1 // Zac Efron, Shia LaBoeuf, and the Disney Kids
Ages: 15 to 27
Which one was naked on the Internet? Is Hannah Montana still a virgin? Are those two really a couple? If you have kids under the age of 12—or even if you don’t—you’re probably aware that you’ve been thinking about people like Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus (the multiplatinum 15-year-old star of the Disney Channel show Hannah Montana) more than is healthy or productive for a man your age. Efron, Cyrus, Hilary Duff, and other Disney creations are infiltrating our adult headspace like an airborne superbug. The 17.2 million viewers High School Musical 2 drew last year made it the highest-rated show in basic-cable history, and Disney is fanning the flames with yet another chart-topping soundtrack, an HSM stage adaptation, serialized novels, a video game, and an ice show. If you think you can escape Disney’s mind-controlling power, think again. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, and Even Stevens’ Shia LaBoeuf—who stars in next summer’s installment of Indiana Jones—were grown in Disney’s hothouse. Like it or not, we’re all caught in the mouse’s trap.
2 // The Surge
Average Age: 27
What do you call 20,000 soldiers sent off to fight a war that’s long since been lost? In George W. Bush’s politics of denial, they get a clever name: The Surge. It conveys power, momentum, and impermanence—military need and domestic political necessity—all in one word. But strategists argue that any increase is doomed unless it’s permanent. “Our biggest challenge has been convincing Iraqis the United States will be around long enough to help protect them—something so clearly finite doesn’t help,“ says Stephen Biddle, senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. And putting these soldiers in harm’s way has only made the war’s critics more rabid, meaning the administration can’t drown out the ever-louder cries to “Bring them home!“
3 // Mark Zuckerberg
Founder, Facebook; Age: 23
Nearly four years ago, Mark Zuckerberg registered the domain name thefacebook.com and soon thereafter dropped out of Harvard. Today, his social-networking website, known simply as Facebook, is arguably the hottest Internet property on the planet. In October, Microsoft beat out Google and Yahoo for the right to invest $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in the site. The deal valued Facebook at $15 billion—more than 20 times what MySpace sold for in 2005—and Zuckerberg holds a 20 percent share of that. The site posted 34 billion page views in September to MySpace’s 50 billion, and rumors are circulating about an IPO in 2009. So how’d Zuckerberg do it? By opening Facebook to off-campus netizens, inviting outside companies to create applications for the site (and share ad revenues), and slicing deeply into MySpace territory with a cleanly designed alternative to the teen-and-spam-fest.
4 // The Bible Beaters
Age: Born Again Yesterday
The Jesus Freak has gotten crafty. Copping to the fact that bashing gays and menacing abortion clinics aren’t voter-friendly tactics, the Christian right has lately adopted a kinder, gentler strategy—one that’s frighteningly effective: insidious religious propaganda in pop-culture packaging. Two of the year’s bigger bands, Flyleaf and Switchfoot, look like average punks, but they rock for Christ; millions of Americans gobbled up gospel-lite self-help books by the likes of Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen; and the video-sharing site GodTube has attracted more than 3 million unique visitors a month since its launch in August, mixing innocuous sermon highlights with jaw-droppers like the now-pulled “Battle Cry,“ a video call to arms for a Christian jihad that began with this quote: “I come not to bring peace but a sword.’ —Christ.“ Maybe the Holy War has only just begun.
5 // The School Shooters
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold; Ages: 18 and 17
Eight years on, and the bodies are still piling up. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who murdered 12 of their Columbine High School classmates in 1999, remain the role models for the killers responsible for this year’s school shootings. Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 at Virginia Tech, was inspired by “martyrs like Eric and Dylan,“ according to a letter he mailed to NBC News. A Wisconsin teen who allegedly marched into his high school and shot his principal dead had researched the Colorado massacre the day before his rampage. Add to this one student murdered in Tacoma, Washington, two (and two teachers) injured in Cleveland, two more shot at Delaware State University—and this year’s list of Columbine copycats reads like a Pentagon casualty report. It seems that Harris and Klebold have more friends than ever. And now every angst-ridden, jock-hating kid has not just the inspiration of the Trench Coat Mafia, but a growing pantheon of comrades in arms.
6 // The Subprime Sucker
Mortgage Defaulter; Age: 34
It just didn’t seem right. That college buddy of yours was making around 60K a year, and all of a sudden the guy was moving into a killer bungalow in the Hollywood Hills. Had he struck gold in Silicon Valley? Come into family money? Nope. Your dorm-room chum was riding one of the biggest waves of the Bush years: a flood of P.T. Barnum-style “subprime“ loans approved without any concern that maybe the borrowers couldn’t actually afford them. And guess what? Your buddy couldn’t. Now he’s a no-down-payment deadbeat. And we’re all facing the consequences of the subprime defaulter’s binge: an epidemic of foreclosures, a gruesome cratering of the real-estate market, and the early inklings of a recession. It turns out the Subprime Sucker is a pretty damn powerful guy—which is weird, because these days he’s crashing on your couch.
