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The Year That Was: 1999

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”This is the way the world ends,” T.S. Eliot wrote in 1925. ”Not with a bang but a whimper.” Well, that depends. With a decade, a century, and a millennium careening to a close, the denizens of Celebrityville had their pick of banging or whimpering their way to Y2K. As you’ll see in the time line and boxes that follow, Keanu Reeves, Martha Stewart, and the new teen pop brigade opted to go out with a kaboom (it’s no accident that the Backstreet Boys called their monster album Millennium), whereas Puff Daddy and the Planet Hollywood folks learned that it’s hard to party like it’s 1999 when the bubbles in your Veuve Clicquot have already gone flat. By the frantic finale of the 20th century, the biggest phenomena in global pop culture — Pokemon and Toy Story 2 — were entertainments engineered mainly for little kids. Which suggests that the poet was wrong: Everything, it turns out, ends with a giggle.

Jan 6

Nose Exit The View cohost Debbie Matenopoulos (1) leaves ABC’s morning gabfest after 16 months of punchline fodder and rumored friction with Barbara Walters. In February, Miss M., now an aspiring actress, breaks her nose on a swinging door at the Manhattan nightspot Moomba. Rhinoplasty ensues (2). Her View replacement, Lisa Ling, begins work in May.

Poison Penn letter Two weeks after 20th Century Fox’s World War II epic, The Thin Red Line, opens, star Sean Penn fires a fuming missive at Fox executives. The actor — who cc’s the film’s director Terrence Malick, Fox overlord Rupert Murdoch, as well as ”God Almighty” — feels the studio was stingy in refusing to fly him to a Houston screening on a corporate jet.

Jan 7

Morning Sickness Nielsen stats reveal that Good Morning America has fallen to third place in the morning-show race for the first time in two decades. GMA bounces back a week later and, with new hosts Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer, holds at No. 2.

Jan 11

The Man Who Would Be Knight Sean Connery reportedly blames Scotland’s Labour Party-controlled government for blocking his Conservative Party-supported try for knighthood, saying, ”It lacks class on their part.” Rumor has it that Labour bigwig Donald Dewar thwarted Connery, though Dewar denies that he 86-ed the erstwhile 007.

The War of Art It’s confirmed that Creative Artists Agency cofounder Mike Ovitz (left) has lured director Martin Scorsese to his new Artists Management Group, kicking off a year of high-profile high rolling for the former Most Powerful Man in Hollywood. Days later, Ovitz snags CAA defector Robin Williams. In June, he acquires a controlling interest in the Internet search engine Scour.net, and in July, merges AMG with Renaissance, which reps writers Frank McCourt and James Ellroy. On the downside, he fumbles a bid to win an NFL expansion team in L.A.

Jan 12

Unmasked Man At auction, an anonymous bidder ponies up $3 million-plus for Mark McGwire’s 70th home-run baseball. In February, Todd McFarlane — creator of the Spawn entertainment juggernaut, big-time movie-toy maker, and self-proclaimed ”psycho fan” — announces that he’s the buyer.

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