10. Michael Richards’ racist rant: When the former “Seinfeld” star shocked a comedy club audience with a hateful tirade against hecklers, it was the N-word heard ’round the world. At least the incident prompted a public discussion of the controversial term’s use and abuse.
9. “Grey’s Anatomy” on-set fight: It was surprising enough that co-stars Patrick Dempsey and Isaiah Washington got into a physical altercation. But then details surfaced that homophobic remarks by Washington provoked the fight. In the ensuing hubbub, another cast member, T.R. Knight, was essentially ousted from the closet.
8. Star Jones gets fired: Why Barbara Walters expected the infamous loudmouth “View” co-host to go quietly is anyone’s guess. But after quietly getting notice that her contract would not be renewed, Star blurted a preemptive-strike announcement on-air — and was promptly removed from the roundtable. Babs castigated Star on the next day’s show for blindsiding the cast.
7. The Suri Cruise mystery: Before she was even out of the womb, Suri Cruise was one of 2006’s rumor-magnet celebs. First, mom Katie Holmes’ up-and-down pregnancy bump raised eyebrows. Then, the unveiling of suspiciously long-delayed photos sparked buzz that Suri was older than claimed — plus far-out conspiracy theories about her true father being anyone from Chris Klein to L. Ron Hubbard to alien warlord Xenu.
6. Kate Moss and Pete Doherty’s codependent relationship: After escaping legal repercussions for her caught-on-tape cocaine use, it looked like Kate was over boyfriend Pete, the Brit singer better known here for his rap sheet than his rock songs. But the couple continued their on-again-off-again romance, despite Pete’s frequent busts for crack, cocaine, heroin and violent behavior.
5. Nicole Richie’s body chemistry: Just the sight of the diminutive 85-pound “Simple Life” star aroused controversy this year. She sought help for what she called an inability to put on weight, but checked out of eating disorder rehab after two days. Then in December, she was busted for DUI and admitted to smoking pot and taking Vicodin — a red flag for a former heroin user.
4. Lindsay Lohan collapses … again: If hospitals gave frequent-flyer miles, Lindsay Lohan would have definitely earned a free elective surgery by now. The actress’ 2006 ailments ranged from falling down the stairs at rocker Bryan Adams’ house to fainting on a film set (she faulted the heat; producers pointed to her incessant partying). Frequent wrist sprains and cuts, not to mention incoherent and paranoid speeches and mass e-mails, also aroused alarm. But Linds’ AA attendance doesn’t seem to have curbed her too-much-is-never-enough lifestyle.
3. Britney Spears’ parenting: First, she was seen driving with her baby son Sean Preston in an unsafe front-facing car seat. Then, she was seen almost dropping him onto the New York City pavement. But, perhaps most disturbingly, lately Britney hasn’t been seen with her kids (second son Jayden arrived in October) at all. Even diehard fans are wondering if Brit’s footloose-and-panty-free party-girl lifestyle is appropriate for a mom of two.
2. Mel Gibson’s DUI tirade: The “Passion of the Christ” director’s anti-Semitic rant when busted for drunken driving became instantly infamous. Despite his show of remorse and appeal to the Jewish community, some Hollywood power players called for a boycott of his films. Yet, perhaps owing to the public’s short attention span, his new “Apocalypto” is a hit.
1. Anna Nicole Smith’s family drama: Within three days in September, the model gave birth to a daughter and lost a son under mysterious circumstances. She’s battling a paternity suit from ex-boyfriend Larry Birkhead, was evicted from her Bahamas home by another ex, and, oh yeah, she’s still wrangling with her late husband’s family over his estate. This year, Anna outdid all five Desperate Housewives with the lurid plot twists in her family saga.
Kitty Raymond is an entertainment writer who has a celebrity astrology blog at www.celebastroblogy.com.