7 // The Good Fathers
Kevin Federline and Larry Birkhead; Ages: 29 and 34
Meet America’s new parental role models. We all expected Kevin Federline and Larry Birkhead to crash and burn as fathers. Instead, by being more visible presences in their children’s lives than many Hollywood A-listers, they emerged as unlikely candidates for Dad of Year. “To be a father is . . . everything,“ says Federline, who was awarded sole custody of Sean Preston and Jayden James in October. “I mean, to me, it’s the best thing in my life.“ The New Dad, as represented by K Fed and Birkhead, is involved. He trucks the kids to the supermarket, decorates their bedrooms, and even lets them dictate the direction of his career. “I’d actually like to play somebody other than a bad guy or an ass,“ says Federline, who’s made some forays into acting recently. “My TVs are pretty much G-rated right now. Anything from SpongeBob to Finding Nemo, and you know, I’m still trying to decide which one I like more.“ For his part, Birkhead may have proved even more definitively than Federline that being the guy the judge calls Daddy has become this decade’s most efficient method of scuzz removal. US Weekly now runs photo montages of Daddy Birkhead helping Dannielynn blow out the candles on her first birthday cake. “It keeps you on your toes,“ Federline says of fatherhood. “It shows me how little I am.“ Wisdom from the backup dancer who was once ball-and-chained to Britney Spears? Father used to know best, but maybe now he knows even better.
8 // Muqtada al-Sadr
Shiite Cleric; Age: 34
As the major players begin to plan for a post-U.S. Iraq, Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr has already burnished his statesman credentials, ordering a cease-fire for his Mahdi army (while still unofficially siccing them on his enemies). He’s also strengthened his grip on parliament and the government, including the Interior Ministry. Now, formerly warring Shiite and Sunni factions are uniting, apparently in the hopes of countering Sadr’s dominance. “This year his influence has been at least as high as it’s ever been,“ says Austin Long, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation. “It’s very rare that someone has so much extralegal power—in the form of an armed militia—yet has so much influence within the government.“ But Sadr’s real base of power is the street, where among nationalists and Shiite fundamentalists alike, his name is synonymous with resistance to the occupation. “It’s a name to conjure by these days,“ Long says. “You saw that at Saddam’s hanging.“ And you’ll see it when the last U.S. chopper leaves Baghdad.
9 // The Other F-word
Age: Forever young
If you take a look back, it appears that 2007 was the year of the F-word—but not the one you’re thinking of. America’s rent-a-quote harridan of hatred, Ann Coulter, used the word to slag presidential candidate John Edwards. Presidential candidate Bill Richardson used the Spanish version (maricón) to slam a guy on the Don Imus radio show. Controversy exploded after Isaiah Washington allegedly dropped the F-bomb on a fellow cast member of Grey’s Anatomy. It’s a word that anyone who ever spent time in an American school yard is familiar with: faggot. But some bullies grow up, get famous, and keep on using it. “I hate gay people,“ blurted former basketball star Tim Hardaway. Tucker Carlson bragged about having given a dude who tried to tap toes with him in a men’s room a taste of his bow-tied brutality (“I . . . hit him against the stall with his head, actually“). Hmmm. The word faggot, it seems, is on the tips of a lot of men’s tongues. They can’t stop thinking about it. Without it they’d be lost, and that makes you wonder who really has the power.
10 // Howard Wolfson
Political Consultant for Hillary Clinton; Age: 40 (Last Year’s Rank: 47)
The former First Lady’s march to the White House seems so unstoppable it’s hard to remember that a year ago her viability as a candidate was in question. Hillary’s ascendancy has less to do with Bill than with the vintage-Rove-style deftness of her top strategist, Howard Wolfson, who has steered her through every controversy she’s faced over the past eight years. The biggest came in August, when a reporter from the Wall Street Journal called Wolfson to say the paper was running a story on one of Clinton’s biggest campaign contributors, Norman Hsu, who turned out to be a fugitive in a fraud case. The contributions were immediately returned, and Clinton’s name was cleared. Fire contained. Now if only Wolfson could make her seem a little less . . . scary.
11 // Erik Prince
Founder and CEO, Blackwater Worldwide; Age: 38
Four years into the war, we learned something about the face of America in Iraq: It isn’t the reconstruction worker building a school or even the U.S. soldier—it’s the wraparound-sunglasses-clad Blackwater mercenary. These private warriors answer to Erik Prince, a conservative Republican with ties to the Bush administration who built his army-for-hire from veterans of elite forces, who are trained at a 7,000-acre facility in Moyock, North Carolina. Since 2003, the private security firm has reportedly earned upwards of $100 million a year by supplying bodyguards to the Green Zone elite. But last September, when Blackwater’s hired guns killed 17 Iraqi civilians in an apparently unprovoked attack in downtown Baghdad, we got a frightening glimpse of what Iraqis have been seeing for years: Prince’s army.
