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Craziest Love
Everywhere you turned it was all Bennifer all the time: Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck frying up chicken for Dateline NBC cameras, locking lips in her "Jenny from the Block" video, flashing the 6.1-carat diamond while hyping their $54 million gobbler Gigli. By the time of Affleck's Vancouver strip-club romp in July, the lovebirds were so omnipresent they even got tired of each other. Calling off their Sept. 14 wedding in Santa Barbara, Calif., J.Lo headed to Miami, where she cavorted solo in the surf, and Affleck went on a poker binge in Gardena, Calif. But splitting up proved hard to do, and the pair reunited at his Savannah spread, shopping for a new pickup and stopping by the courthouse for a hunting license. In December, though, Affleck admitted that his "relationship with Jennifer has absolutely been bad for my career. The overexposure this year has been really damaging."

Darkest Day for Dittoheads
On Oct. 10, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh admitted he was addicted to painkillers. Five weeks of rehab left him "reborn," he said, as authorities searched his medical records for signs of "doctor shopping"—using multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions for drugs—and money laundering.

Uncoupled?
He said: "It's all good." She said: "Being able to give a part of yourself again is a nice thing." And Tom Cruise spilled the beans to Larry King that ex-wife Nicole Kidman "is with Lenny Kravitz." The pair looked cozy after she sublet his loft last summer, but romance may be over. Kravitz burned up a Miami dance floor with a Brazilian artist earlier this month. Said Kidman soon after: "I'm not getting married."

A Cut Above
As always, he made it look easy. When Tom Cruise arrived onscreen in The Last Samurai as a Civil War veteran in 19th-century Japan, his stunning sword-play looked so effortless (after months of intense training) that it seemed the hardest part of the role must have been growing his hair. Audiences sent the epic drama to No. 1 at the box office, a fitting coda to an otherwise quiet year for Cruise. Home life came first, with frequent visits from daughter Isabella and son Connor—he and Nicole Kidman share custody—and quiet dinners with his girlfriend of two years, Penélope Cruz (she likes his pasta). "I'm just working on my [production] company and my family," explained Cruise. "I'm not a guy who likes to go hang out on a beach."

Most Likely to Succeed
She's got Friends all right, but Jennifer Aniston stood on her own—although she needed a cane after breaking a toe—in January, when she accepted her Golden Globe as best actress in a TV comedy. Then Forbes magazine's top-rated celeb for 2003 opened in Bruce Almighty with Jim Carrey, filmed Along Came Polly with Ben Stiller (out in January) and made plans with husband Brad Pitt to produce—and possibly costar in—The Time Traveler's Wife. And to think Rachel used to have trouble holding a job.

Fondest Farewell
After 10 years, those six kids from Friends finally said it was time to move on. (With one baby, one marriage and counting, they ain't kids anymore.) Know what that means? Their apartments are back on the market in the spring! How much? Well, we aren't just talking space. You go from room to room and everywhere there's the echo of laughter, of those names—Joey, Monica, Chandler, Ross, Phoebe, Rachel. And that warmth you're feeling isn't from the radiators. It's the afterglow of their nutty, never-ending friendship. These are memories, priceless. Maybe the rooms should stay empty? In their honor. In thanks.

5 Reasons We Love Survivor's Rupert Boneham

1. He's got that rarity in reality TV: real star power. "When he was voted out, the switchboard lit up with 3,000 phone calls begging to put him back in," says Survivor host Jeff Probst.

2. A beard birds could nest in. "I think I've shaved twice in my life," he says. "And Pirates of the Caribbean 2—you know I'll be there for that casting call."

3. Tried wearing a skirt, then "got his feelings hurt when guys in the tribe made fun of him," says Probst. "He has a vulnerability you don't expect."

4. Has a whole self-effacing, Sally Field "You like me!" thing going on. "I can't believe how people have taken to me," he says. "It's heartwarming."

5. Too sweet a guy to actually win (he got voted off in episode 10), he makes a living mentoring troubled teens. Says the married father of a 4-year-old girl: "I'll always be involved with kids."

