Power has become more godlike over the past few years. We mean it: Power, circa 2006, is invisible, yet it’s everywhere. It’s vast yet it’s right at your fingertips. It moves in mysterious ways—via mouse click, for instance, or during intercourse, or passed through the masses by the people who direct the furious global winds of gossip. It sits on the shoulders of first-name-only emissaries: Brad and Vince, say, or LeBron. It pitches a tent in your head space (Google searches, Timbaland beats, gay rumors) whether you want it to or not. To qualify for the Details Power List, a man must be 42 or under and, yes, must exert massive sway over how the world operates. But that doesn’t mean the powerful dude is sitting behind an old-fashioned desk in a suit. No. For all you know, the Omniscient One might be perched a few millimeters away, quietly tapping at his keyboard.
1 // Jen's Men
Brad Pitt, actor, producer, trophy husband
Vince Vaughn, actor, producer, funny guy
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
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
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
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
Mario Lavandeira Blogger, Perez Hilton
Josh Levine Cameraman, TMZ
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
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
Scott Kohl, Technical Director, ICM Inc.
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
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
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.
11 // The Google Guys
Sergey Brin & Larry Page, Cofounders
AGES: BOTH 33
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 3
“This may be blasphemous, but right now Google is God,“ says Rick Munarriz, an analyst with the financial site Motley Fool. “I have seen it walk on water.“ Never mind the fact it guides our every move online. The company, which is valued at $113 billion, trades at more than $370 a share and blew past estimates to post $2.46 billion in revenue for the quarter ending in June. Do a search on “ungodly wealth“ and the names of Google’s cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page pop right up, as they’re worth $16 billion apiece. “Yet they still have people rooting for them,“ Munarriz says. “Normally when you become as big as them, people turn on you, but they’re an endearing company.“ Such goodwill is born from Brin and Page’s preternatural ability to supplement their search engine with simple, efficient technologies, like Google Maps (the best—true dat, double true), easy blogging and messaging applications, and now YouTube-style video-sharing. You don’t walk on water by standing still.
12 // Stephen Colbert, Host
The Colbert Report
Last October, The Colbert Report seemed like a sucker’s bet for Comedy Central. Stephen Colbert’s parody of talk-show gasbag Bill O’Reilly, down to the fatuously cocked eyebrows, could have become an instantly worn-out punch line. Instead, his inventive, on-point satire got him profiled on 60 Minutes (and thrown off Wikipedia, after he embellished his own profile in an on-air prank). The key was his discovery that the vanity of elected officials is eclipsed only by their eagerness to be disgraced on his program. “It’s a risky proposition,“ says Jason Ralston, a partner in political consulting firm Greer Margolis. “It’s a comedy show. If you’re dull and all self-important, and you go on expecting to talk about the news, you’re making a big mistake. I would be ecstatic if our opponent went on it.“ Witness the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in April, when Colbert was invited to roast a clearly unamused President Bush. (On Bush’s approval rating: “Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty—because 32 percent means it’s two-thirds empty.“) In Washington’s center ring, speaking “truthiness“ to power may be a polarizing act, but it never gets old.
13 // Tiger Woods
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 9
He’s already the most recognized athlete on the planet. And he stands to be for some time—a golfer has decades more playing (and earning) potential than, say, a Chicago Bulls shooting guard. But now that Woods is 30, he’s become what he never could as a golf upstart: a blue-chip brand. Suddenly he’s a deeply credible spokesperson who’s received an estimated $87 million from myriad companies: Accenture, American Express, Buick, Electronic Arts, Golf Digest, NetJets, Nike, TAG Heuer, Target, TLC Laser Eye Centers, and Upper Deck. “He conducts himself in an extremely professional, disciplined way, and companies strive for that association,“ says Philip Button, an exec at William Morris. “And the unfortunate news of his father’s death brought some authenticity to him, and made him more human to people.“ In August, Woods became the youngest golfer to win his 50th PGA Tour event, so it’s a good bet he’ll be putting and driving—not to mention pitching—for years to come.
14 // “THE SPERM“
AGE: Minus Nine Months
Yeah, hi. Sperm here. Right—a sperm cell. Just thought I’d, you know, inject myself into this cute little “power list“ bonanza you’re putting together. Think you know something about power? Uh-huh. Think I look harmless, with my squiggly tail and all—nothing more than a microscopic tadpole? Yeah, fuck you. First off, there’s a lot of me. As in: up to 300 million just that last time you got your rocks off. (But really, can we upgrade to Kiehl’s next time?) Angelina, Gwyneth, Katie, Britney—these chicks want me, all right? Me. (I don’t care what those nitwit scientists say, they still can’t make a baby without me, and once you got a curtain crawler, pal, I’m screwing with your life in strange and irrevocable ways.) Man, I’ve got American culture obsessed. One little song-and-dance with Brad and Angelina—boom, here’s Shiloh, and People magazine’s paying $4 million for a snapshot of my work. Oh, Britney’s got a “bump“? Yeah, guess what, folks—I made that bump. I am the bump! And how about Suri Cruise? Need I say more? Face it, people pay more attention to what I do than to what Dick Cheney does. I am . . . fascinating. I rule. And look, I don’t care if you’re gay or straight, when I get that itch to travel, you are always going to do my bidding. Let’s be honest, amigo: You are my bitch. You are my slave. That’s power.
