Fifty years ago this month, MARILYN MONROE died, and look how a '50s icon has become a 21st-century phenom. Her platinum locks, slightly parted ruby lips, and curvy, clinging styles are copied by actresses and singers from MADONNA to TAYLOR SWIFT to LINDSAY LOHAN to RIHANNA to NICOLE KIDMAN. And there are a slew of Marilyn-themed enterprises on the horizon. Meanwhile, crusty CLINT EASTWOOD, 82, makes our night at the GOP convention with his infamous "empty chair" chat with President Obama. It becomes one of the enduring moments of the campaign, if also the most puzzling.
The most uninhibited person on the planet is now officially DUNHAM, who gets naked at the Emmys — she sits naked on a toilet and eats a birthday cake, to be precise, in an opening skit. At the MTV Video Music Awards, the boy band One Direction makes its mark as a new teen-girl obsession. But look who's also making waves: BILL CLINTON, 66, who rocks the Democratic Convention with an energetic speech that shows he can still inspire the masses. As for little SASHA and MALIA OBAMA, the country does a double-take; in four years they've become two mature and fashionable young women.
Binders full of women! Big Bird! Malarkey! Debate season is on, so let the instant memes begin. This is the first election where you could have followed the debates purely via Twitter. Surprise, DUNHAM's in the news again — and let no one doubt the value of pop-culture prominence, however ephemeral: Her new book deal with Random House is reportedly worth more than $3.5 million. But let's hear it for another 50th birthday: Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is back on Broadway exactly a half-century after it first premiered, and it's getting some of the best notices of the season.
BOND. JAMES BOND. Embodied by the tough and chiseled DANIEL CRAIG, the world's most famous British spy is in better shape than ever as the franchise marks its 50th anniversary with "Skyfall," regarded by many as one of the best Bond films. Another iconic image doesn't fare so well: Lohan's turn as Liz Taylor in a new TV film is pilloried. Sometimes the original just shouldn't be touched. And hail to the first statistician to achieve pop-culture cred: Blogger NATE SILVER scores with his spot-on predictions of the election's outcome. And we must mention the oldest pop-culture hero of the year: ABRAHAM LINCOLN is back, courtesy of STEVEN SPIELBERG's movie and a typically mesmerizing performance by DANIEL DAY-LEWIS.
As the year ends, the world is abuzz with news of a royal pregnancy. Soon, a baby will be one of the biggest celebrities in the world. But for now, let's give a shoutout to the ROLLING STONES, whose average age is 68-plus, slightly older than the average Supreme Court justice. In five concerts marking their 50th year as a rock band, the grizzled foursome shows the world they still have the power to rock huge arenas (at huge prices), and upstage celebrity guests like LADY GAGA with their own charisma. Along with aging rockers McCARTNEY, SPRINGSTEEN, THE WHO and PINK FLOYD, they dominate a televised benefit for storm victims. As for MICK JAGGER, who at 69 hasn't lost any of those "moves like Jagger," we can only say, to paraphrase the famous movie line: "We'll have what he's having."