SOLE SURVIVOR SANDRA DIAZ-TWINE
Treachery, thy name is Sandra, the unlikely winner of the most deliciously diabolical Survivor season yet. Coming in under the radar and cleverly shifting alliances, she duped most players into thinking she was clueless. "Everyone said, 'She wasn't strategizing,' and I was like, 'That girl's crazy! You have no idea!' " says contestant Christa Hastie. Indeed, Diaz-Twine, 29, "played the game like a mercenary," says host Jeff Probst. Her plan? "Be yourself," she explains. "Then feel people out and start working your magic." Among her many tricks: eavesdropping on other players and sabotaging the tribe's food supply. Still, Diaz-Twine proved more popular than fellow finalist Lill, the wacky scoutmaster. An office assistant and married mother of two (her husband is in the Army, and they live on a military base in Washington), she plans to take a cruise with her $1 million prize. Closer to home, her two young daughters "asked me, 'Mom, are you going to double our allowance now?'" Scheming already—gee, where'd they get that from?

Most Anticipated Coming of Age

Above: The royal Christmas card. Below: The Christmas letter we wish Prince William had written.

Dear Friends and Future Subjects,

What a year 2003 has been! Early on, I thought someone must have been secretly filming Jackass: Inside the Palace. A comedian crashed our 21st-birthday bash disguised as Osama bin Laden. Imagine if it had been bin Laden disguised as a comedian!

We did enjoy some peace and quiet until that bounder Paul Burrell wrote a loving memoir saying Mumsy practically swam out to meet troopships. The whole unpleasantness could be avoided, he said, if he could just have a little chat with Harry and me. That'll happen—when Paris Hilton is my queen.

Speaking of which, whom am I dating this week? I really must check the tabloids. Most of the year, it seems, I was with Kate Middleton, one of my roommates at St. Andrews (the university, not the golf club). But there are so many names—Emilia, Arabella, Natalie, Bryony, Jecca. Queen Jecca? Nah! You know, in '01 I spent two months working on a dairy farm. I wonder if there are any opening's in Altus, Ark.—I bet it's quieter there.

Worst Reality Romance
What it took to get Evan Marriott and Zora Andrich to pose together: Many phone calls and a promise that nothing more than a cup of coffee was expected. "He's a nice guy," says Andrich. "Just no connection."

Best Reality Romance
Remember Trista Rehn back when she was an also-ran on The Bachelor? The girl who confided to Alex Michel that she couldn't have an orgasm during intercourse? How sweet to be invited along for the ride on The Bachelorette to watch Trista fall in love with Ryan Sutter and prove that reality romance can be...real! The lovebirds brought 17.1 million viewers with them to a place no reality-show couple had gone before: the altar. How gratifying to see so many familiar faces there—Brook, the cowboy Trista rejected due to allergies; Jamie, who suffered panic attacks; Russ, who tried to buy her affections with a Tiffany bracelet; and Charlie, who almost stole her heart. No hard feelings, though. "We all love those two," said another guest, Bachelor Bob Guiney. "All of us have become friends." We raise a glass (a Trista Pink, perhaps? A Ryanarita?) and wish them a lifetime of happiness.

Final Flight
In February, after a 16-day mission, triumph turned to tragedy when the space shuttle Columbia exploded in a fireball, killing (clockwise from left) Kalpana Chawla, 41, Ilan Ramon, 48, Michael Anderson, 43, David Brown, 46, Laurel Clark, 41, Rick Husband, 45, and William McCool, 41. Evelyn Husband's book High Calling, a biography about her spouse, is due in January. "I pray to God that at some point this is not going to hurt so much," she says. Barbara Anderson, whose son was honored with an NAACP scholarship in his name, says, "I'm just thankful for the time we had together." Most wrenching for widower Jonathan Clark is watching his son Iain, 9, grow up without a mother. "We were on a beach in October," he says, "And Iain began writing in the sand in huge, huge letters. His grandmother and I saw he'd written 'Hi, Mom' with hearts around it. She asked, 'Do you think your mother can see that from space?' Iain said, 'No, it's too small. But I think she can see it from heaven.' "

No. 1 with Nine Bullets
Eminem's protégé was best known for having been shot nine times—and surviving—until 50 Cent released his 6 million-selling albums Get Rich or Die Tryin' in February. By year's end, the former crack dealer was a gangsta king with an estimated $18 million in earnings and his own sneaker line for Reebok.

Gooooal!
Playing a teen soccer phenom in the indie hit Bend It Like Beckham scored Parminder Nagra, 28, major points in Hollywood and the role of med student Neela Rasgotra on ER. "I've been loving it," she says. "But I want to keep doing different things. It's important to keep fresh."