12 // Google
Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Founders; Ages: Both 34 (Last Year’s Rank: 11)
When wildfires scorched Southern California this fall, it was reported that some evacuees were Google Earthing their homes to see if they were ablaze. In addition to contributing yet another verb to the popular lexicon this year (“Google it,“ “Google stalk her,“ and now “Google Earth the new condo“), Sergey Brin and Larry Page snapped up the billion-dollar Internet phenom YouTube and saw the stock price of their Internet colossus exceed $600 a share. Next up: Google Health, a plan to make personal medical records accessible via the Internet and streamline health-information searches. If that doesn’t convince you that Brin and Page are taking over the world, try getting through a day without saying “Google.“
13 // YouTube
Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, Founders; Ages: 28 and 30 (Last Year’s Rank: 2)
When Google acquired YouTube late last year, the ghost of the dot-com boom hovered over the deal: $1.65 billion for a 20-month-old Internet start-up that hadn’t even turned a profit? But Chad Hurley and Steve Chen didn’t compromise their site’s messy democracy. That let them define political campaigns (Obama Girl), spawn newsy catchphrases (“Don’t tase me, bro!“), and scare the Pentagon—which blocked service members’ access to YouTube after the site launched a channel for “boots on the ground“ combat coverage. “Few things have had as pronounced an impact on the business world—or the world at large—as YouTube,“ says Tom Stemberg, a partner at the venture firm Highland Capital Partners.
14 // YouPorn
Stephen Paul Jones, Creator; Age: 27
It seems so obvious, but until a Stanford grad who uses the alias Stephen Paul Jones (and claims to be 27) launched the porn version of YouTube, no one had figured it out. Since its debut in August 2006, the user-generated video-sharing site YouPorn has become the Web’s most popular adult site, with more than 15 million unique visitors a month, and, in so doing, has fired a money shot across the bow of the $12 billion adult-entertainment industry. Why? Two words: free porn. And while YouPorn will go down as the why-didn’t-I-think-of-that idea of 2007, whether it survives—along with similar sites like PornoTube and Megarotic—will come down to the inevitable legal battles over piracy and age verification. “Traditional adult-video companies always thought people would pay for quality,“ says MJ MacMahon, publisher of Adult Video News. “But in reality, consumers don’t care.“
15 // The Green Guilt-Tripper
Meet the greener-than-thou crusader: your smug suburban neighbor with the Prius, the bumper-stickery guy in line at the burrito place, the soul-patched do-gooder in the next cubicle. They’re the voices of 21st-century green guilt, and they have more power over you than you care to admit. They influence what you buy (and what you don’t), what you drive, what you drink, how you dress, how you fry your eggs, and what kind of chicken laid the damn things in the first place. “We’re the people who remind you to save the world,“ they sneer. And you’re the guy who says, “Maybe tomorrow, dude.“ That is, if there is a tomorrow.
16 // The Spiritual Leader
Joel Osteen, Pastor, Lakewood Church; Age: 44
The most popular pastor in America casts God in the role of benevolent life coach. Known as the Smiling Preacher (his lovely blonde wife, Victoria, might be the reason for the grin), Joel Osteen doesn’t rail against sin, threaten damnation, or even refer to the Bible all that often—a strategy that’s helped his brand of “pastorpreneur“ sell in precincts where Dr. Phil and Deepak Chopra hold sway. Each Sunday, Osteen’s services draw 40,000 people to a church that was once the home of the Houston Rockets, and he hosts the most-watched inspirational TV show in the United States. All of which helps explain how the Oral Roberts University dropout has sold 4 million copies of his 2004 book Your Best Life Now and why his new book, Become a Better You, had an initial print run of 3 million. “For men,“ says Jim Twitchell, the author of Shopping for God: How Christianity Moved From In Your Heart to In Your Face, “seeing a minister with a hot wife kind of says this guy is one of them.“
17 // Kevin Martin
Chairman, Federal Communications Commission; Age: 40
Kevin Martin’s reign at the FCC will be known as the era when content providers got smaller (kids posting on YouTube)—and conglomerates got bigger (News Corp swallowed MySpace and now the Wall Street Journal). Since he was appointed in 2005, Martin has held the door open for some of the biggest media-consolidation deals ever, including a $67 billion AT&T-BellSouth merger and the pending $13 billion Sirius-XM satellite-radio deal. He’s proposed rules curbing sex and violence on cable and given the administration a pass on illegal wiretapping. But it’s the former Bush aide’s work on deregulating media ownership that will have the most lasting—and potentially Orwellian—effects. “This is a huge bugaboo for media reformists,“ says Ben Welsh, FCC expert for the Center for Public Integrity, a media-watchdog group. “It’s getting activist communities going again.“
18 // Rascal Flatts
Gary LeVox, Joe Don Rooney, Jay DeMarcus; Ages: 37, 32, 36
The soundtrack of Middle ’Merica has always been country music. But three very average-looking dudes—Gary LeVox on lead vocals, Joe Don Rooney on guitar, and Jay DeMarcus on bass—are appealing to a much bigger fan base than their forebears did. Nashville’s Rascal Flatts became the top-selling act of any genre last year, moving more than 5 million albums by hooking a whole new demographic on twang. They mix pop and rock with boot-scoot and play it all without 10-gallon hats—a formula that’s made them one of the most popular groups among 10-to-12-year-olds and country music’s first runaway success in the digital-download realm. The Grand Ole Opry just got a lot younger, y’all.