15 // Salim Ahmed Hamdan
Guantanamo Bay Detainee
16 // The Frat Packagers
Judd Apatow, Adam McKay & Todd Phillips
AGES: 38, 38 & 36
What the Vegas stage did for the Rat Pack, Apatow, McKay, and Phillips are doing for Will Ferrell, the Wilson brothers, and the rest of the Frat Pack: creating hugely profitable zeitgeist-tapping vehicles for this clique of comedic actors. Apatow and McKay’s latest collaboration, Talladega Nights, yielded the second-biggest opening ever for an original comedy: $47 million. “They came in and said, Will Ferrell. Nascar,’“ says Matt Tolmach, copresident of production at Columbia Pictures. “Had they said Will Ferrell. Some other thing,’ we’d have done it, too, because we have huge faith in them.“ Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin grossed $109 million, which helps explain why he has three films due in 2007 alone. On Talladega, as on Anchorman, Apatow produced and let the now-in-demand McKay direct. The pair is planning to do yet another Ferrell flick, Step Brothers. Phillips directed Ferrell in the most literal Frat Pack flick, Old School, and is set to bring out a sequel next year. Meanwhile, he signed a first-look deal with Warner Bros. and has just released School for Scoundrels. “Actors love him,“ says Bob Weinstein of the Weinstein Company, which produced Scoundrels. “Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell. These guys will come back and do cameos. They don’t for just anybody. They always do for him.“ In this pack, that is the essence of fraternity.
17 // Patrick Arnold
Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, sprinters Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, and a dozen U.S. Olympians have one man to thank for their fallen fortunes: Patrick Arnold. The father of prohormones cooked up tetrahydrogestrinone (or “the clear“), a highly potent anabolic steroid banned by the FDA but distributed by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (balco), undermining the achievements of those athletes—and casting doubt on others. “There will always be that thought that someone is using,“ says New York sports radio host Joe Benigno. “[Arnold] was the first to bring these things to market,“ says Steve Downs, chairman of the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation. In August, Arnold was sentenced to three months in prison for conspiring to distribute steroids, barely a slap on the wrist for injecting sports fans everywhere with cynicism. Its effects are irreversible, and there is no known cure.
18 // Ken Mehlman
Chairman, Republican National Committee
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 4
They’re down in the polls and in danger of being Overtaken by Events. So what? The Republicans still lord over the executive, judicial, and (at least for now) legislative branches—and that’s just at the federal level. At every level from the local on up, Ken Mehlman lords over the party faithful in the Republican National Committee. “Rove may still be Captain Kirk,“ says Newsweek chief political correspondent Howard Fineman, “but Mehlman is a combination of Scotty and Mr. Spock.“ He rallies the base, recruits fresh ideologues, and generates gobs of cash—raising $168 million since taking the job last year (versus the DNC’s $90 million kitty)—all for a party saddled with a president whose approval rating rides lower than Lindsay Lohan’s jeans. The secret to his tireless zeal, Mehlman says, is unwinding with “a regular workout, a well-stocked iPod, and a good read.“ (Power brokers: They’re just like us!) The vagaries of Washingtoniana may find Mehlman looking for work come November, but only a fool would count him out just yet.
19 // The Rogue Soldiers
AGES: 19 to 23
How far have we come that American atrocities in Iraq shock but no longer surprise? The incidents in Haditha, where 24 unarmed men, women, and children were gunned down, and in Mahmoudiya, where five soldiers stalked a 14-year-old girl and then gang-raped her and killed her and her family, were greeted with outrage and quiet oh-no-not-again groans. In the war’s first three years, 16 American servicemen were charged with murder; that number is likely to double with these two incidents. And there are at least five other cases under investigation involving the killing of Iraqi civilians. The bad-apple clichés do little to protect the 134,000 soldiers on the ground from retribution; after news of the Mahmoudiya incident broke, two GIs were kidnapped and mutilated as payback. The recent alleged crimes have united Sunni and Shia in anger. And Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who told the New York Times the U.S. military’s unprovoked violence against civilians is “a regular occurrence,“ has demanded that immunity for American troops be lifted. In that event, these U.S. soldiers would be judged under the same legal system as Saddam Hussein. The symbolism won’t be lost on Iraqis. As for us, we’re all too aware that American soldiers in Iraq are not immune.
20 // Shawn Carter, A.K.A. Jay-Z
President & CEO, Def Jam Recordings
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 33
At this point, rapping represents about as big a part of Jay-Z’s portfolio as lightbulbs do of GE’s. In the three years since his last solo album, he has landed a corner office as the president and CEO of Def Jam, bought an ownership stake in the New Jersey Nets, and watched his clothing line grow from vanity project to major manufacturer, grossing $800 million in sales last year. So if this has been Hova’s fallow period, what does it portend that hip-hop’s most influential artist (with 33 million and counting albums sold) has his comeback disc due in November? Global reach isn’t too far-fetched. Jay-Z—who once referred to himself as the “UN of this rap game“—has teamed with the actual United Nations to raise awareness about the world’s water crisis. “When you look at how many people are affected and die because of the lack of clean water, the statistics are staggering,“ he says. Yet the surest—if strangest—indicator of Jay-Z’s stature might be that what he chooses not to drink is news. It made headlines when Jay gave up Cristal and banned it from his 40/40 clubs after the beverage company’s managing director insinuated that rap crews weren’t worthy of his grand cru, and now the iconic toast of hip-hop may be toast in clubs.