Smelliest 1 rm apt, riv vu
Oddball illusionist David Blaine was thinking inside the box for his latest stunt: living only on water for 44 days in a 7' x 7' x 3' Plexiglas cube suspended almost 82 feet high near London's Thames River. Crowds gathered daily, many to shout taunts, play drums to keep him from sleeping and pelt the structure with eggs. "I learned to appreciate the simple things in life," said Blaine, who was briefly hospitalized upon his Oct. 19 reemergence. Sixty lbs. lighter, "I feel more alive than I have ever been," he said.

Sincerest Form of Flattery
She sang and danced at Grant's Tomb on the Fourth of July, starred in The Fighting Temptations with Cuba Gooding Jr. in September, rocked the MTV Europe Music Awards in November and supplied the Oxford English Dictionary with a new word: "bootylicious" definition: "sexually attractive"). This year Beyoncé Knowles was in so many places you'd think there was more than one of her. On Dec. 10, at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas, there were—49, in fact, all clad in the same catsuit as the diva herself and dancing behind her as she performed at the Billboard Music Awards, where she took home four prizes. Not hard to see why. Her solo debut album Dangerously in Love sold more than 2 million copies. (Her No. 1 single "Crazy in Love" had the ring of truth: It was a duet with rapper-mogul Jay-Z, her boyfriend of a year.) "Beyoncé is involved in every aspect of her career," reports her mom, Tina. "She's calling the shots." And obviously, she's got aim.

Most Heralded Homecoming
When Jessica Lynch joined the Army at 18, she was looking for a way to pay for college while seeing the world. She wasn't prepared for the price it would exact two years later. Returning to West Virginia to recover from the injuries she suffered in Iraq, Lynch, now 20, was just as unprepared for the fanfare surrounding her homecoming. Though she nabbed a $1 million book deal and agreed to a TV movie, "I don't look at myself as a hero," she told Diane Sawyer on ABC's Primetime. "I'm a survivor." Now she's focusing on her physical therapy (12 hours a week), her plans to become a kindergarten teacher and a June wedding to Sgt. Ruben Contreras. "He officially proposed over Thanksgiving," says Lynch. "I am excited. My ring is beautiful. He did a great job."

Getting On with Their Lives
Seven other U.S. prisoners of war in Iraq made it home, including (from left) Ron Young Jr., Patrick Miller and Shoshana Johnson. Young, whose Apache helicopter was shot down in March, finished his military service in October and is living near Atlanta, writing a book about his war experiences. Miller, who killed as many as nine Iraqi soldiers during the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company (Lynch's outfit), won a Purple Heart, a Silver Star and a POW medal. He lives on a military base in Colorado with his wife and two children and works in a motor pool as part of the 2nd Company of the 43rd Area Support Group. Johnson, still recovering from gun-shot wounds in both ankles, plans to go to college and spend time with her 3-year-old daughter Janelle now that her military duty is over. When asked recently how life has changed since her ordeal, she replied, "I appreciate things a lot more." Also safely returned: Edgar Hernandez, Joseph Hudson, James Riley and David Williams.

Most Driven
She missed the final cut in May's Bank of America Colonial tournament, but as the first woman to compete on the PGA Tour in 58 years, golfer Annika Sorenstam still managed to tee off plenty of old-guard duffers. On the women's tour, the unflappable Swede racked up six wins, including the British Open, and was the year's top money winner.

Biggest Plunge
Wearing only his street clothes, out-of-work Detroit salesman Kirk Jones nose-dived over Niagara Falls—and survived with just a few broken ribs and a sprained back. Acknowledging that depression may have driven him, Jones now hopes to write a book about his feat. "I was blessed by the hand of God," he says. "I was given a second chance."

Most Popular!
The countdown to their 18th birthday—next June 13—has begun on Web sites and radio shows. But don't look for Mary-Kate (left) and Ashley Olsen, worth an estimated $150 million each, to go wild on the big day. The wholesome high school seniors (still on an allowance; no weird piercings or tattoos) are "just working on getting into college and promoting our movie New York Minute [out in May,] says Mary-Kate. They also shop and attend ball games with their beaus—Ashley sees Columbia University football player Matt Kaplan; Mary-Kate was recently photographed smooching producer Jeffrey Katzenberg's son David. Still, the inseparable sisters plan to room together at school. Says Mary-Kate: "Having each other is a great safety net."

An Unthinkable Crime
Almost from the start, suspicion clung to Scott Peterson after his pregnant wife, Laci Peterson, disappeared last Christmas Eve in Modesto, Calif. For one thing, police learned Scott had been having an affair with masseuse Amber Frey. Then the bodies of Laci and her unborn son were found near the Berkeley Marina—where Scott said he had been fishing when Laci vanished. So far prosecutors have little physical evidence to link him to the crime and seem determined to build an intricate circumstantial case. A trial date is set for Jan. 26.

