1 // Jen's Men
Brad Pitt, actor, producer, trophy husband
AGE: 42
Vince Vaughn, actor, producer, funny guy
AGE: 36
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 20

You’d have an easier time finding a place unaffected by global warming than you would escaping news of these men. The moment Vaughn sidled up to Jennifer Aniston and became the yin to Pitt’s yang, the two became omnipotent. Don’t pretend you don’t know about the Namibian sabbatical, the Madame Tussaud nativity scene, and the PDA on that Chicago hotel balcony.

2 // Chad Hurley & Steve Chen
Founders, Youtube
AGES: 29 & 27

At Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley conference this July, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, founders of YouTube, reportedly turned their noses up at any bids less than $1 billion for their year-old company—almost double what Rupert Murdoch paid for MySpace last year. Which may be because their site attracts 200 million page views and 6 million unique users a day, and its videos became a near-instant fixture in blogs, e-mails, and MySpace profiles.

3 // The Jew as Lightning Rod
AGE: Eternal

When a marinated Mel Gibson sputtered anti-Semitic remarks at a Malibu deputy late one July night, he poured gasoline on already intense flames. His words might have seemed merely ignorant, but this and other offenses (the opening of the restaurant Hitler’s Cross near Mumbai; synagogues vandalized from Brazil to Norway to New Zealand) came during an ominous year. Beware: Drunk men say what sober men only think.

4 // Reichen Lehmkuhl
Closet Cleaner
AGE: 32

Reichen Lehmkuhl was the catalyst for the biggest outing since Ellen. Last summer, the Amazing Race contestant was out; his best buddy, the former ’N Sync singer Lance Bass, wasn’t. The blogs were abuzz and the New York Daily News wondered why Bass was borrowing Lehmkuhl’s T-shirt. Bass finally scratched the itch in July with a People magazine cover: I’M GAY. Lehmkuhl’s lesson? The Gay Rumor remains the entertainment world’s most potent weapon.

5 // The Celebloggers
Trent Vanegas Blogger, Pink is the New Blog
AGE: 32
Mario Lavandeira Blogger, Perez Hilton
AGE: 28
Josh Levine Cameraman, TMZ
AGE: 25

As a measure of their impact, consider that these purveyors of innuendo, cattiness, and caught-in-the-act journalism make us feel sorry for Hollywood publicists. That was as unthinkable as the idea that two guys with laptops and one with a video camera could force TV networks to shroud their shows’ plots in secrecy, TomKat’s friends to rally to confirm Suri’s existence, and the entertainment-news machine to rethink its puff-piece formulas. “We have to be more self-motivated and enterprising,” says Access Hollywood executive producer Rob Silverstein. “It’s the only way to stay relevant.” Each of the three has his calling card. Trent Vanegas is all hot-pink exuberance, while Mario Lavandeira (pictured) coins bitchy monikers for his victims (GyllenHO, Kiki Drunkst, Kevin “K-Fag” Federline). And Josh Levine, TMZ’s on-the-ground man, shot the video of a trash-talking Brandon Davis that’s been streamed a million times, turning the obscure socialite into a celebrity jackass faster than you can say “firecrotch.” Vanegas has decamped to L.A. from Detroit, Lavandeira has a reality show in the works, and Levine was assaulted by Woody Harrelson. How much closer to fame can you get?

6 // Matt McCaulley
South Dakota Legislature
AGE: 34

As a state representative, Matt McCaulley wrote the language that ensures South Dakota bill HB1215, signed into law this March, will either overturn a woman’s constitutional right to abortion or reaffirm it, perhaps in perpetuity. So when the Supreme Court eventually rules on his no-exceptions (including for rape or incest) abortion ban, McCaulley will become a mythic figure in the abortion wars—but even he isn’t sure which side will cheer him. “Going for the jugular of Roe” is a gamble, admits McCaulley, now a lawyer in private practice. “But epic legal battles aren’t won by standing still.” Already, 11 states have passed “trigger statutes” or policy statements indicating that they will outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, though many moderate right-to-lifers fear a backlash against the South Dakota ban. “It has definitely motivated pro-choice Americans—our supporters see this as the attack it is,” says Nancy Keenan, president of naral. “Pro-choice candidates are using these egregious bans on abortion to put their opponents on the defense.” What’s clear is that the media-shy McCaulley has sparked a firestorm that is starting to change the electoral landscape—by the time nine justices have their say in 2009, it may look more like scorched earth.