19 // The Politician’s Son
Andrew Giuliani; Age: 21 / Craig, Ben, Josh, Matt, Tagg Romney; Ages: 26, 29, 32, 36, 37
The person who could most easily torpedo the presidential campaign of America’s Mayor is not a former mistress or political insider; it’s Rudy Giuliani’s own estranged son, Andrew. Junior’s antics have been embarrassing the Rudester for over a decade. This spring, an angry Andrew revealed that he and his father had no relationship and announced that there was no way he’d work on Pop’s political campaign. Now all it’ll take is one tearful “Daddy was a meanie“ tête-à-tête with Diane Sawyer (his sister, Caroline, after all, has already shown herself to be an Obama girl on her Facebook page) and the “family values“ voters will start smothering Mitt Romney in a coast-to-coast group hug. Which makes sense, because the seed-sowing Mormon has five strapping sons who love their daddy enough to slave away on his campaign.
20 // Ryan Seacrest
Age: 33 (Last Year’s Rank: 33)
Ryan Seacrest makes it all look effortless. He’s the 21st-century Casey Kasem and the meticulously groomed emcee of American Idolthe affable foil to a surly Simon Cowell and a wacked-out Paula Abdul. But in reality, the telegenic host is a fierce workaholic who’s establishing himself as a dynamic Hollywood entrepreneur. He’s using the $21 million production deal he cut with the E! network to make calculated forays into reality TV (Keeping Up With the Kardashians), signing monster syndication deals for his American Top 40 program around the world and a two-hour entertainment-news show in the U.K., and even investing in slick restaurants. “He’s such a creative force in pop culture, just an absolute beast,“ says Charlie Walk, president of Epic Records. “He’s Dick Clark, but much, much broader.“ And with a much bigger plan for taking over the universe.
21 // Bashar al-Assad
President of Syria; Age: 42 (Last Year’s Rank: 25)
While Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been hogging the world stage, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has been stealthily competing for the title of Biggest Threat to the United States. In the past year, it emerged that the Syrian leader, who backs Hezbollah, Hamas, and Al Qaeda in Iraq, was busted for having a nuclear-weapons facility allegedly built with help from North Korea. He also set free the murderer of an American diplomat, who then started a bloody three-month war with the Lebanese army. And Al-Assad’s regime is likely to be formally implicated by a UN investigation into the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik Hariri. “Syria is at what President Bush used to say was the intersection of the Axis of Evil,“ says David Schenker, director of the Arab Politics Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “It’s a state sponsoring terrorism and developing WMD.“
22 // Jonathan Ive
Senior VP of Industrial Design, Apple; Age: 40 (Last Year’s Rank: 30)
The success of the iPod made it hard to imagine that Jonathan Ive could design a product to rival it. Yet the reclusive Brit did just that, crafting the second must-have gadget of the 21st century: the iPhone. Apple estimates that 18 million people will own iPhones by the end of 2008, a figure many consider conservative. Meanwhile, Ive remains our era’s most prominent product designer, influencing everyone from his direct competitors (Dell’s brightly colored new laptops, the coming crop of touch-screen iPhone rip-offs) to carmakers and a new wave of consumers, who are now eagerly buying up his elegantly made Mac computers, too.
23 // Mario Lavandeira
Blogger and Proprietor, PerezHilton.com; Age: 29 (Last Year’s Rank: 5)
The shrewdest man in the take-no-prisoners world of Hollywood gossip rules from a laptop in the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Sunset Boulevard. Lavandeira’s site brings in 2.6 million visitors a week—US Weekly’s readership is 1.8 million—and $45,000 a day in advertising. His items have the power to create celebrities out of nobodies—like piano-pop singer Eric Hutchinson, whose album jumped to No. 5 on iTunes after two Perez mentions. Now the blogger has a full-on empire in the works, including TV gigs, a book, and a record label. The question is: Who will draw cum dribbles on him if he succeeds?
24 // Andrew Bieniawski
Office of Global Threat Reduction, National Nuclear Security Administration; Age: 40
Forget the $40 billion spent annually on Homeland Security’s border patrols and ports: Our main defense against a terrorist detonating a dirty bomb is Andrew Bieniawski. Charged with securing the world’s high-risk nuclear and radiological material, Bieniawski gets spent plutonium from decrepit Soviet-era nuclear reactors moved to safer locations and persuades Vietnamese officials to switch their country’s nuclear facilities to non-weapons-grade uranium. Over the past three years, his team has secured 575 radiological sites worldwide, which contained enough material for 8,000 dirty bombs.
25 // Michael Levine & Howard Nuchow
Coheads, CAA Sports; Ages: 36 and 37
The old model was simple: Win the big game, go to Disney World, get some endorsements. But now that sports stars are hosting SNL and hawking clothing lines, an athlete’s on-field performance is becoming secondary to his celebrity portfolio. Enter the powerhouse talent agency CAA, which launched a sports division last year to give the full “Hollywood treatment“ to more than 350 pro athletes. Headed by Michael Levine and Howard Nuchow, along with David Rone, it negotiated the commercial side of David Beckham’s $250 million deal with MLS and the corporate sponsorships for the Yankees’ new $1.2 billion stadium. Consider the age of the Wheaties box over.