Most Public Defender
He may not have the most sympathetic clients, but he certainly has the most famous. Before he signed on to the Scott Peterson case in May, L.A. attorney Mark Geragos represented the likes of Winona Ryder, Gary Condit and Robert Downey Jr. Recently hired to defend Michael Jackson against molestation charges, Geragos, who has been compared to O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran, says he believes his clients "deserve someone who can find good in them. I don't think most people are evil. I think sometimes people are demonized unfairly."

Best Publicity Money Can't Buy
Left-leaning political pundit Al Franken got a free ad campaign for his new book when the Fox News Channel filed a lawsuit against him. Fox claimed that the title Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, infringed on its trademark phrase "fair and balanced." A judge, however, ruled the suit to be "wholly without merit" in August. "They were literally laughed out of court," says Franken. The book's release was moved up to take advantage of the skirmish, and it has been a best-seller since September. Says Franken cheerfully: "I am grateful for them suing me."

Newest It Girl
With four credits this year—2 Fast 2 Furious, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Out of Time and Stuck on You—Eva Mendes is watching her career take off. Now if only she could quash those tabloid rumors, like the one linking her with Stuck star Matt Damon. "I say show me a picture," she says. "Otherwise, you've got nothing."

Eeriest End to a Vegas Act
Instead of its customary standing ovation, Siegfried and Roy's famed Las Vegas show ended in tragedy the night of Oct. 3. Halfway through the 95-minute tourist draw at the Mirage Hotel, Roy Horn (right) was attacked by a 7-year-old white Bengal, Montecore, who bit his neck and dragged him offstage, resulting in massive blood loss and, due to a stroke he had either immediately before or after the attack, paralysis on his left side. While the cat has been relocated to an animal sanctuary near the Mirage, Horn remains at the UCLA Medical Center, where he was taken for treatment. According to partner Siegfried Fischbacher, he can now breathe without a respirator but is unable to eat, talk or walk. His long-term prognosis is unknown, but, adds Fischbacher, Horn is improving daily and has begun communicating on paper. "The first thing he wrote was 'It is good to hold your hands,'" Siegfried told the Los Angeles Times. As for his claim that Montecore was simply trying to carry Roy to safety after a stumble, the odds are very unlikely, says tiger expert Jonathan Kraft. "That is ludicrous," he says. "These are wild and unpredictable animals." Meanwhile, Siegfried has vowed not to reopen the show as a solo act. "We depended on each other onstage," he recently said. "And now in life."

Worldliest Mom
She's still a tattooed, self-styled wild child, but her job as goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees "completely changed my life" says Angelina Jolie. She supplemented homes in London and New York City with one in Cambodia, the homeland of son Maddox, now 2, and plans to adopt again. "I don't think I've ever been as committed to the future," she says. As a mother, Jolie says she has discovered "a sense of center and focus that I never had before."

Lights, Camera, Controversy!
Mad Max or Braveheart? Actor-director Mel Gibson has divided audiences who've seen early cuts of his $25 million vanity project, The Passion of the Christ, a violent traditionalist-Catholic treatise on Christ's final 12 hours. The Anti-Defamation League's Abraham H. Foxman feared that the film "could fuel hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism." But Jack Valenti, Motion Picture Association of America CEO, called Passion "a compelling piece of art." Aptly, the film opens Feb. 25, Ash Wednesday.

Wildest Streak
Where is the pigtailed, PG-rated pop princess of the past? Britney Spears had her banished while she canoodled with Colin Farrell (c'mon, who hasn't?) and Madonna (in the year's most talked-about kiss). This was also the year Spears stepped out with a married backup dancer and misplaced her clothes while shooting a cover for Rolling Stone. "I did party a little bit," Spears, 22, admitted. "But what the hell else am I gonna do?" Release a steamy fourth album, In the Zone, go visit the kids at the summer performing arts camp she runs on Cape Cod, then go home to Mom in Louisiana for a rest. And try to figure out why a girl can't work off a little steam without it making the papers.

