From Ashton Kutcher to Anthony Weiner to Charlie Sheen, 2011 was the year in which boldface names engaged in plenty of bald-faced behavior. It was an annus horribilis in which the friendly skies became a lot less friendly, thanks to Gerard Depardieu and Alec Baldwin. Channeling John McEnroe, Serena Williams let her temper get the best of her on the tennis court, and summoning her inner diva, Madonna looked a gift bouquet in the mouth. Mario Batali and John Galliano insulted with inappropriate references to the Third Reich, and Kim Kardashian walked from the wedding chapel all the way to the bank.
Indeed, it was a banner year for bad behavior--but it wasn't just famous folks who gained notoriety for obnoxious acts. Ordinary people became infamous, too, with misdeeds that went viral, earning them a spot in our 2011 Civilian Hall of Shame. More on those next week!
In the meantime, herewith are our inductees for the Worst-Behaved of 2011, including what we can all learn from how horribly they handled themselves.
ENOUGH WITH THE NAZI TALK!
10)In November, showman superchef Mario Batali gave bankers something to chew on when he compared them to Stalin and Hitler. Answering a question about whom he might nominate for Time magazine's Person of the Year, the "Iron Chef" (after giving shout-outs to Steve Jobs and Michael Pollan) moved on to a discussion of bankers: "The way [they] have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys…" Batali immediately faced a backlash from financiers, who urged a boycott of his many popular--and expense-account-friendly--New York restaurants, which include Babbo, Del Posto, Esca and Lupa.
POSTSCRIPT: The chef (perhaps realizing in what large measure the same industry he was lambasting has propped up his establishments), ultimately Tweeted: "It was never my intention to equate our banking industry with Hitler and Stalin, two of the most evil, brutal dictators in modern history."
LESSON FOR US ALL: Don't bite the hand that feeds you. Or in this case, the hands that you feed. And unless the individual or group you are criticizing is truly a megalomaniacal dictator guilty of genocide, comparisons to Hitler (and the Nazis) or Stalin treats as banal the horrific atrocities actually committed by those two men.
9) In February, a video surfaced of designer John Galliano making anti-Semitic remarks in a Paris bar that had been one of his favorite haunts. Apparently inebriated, the chief designer for Christian Dior made comments including: "I love Hitler"; "people like you would be dead," and "your mothers, your forefathers" would all be "gassed." The video's release followed accusations by two of the bar's patrons of similar anti-Semitic vitriol, made on a separate occasion, an incident for which Galliano was questioned and released by French police.
Actress Natalie Portman, who had recently signed on as a fragrance spokesperson for the company, said, "As an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr. Galliano in any way," and that she was "deeply shocked and disgusted by the video." The design community, which had always embraced Galliano's outlandish sensibilities, was shocked as well, and Dior took swift action, relieving him of all duties.
POSTSCRIPT: Despite an apology in which he stated: "Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society. I unreservedly apologize for my behavior in causing any offense," along with his insistence that his remarks were made under the influence of alcohol, sleeping tablets and Valium, on September 8, Galliano was found guilty by a French court of making public insults on the basis of origin, religion, race or ethnicity, and ordered to pay $23,000 in court fees.
LESSON FOR US ALL: Hateful language (under any circumstances, including inebriation) is simply unacceptable.
DON'T KILL THE MESSENGER
8)Serena Williams once again let her temper get the best of her when the chips were down. During the U.S. Open Finals in September, Williams shouted a distracting "COME ON!" just as her opponent Sam Stosur attempted a (failed) backhand return. Chair umpire Eva Asderaki awarded the point to Stosur--a turn of events that did not sit well with Williams, who was already struggling for survival in the match. The famously temperamental athlete reacted with a complete lack of grace, back talking to the judge: "Aren't you the one who screwed me over last time?" and even: "You're a hater, and you're just unattractive inside."