26 // David Plouffe
Campaign Manager, Obama 2008; Age: 43
Barack Obama’s guerrilla strategist has a clear plan for his candidate: make him the Macintosh to Hillary Clinton’s PC. And while David Plouffe halfheartedly claims he had nothing to do with that YouTube riff on Apple’s “1984“ ad featuring a Hillary-as-Big Brother incitement to “vote different,“ his mastery of potentially hazardous Netroots tactics, such as using MySpace, YouTube, and blogs, is unparalleled (it’s no coincidence that Obama blows Clinton away in donations from young voters). “He’s a guy willing to go beyond the traditional 30-second spot to connect with younger voters,“ says John Lapp, a fellow strategist who worked with Plouffe at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, where Plouffe led the $95 million national effort that put Dems in control of the House in ’06. “He’s really generated a new kind of campaign.“ It was enough to make Obama Girl “put down her Kerry sign“ to the tune of 4 million views.
27 // Xavier Von Erck
Founder, Perverted Justice; Age: 28
Xavier Von Erck founded the website perverted-justice.com with the goal of outing suspected pedophiles by any means necessary. Von Erck and his minions troll chat rooms and dating sites, flirting with fellow users with the intention of entrapping them and shaming them to oblivion. But as with any vigilante, Von Erck’s methods attract controversy. Since he joined NBC’s Dateline for the “To Catch a Predator“ series in 2004, the segment has led to the arrest of more than 250 alleged sex offenders, and as many objections from civil-liberties experts—not to mention a $105 million suit filed by the sister of an alleged offender who, after his bust, shot himself. Even if Von Erck hasn’t learned how fitting the name Perverted Justice is, he’s taught the rest of us.
28 // David Cutler
Professor of Economics, Harvard University; Age: 42
Raise your hand if you think we’ll get universal health coverage because it’s “the moral thing to do.“ If it’s enacted, it will be for economic reasons—and it’ll likely be thanks to David Cutler, whose proposals underpin the plans put forth by Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama, for whom Cutler is an adviser. Cutler, author of Your Money or Your Life: Strong Medicine for America’s Healthcare System, has a radical yet rational take: The problem isn’t the costs, it’s the benefits. His plan balances universal care with free-market incentives for doctors and hospitals, and read his lips: no rationing—an approach that appeals to the left and the right, to patients and providers. Raise your hand if you can think of a better idea.
29 // Iggy
Adoptee; Age: 6 months (3.5 in dog years)
People usually look absurd blathering about their dogs, but this was a whole other breed of meltdown. Ellen DeGeneres completely lost her shit on national television—not over, say, a child-sexual-abuse scandal, but over a Brussels griffon mix terrier. DeGeneres had adopted the pup, Iggy, but dumped him on her hairdresser when she discovered that the dog didn’t get along with her cats. This gift violated the adoption agreement. So the shelter reclaimed custody of Iggy, and we were all left to watch as DeGeneres sobbed and wailed through her daytime show, begging for the return of the pooch. The shelter was inundated with death threats, presumably by Ellen watchers, and DeGeneres’ publicist threatened legal action. The winner in this drama? Iggy—who made Ellen, and all her millions of viewers, his bitch.
30 // The Boys Behind Girly TV
Josh Schwartz, Executive Producer, Gossip Girl; Age: 31 / Tony DiSanto, Executive Producer, The Hills; Age: 39
To watch guilty-pleasure TV is to obsess over one-dimensional characters with an intensity you’d never admit to in real life. Josh Schwartz and Tony DiSanto are masters at creating those characters—the kind of high-maintenance shrews and priggish frat boys who, it turns out, appeal not only to women but to men. Schwartz transplanted The OC’s rich-kids-behaving-badly model to uptown Manhattan in the CW’s Gossip Girl. DiSanto turned a modest Laguna Beach spin-off into MTV’s highest-rated show. Together they’ve created pop-cultural catnip for a whole generation of guys who in public say they prefer Bill Maher—but who, whether they admit it or not, really want to know what it’s like to be an overprivileged teenage girl.
31 // Ben Silverman
Cochairman, NBC Entertainment and NBC Universal; Age: 37
When he was appointed to one of the most powerful jobs in television in May, Silverman had been on a five-year winning streak. In 2002 he founded Reveille Productions and honed two killer concepts: working with brands like American Express and McDonald’s to underwrite development costs, and creating American pop-culture touchstones by importing foreign hits like The Office and Ugly Betty. Now he’s got to give the peacock some talons and reverse NBC’s three-year ratings slump (his deal allows him to retain an interest in Reveille, with his profits kept in escrow). “He takes chances, and that’s a great quality for a leader of a fourth-place network,“ says James Hibberd, a senior reporter for TelevisionWeek. “I wouldn’t bet against him.“
32 // Revenge Nerds
Judd Apatow (Last Year’s Rank: 16) and Seth Rogen Writer, Director, Producer; Actor, Writer, Producer; Ages: 39 and 25
At first, it was just a cute underdog story: The creator of two canceled TV series about social outcasts (Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared) strikes gold by making a 40-year-old virgin a viable leading man, using the resulting clout to produce his husky protégé’s films. Then Knocked Up and Superbad, both starring Rogen, grossed $270 million this summer, making the duo’s repertory players (Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, Bill Hader) hot commodities and redefining the bankable male star. Suddenly the nerds are getting the girl and the seven-figure paydays. Now Rogen has signed on to write and star in the movie version of The Green Hornet. If being able to convince studios that a plump Canadian with a Jewfro can play a superhero isn’t power, what is?