Grooviest Goof-Off
"It's been a very good year to be Jack Black," concedes the gonzo leading man of the hit comedy School of Rock. But dude, there's a downside. Since his breakout role as a headbanger teacher—and last fall's DVD release from his cult duo Tenacious D—"people want to party with me," he says, baffled. "The last time I went to a Lakers game, I signed about 800 autographs. It's not fun after a while." Hey, man, just kick back and raise the goblet of rock.

Happiest Ending
Elizabeth Smart found alive! The rescue of the Salt Lake City teen missing for nine months after being snatched from her bed was one of the year's most hopeful headlines. Although any long-term effects of Elizabeth Smart's ordeal with alleged kidnappers Brian David Mitchell and companion Wanda Barzee remain to be seen, Elizabeth, now 16 and a high school sophomore, "has a sense of humor and is still very competitive," says dad Ed, who with her mom, Lois (above), wrote Bringing Elizabeth Home, the basis for a CBS movie. "We're getting to a point where we're resuming life as it was."

Spunkiest Survivor
Three weeks after 13-year-old top-ranked amateur surfer Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm to a shark attack, she was back on a board. And despite being offered book and movie deals, for now she's focused on getting a prosthetic arm and pursuing her real dream: turning pro.

Busiest Brit Import
"The last 12 months have been completely crazy," says Keira Knightley. After a breakout role in the soccer saga Bend It Like Beckham, she appeared opposite Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom as Pirates of the Caribbean's feisty damsel in distress, and two blokes were besotted with her in Love Actually. Not too shabby for a 20-year-old. Did those "fabulous cheekbones," as Beckham director Gurinder Chadha calls them, have anything to do with it?

Most Powerful Junior Senator
Bill who? New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was the former White House resident making the big headlines. Her memoir Living History sold 2.25 million copies, and a November trip to Iraq fueled speculation: Was it a pit stop on the path to the Oval Office?

Vocabulary Lesson: Phonophobia, n., fear of one's own voice or of any sound
One of the ailments suffered by David Gest after repeated beatings by Liza Minnelli, according to his divorce suit. He claims he also experienced vertigo, nausea, hypertension, insomnia, photosensitivity, mood swings, "scalp tenderness" and "unrelenting pain in his head." Minnelli filed a $2 million countersuit of her own, claiming that Gest acted poorly as her agent, "refusing projects' unless they included himself" and that he "constantly berated Minnelli in public and began holding himself out as the 'star.'"

Greatest Attempt to Salvage a Marriage
No one could say they didn't try. They arranged special date nights with each other to share dinner, a bottle of wine or a dip in the Jacuzzi. They even went through couples therapy. "Marriage is about sticking together through the tough times," Halle Berry said last winter. But in October Berry announced that she and musician Eric Benét, her husband of almost three years, had decided to separate, explaining, "at this point I feel we need time apart to reevaluate our union." Berry, who remains close to Benét's 11-year-old daughter India, whom she adopted during the marriage, has not yet filed for divorce, although nobody expects a reconciliation. Still, Berry said recently, "I believe in love, romance and marriage. I always have and still do. I'm looking upon this as an important learning experience."

Gamest Newlywed
For the record, Chicken of the Sea is tuna, buffalo wings are chicken, and "pulling a Jessica" has made Jessica Simpson TV's smartest ditzy blonde since Suzanne Somers. The pop singer, whose endearingly clueless antics on MTV's Newlyweds (with former 98° heartthrob husband Nick Lachey) charmed viewers, is not only launching clothing and makeup lines; she has also signed with ABC to develop her own sitcom and is talking with Sony Pictures about reprising Barbara Eden's role in an I Dream of Jeannie remake. Until then, fans can tune in to the second season of Newlyweds, which begins airing in January. Wrote Simpson on her Web site: "I promise you more crazy Jessica moments!"

Marathon Man
Once you've run a hip-hop empire, what's 26.2 miles? After only two months of training, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs finished November's New York City marathon in 4 hrs., 14 min., 54 sec., raising $2 million for the city's children's charities and public schools.

Truest Grit
Pinned by a boulder in a Utah canyon for five days in April, rock climber Aron Ralston displayed a super-human survival instinct by hacking off his right arm below the elbow with a pocketknife, then walking six miles to find help. Fitted with a prosthetic forearm and hand, Ralston, now training to be a wilderness guide, competed in a multisport race in September. Says pal Rod Raymond: "He's got a little magic to him."

A Tarnished Reputation
He was a five-time NBA all-star, a role model with a beautiful wife and baby daughter, but in July, L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant held a press conference to refute a 19-year-old Colorado woman's rape accusations—and confess to adultery. (Days later he gave wife Vanessa a $4 million eight-carat diamond ring.) As lawyers prepare for what will likely be a contentious trial next spring, the alleged victim has had her identity revealed in a tabloid and in court, received death threats and reportedly checked into an Arizona rehab facility.