7 // The New Energy Pioneers
Ron Pernick, Co-Founder, Clean Edge
AGE: 42
Scott Kohl, Technical Director, ICM Inc.
AGE: 35

Until recently, energy technology was the kind of issue that put all but the most committed environmentalist straight to sleep. Not anymore: With the country’s dependency on oil costing lives in the Middle East and Al Gore giving the subject the Hollywood treatment, energy is hot. Venture capitalists, major corporations, and government agencies all want advice on how to get in on the new frontier. Sound familiar? Ron Pernick, who cofounded the research firm Clean Edge, has seen this kind of technological gold rush before. He cut his teeth on Internet startups including Yahoo, and what Jupiter Consulting did for the Internet, Clean Edge aims to do for energy. When the Nasdaq wanted to create a clean-energy index, and when officials in San Francisco needed advice on running the city on clean energy, they called Pernick. Clean Edge’s research shows that the biggest clean-energy market is in biofuel, and Scott Kohl, the technical director of R&D at ICM, an engineering company, is leading a team that in five to ten years may have cars running on highly efficient, clean, dirt-cheap ethanol that’s made not from corn but from soybean husks, wood scraps, grass—anything containing cellulose. “The development of cellulosic ethanol,” says Michael Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, “is the key to unlocking our new energy future.” At about $1.50 a gallon to refine, and with 30 percent lower emissions than gasoline, it could replace more than half of the gas currently used and decrease oil imports by 50 percent—enough to make everyone pay attention.

8 // Jimmy Wales
Founder, Wikipedia
Age: 40

With more than a million articles (by comparison, Britannica, the Rolls-Royce of reference, has a scant 120,000) on everything from Kevin Federline’s discography to Derridean deconstruction, Wikipedia, the encyclopedia by the people and for the people, is transforming the way we define knowledge. Since Jimmy Wales, a former futures trader, launched the free site in 2001, it has become the first and typically only stop for people looking to check, correct, and, yes, distort historical facts (the entire House of Representatives and their staffs were blocked from the site after congressmen’s entries were tampered with). Despite its vulnerability to such short-term manipulation, Wikipedia has shown that the unorganized masses can ably cobble together our cumulative knowledge—it’s nearly as accurate as Britannica, according to the journal Nature. And no less an authority than Bono, an avowed Wikipedian, calls it a “centrifugal force for good.” Which may explain why it attracts 14,000 hits per second and more traffic than the New York Times and Wall Street Journal Web sites combined. “Three years ago I was just a guy in his pajamas typing on the Internet,” says Wales. Now he—or any other shlub in his PJs—may be the Johannes Gutenberg of the Internet age.

9 // Leonardo DiCaprio
Actor, Producer
AGE: 31
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 20

Don’t look now, but Leo’s most clichéd line is starting to sound prophetic. Nine years after starring in the most successful film ever, he is indeed poised to be “king of the world.” And his rise is proof of the power of saying no. Since Titanic, DiCaprio has steadfastly refused work for work’s sake, making only six films yet remaining one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors. He’s grown into an intense, brooding force, Scorsese’s new De Niro (this month’s gritty cop drama The Departed marks DiCaprio’s third film with the director). “The transition between young man and leading man is a hard one, and he did it triumphantly,” says Ed Zwick, who directed him in the thriller The Blood Diamond, out this December. Now DiCaprio and his Appian Way Productions are going on a literary bender: Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian classic Cat’s Cradle, Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller Blink, Robert Ludlum’s The Chancellor Manuscript, and the Pulitzer-winning The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. “His instincts as a producer are as solid and exciting as the choices he makes as an actor,” says Jeff Robinov, head of production at Warner Bros. The latest buzz also has DiCaprio playing the acid-testing guru Timothy Leary in a biopic, a fitting follow-up to his first starring turn, as a strung-out Jim Carroll in The Basketball Diaries. Coming full circle to realize his early promise? One more prophecy Leo is fulfilling.

10 // The 9/11 Hijackers
Mass Murderers, Terrorists, U.S. Policy-Makers
AGES: 20 TO 33

That $1,000 you and every other taxpayer have ponied up for war in Iraq with no end in sight? Score one for bin Laden’s boys. That cozy feeling that somebody might be listening in on your phone calls and flipping through your e-mails? Another little victory for the box-cutter crew. That gnawing guilt you feel about the fun and games undertaken in your name at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and our very own gulag archipelago of secret prisons scattered who knows where? That’s their handiwork too. The Gang of 19 hijacked more than planes; they hijacked our history, handing an aimless eight-month-old Bush administration a one-size-fits-all excuse for just about everything, from highly creative interpretations of the Constitution to the gleeful swift-boating of decorated veterans. Next month’s elections promise another referendum on 9/11: “Pay no attention to the DeLays, the Cunninghams, and the Neys on our team—the other side wants the terrorists to win!” Trouble is, they already have. Five years later, it’s time to admit it.