33 // The Cheaters
Barry Bonds; Age: 43 / Tim Donaghy; Age: 40 / Michael Rasmussen; Age: 33
The biggest sports stories of 2007 all have one thing in common: the stench of cheating. Tim Donaghy, a 13-year NBA referee, was busted by the FBI for betting on games he officiated. Barry Bonds’ record-breaking 756th home run is so tainted by the allegations of his steroid use that the ball is being sent to Cooperstown with an asterisk printed on it, courtesy of hip-hop fashion magnate Marc Ecko, who paid more than $750,000 for the souvenir. And, lest we forget, there’s professional cycling. Two whole teams withdrew and three individual cyclists were banned from this year’s Tour de France after failing drug tests. Another rider, Michael Rasmussen, was kicked out by his own team after he lied about his whereabouts during a series of missed drug tests. Yet the NBA and Major League Baseball set attendance records this past year, and cycling seems to keep pedaling along, regardless. It’s easy to think fans have stopped caring; more likely, they’ve just decided that henceforth every sporting event and achievement will bear an asterisk.
34 // Bobby Jindal
Governor-Elect, Louisiana; Age: 36
If you want to know whether—and when—the Republican Party will gird itself to regain control in Washington, keep your eye on Louisiana. This is where Bobby Jindal won the gubernatorial election in a landslide in October. “Republicans are spinning this as proof the Democratic wave has crested,“ says Jason Ralston, a partner at the D.C. political-consulting firm GMMB. “Over the next few years, you will see them put [Jindal] out front as a face of the party.“ The born-again Catholic son of Indian immigrants, Jindal screams New South even when he’s holy-rolling at Pentecostal revivals and calling for hate-crime laws to be repealed. When he’s inaugurated in January, he’ll officially become the GOP’s most effective PR tool, motivating major donors and the Beltway elite with the message that hope isn’t lost for 2008.
35 // The Vocal Vets
Average Age: 25
To call the Iraq war “another Vietnam“ is to overlook one critical difference: This time the protesters aren’t heckling the veterans; they are the veterans. Veterans Against the Iraq War, for instance, which formed three years ago, already has 27 active chapters. Then there was the August New York Times Op-Ed “The War as We Saw It,“ written by seven loyal-but-dissenting servicemen on active duty who had ceased to see their purpose in Iraq. When Rush Limbaugh dismissed them as “phony soldiers,“ antiwar vet Brian McGough, who had been awarded the Purple Heart, appeared on TV and dared the conservative radio host to utter the epithet to his face. “One of the hallmarks of our success is that now you can say Support the troops: Bring them home,’“ says Adam Kokesh, the 25-year-old George Washington University student recently discharged from the Marine Corps for protesting in his uniform. “Even a year ago, if you said that, you’d get laughed at by Middle America.“
36 // The Exonerated
Reade Seligmann, David Evans, and Colin Finnerty, Duke Lacrosse Players; Ages: 21, 22, 21
Sure, we all thought they did it. It was a closed case: The three Duke University lacrosse players accused of raping an African-American stripper, we all agreed, were guilty as charged. We could see it in the privileged jocks’ faces. Wrong. Not only were they innocent, they triumphed over an unethical D.A. who suppressed evidence and, ironically, became the only person to be jailed over the whole affair. The way the accused players conducted themselves during last year’s prosecutorial witch hunt defied everything we instinctively believed to be true about them. They proved us wrong—making us reexamine our knee-jerk reactions to stereotypes—and they proved our justice system right.
37 // The Career-Doctors
Justin Timberlake, Mark Ronson, and Timbaland (Last Year’s Rank: 29); Ages: 26, 32, 36
The music industry is about one thing these days: finding the right career-maker. Timbaland and Justin Timberlake have ruled the concert circuit with one of the year’s top tours (the FutureSex/LoveSounds road show) and dominated the airwaves, furthering their own solo careers as well as resurrecting others (say thanks, Nelly Furtado). Now the pair have bestowed their combined genius on Duran Duran, with Timberlake cowriting two singles and Timbaland at the controls for three tracks on the comeback album, Red Carpet Massacre. Next up: Madonna’s return to glory. Ronson, meanwhile, has graduated from deejaying for celebutards to manning the board on Amy Winehouse’s breakthrough album, Back to Black, and on the debut of sassy pop tart Lily Allen. That beats spinning for Paris Hilton any day.