Nicest Ace
Armed with a killer serve and looks to match, 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick has garnered a following most rock stars would envy. But the Saturday Night Live-hosting boyfriend of pop star Mandy Moore insists he's just a tennis player (albeit the top-ranked player). "I'm good at anything athletic but struggle with everything else. My future is to play tennis. That game is who I am."

Sweetest 16-Year-Old
Bubbling under for more than two years as the Disney Channel's lovable Lizzie McGuire, Hilary Duff rose to the top with three movies, a platinum CD, a CBS sitcom deal, a clothing and cosmetics line, even her face on a credit card. Plus she's "polite and outgoing and hasn't gone down the road some of her peers may have gone down," says Lizzie dad Robert Carradine. What really has her psyched? Getting her driver's license.

Most Disturbing Family Secret
Inside the modest New Jersey home of Raymond and Vanessa Jackson, the couple's four adopted sons allegedly went hungry while their four biological children, two adopted daughters and one foster daughter thrived. When a neighbor alerted officials in October, the Jacksons blamed the boys' malnourished appearance on eating disorders. Since being removed from the home, Bruce, the 19-year-old who looked 10, has gained more than 25 lbs. and grown 3½ inches. He is still in a hospital, and the other boys (who've since gained from 13 to 25 lbs.) live in foster homes. Nine New Jersey child-welfare workers have been fired over the scandal. The Jacksons, charged with aggravated assault and child endangerment (but free on bail), say they want their children back.

Swiftest Ascent
Tapping the power of the Internet, he raised millions and built a support network to rival any well-oiled political machine. With an endorsement by former veep Al Gore, presidential hopeful Howard Dean, onetime physician and Vermont governor, leads the pack for the Democratic nomination in national polls by 8 points—and by 10 to 25 points in primary states Iowa and New Hampshire.

Best Hope for Hopeless Heteros

These five makeover mavens were as grossed out as we were by what lurked in guys' closets—not to mention in their bathrooms and under their beds. "Tragic!" was the rallying cry of Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy crew (clockwise from top, Carson Kressley, Jai Rodriguez, Ted Allen, Thom Filicia and Kyan Douglas) as they trained pathetic schlumps to "flip it, slip it and reverse it" to tie their ties, and to always, always! "shave with the grain." A primer of more QE slang:

tszujing: putting the finishing touch on one's hair or outfit

manscaping: using an electric trimmer to thin out mass quantities of body hair

chofa: not quite a chair, not quite a sofa

Let's motor!: Carson's trademark declaration for the boys to get a move on

Cheers, queers!: The Fab 5's sign-off toast after a job well done

No-Win Situation
Lawyers were the only winners in the $100 million-plus legal draw between Rosie O'Donnell and her magazine's publisher Gruner + Jahr. But O'Donnell's reputation lost some luster when an ex-staffer testified Rosie had told her "liars get cancer" and her $10 million Broadway musical Taboo tanked.

Longest Summer Romance
It seemed like a warm-weather fling—until Cameron Diaz became a fixture at Justin Timberlake shows, holding hands with his mom. Then she went with him to his grandmother's in Millington, Term., where she raved about the broccoli casserole. The duo, who kissed in Hawaii in September (above), "are perfect together," says Timberlake pal Sharon Osbourne.

Dumbest Delivery
Eluding security at five major airports, in September Bronx shipping clerk Charles McKinley, 25, mailed himself to his parents' DeSoto, Texas, home inside a wooden cargo crate. The plan was to charge the $688.70 UPS tab to his company. Instead, he faces up to $100,000 in fines and jail time. Cost of a plain old plane ticket? Around $300.

Greatest Expectation
First there was a calm announcement that Gwyneth Paltrow and her laid-back British love, Coldplay's Chris Martin, would need a baby pram come summer. "I am very happy," Paltrow told Jay Leno. "I pinch my stomach [for luck]." Next came word that the couple had married quietly in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Dec. 5. After the devastating loss of her father last year, Paltrow got her glow back.

Biggest Country Feud
The Dixie Chicks came out fighting after Natalie Maines's anti-Bush remarks on the eve of the Iraq war caused boycotts by radio and fans. "People think this'll scare us and shut us up, and it's gonna do the opposite." declared Maines (center), who joined Emily Robison (left) and Martie Maguire on the cover of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY wearing only body-pointed slogans supporting free speech.