21 // David Lauren
Senior Vice President, Polo Ralph Lauren
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 35
As Polo Ralph Lauren approaches its 40th anniversary, its Polo brand is a popular wonder: versatile enough to work as neatly with a CEO’s blazer and loafers as with a DJ’s porkpie and Pumas. The man keeping the $10.6 billion label on our backs is David Lauren, son of Ralph, who heads Polo’s $200 million marketing machine. “He has terrific instincts and is highly engaged,“ says Michael Gould, CEO of Bloomingdale’s. “He has been the creative and driving force behind Polo .com, and that has been an enormous success.“ Sales at the online shop, the first for a major fashion brand, are up 40 percent this year. At Polo’s Manhattan flagship store, Lauren has introduced 24-hour window shopping—literally: You touch an image projected on the window to place an order. “My job is to take what my father built and constantly redefine it,“ Lauren says. As long as he has the reins, the Polo horse will never be an endangered species.
22 // James Frey
Call him the guy who revoked artistic license. Thanks to a plug from Oprah, James Frey’s memoir of drug addiction, A Million Little Pieces, sold 3.5 million copies, landed a movie deal, and acquired a celebrity following. Then, in January, the Smoking Gun reported that many of Frey’s facts were false, which led to his defining moment: While being eviscerated on Oprah’s couch, he admitted he’d embellished, altered, and fabricated, yet protested, “I still think it’s a memoir.“ Frey’s cluelessness put the whole literary world under suspicion: Did everybody think this way? Nearly every memoirist was fact-checked, Kaavya Viswanathan (guilty) and Ann Coulter (not) were accused of plagiarism, and Nasdijj and JT Leroy were outed as works of fiction. All of which sent a chill down the book world’s spine. “We asked ourselves if we were vulnerable to something like this,“ says the executive editor of one top publishing house, “and I think all of us realized that we were.“
23 // Aviv "Vivi" Nevo
President, NV Investments
If your average Master of the Universe pays a publicist to craft his image, what does it say about Vivi Nevo that he enlisted one of the world’s biggest PR firms to keep from having one? Despite being a player on the scene, Nevo has kept himself and his work shrouded, and has hence been alternately described in the news as “reticent,“ an “international man of mystery,“ a “mysterious financier,“ and “not Italian.“ (For the record, he’s Israeli.) And while Nevo’s doings—apart from Kate Moss, whom “Page Six“ spotted him with—remain well-guarded secrets, his importance is increasingly difficult to hide. The venture capitalist has been attending the moguls-only Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference for more than a decade, and he is one of the biggest individual stockholders of the biggest media conglomerate in the world, Time Warner. When Harvey Weinstein was looking to break free of the Disney yoke, he turned to Nevo, who became one of the Weinstein Company’s earliest backers. Inevitably, questions about Nevo turn to his money. We do know this: His L.A.-based company specializes in strategic investing in the global technology, telecom, media, and entertainment sectors, and his wealth is reported to be inherited, which adds a wink to his firm’s name, NV Investments. Say it aloud.
24 // Chris DeWolfe & Tom Anderson
CEO and President, MySpace
AGES: 40 & 30
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 34
When each of the 100 million–plus members of MySpace created their profile, their very first “friend“ was Tom—as in Tom Anderson, who along with Chris DeWolfe launched the site in 2003. Sure, adding one of the founders to every friends list is a little bit cheesy, but it’s also a good reminder that Anderson and DeWolfe have a link to every new friend, every new band with an inkling of promise, and every viral sensation that spreads on the world’s most powerful social-networking site. MySpace has already surpassed Google and is second only to Yahoo in page views. And 6 million people join each month, drawn by the ability to integrate blogs, instant messaging, e-mail, photographs, music, and home video into their user profiles. “We actually use the site to find new bands now,“ says Andy Karp, head of A&R for Atlantic Records. “MySpace has changed the future of music, and certainly the way we do business.“ Although Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp bought the company for $580 million, Anderson and DeWolfe still run the show. The corporate life has kept them busy: Witness the new MySpace Records, MySpace Film, and MySpace Mobile, as well as the site’s central role in the parent company’s $900 million deal with Google for exclusive search and keyword advertising rights. MySpace’s ad revenue alone is expected to surpass $1 billion a year by 2010. Which makes Tom and Chris pretty good friends to have.
25 // Bashar Al-Assad
President of Syria
Bashar al-Assad and George W. Bush have some striking similarities. Both are sons of statesman-leaders, both foundered early in their presidencies before consolidating power, and both have been repeatedly underestimated. Assad, who took office in 2000 after his father’s death, has proved to be shrewd and opportunistic—witness his staying largely silent about the U.S. invasion of Iraq, then opening Syria’s borders to jihadis en route to its war-torn neighbor—and his influence has never been more evident. Although Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon in 2005, Assad’s sway over the country is still great, just as it is with Hezbollah, to which Syria supplies arms; and it is no mere coincidence that Hamas, which governs the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, remains headquartered in Damascus. In the past year, as his two quasi-proxies have baited Israel and brought the Middle East to the brink of all-out conflagration, Assad has sat back and waited for the Western powers to kiss his ring. “The U.S. continues to ignore him at our own peril,“ says Steven A. Cook, a Middle East expert and fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “We need to court the Syrians, as they are the only means to a real resolution [in Lebanon and Gaza]. Of course, if we deal with Assad there is no guarantee he won’t screw us. And there is no alternative to him.“ So here’s one difference between the two fortunate sons: Assad may be holding more cards.
