By Lisa SchwarzbaumRebecca Ascher-WalshJessica Shaw and David Browne
Updated December 24, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST


1 Butt-head

Call me Butt-head. That’s my dream, anyway. MTV’s lovable doofuscouch potato and his friend Beavis were everywhere this year: acult show that became MTV’s most popular series shortly afterits March 1993 debut, merchandising from beach towels tokeychains, a book, an album. Beavis may have grabbed theheadlines for his fiery activities, but the true hero of ourdisjointed times is clearly Butt-head, for these reasons. Histalent as a sociocultural commentator. ”Is this PBS?” he saidduring a music video that showed astronauts-in-training clips.”Is this a Clearasil commercial?” he cracked during Amy Grant’santiseptic ”Baby Baby” video, encapsulating in five words whatmost critics take 500 to say. I would pay big dollars to reeloff lines like that. His laugh. With its hints of sarcasm andmockery, that dry, parched-throat huh huh is a remarkablechuckle. It beats my snort any day. His wardrobe. I would lovenothing better than to channel-surf and eat junk food all daywhile wearing a rock T-shirt and shorts. Plus, Butt-head sportsan AC/DC shirt to Beavis’ Metallica one, and anyone knows AC/DCis more fun than Metallica. His pronunciation of the word cool.It’s all in the hard emphasis on the c. He also has the coolestway of saying, ”Whoa.” Huh huh. I said, ”hard.” His perception.When Butt-head stares ahead and mutters ”Uh…” in response to abad video or a question about the contents of milkshakes atBurger World, it isn’t because he’s blank. Raised in a societyof sound bites and lowered expectations, Butt-head has feelings;he just isn’t always able to articulate them: Therefore; hissimple dictum, ”I don’t like things that suck,” is pathos-heavy,not pathetic. His ability to rattle annoyingly prim commentatorslike Katie Couric, who seemed perplexed and disgusted by Beavisand Butt-head during a segment on Now, her newsmagazine. Enoughsaid. — David Browne

2 David Caruso

No one told Steven Bochco that a leading man shouldn’t have redhair and a pale Irish mug, so the producer cast David Caruso asa sweet cop to Dennis Franz’s sour one on the trenchant ABCpolice drama NYPD Blue. And Caruso sizzles as Det. John Kelly,whose soulful intensity translates into solid sex appeal formillions hooked on TV’s newest dramatic hit. With a quick hitchof a lip or a slow, quiet expression that can convey compassionor indignation, Caruso offers viewers one of the deepestcharacterizations to be found in all of today’s TV dramas. Theactor won fine notices for his film work in Mad Dog and Glory,but nothing like the raves he’s reaping for his subtly layeredperformance as a good guy who is not above baring his bottom inselected adult situations. ”In feature films, you’re either seenas the bad guy or the leading man, and that’s it,” says Caruso,37. ”Here we really get into the gray areas of relationships.”The only thing that’s black-and-white is that right now theredhead is red hot.

3 Allen and Albert Hughes

In a year when debating violent entertainment became high drama,21-year-old twins Allen and Albert Hughes reaffirmed the dramaticpotential of violence itself. Their searing $3 million film debut,Menace II Society, traced the chalk outline of an L.A. communitybeginning to implode, portraying the fratricide of Watts withgunshot clarity — and without preaching. Critical raves, a hotsoundtrack, and a healthy $27 million gross landed the music-videodirectors from Pomona, Calif., a multipicture, three-year dealwith Disney, as well as their own record label, UnderworldRecords, with Capitol. While they are undecided about the storyline for their next project, we can expect ”a violent movieagain,” says Allen, the Hughes brother who works with the actors(codirector Albert deals with the cameras). ”Everybody in Americalikes to see violence, but nobody wants to admit to it. All we’redoing is saying we’re fascinated by violence.”

4 Laura Esquivel

Just for a moment, Laura Esquivel makes you believe that thesecrets of the heart can be revealed in the secrets of the hearth.The Mexican screenwriter’s first novel, Like Water for Chocolate,a magical tale in which ingested rose petals induce a deliciousdelirium, has been on national best-seller lists for more thaneight months — and the movie adaptation, directed and produced fromher script by Esquivel’s husband, Alfonso Arau, is thetop-grossing foreign film in 10 years. And while Esquivel, 43,claims to have found a certain satisfaction in her suddenstateside fame, she has also retreated to Mexico, after a briefstay in New York, to finish her next novel, a New Age sci-fithriller due out in the spring of 1995. ”For me, life has largelybeen a sacred experience,” the author says through an interpreter.”But such a public life has taken that away. I’ve had to learn tostop and say ‘Enough.”’ If only her chocolate-chomping fans coulddo the same.

5 RuPaul

A platinum wig, red lipstick, and a dream — not to mention funny,creative videos, an incredible talent for self-promotion, andlegs that reach, in the words of their owner, from ”here toeternity.” That’s what it took for RuPaul Andre Charles tobecome the first drag queen on the pop charts. Thanks to lastspring’s debut album Supermodel of the World, RuPaul, 6’4 1/2”,29 and ”holding there forever,” already has three No. 1 dancesingles — ”Supermodel (You Better Work),” ”Back to My Roots,” and”A Shade Shadey (Now Prance)” — under his 26-inch (”with a littlecreative management”) belt. And the self-described ”Big Bird ofdrag queens” isn’t about to cool his five-inch heels: A newsingle, ”Little Drummer Boy,” is out for the holidays, and 1994will bring an autobiography and an appearance in Spike Lee’snext film, Crooklyn. ”My message is, ‘Learn how to love yourselfregardless of what you look like,”’ says Ru. Or, as one of hisvideos translates it, ”Peace, love, and hair grease.”

