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Year in Review
Style and Entertainment

By Matt Slovick, WashingtonPost.com Staff

People flocked to movie theaters for "Independence Day," continued to tune into NBC's "Must-See TV" Thursday, added Alanis Morissette's album to their collections, found out the name of their favorite "Anonymous" author and did the Macarena.

Tupac ShakurThe violent death of 25-year-old rapper Tupac Shakur came in the same year that longtime entertainers Gene Kelly and George Burns passed away. A birth also made headlines when The Material Girl became a mommy.

The year also brought us two royal divorces, a wedding for John-John Kennedy, a divorce and second marriage for the King of Pop.

"Independence Day" came July 4, but the hype started months before. And it worked. The movie about an alien invasion made $100 million in six days, faster than any other film. The sight of the White House exploding was a hit as the film ended up No. 6 on the all-time list, making $306 million domestically.

Critics shrugged off "ID4" and the two other summer blockbusters -- "Twister" ($241 million), with its "flying" cows, and "Mission: Impossible" ($180.9 million) with Tom Cruise.

Mel Gibson played a famous Scotsman who flicked moons. In March, "Braveheart" won Gibson an Academy Award as Best Director and took the grand prize as Best Picture. The other big Oscar winners were Nicolas Cage (Best Actor, "Leaving Las Vegas"), Susan Sarandon (Best Actress, "Dead Man Walking"), Kevin Spacey (Supporting Actor, "The Usual Suspects") and Mira Sorvino (Supporting Actress, "Mighty Aphrodite").

Alanis Morissette's angst-ridden album, "Jagged Little Pill," set a record for a female artist, selling more than 14 million copies. The Canadian newcomer led all artists by winning four Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" was the Song and Record of the Year.

Television industry executives formally approved a controversial program-rating system. The six categories are: TV-G (for programs recommended for general audiences); TV-PG (parental guidance suggested); TV-14 (parents of children under 14 strongly cautioned); TV-M (mature audiences only). For children's shows, the categories are TV-Y (suitable for all children) and TV-Y7 (program recommended for children 7 and older).

NBC's "Must-See TV" lineup on Thursday nights led the way as the network won the year's prime-time ratings again. "ER," at 10 p.m., was the year's most-watched television show. With "Friends" at 8 p.m. and "Seinfeld" at 9 p.m., so-so shows "The Single Guy" and "Suddenly Susan," a new series starring Brooke Shields, finished in the Top 10 each week.

Michael J. Fox ("Spin City") and Bill Cosby ("Cosby") made triumphant returns to TV. Ted Danson's ("Ink") TV homecoming hasn't been as smooth. At the Emmy Awards, "ER" and "Frasier" took the prizes as best drama and comedy.

Off the set, "Frasier" star Kelsey Grammer checked into the Betty Ford Center for treatment of substance abuse. After a car crash, Grammer was arrested and booked for investigation of driving under the influence.

And the six cast members of "Friends" demanded raises to $100,000 an episode from their original contract of $30,000. Reports said they previously had received raises after the success of the show, and they settled for $75,000 a show.

Anonymous, the author of the best-selling novel "Primary Colors" was exposed. Joe Klein, a Newsweek columnist and CBS commentator, acknowledged lying to his fellow journalists -- even his colleagues at the magazine and the network -- in denying that he was the author. He did not write for the magazine for a few weeks and lost his job at CBS.

The book is being made into a film with John Travolta as president and Emma Thompson as first lady. Mike Nichols is set to direct and Elaine May is writing the screenplay.

Oprah Winfrey, the country's most adored talk-show host, was a boon to book-buying. She began devoting one segment a month on her show to a book-group-style discussion of a novel she has read and recommended to viewers the month before. The first book, Jacquelyn Mitchard's "The Deep End of the Ocean," became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. The second, Toni Morrison's 1977 "Song of Solomon," sold even better.

Tupac Shakur, who survived being shot five times in a 1994 robbery, died as the result of gunshot wounds from a drive-by shooting. Shakur was a controversial but popular "gangsta" rapper. He sang about the ghetto culture of violence in which he lived and died.

Actor and dancer Gene Kelly, best remembered for the memorable scene from "Singin' in the Rain," died at the age of 83. Kelly had a series of strokes in 1994 and 1995.

George Burns, the longtime cigar-smoking comedian, made it to his 100th birthday, although he wasn't able to perform on that day as he had in the past. Seven weeks later he died.

Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music, died at 84. Washington earned the reputation as the nation's bluegrass capital.

Other notable celebrity deaths included Smashing Pumpkins keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin, who died of a heroin overdose at 34; Harold Rollins, 46, an Oscar-nominated actor; Dorothy Lamour, 81, the sultry, sarong-wearing sidekick of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby; Claudette Colbert, 92, the Academy Award-winning actress who was one of the queens of comedy during the golden age of movies; John W. Chancellor, 68, a retired reporter, anchorman and commentator with NBC News who was one of the most trusted figures in American journalism; Timothy Leary, 75, the former Harvard psychologist who became a national figure during the 1960s as the primary apostle of a cultic lifestyle based on the use of LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs; Ben Johnson, 77, who won the 1971 Academy Award for best supporting actor for "The Last Picture Show"; Minnie Pearl, 83, whose homespun humor and shrill "HowDY!" made her the first country comedian known worldwide; Haing Ngor, 45, the Cambodian physician and refugee who won an Oscar for "The Killing Fields, shot to death; McLean Stevenson, 66, who played Army Lt. Col. Henry Blake on the TV show "M*A*S*H"; Don Simpson, 52, the extravagant movie producer whose blockbusters included "Flashdance," "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Top Gun"; Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni, 72, the symbol of the harried "Latin lover.''

Madonna, 38, the pop queen known for the controversial, became a mother on Oct. 14. She named her little girl Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon. Madonna's boyfriend and the girl's father is Carlos Leon, who is twentysomething.

John F. Kennedy Jr., once named "The Sexiest Man Alive" and considered this country's most eligible bachelor, married his longtime girlfriend Carolyn Bessette on Sept. 21.

After many turbulent years, Charles and Diana -- the prince and princess of Wales -- ended their 15-year marriage. They will share custody of the little princes -- William and Harry.

Andrew and Fergie -- the Duke and Duchess of York -- also called it quits after a decade of marriage. Fergie also found herself in financial straights, filing for bankruptcy. She's now in line to have a talk show in this country.

Both Di and Fergie lost their titles of Her Royal Highness.

Divorce & Marriage
Early in the year, Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of the late Elvis Presley, divorced after 20 months of coupledom. In November, Jackson announced that a nurse, Debbie Rowe, was carrying his child. Ten days later, the two tied the knot. Rowe, 37, works for Arnold Klein, the Beverly Hills dermatologist known as "Skin Doc to the Stars."

"The Macarena" became the song and dance craze of the year during the summer. The song by Los Del Rio went No. 1 and stayed there for weeks. People of all ages did the dance in nightclubs, at weddings and on cruise ships. It even made it into the presidential campaign as Vice President Al Gore and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole made jokes about it.

A little red, fluffy character from "Sesame Street" became the big toy for Christmas '96. The Tickle Me Elmo, which retailed for $30, didn't have much of a shelf life in stores. People reportedly were selling the doll for $200 and more.

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