26 // Ryan Kavanaugh
CEO, Relativity Media, LLC
Ryan Kavanaugh and his private equity firm, Relativity Media LLC, are saving Hollywood’s ass, a couple billion dollars at a time. The four-year-old company helps studios finance large slates of films—in bunches of 12 or more—by bringing hedge-fund money on board. “A lot of studios were recently bought by corporate parents, and had less money to work with. I thought, Why can’t there be a business to invest in Hollywood the way you invest in real estate, oil, or stocks?’“ Kavanaugh says. Case in point: the $1.3 billion, 37-film deal he recently brokered with Sony and Universal to finance the studios’ production costs. One of the films he’s invested in, Talladega Nights, has already made a $50 million profit, and another, Nanny McPhee, has seen a $95 million return. But Relativity also functions as a kind of studio sans lot, working directly with directors and producers to fully finance and distribute projects like the prequel to The Untouchables, directed by Brian DePalma and set to star Nicholas Cage. “His cofinancing deals are the most successful ever in Hollywood,“ says Jill Goldsmith, an editor at Variety. “He’s been amazingly proactive, and is the envy of many on Wall Street involved in this business.“ And soon Kavanaugh might open up the game to individual investors, offering them shares of his films, which would trade like stock. As he says: “This is the future of how movies are going to get made.“
27 // The Virus Fighters
J. Joseph Kim, Cofounder, President, CEO, VGX Pharmaceuticals
Joseph Derisi, Assistant Professor, University of California, San Francisco
A virus can be an elusive little S.O.B. Just when it seems to have been caged by medicine, it’s apt to mutate and run rampant again. But scientists Joseph Kim and Joseph DeRisi are making strides in containing and controlling viruses. Kim’s VGX Pharmaceuticals is developing Pictovir, a pill that’s as easy to swallow as a Tylenol: a crucial improvement over the typical HIV cocktail elixir. Current drugs attack that virus after it invades cells, but its ability to mutate limits how well they work; Pictovir blocks HIV before it burrows into a cell’s nucleus. Kim hopes the FDA will approve the drug as early as 2010. On the research side, DeRisi has developed the ViroChip, a glass slide that contains genetic samples of the 12,000-plus known viruses to help researchers identify viral strains. Used with robots developed by DeRisi, a biochemist and biophysicist at the University of California, San Francisco, the ViroChip has been a DNA Rosetta Stone, helping to identify and characterize sars and a virus that seems to be linked to prostate cancer. DeRisi is also a proponent of open-access publishing, giving his research away rather than submitting his discoveries to scientific journals with high subscription prices. “Joe DeRisi has used a creative approach to look at some great unsolved problems in infectious disease, with cool results,“ says Patrick O. Brown, a Stanford biochemisty professor and the cofounder of the Public Library of Science. DeRisi’s next challenge: working toward the eradication of malaria.
28 // Nick Lachey
Sure, one can justify a small obsession with tab fodder Brangelina, Jen ’n’ Vince, and even the is-she-or-isn’t-she factor of baby Suri. But Nick fucking Lachey? Like it or not, Lachey has managed to stay in the pop-culture firmament merely for having his heart pierced by Jessica Simpson’s stiletto boot. His tears-in-my-beer catharsis, What’s Left of Me, has sold a half-million copies, hardly blockbuster numbers but still more than double those of his 2003 effort SoulO, released when things were hunky-dory on the home front. He appeared on the cover of People 5 times, US Weekly 10 times, and Star no less than 13 times in the past year. Not a bad career for a dude who was in the wrong line when the higher power handed out the star beads. Perhaps therein lies his appeal. “Here’s a guy who still drinks Miller Lite, eats chicken wings, and goes to ball games,“ says Janice Min, editor-in-chief of US Weekly. “He’s managed to retain this Everyman quality about him.“ If even she doesn’t see what makes him so special, don’t worry if you don’t.
29 // Timbaland
A track mastered by Tim “Timbaland“ Mosley is now akin to a Steven Spielberg film. Which is to say, the Virginia Beach–based producer has become the rare mass-market creative force whose contributions to a project can overshadow his performers’. That’s something, considering Timbaland’s résumé includes many of music’s biggest names: This fall alone he’s overseeing new efforts from Justin Timberlake and 50 Cent and the return of Jay-Z. His trademark mechanical, skittish beats are so in demand that aspiring hip-hop artists besiege his studio carrying suitcases of cash, and his services are reputed to command up to $500,000 per track. It was money well-earned on JT’s infuriatingly catchy single “SexyBack.“ All told, Timbaland has nailed more than 40 top-10 songs, though the one that reverberated all summer, Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous,“ proved his ability to resurrect careers with a simple laying-of-hands on the control boards. “He’s like a shaman—his chemistry changes the artist,“ says Furtado, who under Timbaland’s spell went from hippie-folkie chick to hip-hop sex bomb. “He taps into your primal side, and when he’s on, the shit goes to the next level.“
30 // Jonathan Ive
Senior Vice President of Industrial Design, Apple
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 5
You didn’t have an iPod five years ago. Nobody did. But now even those still resisting the ingenious simplicity of Jonathan Ive’s creation have trouble imagining life before some 60 million iPods had been shoved into ears and pockets. “Jonathan Ive may be the most influential product designer on the planet,“ says Ellen Lupton, a curator at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, which will exhibit Ive’s work in its triennial in December. “The amazing thing is his ability to keep these products moving and changing.“ In recent months, the British-born Ive has watched as the iPod, which has vacuumed up a shocking 77 percent of the U.S. digital-player market, became a must-have accessory in Fords, GMs, and even Nike Air Max 180s. And this holiday season, Apple archnemesis Microsoft, which has been gaping like a stunned boxer for five years, will climb into the ring with the Zune, its own welterweight underdog—although without Ive’s sense and sensuality.