POSTSCRIPT: In a press conference after the match (which Stosur won, taking the championship cup home to Australia), Williams remarked: "I don't even remember what I said. It was just so intense out there. ... I guess I'll see it on YouTube." She was fined $2,000 for the incident--a drop in the bucket compared to her winnings in this year's Open ($900,000 for being runner-up, plus a $500,000 bonus for coming in second after her victory at the U.S. Open Series). The penalty could have been far worse. Her 2009 outburst against opponent Kim Clijsters landed her on the USTA's probation list. Had the organization found her guilty of a major offense, she would have been subject to a $175,000 fine and barred from playing in the 2012 U.S. Open.
LESSON FOR US ALL: No one likes a sore loser.
YOU DON'T BRING ME FLOWERS
7)Presented a fresh hydrangea stalk by a journalist at the Venice Film Festival in September, Madonna, who was there to promote her new film W.E., quickly thanked the man before stowing the flowers under the table where she was seated. Caught on camera (and on mic), she then made a face and in her best British accent slagged: "I absolutely LOATHE hydrangeas. He obviously doesn't know that." Caught empty-handed after the press conference, the quick-thinking pop singer had this to say about where the flowers had gone: "Oh...my assistant took them...they're already in water." Right.
Although the Material Girl is certainly entitled to like any flower she chooses, her pretentious mini-commentary (done in bad Britspeak), not to mention her use of the word "loathe" (a term imbued with pretension) have earned her a spot on this year's Worst-Behaved List. In a room filled cameras, media-savvy Madge should have known better.
POSTSCRIPT: Madonna responded to the story with an odd silent-film style "humor" video that began with her professing remorse, stroking a hydrangea and begging its forgiveness. The apology quickly turns dark as she tosses the flowers to the ground, stomps on them, kicks them away and professes that she still hates hydrangeas and that her true love is roses. At last count, her video had just over 1 million views on YouTube. At least one video of the original incident has been viewed more than 3 million times on the sharing site.
LESSON FOR US ALL: Be gracious in accepting a gift--both during and after. If you don't like it, keep your thoughts to yourself.
KIM KASHES IN...AND TAKES WEDDING KREDITS, TOO?
6)In August, reality-show juggernaut Kim Kardashian married NBA player Kris Humphries in the year's second-biggest wedding (after Prince William and Kate Middleton's, of course). Yet, unlike the ceremony that took place in Westminster Abbey, the vows that Kim and Kris exchanged in Montecito, California, were tinged with opportunist commercialism from the get-go. From the two-part special on E! to the sale of photo rights to her bridal shower ($100,000) to those of the wedding itself ($1.5 million), Kim and her soon-to-be ex reportedly netted $18 million in fees, goods and services for the materialistic extravaganza. Although the amount is in some dispute, the final number is certainly far more than the couple could ever spend in their brief 72 days as man and wife.
Haters and fans alike cried foul as Kardashian filed for divorce, all the while maintaining that the wedding was not a stunt, but that a long, happy life together was simply was not meant to be for the pair: "After careful consideration, I have decided to end my marriage," she says." I hope everyone understands this was not an easy decision. I had hoped this marriage was forever but sometimes things don’t work out as planned."
POSTSCRIPT: Even tarnished, Kardashian has kept her Midas touch, generating even more interest and web searches than ever. All of this as her onetime love Humphries has counter-filed for an annulment, on the grounds of fraud. In the meantime, Star magazine reports that rather than return her wedding gifts to the givers, Kardashian has been cashing them in for alternate goodies. At one Hollywood boutique, she is said to have exchanged a batch of never-picked-up gifts and used the credit for Rolex watches instead. Time for a major manners check, Kim. Oops. Did we say check? Didn't mean to imply that there was more money to be made.
LESSON FOR US ALL: They call them vows for a reason. Marriage is not something to be entered into lightly. (Or for personal gain.)
