From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
This time last year, skater Tonya Harding was being hailed as a scrappy iconoclast with a shot at winning Olympic gold; O.J. Simpson was soon to be seen as a genial cop in the antic Naked Gun 33 1/3, and ├╝ber-mole Aldrich Ames was playing the part of a dutiful drone at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. Princess Diana was still a working woman, while John Travolta's career was stone cold. Waif Kate Moss was the mannequin du jour, but rubber-faced actor Jim Carrey's moment had yet to come. Michael Jordan was dreaming about hitting one out of the park, and Bill Clinton was betting that his party would score a shining victory when the midterm elections rolled around.

As always, fate had the last laugh: Bad girls like Tonya got even badder, and good ones like Di (who tried to retreat into private life) were tainted by tell-alls and topless scandals. The pope (whose Crossing the Threshold of Hope topped the best-seller list) went commercial, and TV's Tim Allen (whose Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man is also on the list) got that Christmas spirit in The Santa Clause. Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich got a big promotion, while Moss was knocked off her pedestal by the vampy Nadja Auermann. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams became a peacemaker, and a 19-year-old woman named Shannon Faulkner stormed the all-male Citadel. Spurned by CEO Michael Eisner, Disney studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg found a place on Spielberg's Hollywood dream team, while Simpson, whose life had long seemed blessed, found himself behind bars.

As 1994 came to a close, it became clear that Fortune dallies not only with the famous but also with those whose lives are lived in obscurity. Who would have figured that an Alabama therapist such as James (The Celestine Prophecy) Redfield would become an overnight cult hero, while a faceless CIA operative would prove to be the most notorious turncoat since the Rosenbergs? But predicting who'll be on top and who'll take a tumble in a year's time is an exceedingly risky business: As the suddenly sizzling Travolta can tell you, life is stranger than even pulp fiction.