31 // Dan Bartlett
White House Counselor
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 6
What reward is there for being first mate on a ship that runs aground on the shoals of Plamegate and hunting accidents, and is repeatedly battered against the rocks of an unpopular war but does not sink? White House counselor Dan Bartlett did such an admirable job of plugging leaks and wiping dribble from Bush’s chin that he was whispered to be a possible replacement for Karl Rove when Rove’s indictment in the Plame investigation looked likely. Now, if nothing else, Bartlett, who began working for Bush during the 1994 gubernatorial campaign, has more damage-control experience than any man should. “He is in Bush’s inner circle. By definition that makes him one of the most powerful men in the country,“ says ABC chief Washington correspondent and This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos, who once held a similar post under Clinton. In other words, even this lame-duck White House is still the White House, and Bartlett remains its Chief Strategerist.
32 // Dov Charney
Founder and CEO, American Apparel
It’s a pretty safe bet that every male who grew up with a Nintendo owns at least one of Dov Charney’s slim-fit logo-free T-shirts. His American Apparel stores (110 and counting), which took in $250 million last year, are filling the fashion space once dominated by the Gap. “It’s more like refueling than shopping,“ says Greg Armas, the co-owner of Scout, a Los Angeles store devoted to new designers. “People drop by and bag something like it was a supermarket.“ Charney’s gritty, cinema verité–style ad campaign (some of it shot personally by the CEO) is so steamy that Adult Video News has called AmericanApparel.net “one of the finest soft-core Web sites going.“ Others might call it smart marketing, though Charney was hit by three sexual-harassment lawsuits within six weeks last year (one settled, one dismissed, and one still pending). But the self-described “Jewish hustler“ famously runs his business with strict ethical guidelines: All of his clothes are manufactured in a Los Angeles factory by workers who are paid about twice the minimum wage, on average. And although his stores are all in urban locations, the idea of “sweatshop-free“ tees for just $15 is selling all over. “You can have a person with an urban sensibility in the Himalayas,“ Charney says, “and we’ll FedEx them their panties.“
33 // Ryan Seacrest
In its fifth season, American Idol killed all prime-time competition, bringing in nearly double the viewers of the Grammys. Sixty-three million votes were cast for the show’s most recent winner, Taylor Hicks—a million more than for any presidential candidate ever—and established artists from Barry Manilow to Shakira are catching on to the advantages of an Idol appearance. Ryan Seacrest is the ringleader of this circus, maintaining order with a relentlessly sunny smile. “The idea is to create accessibility, to create a comfort zone,“ Seacrest told Details. But behind that grin is a terrifyingly driven businessman intent on building a brand; this year he signed a $21 million three-year deal with E! to create and host programming for the network including E! News and its signature red-carpet coverage. Seacrest’s M.O. reminds many industry insiders of Dick Clark, and the ageless wonder welcomes the comparison: “Ryan is one of the most ambitious and talented hosts on the scene today. He has a plan, and he follows every avenue toward success.“ Come to think of it, isn’t New Year’s Eve the ultimate amateur night?
34 // J.J. Abrams
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 12
Lost didn’t win any Emmys this year, not that J.J. Abrams lost any sleep over it. In July, after seven years with Disney’s Touchstone, Abrams signed nearly $60 million in development deals with Paramount and Warner Bros. It’s a hefty bet on him, but his series pulled in 20 million viewers per show, and its brand now extends to trading cards, iTunes downloads, and even Lost Video Diaries for cell phones. “Felicity, Alias, Lost—you’re looking at almost a decade of consistent, quality work,“ Paramount president Gail Berman says. “That’s nothing short of amazing.“ Paramount has been after Abrams ever since he directed the studio’s Mission: Impossible III, which has grossed $393 million. Abrams’ new mission: Revive the Star Trek franchise while producing other Paramount films, keep Lost afloat, and create new TV shows for Warner Bros. As if he gets any sleep in the first place.
35 // The NBA’s Future
Lebron James, Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 27
Dwayne Wade, Guard, Miami Heat
He was the Chosen One. The next, well, you-know-who. But as LeBron James gamely tried to live up to the ungodly hype, a kid nicknamed Flash blocked his path. Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade didn’t just win an NBA championship in June, he owned it. Averaging nearly 35 points per game, Wade left the hapless Dallas Mavericks reeling. And though James is still the leader in off-the-court prowess (he has a $90 million deal with Nike), Wade is looming in the rear-view mirror. Wade’s jersey is currently the NBA’s best seller (more than 20,000 sold in June alone), and his signature sneaker helped Converse double its share of the basketball-shoe market. In a sign of true yank, first James then Wade signed contracts for fewer years (three instead of five) and less money (an estimated $60 million) than they could have, effectively forcing their teams to keep it in “win now“ mode. The prospect of these two battling à la Magic and Bird for the next 10 years has fans, marketers, and league officials in giddy convulsions. “We’re in an age where people are hypercritical of athletes,“ says ESPN NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith. “But they have the opportunity to reshape the landscape of the sporting world.“
36 // J Allard
Corporate Vice President, Microsoft
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 31
Bill Gates has a lot of faith in J Allard, Microsoft’s chrome-domed creative visionary. The young engineer persuaded Gates to launch a gaming division in 1999, and by 2004, the Xbox had become a worthy rival to Sony’s PlayStation 2, sometimes even outselling the PS2 in the U.S. The Xbox 360 is expected to win the upcoming console war against Sony’s PS3. Now Microsoft is betting its portable-media future on Allard’s mp3 player Zune, which some feel might stand a chance against the invincible iPod. Microsoft will launch Zune this fall with a furious marketing blitz. “He is no joke,“ says Corey Wade, a partner at the marketing firm Sandbox Strategies. “Apple is taking the Zune very seriously. With Allard behind it, there’s a chance [Microsoft] can get a good foothold.“ Zune probably won’t make a dent in iPod’s empire for years—but the iPod wasn’t universal until its third generation. Stay, um, Zuned.