Best Trap for City Mice
Farm living wasn't the life for them, but they milked it for all it was worth. In FOX's hilarious reality spin on Green Acres, two fabulously rich, pampered girls—Paris Hilton (hotel heiress, reluctant Internet porn star, left) and friend Nicole Richie (Lionel's kid)—spent 30 days suffering in rural Arkansas. It was as if Old MacDonald had decided to remake Clueless: The two stumbled uncomprehendingly from one heartland horror to the next. Cows! Beer-bellied men in denim! Asked to pluck a chicken, Nicole put down a foot that has known only Jimmy Choo: "I'm not plucking anything except my eyebrows." Then she fed the cows.

Geek Mystique
No runner-up blues for American Idol underdog Clay Aiken—his CD Measure of a Man went straight to No. 1. But 2 million in album sales and scads of female fans (called Claymates) haven't gone to his head. His self-assessment: "Was a nerd. Am a nerd. Will be a nerd. Forever."

Most Fashionable Exit
Fashionistas were rocked back on their stilettos this November when Tom Ford said he was leaving Gucci, the label he turned around with his provocative designs. Reportedly being wooed by a rival house, the designer is exploring his options: He has spoken of retiring to his ranch in Santa Fe, starting his own company (then said it's not likely) or trying his hand at moviemaking.

Magic Fingers
At 21, this Chinese-born classical whiz has a No. 1 CD (Tchaikovsky/Mendelssohn: First Piano Concertos) to his name—Lang Lang—and his concerts are booked for the next three years. "I want to do for classical what Tiger did for golf," he says.

Smartest Mouth
Guests include the likes of Hillary Clinton, Bob Dole and John Edwards, who announced his bid for President on Sept. 15. Topics range from Iraq to the California recall election. What's so funny about The Daily Show with Jon Stewart? Stewart himself. Since the 41-year-old stand-up comic took over hosting duties in 1999, Comedy Central's late-night fake news show has become TV's sharpest, funniest and most relevant exercise in satire. "Yesterday the President met with a group he calls the coalition of the willing," he deadpanned one night behind his anchor desk. "Or, as the rest of the world calls them, Britain and Spain." In 2003, as admiring politicos and celebrities willingly subjected themselves to ribbings on his couch, ratings climbed and it became ever more clear that Stewart is the heir apparent to Dave and Jay; in September his show won the Emmy for best variety, beating perennial fave Letterman. Even outside the office, his brain works overtime. After a long day, he goes home to wife Tracey and unwinds by filling out crossword puzzles.

Best Late-Night Wisdom
"Violent crime is way down in New York City. In fact, the only way to be assaulted now is to marry Liza Minnelli."—DAVID LETTERMAN

"Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake were forced to cancel a week of shows because during rehearsal a giant scaffold collapsed. Neither singer was injured, but workers promise to try again next week."—CONAN O'BRIEN

"It is rumored that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez want to star in a remake of Casablanca. This will be the perfect film for people who liked the original but wished it was terrible."—TINA FEY

"Russell Crowe is marrying his girlfriend, Danielle Spencer. Here's how the seating will work: On one side, friends of the bride. On the other, Ron Howard."—CRAIG KILBORN

"Madonna is coming out with five children's books. In one of them, we find out that Goldilocks isn't a real blonde."—CONAN O'BRIEN

"You know how old Harry Potter is in the book? Fifteen. He's at that awkward age—he's too old for Michael Jackson and too young for Demi Moore."—JAY LENO

"The first thing I did when I took the baby home was dangle him over the balcony."—DAVID LETTERMAN

"The ratings are in, and 13 million people watched Paris Hilton in her new TV show. Which sounds like a lot until you realize 70 million saw her home porn video."—JAY LENO

Saddest Spectacle
In Michael Jackson's world, charges of child molestation can be mitigated by a lavish party. That's how the beleaguered pop star planned to herald his return to Neverland after spending nearly a month holed up in hotels outside Las Vegas. On the guest list: longtime supporter Elizabeth Taylor, as well as Marlon Brando, Venus and Serena Williams and Babyface. "This is how he's going to find out who his real friends are," said Jackson's film-maker pal Bryan Michael Stoller shortly before the event was scheduled to take place. Footage of the festivities will likely be included in a documentary Jackson is said to be making to help polish his public image (and to raise funds for his legal defense). As for Jackson's state of mind, "he gets depressed," says Firpo Carr, spiritual adviser to the Jackson family. "He gets down." Still, Carr adds, Jackson "is cautiously optimistic about the case. He is confident because he is innocent." A report was released earlier this month stating that during an investigation by Los Angeles child welfare officials last February, Jackson's 12-year-old accuser "denied any form of sexual abuse." But, says family friend Jamie Masada, the boy "simply didn't want to open up to strange people and say something sexual happened. No kid would."

