2009 was unkind to a lot of people, layoffs have been frequent, and the job search has been far too slow for far too many. But it’s not just the “little people” who have faced hard times. Most of these men and women are millionaires, but they found themselves at the center of some spectacular meltdowns, scandals, and career-changing moments.
1. Tiger Woods
The world’s greatest golfer had it all: a career including 14 major championships and 71 PGA Tour wins; a career laden with endorsements that in September passed the $1 billion mark, yes, that’s billion with a B, and two children with his beautiful wife Elin. If you’ve seen the news at all since Thanksgiving, you know his image, his career, and his family will never be the same after the revelation that over the course of his 5-year marriage he’s cheated with at least 11 different women. He’s on an indefinite leave from golf, his sponsors are reconsidering his role, and his wife is allegedly planning on divorce. In a year of rocked careers, Tiger’s right on top.
2. Barack Obama
After winning the 2008 election in convincing fashion, making history as the first African-American president of the United States, and enjoying a strong surge of public support to begin his presidency, Obama now presides over two wars, a turbulent economy, and an approval rating that has plummeted to 47%. It’s been an up-and-down year for President Obama, but at least his job still looks secure for at least three (and quite possibly 7) more years.
3. Miley Cyrus
It’s not easy for anybody to be 17, but it’s even harder when you’re the megastar of a Disney television/movie/music franchise. The actress behind Hannah Montana created a media firestorm by canceling her Twitter account (OMG!) and has since announced plans to take a break from her teeny-bop pop recording career.
4. Bernie Madoff
It was just about a year ago that Bernie Madoff was arrested for fraud, so technically his career was getting rocked around the 2008 Christmas tree. But it wasn’t until 2009 that the architect of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history learned he’d be spending the next 150 years in jail. Apparently, his new career as a quasi-celebrity in prison is just beginning.
5. Chris Brown (and Rihanna)
He was supposed to be performing at the 2009 Grammy’s, but Chris Brown found himself detained by the authorities. He was arrested on domestic violence charges, and the photos of his girlfriend Rihanna bruised and beaten changed both of their images forever. Neither let the trouble slow them down completely, both released successful albums in 2009.
6. David Letterman
Nobody really wanted to think about David Letterman’s sex life, but in 2009, no one with a computer or an Internet connection had much of a choice. The scandal of the talk-show host’s affair with his former assistant and the subsequent $2 million extortion plot monopolized headlines for a few days (until they were replaced by almost identical stories about NCAA basketball coach Rick Pitino and ESPN broadcaster Steve Phillips).
7. Jay Leno
After leaving the Tonight Show for prime time, Jay Leno has suffered the opposite fate of his former late-night rival, very few people seemed interested in him at all. Leno’s first month of ratings dropped 25% compared to the previous year’s programming numbers over the same time period. The career change was Leno’s own doing, but what lies ahead may be out of his hands.
It’s been a tumultuous year for talk-show hosts, but the queen of them all is rocking her career on her own terms. Her talk show won’t end until September 2011, but the public announcement of her intentions has rocked the entertainment world.
9. Rick Wagoner – GM CEO
One of President Obama’s first significant moves was to commandeer the reins at General Motors, and Wagoner was the odd man out when the government stepped in. Workers in the auto industry are used to layoffs, but Wagoner got the distinction of getting fired by the President of the United States.
10. Fritz Henderson – GM CEO
Wagoner’s replacement didn’t last nine months at the helm. His appointment was controversial, and his early resignation seems to have proved the doubters right. It’s just not a good time to be at the top of a company that has hit rock bottom.
11. Rush Limbaugh
Rush has made a career out of controversy, but when he wanted to start a new business venture as a minority owner of the St. Louis Rams, the divisive comments of his past came back to bite him. The men who make a living being pummeled on a weekly basis still found Rush’s image too painful to bear.
12. Kanye West
I’mma let you finish, but Kanye West had the best career-rocking moment of all time. His interruption of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards on September 13 generated a wave of hate for the hip-hop star (and the sole highlight in Jay Leno’s lackluster season the next day). But within a few short weeks, Kanye’s “Fame Kills” tour with Lady Gaga was cancelled. Lady Gaga has recuperated from the setback. Where Kanye’s career is headed still remains to be seen.
13. Paula Abdul
As a judge on American Idol, Paula Abdul was never a stranger to controversy. She had endured on-screen tiffs with Simon, behind-the-seen rumors about improprieties with a contestant, and more than a few bizarre moments that had critics calling for breathalyzer tests. But after producers failed to offer her the multi-million-dollar contract she thought she deserved, Abdul’s last audition was a 140-character Twitter version of “Take This Job and Shove It.”