37 // Brett Ratner & Bryan Singer
AGES: 37 & 41
Although A-list skirt-chaser Brett Ratner and Comic-Con geek-god Bryan Singer are hardly kindred spirits, they have one superhuman skill in common: a Midas-like ability to turn out blockbuster Hollywood franchises. “Some people might get angry because I’ve had so much success,“ Ratner, of Rush Hour fame, told Details. “But I’m just so fucking blessed.“ He also directed the third X-Men installment (following Singer’s first two), which grossed $234 million domestically, bringing the series’ total to $1.1 billion worldwide. Singer’s resurrection of the well-endowed son of Jor-El—a project Ratner began—grossed $337 million globally. With results like that, there is no meeting these filmmakers can’t get. “I bet their Rolodexes are very similar,“ says Ralph Winter, who as producer of the X-Men trilogy has worked with both directors. “They connect at the highest levels.“ Singer is in talks about a Superman sequel. And Ratner is beginning work on his third Rush Hour film (out next August), which will only add to the franchise’s $591 million worldwide gross. Rush Hour star Jackie Chan is betting the director’s name is only going to grow even more bankable. “That’s why I’m getting [Ratner’s] autograph on everything I have,“ Chan says.
38 // John Lapp
Executive Director, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committe
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 50
In less than six weeks, we’ll all know just how effective John Lapp has been as the Democrats’ chief congressional war strategist. For the past two years, Lapp has been grooming an army of “Macho Democrats“—including Iraq-war veterans—to reclaim the House. “These are Democrats to the core,“ says Lapp. “And being out of power since 1994 . . . they want to win.“ Lapp will use more than $70 million in contributions for gloves-off tactics like airing an anti-Bush spot immediately before the president’s State of the Union address—on Fox News. He was also behind a bruising campaign, called “Tom DeLay’s House of Scandal,“ that helped expose the former majority leader’s iniquities. “John has enormous influence,“ says Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and author of Divided States of America. “The Democrats see that he understands not just the tactic of winning but the whole strategy.“
CEO, Wasserman Media Group
Since 32-year-old Casey Wasserman bought L.A.’s Arena Football League franchise, team values have gone up 50-fold. And since its inception in 1998, Wasserman Media Group has generated $2 billion in revenue. Wasserman, the grandson of legendary MCA/Universal head Lew Wasserman, also bought the top player-representation agency (Arn Tellem’s shop), and the sports-management firm The Familie. “He’s not afraid to hire the most talented people out there,“ says Liz Mullen, Los Angeles–bureau chief of SportsBusiness Journal. Or to branch out: He just launched a film-production company for his athletes, and WMG is already a leader in the field of stadium-naming rights. Soon they’ll be naming one after him.
40 // Fashion's Forward Thinkers
Hedi Slimane & Raf Simons
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 41
Kris Van Assche
Paris has always been the nerve center of women’s fashion, leaving London and Milan to play tug-of-war over the men’s shows. But lately the City of Light has been getting in touch with its masculine side too. Raf Simons, the creative director of Jil Sander, who is considered by many the most influential designer of the decade, has managed to reinvigorate the ailing house without watering down its hallmark minimalist aesthetic. The label, which lost $46 million in 2005 (he was appointed in the summer), is on track to turn a profit for 2006. Meanwhile, in a half decade at Dior Homme, the austere French designer Hedi Slimane (pictured) has drastically narrowed the silhouette of the modern suit, slipping it onto the skinny shoulders of rockers like Pete Doherty and propelling a change that is so pervasive you can pick up a Slimane-style pencil-fit suit at the Gap. As discussions of Slimane’s contract renewal at parent company LVMH heat up, other major labels, including YSL Rive Gauche Homme, where he was creative director in the nineties, are lining up to put in their bids. Slimane’s former protégé Kris Van Assche (whose own line, already on the racks at Saks and Jeffrey, recently received orders from Brad Pitt) has been tagged as a possible successor to the Dior throne. “Paris hasn’t emanated this kind of energy since the seventies,“ says Tom Kalenderian, the executive vice president of Barneys New York. “These boys are doing that.“
41 // Rob Wiesenthal
Group Executive, SONY Corporation
While Sony chairman and CEO Howard Stringer is busy in Tokyo, Rob Wiesenthal, his top lieutenant at the world’s biggest electronics and media company, gets to run the show in the United States. Not surprising, since some speculate that Stringer is grooming Wiesenthal as his successor. As Barry Diller says, “Rob is smart and seasoned, a great executive.“ In his current post, Wiesenthal is able to keep his hands in everything—he’s delivered solid profits in Sony’s music, games, and movie businesses—and his name out of the press. “Rob is relatively egoless and extraordinarily practical,“ media deal-maker Nancy Peretsman of Allen & Co. told Crain’s New York Business. “He’s always focused on the outcome.“ Wiesenthal couldn’t avoid being big news in 2004, when he was instrumental in assembling a coalition of investors to back Sony’s acquisition of MGM. The deal, which put Sony in charge of MGM’s 4,000-film library (including the lucrative James Bond franchise) while carrying only some $250 million of the $5 billion total cost, is considered one of the slickest in years. And now Sony is expected to buy out its investment partners, setting the stage for a spinoff of the company’s entertainment assets. One way or another, it seems, Wiesenthal will get his CEO title.