38 // The Bodyguard
Average Age: Thirtysomething
Britney’s hired he-man claims he snuck her Jack-and-Cokes after her stint in rehab. Lindsay’s says he pulled her father off her after Lohan senior pushed her onto the hood of her car and called her a slut. Anna Nicole’s performed CPR and stayed by her side till the very end. Thanks to a revolving cast of loose-lipped lovers and undermining manager-moms, the bodyguard has emerged as the modern celebrity’s trusted confidant—making him one of the most powerful swimmers in a shark-infested pool. “These guys know all the secrets,“ says Dan Wakeford, editor of the celeb weeklies In Touch and Life & Style. “Who the stars are sleeping with, the drugs they’re doing, and all the outrageous demands.“ But since rapper T.I.’s muscle helped the ATF nail the star on gun charges (he pleaded not guilty), and Britney’s former bodyguard turned tell-all witness in her custody case, stars have begun adding one more line of defense to their security force fields: airtight confidentiality agreements.
39 // Antoine Arnault
Communications Director, Louis Vuitton; Age: 30
The son of LVMH chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault, Antoine Arnault could successfully cruise on nepotism. Instead, as communications director for Louis Vuitton, fashion’s most coveted monogrammed brand, Antoine has made proactive—and sometimes risky—plays. In 2003, he used part of his $250 million annual advertising budget to land Jennifer Lopez for a campaign, winking at how the label’s appeal extends all the way to the block. This year, he persuaded Mikhail Gorbachev to pose for an ad, at the same time satisfying the mainstream with vampy shots of Scarlett Johansson. Those renegade moves—balanced by an austere personal style just like his father’s—bode well for Antoine’s possible future as the leader of one of the world’s biggest fashion brands.
40 // Steven Rubenstein
President, Rubenstein Communications; Age: 38
Forget spin; in the world of public relations, Steven Rubenstein is the ultimate wash-and-rinse man. The power broker has done damage control for Naomi Campbell and HBO’s embattled ex-honcho Chris Albrecht, among others, all while burnishing the images of corporate clients like the New York Post. The son of the godfather of New York PR, Howard Rubenstein, he’s fast becoming the first guy celebrities and corporations call in a crisis—provided he hasn’t already picked up the phone to offer advice. Rubenstein’s insider leverage can quash most negative stories before they get out, but when one does leak, he uses a frontal attack to control it. But even that approach is designed to quell controversy: He starts every conversation by stating, “I’m not going to lie to you.“
41 // Harry Potter
Wizard; Age: 17
Nine years after her fictional boy wizard first cast his spell in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling is the wealthiest author in history. On July 21, fans who had camped out in front of bookstores overnight finally got hold of the seventh and final installment of the series. Across the United States, 8.3 million copies (worth a total of nearly $170 million) sold within 24 hours. Warner Bros., which has grossed $4.47 billion worldwide on the first five film versions, has two more movies in production. And while there’s speculation that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows represents the book industry’s last gasp, Potter himself will live on—through a theme park in Orlando, Florida, and a musical in London’s West End. This wizard will continue to work his financial magic for some time.
42 // Mr. Contagious
Andrew Speaker, Tuberculosis Carrier; Age: 32
This spring, a young Atlanta lawyer named Andrew Speaker caught a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis—initially diagnosed as a super-germ capable of infecting and killing tens of thousands of people—and then he stepped onto a plane. In the process, Speaker, who was quarantined at a Denver hospital for nearly 10 weeks, sent the entire country into a panic. But he represents more than just media-fed paranoia: Just like that kid a few towns away who supposedly came down with a staph infection, Speaker embodies the Great Contagion that always lurks a few coughs away, threatening a country’s increasingly fragile sense of security.
43 // The Gameboy
Jason Jones, Cofounder of Bungie Studios, Creator of the Halo franchise; Age: 35
On September 25, the gamer nation delivered the kind of box office Hollywood rarely enjoys these days when the first-person shooter Halo 3 hit the market and rang up $300 million in sales—in a week—to become the most successful launch in history. Jason Jones’ six-year-old franchise has become a financial boon for its owner, Microsoft, but he and Bungie intend to retain full ownership for their next game series. “For Bungie, magic has happened consistently enough that they’re considered one of the premier developers in the world,“ says Ben Schachter, an Internet and video-game-industry analyst at UBS. “Like with a Spielberg movie, they’ll get the benefit of the doubt.“ And, from the looks of things, a better opening weekend.
44 // Shawn Carter a.k.a. Jay-Z
President and CEO, Def Jam Recordings; Age: 38 (Last Year’s Rank: 20)
It’s a measure of the man’s stature that this counts as an off year: Jay-Z’s protégée Rihanna had the No. 1 song of the year in “Umbrella“—owing to a Jay guest spot—which helped his Def Jam label become the industry’s second-largest record company. While his November 2006 album, Kingdom Come, was dismissed as “adult-contemporary hip-hop,“ it got Carter tie-ins with Budweiser and Hewlett Packard. It also went, oh, multi-platinum. And let’s not forget his clothing line, his stake in the New Jersey Nets, and his ranking atop Forbes’ list of the wealthiest rappers. But now it’s showtime again. Jigga started redeeming his street cred by announcing he would record an album inspired by the Harlem crime flick American Gangster (a lyrical return to a place the former drug dealer knows well)—which just shows, again, that no rapper generates more of a buzz when his Maybach pulls up to the studio.
