Show biz has always been a wild rollercoaster ride, and 2003 was no exception. For every Hollywood highlight, there was a lowlight waiting in the wings to tip the scales.
A surprising number of stars were charged with serious crimes — most notably Michael Jackson and Phil Spector. Others suffered through less serious but still painful events like breakups, accidents and illness. And then, of course, there were the box office and Nielsen bombshells: the Bennifer flop "Gigli," the NBC disaster "Coupling." Even reality shows and TV movies sank to new lows, with ABC's ostentatious "Trista and Ryan's Wedding" and CBS' dismal canceled miniseries "The Reagans." And let's not even talk about the tiger attack in Las Vegas or the Paris Hilton sex tapes …
Foxnews.com has already brought you the highlights of 2003. Now we look back at some of the lowest of the lows of the past year.
Le Divorce: Ah, Hollywood. A world where marriages that don't end are looked on as freak accidents. The upside for all those who took a trip to Splitsville in 2003 is that they were, as always, in good company. The ugliest breakup of the lot was that of odd couple Liza Minnelli and David Gest . After the pair announced their separation, Gest sued Minnelli for $10 million for headaches and neurological damage he claimed to have suffered because of her violent drunken rages. She later sued him right back for at least $2 million, claiming he stole from her. Both sued for divorce.
Others who ended marriages: Sharon Stone, Juliette Lewis, Luke Perry, Halle Berry and Eric Benet, Jennifer Garner and Scott Foley, and Jude Law and Sadie Frost. Those who separated or ended non-marital relationships: Lionel Richie, Kim Cattrall, Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock, Edward Norton and Salma Hayek, and Naomi Watts and Heath Ledger.
Michael Jackson booked on child abuse: A dramatic search of the King of Pop's Neverland Ranch in November led to accusations of child molestation against the singer. Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon, who'd tried and failed to snag Jackson on similar charges 10 years ago, alleges Jackson sexually abused a boy under the age of 14; Foxnews.com broke the story that the child was a 12-year-old cancer patient whose medical bills Jackson had paid and who had stayed at the ranch several times. Jacko's booking became one of the media events of the year, and his eerie mug shot was splashed all over TV and newspapers everywhere. The entertainer has denied the molestation claims and hired hotshot attorney Mark Geragos to defend him.
Crime and punishment: Michael Jackson wasn't the only star in trouble with the law this year. Legendary record producer Phil Spector was charged with murdering actress Lana Clarkson, found shot to death in his mansion; 1970s TV star Robert Blake (who played a cop on "Baretta") was ordered to stand trial for murdering his estranged wife Bonny Lee Bakley but got out of jail on $1.5 million bail; pop metal band Great White's tour manager was indicted on manslaughter charges in the deaths of some 100 people killed in a Rhode Island nightclub fire that ignited because of the group's pyrotechnics; rapper Bobby Brown was charged with battery for hitting his wife, singer Whitney Houston; R&B singer R. Kelly was charged with possession of child pornography; singer Glen Campbell and country songstress Wynonna Judd were arrested for driving under the influence; Courtney Love and Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland were arrested on drug charges; actor Tom Sizemore was found guilty of battering ex-girlfriend and ex-Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss and sentenced to six months in prison plus probation and extensive counseling; and Adam Ant was arrested for throwing rocks near his London home then stripping off his pants at a nearby cafe. The Who's Pete Townshend was questioned on suspicion of child porn possession but was later cleared; and a fire that demolished R&B singer Aretha Franklin's million-dollar mansion was ruled an arson but no charges were filed.
Rosie O'Donnell lawsuit: The ex-talk show host wound up in court this year, too, in a bitter battle with Gruner+Jahr USA, former publisher of her magazine Rosie. G+J sued O'Donnell for $100 million, alleging breach of contract for walking away. She countersued for $125 million, saying G+J broke its contract with her by cutting her out of key editorial decisions. She also argued that the publisher had cooked some of its books. Neither side won and no damages were awarded, with the judge ruling that hard evidence for both arguments was MIA.
Illnesses and accidents: Between R&B singer Luther Vandross' near-fatal stroke and heavy metalist Ozzy Osbourne's serious accident in an all-terrain vehicle, 2003 was not a year to be left to chance. After Vandross' stroke, he contracted pneumonia and meningitis and had to have a tube inserted in his throat to help him breathe. He later continued his recovery at a New Jersey rehabilitation center. Osbourne broke his collarbone and ribs in the accident on the grounds of his estate in England while riding a four-wheeler and had to undergo emergency surgery. Billy Joel and Bridget Fonda were both hospitalized after serious car crashes; David Letterman came down with shingles and missed work; Rodney Dangerfield underwent brain surgery; Roger Moore received a pacemaker after he collapsed during a stage performance; Roseanne Barr underwent a hysterectomy; Louie Anderson was hospitalized for heart problems; and Pamela Anderson announced that she'd contracted Hepatitis C.
