Curtain Up, Curtain Down

updated 12/28/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/28/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

How myths are made: The old champion pushes his wounded body to one last effort, then calls it quits; the new warrior, brimming with youth, strides into the arena. After 13 seasons, the Boston Celtics' LARRY BIRD, 36, took his bad back—and an Olympic gold medal—into retirement. At 20, Orlando Magic's rookie SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, 7'1" and 294 lbs., exploded into the NBA—and reserved his place on everybody's next Dream Team.

It's a cat-eat-dog world. George Bush lost the presidential election and, just like that, one dog had had her day. Now, MILLIE the English springer spaniel, her own 1990 bestseller notwithstanding, will no longer stay (or sit, or fetch) at the White House. Chelsea Clinton's cat, SOCKS (who remained enigmatic at his first press conference in Little Rock, Ark.), becomes the nation's First Pet, ushering in an era of Good Felines.

After JOHNNY'S tearful farewell, JAY LENO stepped in—but it's been a rocky seven months for him as The Tonight Show successor. His longtime manager got the ax. So did Dan Quayle, the source of his best material. And at year-end there was the threat of David Letterman, wooed by CBS with $14 million to go mano a mano with him. Jay's no Carson—but who is?

Over the course of a 35-year career, RICHARD PETTY won a record 200 NASCAR competitions, broke some two dozen bones—and took stock car racing out of the backwoods and into the big time. In November, 55 years old and 75 percent deaf, Petty took his No. 43 Pontiac around the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the last time. "There are no more Richard Pettys," said his son, KYLE, 32 (right), himself a NASCAR driver, "nobody to pick up where he leaves off."

In Teutonic folklore the troll is a cave-dwelling troublemaker. But give a monster a make-over—big pink hair, say, pop eyes and a cute little "wishstone" where its belly button should be—and you're trolling for dollars. Sales of troll dolls are expected to go as high as $800 million for 1992—about $775 million more than the Hook action toys did. Spin-offs of the 1991 Steven Spielberg movie, they were a gleam in the eye of Mattel Inc. at the beginning of the year but vanished into never-never land.

Since her 1971 performance as the Virgin Queen in Elizabeth R, most Americans think of her as a royalist, not a parliamentarian. But in April actress GLENDA JACKSON, 56, became Labour MP for the London neighborhoods of Hampstead and Highgate. She says she is putting her acting career on hold—and, alas, her fans don't get to vote on that.

After 32 years, two Oscars and one Barbarella, JANE FONDA, 55, announced her retirement from acting. The family business remains in good hands, though, as 28-year-old BRIDGET FONDA, daughter of Jane's brother, Peter, displayed her considerable talent with an eye-catching double in Singles and Single White Female.

He led us Upstairs, Downstairs, through the British class system and past Trollope in The Barchester Chronicles and trollops in I, Claudius. After 22 years as host of Masterpiece Theatre, ALISTAIR COOKE, 84, vacated his chair. Good show!

He was 54, older even than George Foreman, but still it didn't seem right. In November, DC Comics killed off SUPERMAN. Fans and collectors bought 3 million copies of the fatal issue. Meanwhile, in the world of prime-time violence, a new strongman arose as RIDDICK BOWE (left), 25, dethroned heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield.

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