6 Stone Temple Pilots

It’s official: Stone Temple Pilots have won the ”next Nirvana”contest. Emerging from the San Diego club scene to a big-timeAtlantic contract and heavy MTV rotation, the brooding quartetsolidified the alternative-music revolution begun by their PacificNorthwestern compatriots. Their soon-to-be-triple-platinum debutalbum, Core, brought thundering tales of alienation; apathy, andguilt to a mainstream audience. ”It’s real easy to get completelycynical and jaded and say, ‘F — – it, I hate these people thatbought my record. They are all f — -ing morons,”’ sayscarrot-topped singer Scott Weiland, 26. But the Pilots’ successmakes that kind of posturing tough: With an MTV Unplugged airingin early January and plans for a new album and tour next summerand fall, the left-of-the-dial superstars know they’ve crossed theline from alternative to arena. ”I’m not going to go out and writea punk-rock record next,” Weiland promises, ”because I’m not apunk.”

7 Leonardo DiCaprio

This year, Leonardo DiCaprio had the crap beaten out of him andemerged victorious. A former TV actor (Growing Pains, Parenthood),he won critical acclaim in This Boy’s Life, as the stepson RobertDe Niro’s character smacked around. Now he’s stealing the screenin What’s Eating Gilbert Grape as a high-spirited, mentallyretarded teen whose brother (Johnny Depp) also takes a swat athim. Not about to take it lying down, DiCaprio — who lost out toChristian Slater as the late River Phoenix’s replacement inInterview With the Vampire because he looked too young — is now offto play Gene Hackman’s son in The Quick and the Dead, with SharonStone. ”This character’s mistreated too,” he laughs. Despite allthat, DiCaprio, 19, who still lives in L.A. with his mom, seemsto have his head on straight. ”I think I’m pretty settled with theattention,” he says. ”I know people will recognize me, but, hey,there are much worse things.” And he would know.


This year’s crop of girl groups looked to be long on attitude andshort on vocal ability — until three barely grown-up women fromBrooklyn and the Bronx came along and knocked the competition outof the box with a debut album, It’s About Time, that showcasedtheir powerhouse, gospel-bred harmonies and instinct for pickinghits. So far, SWV’s Time has sold more than 2.3 million copies,with four of its songs reaching the top 10 on Billboard’s pop andR&B charts (including ”Weak,” which held the No. 1 spot on both).The pressure is on to do even better next time out, but thesenew-jill crooners — Cheryl Gamble, 20, Tamara Johnson, 21, andLeanne Lyons, 19, a.k.a. Coko, Taj, and Lelee — aren’t fretting.”We didn’t go [into the studio] worrying the first time,” saysTaj. And with songs like ”Downtown,” a sultry guide to femalepleasure, they don’t need to; SWV have already made it clear thatthe name they’ve chosen for themselves — Sisters With Voices — isone they’ve earned.

9 Jason Scott Lee

Playing martial-arts star Bruce Lee in this summer’s Dragon, JasonScott Lee had audiences cheering on their feet as he whirled,kicked, and walked on his hands. And as a globe-trotting Inuit inMap of the Human Heart, he accomplished yet another feat ofathleticism, making love on top of a blimp. In only a year, thisChinese-Hawaiian actor, who just completed five months on EasterIsland filming the Kevin Costner-produced historical drama RapaNui, has emerged as one of the sexiest (and most limber) leadingmen around. But if Lee, 26, makes heroism look easy, he’s clearlyexhausted from the effort. ”Fame was something to adjust to,” hesays in his slow, surferlike drawl. ”There is a hugeresponsibility to celebrity.” Lee’s trying to escape some of it,taking a break back home in Hawaii. ”I’m just letting thingschannel,” he says, ”and feeling the wind.” What he’s hearing, nodoubt, is applause.

10 Toni Braxton

Last year, Toni Braxton’s name could have been Anita Baker Jr.After Baker declined to sing ”Love Shoulda Brought You Home” for1992’s Boomerang soundtrack, the diva-in-training stepped in anddid fine. This year, Braxton proved that she was more than ashoe-filler, with an emotional, soulful, double-platinumself-titled album that has made the contralto — a P.K.(preacher’s kid) from Severn, Md. — one of 1993’s mosttalked-about R&B newcomers. Beginner’s luck? ”I just think myvoice is different,” says Braxton, 26, who hopes ”10, 20 yearsfrom now to be doing Vegas. Gosh, movies. All the good stuff.”All this drive from a woman who was repeatedly told by friendsthat she had no singing future. ”My parents said, ‘When the timecomes, it’s gonna happen — it’s not gonna happen before then,” SoI guess I’m here.”

(By Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, Nisid Hajari, Heather Keets, KateMeyers, Lisa Schwarzbaum, and Jessica Shaw)




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