Must See: The O.C.
Zip code 92663 doesn't have quite the same ring as 90210. But FOX's sexy soap The O.C. doesn't lack for lavish sets or angst-ridden Chanel-clad teens. "I grew up in Newport Beach [Calif.], where a lot of people look like Benjamin McKenzie, Mischa Barton and Adam Brody [left to right]," says executive producer McG. "I always felt like the ugly moron looking at the beautiful people. It's fun now to see it played out on TV."

Best Comebacks
Did you write them off when they lost their luster? Look who's shining brighter than ever

Biggest Rebound (with Fish)
What a difference a year makes. Back from the sidelines as the voice of Dory, Finding Nemo's scene-stealing sidekick, Ellen DeGeneres scored the year's top-grossing movie and then made her daytime debut with TV's highest-rated new talk show. "If people respond to the show the way they have been," she says, "and I keep enjoying it every day, which I am, I'll keep doing it as long as I can."

Best News for Women Over 40
It was a well-timed romance for her return to the screen as the butt-kicking villain in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Now, as engagement rumors fly, those age-defying cuddle-buddies Demi Moore, 41, and Ashton Kutcher, 25, have sparked hope that not all younger men fear commitment, kids or a high-powered career. There's just one catch: You have to look 25.

Shiny New Sheen
With the highest-rated new sitcom Two and a Half Men, Charlie Sheen showed off more of the deadpan wit he had brought to two seasons of Spin City. "When you're happy with yourself, comedy comes a lot easier," said Hollywood's once most dependable bad boy, cast as a louche jingle writer. Sheen and wife Denise Richards, Scary Movie 3 costars, expect their first child in March. "I'm thrilled to be back in the game, and I'm going along with the ride," Sheen said.

Ode to Viggo
Prithee, Sire, now thou art king,
Let us enjoy this Viggo thing.
Of trolls and elves and Ents you know,
And ancient evil down below.
You've been to war;
now you've come back.
You got fair Arwen in the sack.
Of Hobbits you have seen the last.
(Adios, Frodo, it's been a blast!)
As Peter Jackson sits around
For Oscar night in Tinseltown,
The cycle's done, the ring is wrung;
The last of Tolkien has been sung.
But Viggo's here—and what a hunk!
With eyes to make a maiden drunk.
Writing, painting, multi-tasking,
And just in case his fans are asking,
We won't have to sit and parch;
Hidalgo's coming out in March.

Arnold's Report Card: The First 45 Days

Driver's Ed: Repealed threefold increase in California's auto tax. Pass

Economics: Brokered bipartisan budget deal with help from wife Maria Shriver, a Democrat. Pass

Conduct: Vowed preelection to probe charges he groped 16 women. Now he says he's too busy. Fail

Attendance: Forsook his Brentwood mansion to spend most weeknights in a Sacramento hotel. Pass

English: It's Cal-UH-fornia, Governor. Needs improvement

Johnny Angel
Finally! After years of making movies that hardly anybody went to see, Johnny Depp starred in Pirates of the Caribbean, the Disney summer blockbuster that had entire families coming back for more. This year's Sexiest Man Alive did Captain Jack Sparrow his way—with a swagger nicked from Keith Richards—and he'll do it again for a 2005 sequel. Even in a ruffled shirt, says costar Orlando Bloom, "obviously, he's cool."

Most Mellowed Movie Star
What makes Julia Roberts happy these days? Playing housewife (at homes in New Mexico, L.A. and New York City) to her cameraman husband of 18 months, Danny Moder. Doing laundry, vacuuming, cooking, feeding their 10 dogs and pet geese. "I'm happy to report I'm not anal, but I'm a good housekeeper," she said recently. With Mona Lisa Smile in theaters and Ocean's Twelve due next year, she's still keeping her day job—as long as it doesn't interfere with her No. 1 role. "A friend of mine asked me recently about being in California: 'What do you do out there?' " Roberts recalled. "I said, 'What do I do? I be married to Danny.' "