42 // Kanye West
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 15
Since publicly flogging George “Doesn’t Care About Black People“ Bush, Kanye West has done his best to keep his mouth shut. In so doing, West ensured he’s not the controversial figure he was last year; now everybody, including him, can get back to focusing on what made him matter in the first place: great music. West has recorded a new album, Graduation, helped out on former boss Jay-Z’s comeback, and shepherded a slew of projects on his G.O.O.D music label, including an album by Fonzworth Bentley, Diddy’s former valet. West’s stolen not only Puff’s manservant but also his role as impresario, complete with his own fashion line launching this fall. But fear not, West’s temper and tirades aren’t gone. “The assumption is there’ll be give and take, and people will play nice,“ says John Legend, whose second West-produced album comes out this month. “Kanye doesn’t follow those rules. He’s more passionate about getting it right than about making everyone happy.“
43 // Netroots Nurturers
Eli Pariser, Executive Director, MoveOn.Org
Markos Moulitsas, Proprietor, DailyKos.com
For years, right-wingers have dominated every known form of communication. But it’s liberals who own the new form: Their online movement takes its marching orders from Markos Moulitsas. He’s the spiritual blog-father of the left, helping set the agenda for the legion of smart writers who harry the GOP at every turn—he even held a packed convention in Las Vegas this year. Meanwhile, leading the fund-raising and campaigning wing of the wired liberals is MoveOn.org. The group’s failure to defeat Bush in 2004 has only emboldened it. MoveOn’s membership has grown by half a million and it’s on track to raise $25 million this year to take back both houses of Congress. Strangely, its big victim so far is a Democrat: By mobilizing support for antiwar challenger Ned Lamont, MoveOn helped cripple Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman in a primary. Now can it inflict damage on . . . the other side? “The Republicans are scared shitless,“ insists Eli Pariser. So are the Democrats.
44 // John E. Sununu
United States Senator
John E. Sununu’s home turf, New Hampshire, is the proving ground for presidential candidates—and with the race for the 2008 nomination already heating up, the senator’s about to be one of the most courted men in the GOP. The son of the White House chief of staff under George H.W. Bush, Sununu won his Senate seat in 2002, at just 38. Now he’s rubbing elbows with the Google guys, working on sweeping telecom legislation, and sitting on the Banking and Foreign Relations committees. He even joined with (gasp) Democrats in a recent filibuster on the renewal of the Patriot Act. “He understands that the greatest enemy of a democracy is stalemate,“ says Jack Valenti, Hollywood’s longtime advocate on Capitol Hill. “He’s a new breed of a national leader.“ Not bad for the youngest guy in the Senate.
45 // Kiefer Sutherland
Once upon a time, Kiefer Sutherland was just another Brat Packer, and not even the first of Julia Roberts’ many fiancés. Then he was an ex–Hollywood Somebody, competing in rodeos—yes, the kind with bulls—until a badass role on a certain real-time Fox drama came calling. “Here you had a guy sort of like a post-9/11 superhero,“ says Ben Mandelker, cofounder of the television blog TVgasm.com. “An everyday guy, a tough guy, and he was going to save the day. The combination of the format and this great character with the intensity of Kiefer Sutherland is a powerhouse that you can’t deny.“ One hundred twenty hours of television later, Sutherland is reputedly the small screen’s highest-paid dramatic actor. In June, a reported $40 million three-year contract kicked in with Fox, giving him the title of series executive producer and a hefty development deal for his just-off-the-ground production company. There’s even more at stake in Jack Bauer’s next assignment: Sutherland is in talks to make a movie version of 24, with cameras rolling as early as next spring.
46 // Shane McMahon
Executive Vice President of Global Media, WWE
Doubt the power of men in tights? Advertisers scoffed too, until they saw that Shane McMahon (Vince’s son) and the WWE have the “elusive male“ in a hammerlock. “Shane is completely in touch with the action that keeps young guys coming back for more,“ says Bonnie Hammer, president of the USA Network. Monday Night RAW is ensconced as the top-rated show on basic cable, and among men 18 to 34, SmackDown stands as the highest-rated Friday-night show in all of television. A CD of its wrestlers’ themes debuted at No. 8 and WWE.com gets more than 14 million unique visitors a month. Now the WWE is shown in 130 countries. “The story makes language irrelevant,“ McMahon says. “It’s Who’s the good guy? Who’s the bad guy? One-two-three, who’s the winner?’“ Consider that McMahon mixes it up in the ring and writes the scripts, then guess who to bet on.