JUST PLANE OBNOXIOUS
5)French actor Gerard Depardieu made a scene (and a stink) when he determined that he could no longer hold his bladder aboard a CityJet flight from Dublin to Paris in August. After being instructed that he'd have to wait until after the delayed flight had taken off, he told the flight attendant he simply could not do so any longer, and proceeded to urinate in a bottle, creating a mess at his seat, an incident that ended in the plane's being turned back to the gate so the spillage could be cleaned. The resulting delay? Two hours.
POSTSCRIPT: The ordeal landed the Golden Globe winner on Anderson Cooper's "RidicuList," a live segment that sent the normally reserved anchorman into uncontrollable hysterics as he worked his way through a string of punny lines including "Depardieu created his own little jet stream," that as a celebrity, "he's probably used to being Pampered," and that he shouldn't worry too much about the press coverage, in case it was simply "yellow journalism." Cooper later invited the thespian to come on his daily talk show, offering him a chance to explain himself. The Frenchman graciously accepted, doing so via satellite (perhaps out of fear of being shut out of the loo on a transatlantic flight?), and did so with a very large bottle by his side--for comedic (we hope) effect only.
LESSON FOR US ALL: Like Mom always said, make sure to "go" before you leave the house.
4) He's demonstrated his temper before (witness the leaked irate, voicemail message he left in 2007 for his 11-year-old daughter, Ireland) but Alec Baldwin's December refusal to stop playing Words with Friends on an electronic device while aboard an American Airlines flight was notable for its abject childishness....starting with his refusal to listen to an authority figure, pouting, running to the bathroom and loudly slamming the door (presumably so he could continue playing). And rather than admit his mistake, he took to Twitter, insulting the crew ("Last flight w American. Where retired Catholic school gym teachers find jobs as flight attendants"), the airline ("No wonder American Air is bankrupt") and, perhaps worst of all, inconveniencing the passengers, who had to endure a significant delay so the actor could be escorted off the plane.
POSTSCRIPT: The 30 Rock star wound up cancelling his Twitter account and issuing an apology to his fellow passengers via The Huffington Post, but maintained that there were many others using their phones at the same time he was, and that he had been singled out by a particularly unpleasant flight attendant. "The lesson I've learned is to keep my phone off when the 1950's gym teacher is on duty." Baldwin got in another shot at American when he appeared on Saturday Night Live "disguised" as "Captain Steve Rogers," to offer Baldwin an apology "on behalf of everyone at American Airlines," a particularly egregious offense, explained Rogers, because Baldwin is "an American treasure."
LESSON FOR US ALL: We've all been in situations where we've encountered surly attitudes from flight attendants and others who are in positions of temporary authority over us. But rather than responding in kind, it's far better to kill with kindness. And if that doesn't work, it's far preferable to grin and bear it--these are the sorts of battles you cannot win. Save the complaints for later, putting them in writing and sending them to someone who actually cares and is empowered to make proper amends.
FAREWELL, MY TWEET
3) Ashton Kutcher proved himself worthy of enough bad behavior for at least two and a half men this year, when he cheated on wife Demi Moore; lashed out on Twitter in blind support of fired Penn State football coach Joe Paterno (without knowing that the reason for his firing was his apparent failure to acknowledge that his number-two was an alleged pedophile); and then, as his marriage came to an end, issued a summary on the social media sharing site chime.in that to some appeared callous:
"I will forever cherish the time I spent with Demi. Marriage is one of the most difficult things in the world, and sometimes they fail. Love and Light, AK." It stood in stark contrast to the well-crafted message released by Moore (which went out as a statement as opposed to a Tweet or a chime):
"It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I have decided to end my six-year marriage to Ashton...As a woman, a mother and a wife there are certain values and vows that I hold sacred, and it is in this spirit that I have chosen to move forward with my life. This is a trying time for me and my family, and so I would ask for the same compassion and privacy that you would give to anyone going through a similar situation."
POSTSCRIPT: in the wake of the embarrassing Paterno incident (for which Kutcher apologized--via Twitter, of course), the former That '70s Show star acknowledged his inability to be held accountable for his own Tweets, and turned the handling of his account (which has more than 8 million followers) to management at his company Katalyst Media. As for Moore, her she announced in December that--at least for the time being--she'll be keeping her current Twitter handle, @mrskutcher.