45 // The Well-Dressed Man
Age: In his prime
Frank Sinatra. Dean Martin. Gregory Peck. Those guys looked so good in suits—impeccably cut specimens garnished with tie bars, pocket squares, and fedoras—that 50 years later, we’re still trying to capture the essence of their aesthetic. The suit that became popular during the Rat Pack’s rise and reigned through the Kennedy era has been resurrected. Whether you find it at Prada or Brooks Brothers, it projects the same image: that of authority. Its torchbearers—guys like George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio—are the antithesis of Mr. Casual Friday and the 35-year-old guy in a hoodie and Chucks. The symbol of corporate conformity has rightfully regained its title as the most stylish way for a man to dress.
46 // Ira Ehrenpreis
General partner, Technology Partners; Age: 38
In 2000, when a certain former vice president thrust environmental issues onto the national stage, venture capitalist Ira Ehrenpreis saw a golden opportunity: He guided his firm, Technology Partners, into investments in clean energy, transportation, and water. “All the technology was relatively new—there was no venture capital in it at all,“ says Ron Pernick, coauthor of The Clean Tech Revolution. “And there was Ehrenpreis, leading the charge.“ Now Ehrenpreis’ fund is the world’s largest player in venture capital for clean energy, accounting for more than 10 percent of global investments in the sector last year. He recently announced major stakes in the electric-car maker Tesla Motors as well as the biodiesel producer Imperium Renewables, which also attracted backing from billionaire Paul Allen. Where Ehrenpreis goes, so does the green.
47 // Michael Rapino
CEO, Live Nation; Age: 41
Everyone knows that the real money in the music business is in tours and T-shirts—not album sales. That’s why Live Nation, the largest concert promoter in the world, is considered the industry’s sugar daddy. But now, spearheaded by Michael Rapino, the company is making the record business lucrative too. In October Rapino pulled off the landmark $120 million signing of Madonna, realizing his goal of offering “360-degree“ deals that give Live Nation a cut of not only album sales but also live broadcasts, concert tickets, and merchandise ranging from posters to pillow covers. And once Live Nation’s deal with Ticketmaster expires in 2008 and Rapino’s company starts controlling ticket sales, it’s going to be a much, much bigger one.
48 // Markos Moulitsas Zuniga
Founder, Daily Kos; Age: 36 (Last Year’s Rank: 43)
Now that Moulitsas’ liberal blog, which counts Jimmy Carter among its contributors, gets 600,000 visitors a day, the entire left half of the Hill looks to the Kos the way networks look to the Nielsens. And now that some of the long-shot candidates he’s plugged—in some cases drafted—on his website have made it into office (among them Montana senator Jon Tester), he has become to political hopefuls what Oprah is to unheralded authors. “I can’t make a candidate from nothing,“ he says. “But I can tap into huge amounts of homegrown support.“ All that free advertising for Democrats (and the presidential debate at his Yearly Kos convention) has raised the GOP’s hackles, but the Federal Election Commission recently ruled that Kos’ empire is exempt from the campaign-finance rules that rein in political action committees—so for now, Moulitsas’ status as kingmaker remains incontrovertible.
49 // Mr. Rebound
Kelly Slater; Age: 35
Being a world-champion surfer has always been near the top of the list of male fantasy careers, but Kelly Slater has ridden the enviable profession to new heights. Post-Leo Gisele Bündchen, post-Justin Cameron Diaz (it’s been speculated), and post-Leo Bar Refaeli (not to mention post-Tommy Pam Anderson) all ran straight into Slater’s bronzed arms. With no apparent effort, Slater continues to lure top-notch girl after top-notch girl to his surfing hideouts for the kinds of short, sweet trysts those Entourage guys can only dream about. The cherry on top of Slater’s sundae? Nothing ends messily. Everybody stays friends, and he gets to catch the next wave.
50 // Tyler Perry
Playwright, actor, director, author, producer; Age: 38
A studio head began a recent meeting with Tyler Perry by asking, “So who are you, and what do you do?“ This to a man whose production company will gross more than $1 billion by 2009, a man who controls a media empire that includes books (one a New York Times No. 1 best seller) and television (TBS shelled out $200 million for Tyler Perry’s House of Payne). Maybe it’s because no one in Hollywood gets Perry that he kisses up to a power player who does: Oprah. After all, his four movies hammer home themes like faith, family, and fidelity to a middle-class black audience that’s largely female. Three of those films have opened at No. 1 (including October’s Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?) despite being made for nickels and dismissed by critics. “This guy is a hit-making machine,“ says Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office tracker Media by Numbers. “He’s becoming as sure a bet as anyone.“ And once Hollywood realizes that, maybe Perry will decide he can stop putting his name in every movie title.