47 // Howard Wolfson
Hillary Clinton may or may not become the first woman president. But one thing is certain: The junior senator from New York already has her Karl Rove. As the communications director in her 2000 senatorial campaign, Howard Wolfson faced down a national opposition and daily accusations of carpetbagging, not to mention all sorts of other baggage. “He’s one of the best strategic thinkers in the Democratic party,“ says Josh Wachs, former COO of the DNC. “To be able to deal with the incredible media scrutiny of that race—few people could handle that assignment.“ Since then, the man Clinton calls Wolffie has repositioned her as a pragmatic moderate and helped as much as anyone—except perhaps her husband—to make her the presumptive frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Also noteworthy: Wolfson’s prominent consulting firm, the Glover Park Group, represents clients ranging from the United Federation of Teachers to the government of Turkey to Rupert Murdoch. Hmmm, so that explains that Murdoch fund-raiser for Clinton last summer.
48 // The Hollywood Agents
Patrick Whitesell, Partner, Endeavor
Jay Sures, Board Member, Partner, UTA
Chris Silbermann, CoPresident, ICM
It typically takes decades before an agent attains a level of celebrity rivaling that of his clients, in the eyes of Hollywood. These three power brokers all reached that point in their 30s. Patrick Whitesell has a lock on young stars like Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Jude Law. (His wedding to Lauren Sanchez, former host of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, became such a high-profile social event that people reportedly lobbied for invitations.) Jay Sures oversees the packaging of UTA clients—producers, writers, actors—for franchises like CSI and shows like Six Feet Under and The Sopranos. Likewise, Chris Silbermann’s boutique agency, Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann, fetched a reported $70 million price tag when it was bought this summer by old-guard firm ICM. BWCS represented the creators and producers of shows like Grey’s Anatomy and My Name Is Earl; now Silbermann will also serve as co-head of worldwide TV, giving ICM instant cred in prime time. The deal even made Silbermann copresident with the legendary fixer Ed Limato, who could give these hungry tyros a few pointers on the art of making a name for yourself.
49 // Marc Ecko
Chairman, Marc Ecko Enterprises
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 46
After selling $1.2 billion worth of rhinoceros-embossed urbanwear to both city kids and their suburban imitators in 2005, Marc Ecko—himself a suburban wannabe—added some serious street cred by punking all the president’s men. In a promotion for his first video game, Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, Ecko appears to be spray-painting still free on Air Force One. The video, which included hooded graffiti artists scaling barbed-wire fences, was so realistic that the Air Force felt compelled to inspect its plane. Gotcha. In one deft act of guerrilla marketing, Ecko put himself on the leading edge of the graffiti craze, created buzz for the coming movie adaptation of his game (think there’ll be any product placement?), and, most important, surpassed the rhino as the audacious, recognizable face of his brand.
50 // Dane Cook
Becoming the It comic is an accomplishment in itself, but it pales in comparison with Dane Cook’s other shtick: harnessing the social-networking power of the Internet to become its first organically grown superstar. After toiling on the club circuit, Cook posted clips and links to his slickly designed DaneCook.com on MySpace just as the networking site was launching in 2003. More than 1.4 million “friends“ later, Cook is a Gen-Y phenomenon without peer. Thanks to these legions, Cook routinely sells out concerts. His second album, Retaliation, debuted at No. 4 and has gone on to become the best-selling comedy album since Steve Martin’s Wild and Crazy Guy in 1978. Now Cook is basking in the multi-million-dollar glow of a deal with HBO, which ran his on-the-road show, Tourgasm, and aired his stand-up special, Vicious Circle, this summer. And he landed his first major movie role in Employee of the Month, which opens October 6. Still, Cook’s greatest talent is ensuring his talents get noticed. “Dane is a marketing genius,“ says HBO’s senior VP of original programming, Nancy Geller. “We’re in a new media world, and he was one step ahead of everyone else in embracing that.“ As any great comedian will tell you, timing is everything.
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 2
Shiloh’s first baby pics brought in over $4 million, she’s been immortalized in wax, and she has the most desirable DNA in the world. Who’s Daddy’s favorite now?
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 7
Last year, he vowed to Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Yes, he makes ducats, but after he picked a beef with Robbie Williams and then played kiss and make up on British TV, 50’s gangsta cred is dead.
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 10
After having the world’s best-selling album in 2005, Coldplay is on indefinite hiatus. Phew, more time to live in Gwyneth’s shadow and think up idiotic baby names.
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 18
If you have to become a commentator for the Miss Universe pageant, it’s time to start rooting for the return of Hollywood Squares.
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 39
Silly K-Fed—the only way your pathetic rap career and gratuitous self-promotion will take off is if Britney dumps you, preferably for the Manny. Ask Nick Lachey (No. 28).
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 44
After going to rehab for his pill-popping, he remarried ex-wife Kim only to divorce her again three months later. Somehow he still had no material.
Sam Houser & Terry Donovan, Rockstar Games
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 45
Busted for illegal pornographic content in your games? Your parent company, Take 2 Interactive, found guilty of insider trading and flawed financial reporting? Where’s the fun in those crimes, fellas?
LAST YEAR’S RANK: 49
Jacko’s been found not guilty. The trial is over—so is your 15 minutes.
Story by Alex Bhattacharji, Erica Cerulo, Ian Daly, Alexandra Geiger, Jeff Gordinier, Matt Hendrickson, Timothy Hodler, Allison Mooney, Ece Ozturk, Todd Pruzan, Genevieve Roth, Jonathan Sabin, Kayleen Schaefer, Gillian Telling, and Pete Wells.