"Gigli" a bomb for Bennifer: The flick that brought Ben and Jen together bombed at the box office and was assailed by critics. The much-talked-about couple of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez (dubbed Bennifer once they became an item) had zero onscreen chemistry. Their offscreen love was in question, too, when they abruptly canceled their September wedding and rumors of a split swirled. By all accounts, the pair ended 2003 as a couple — but nothing could be confirmed about whether they did or still plan to make their union official.
The "wedding of the century": "Bachelorette" Trista Rehn walked down the aisle — or rather, down the green Astroturf — with her reality-show chosen one, Ryan Sutter, in December. The $1 million affair could have more aptly been coined the "tackiest wedding of the century." The bride wore a hideous pink-and-white dress for the ceremony (thankfully, she changed into a more elegant gown for the reception), and the whole event had the feel of a pro-sports game or a Las Vegas cabaret. Aside from the golf greens and stadium-esque lighting, there were powder pink bridesmaid dresses, a monstrosity of a staircase for Trista's entrance and more cameras, guests and sappiness than any self-respecting bride and groom could or should bear. Rehn, who starred as the "Bachelorette" from the popular ABC "Bachelor"/"Bachelorette" series, is so far the only one to take her made-for-TV relationship to the altar.
"Buffy" ends for good: The insanely popular UPN series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which achieved cult-like status during its 7-year run, put the last nail in its coffin this year. The series' finale — in which Buffy's love interest Spike and the reformed demon Anya, plus several ancillary characters, died battling evil — left scores of fans feeling empty and unsettled.
Tiger attack: Animal trainer and entertainer Roy Horn, of the Las Vegas show "Siegfried and Roy," was mauled by one of his white tigers during an October performance and nearly died. He suffered a stroke and left-side paralysis after the attack. Horn has since been moved home from the hospital, where he is undergoing extensive physical therapy. The Vegas show he did with partner Siegfried Fischbacher shut down immediately following the accident.
"The Reagans": After portions of the miniseries script were released to the media, a ruckus over the portrayal of the former First Family ensued — leading CBS to try to sanitize the TV movie, then ultimately dump it and hand it over to cable channel Showtime. Critics, most of whom hadn't seen the program, nevertheless blasted it for making President Reagan a bumbling, clueless, homophobic character and Nancy Reagan his controlling, in-charge wife.
"Coupling": NBC's hyped, supposed replacement for "Friends" — currently in its last season — was a dismal failure from the start. (What else can you expect, since it was the American version of the British version of "Friends"?) Trashed by critics and audiences alike, the sitcom was characterized by canned raciness and stilted acting and writing. It went on hiatus and then was canceled after only four episodes.
Lisa Marie Presley debut: The daughter of the King of Rock 'n' Roll burst onto the recording scene this year with her first album, "To Whom It May Concern." After the announcement of its imminent release, Foxnews.com learned that Presley had actually been rejected by her father's label, RCA , three or four years earlier when she approached them with some of the songs. And despite a spate of publicity, sales were lackluster at best just a week after the album hit stores in April, with a meager 125,000 copies sold.
Rush Limbaugh's dirty little secret: Facing a federal drug probe alleging he illegally purchased prescription drugs, the conservative syndicated radio talk show host known to lambaste drug abuse and dealers admitted he'd become addicted to pain killers. After Limbaugh's stunning confession, he left work for five weeks and checked himself into rehab. He has since returned to the airwaves. By year's end, the investigation and court hearings were ongoing, but charges had yet to be filed.
Paris Hilton sex tapes: As if starring in rich-kid reality shows weren't enough, the provocative, young hotel heiress starred in a homemade sex video (or 10) too. The tapes, made with Hilton's ex-boyfriend Richard Salomon three years ago, were apparently not supposed to be circulated for public consumption but snippets wound up on the Internet and at various media outlets. Hilton's family at first claimed Salomon was a rapist, though the video contents belied that theory. The ex sued the family for $10 million for slander and sued an Internet porn company for distributing the footage. The company, in turn, sued Salomon's former roommate for misleading them into believing he owned the rights.
TV contract battles: Some high-profile TV contract disputes made headlines in 2003. "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini filed a breach-of-contract complaint against HBO in an effort to up his salary from $400,000 to $750,000 an episode. He dropped the suit and agreed to honor his contract after HBO said it would give him no more than $11 million a year, up from his measly $5 million. "Everybody Loves Raymond" actor Brad Garrett pulled a similar stunt, refusing to come to work until he landed a big raise (some of his co-stars also didn't show up). CBS agreed to pay them all millions more, and poof! "Raymond" was back in business.
Wondering what 2004 will bring? So are we. Will more "Bachelors" and "Bachelorettes" wed in embarrassingly gaudy galas? Will Jacko escape molestation charges and save his career once and for all — or will he, along with all those other celebs, be part of the Hollywood Behind Bars faction? And will Bennifer ever take the plunge — maybe even have a few baby Bennifers? It can't get much lower in the coming year than it did in Entertainment 2003 ... or can it? We'll be looking to the stars for answers.