as Twitter functions mostly as a conduit of one-way mini-monologues, Facebook status updates tell all of your friends when you're going to the bathroom, and the Web 2.0 revolution has turned navel-gazing into the new American pastime.
Let us know if we left anyone out in the comments.