LESSON FOR US ALL: Make sure you have the facts straight before you make a sweeping statement. And when you announce something as emotionally tinged as the break-up of a marriage, be certain that your remarks don't sound like an afterthought.
THE SCANDAL THAT LAUNCHED 1,000 HEADLINES
2) Ashton Kutcher and Alec Baldwin weren't the only one with Twitter problems in 2012. When progressively more suggestive and racy Tweets surfaced from the account of New York Congressman Anthony Weiner in late May, the press sensed a scandal. Weiner, who is married to aide to Hillary Clinton Huma Abedin, stridently maintained his innocence, allowing that perhaps it was him in the photos, but that he was not responsible for sending them and that he'd been the victim of hacking, which he nonetheless demurred to have investigated by either the FBI or the Capitol Police. As his protestations grew more strained, the evidence--and the inconsistencies--began to mount. On June 6, Weiner ultimately admitted that the Tweets and photos were indeed his, but resisted calls for his resignation until a particularly embarrassing one surfaced, prompting both President Obama and Nancy Pelosi to add their voices to those calling for the Congressman to step down. On June 16, Weiner announced that he would vacate his seat, to allow his district and his party to escape the distraction he had become, and to give him time to focus on healing his marriage.
In his contrite and sullen resignation speech, Weiner announced that: "I got into politics to give a voice to the many who simply did not have one. Now I’ll be looking for other ways to contribute my talents so that we live up to that most New York, and [most] American of ideals. The ideal that a family, a community, and ultimately a country, is the one thing that unites us."
Weiner has kept a very low public profile in the months since the incident, focusing instead on his marriage, and spending a bit of time abroad, most certainly to remain out of the limelight. He and Abedin are expecting their first child imminently--a fact that added insult to injury at the same time the scandal was breaking.
LESSON FOR US ALL: Own your mistakes. The consequences of covering them up are typically far worse.
JUST NO WAY TO POLISH IT
1) Was there any doubt that the dubious honor of number-one on our list would go to actor Charlie Sheen? After making last year's Worst-Behaved list for his unbecoming conduct at New York's swank Daniel restaurant and later, at the Plaza Hotel, followed by a stint in rehab, he wound up getting fired in March from the top-rated CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men" after insolently taunting the production company, the network and his longtime producer, Chuck Lorre. The actor responded to the firing with an abject lack of remorse, telling TMZ: "This is very good news. They continue to be in breach, like so many whales. It is a big day of gladness at the Sober Valley Lodge because now I can take all of the bazillions, never have to look at [expletive] again and I never have to put on those silly shirts for as long as this warlock exists in the terrestrial dimension."
The year went from bad to worse as he granted rambling interviews in the presence of his two live-in girlfriends, his so-called "goddesses" and spoke of his own "tiger blood" and "Adonis DNA." Most vexingly, he patted himself on the back for his own good manners: "I'm extremely old-fashioned, I'm a nobleman, I'm chivalrous. I believe that chivalry is not dead, it's just been in a coma for a while."
After going on the road with a disastrous one-man show called "Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option," Sheen continued to implode, garnering both consternation and concern. When he finally reached a settlement with Warner Brothers in September (for a reported $25 million, his tone changed markedly, as he graciously wished the show and its replacement star Ashton Kutcher the best of luck at the Emmy Awards, and admitted to Jay Leno that he would in fact have fired himself for the sort of behavior he'd engaged in. As Sheen looks to repair the wreckage of his career, he is at work on a TV adaptation of the Adam Sandler movie Anger Management, which will air on the FX network. Only time will tell whether he's able to keep his anger managed adequately well to stay off the "2012 Worst-Behaved List."
LESSON FOR US ALL: When you're laid off from your job, publicly lashing out at your former employer makes you appear to be a loose cannon. Instead, take the high road and walk away with your reputation intact.