How do you describe a year in which Demi Moore went naked on screen and almost nobody bit? Inexplicable? A return to common sense? Maybe it’s simply that the rules of celebrity are shifting. In fact, 1996 often saw audiences ignoring stars in favor of new faces, behind-the-scenes turmoil, and on-screen spectacle. And who can blame them when celebs’ real-life antics were so wiggy? It was a year in which silly marriages were dissolved, murders committed, and squalid meltdowns made public. Thankfully, as the following pages indicate, there was some class among the crass.

JAN 3 CRAZY FOR YOU Madonna testifies against ex-con who stalked her: ”[He has] made his fantasies come true. I’m sitting in front of him.” He gets 10 years.

JAN 11 PUNKY BRUISERS Reunion tour of once-infamous Sex Pistols announced. ”We’re fat, 40, and back,” Johnny Rotten later remarks.

JAN 12 KA-CHING! OF POP Janet Jackson signs four-album deal with Virgin Records worth a reported $80 million, topping brother Michael’s $60 million contract with Sony.

JAN 16 BULLET THE BLUE SKY Claiming to be acting on an anonymous drug tip, Jamaican police mistakenly fire on seaplane that had carried Jimmy Buffett, U2’s Bono, and Island Records chairman Chris Blackwell to Negril.

JAN 17 HAD HIS PHIL After 29 years and more than 6,000 shows, Phil Donahue says he’s hanging up his mike. The third-rated gabfest only two years before, Donahue ranks 13th among sleazy imitators.

JAN 18 YOU ARE NOW ALONE Lisa Marie Presley files for divorce from Michael Jackson after 20 months. She keeps her inheritance; he retains estimated earnings of $150 million and custody of Bubbles.

JAN 21 GOLD STANDARD ”Okay, it’s a miracle,” deadpans Sharon Stone, after winning Golden Globe for Best Actress, Drama (Casino); Nicolas Cage hits jackpot for Leaving Las Vegas.

JAN 26 PIT STOP Professional bridge player Jane Bronstein sues for invasion of privacy after David Letterman refuses to pay damages for Late Show’s frequent airings of her gobbling peach at U.S. Open.

JAN 28 FRIENDLY HIRE Julia Roberts and Brooke Shields guest on Friends following highest-rated Super Bowl in a decade. Roberts scores dates with Matthew Perry; Shields wins her own sitcom, Suddenly Susan.

JAN 28 GREAT MUPPET CAPER Original Muppets Bert and Ernie are abducted from exhibit in Germany. Estimated worth: $126,000. They are later returned.

JAN 29 HOOTIE YOU LOVE? Claiming Hootie & the Blowfish kept music ”alive in ’95,” Garth Brooks refuses American Music Award for Favorite Overall Artist.

FEB 5 GOODBYE, LARRY Liz Taylor and Larry Fortensky split after more than four years of marriage.

FEB 5 MORNING GLORY Prodigal anchor Jane Pauley replaces Katie Couric for a week, and Today achieves its biggest win over Good Morning America in six years.

FEB 7 LIPS SINK HIM Arrested for trying to break into a car, Rob Pilatus of defunct lip-synching Milli Vanilli duo is charged with several counts, including making ”terrorist threats.”