14. Erin Andrews
As ESPN’s hottest personality, Erin Andrews was perfectly used to being on camera, but one stalker took it way too far. A former insurance salesman has pled guilty to making illegal peephole videos of Andrews in her hotel room and attempting to sell them to TMZ.com. The videos were leaked on the Internet, and Andrews career and life were radically disrupted.
15. Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod was a shoe-in to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, but those hopes may have been dashed by a Sports Illustrated report that he was among 104 players to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in the (supposedly) anonymous test in 2003. Major League Baseball has been rocked by leaked names of other big-time sluggers, but the bombshell was the news of baseball’s golden boy. Fortunately for Rodriguez, his season ended with his first World Series title with the Yankees, but it began with what could be the end of his Hall of Fame dreams.
16. Carrie Prejean
If you can call being Miss California a career, Carrie Prejean has been fired ten times over. She lost her crown for a variety of contractual infractions, had a run-in with the always controversial Perez Hilton, and has been embarrassed by a series of sex tapes that have surfaced on the Internet. She also claimed to have biblical boobs. Sheesh.
17. Perez Hilton
The gossip blogger/music critic stirs up controversy multiple times a day. But he made headlines outside of the virtual world after a run-in with will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and the group’s manager. Although charges have been dropped in the matter, Hilton was struck and struck back via video rant, angry tweets, and a failed lawsuit. With Hilton, the rocky moment may have helped boost his publicity, but we all definitely learned a valuable lesson. Violence. Is never. The answer. Ever. Never.
18. Greg Mitchell – editor of Editor & Publisher
While seemingly nothing can stop the growth of bloggers, the newspaper industry hasn’t been so fortunate. Editor & Publisher, which had covered the industry since 1884, has officially stopped the presses. Greg Mitchell, the journal’s editor was shocked when the sale of E&P’s parent company led to the immediate stop in production. But people who have been watching the demise of print journalism as we know it probably saw this coming.
19. Sarah Palin
The former beauty queen went from vice-presidential hopeful to retired governor to touring author in just a year. She has weathered the storm of late-night ridicule, accusations from her would-be son-in-law turned Playgirl pinup, and rejection from the staff of her former running mate. But when you wind up exchanging jam poetry with William Shatner on the Tonight Show with Conan O’ Brien, you really can’t complain.
20. Betsy Morgan – CEO of HuffingtonPost
Did you hear about the slumping traffic over at HuffingtonPost.com? Betsy Morgan hadn’t either. Everything about Huffington Post’s business pointed to success, so it came as a shock to Morgan when she learned Arianna Huffington was letting her go. Her exact words (or word): “Bummer.”
21. Adam Lambert
Finishing runner-up on American Idol was never going to slow down Adam Lambert’s rush to stardom. And this career-rocking moment probably won’t stop this AI personality from topping the charts. But Adam Lambert’s over-the-top performance to close out the American Music Awards fell below the standards of some critics and censors. It was enough to get Good Morning America to cancel Lambert’s performance scheduled for later in the week. Guy-on-guy kiss and simulated oral sex aside, nobody thinks they’ve seen the last of Adam’s rocking act.
22. Milton Bradley
For baseball’s Milton Bradley, 2009 began on a high note, with the previously embattled slugger signing his first multi-year contract, three years for $30 million with the Chicago Cubs. But the intense media scrutiny combined with Bradley’s anti-social attitudes and lackluster production proved combustible. With a few weeks left in the season, Bradley blasted his teammates, his fans, and even his boss in a newspaper interview. He was suspended for the rest of the season, and the Cubs can’t find a team willing to trade for him. As a result, some wonder if Bradley will ever play another game.
23. Michael Jackson
Perhaps the biggest news story of 2009 was the sudden tragic death of the King of Pop. As the film This Is It documents so well, Michael Jackson seemed poised to resurrect a career that had all but disappeared in recent years. Cementing the reality that Jacko’s career was on the rise, his music garnered four posthumous awards at the AMA’s. While it’s obvious that Jackson’s passing is so much more significant than any career, it would be wrong to ignore that Michael Jackson’s contributions to music were thriving and cut short in shocking fashion.
24. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford
Mark Sanford was on the short list of potential candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential ticket. But when the world learned he had been sneaking off to Argentina to hook up with a Buenos Aires beauty. That’s a long way from South Carolina, and Sanford is a long way from fulfilling his political aspirations.
25. Jon and Kate Gosselin
They went from a highly rated cable reality show to a top-rated cable reality show to a cancelled cable reality show. After Jon’s infidelity hit the front pages of tabloid papers everywhere, there was just a little too much reality to keep the show afloat. If you haven’t noticed the pattern yet, take note: cheating on your marriage not a good choice on a personal level or for your career.