The Year That Was

September-October 2004

Sept 18

From Here to Brit-ernity

Wherever she went, Britney Spears left a tabloid paper trail

Britney Spears, 23, gets hitched to her true, baggy-pantsed love, Kevin Federline, a 26-year-old former backup dancer for Justin Timberlake and one of the many background servers in You Got Served. By doing this, the singer racks up her second marriage in a very busy year — so in your face, J. Lo!

She takes her first vows in January with childhood pal Jason Alexander, on the kind of Vegas whim one always regrets, and then annuls...two days later, to the relief of her shocked parents and record company. But our Brit, who's nothing if not resilient, falls for Federline that spring. He leaves his pregnant girlfriend—actress Shar Jackson (Moesha) — for Spears, which is really romantic in an abandoned-family kind of way. The new couple go together like hypersexualized innocence and record sales, and prove inseparable after she cancels the summer leg of her world tour in June due to a knee injury.

Spending the next few months recuperating, Spears keeps in shape by hurling milk shakes and sodas at paparazzi and, in one infamous photo, tipping back a mini-bottle of ginseng in front of a liquor store. When the New York Post intimates Brit's a boozer (mistaking the ginseng for whiskey), Spears threatens to sue — because drinking hooch on the street is a line the woman who lambada'd with a python and sucked face with Madonna on TV is just too classy to cross.

Come July, Jackson gives birth to Federline's child, the couple's second. This apparently triggers Spears' maternal instinct, because a few months later she posts a letter on her website declaring that she wants to retreat from the limelight and ''can't wait!'' to have her own baby. Soon she'll become like every other mother out there: horrified that her daughter wants to dress and act like her.

Sept 21

SKY'S THE LIMIT When Yusuf Islam (formerly folksinger Cat Stevens) pops up on the U.S. no-fly list because the feds believe that ''his activities could be linked to terrorism,'' his flight from London to D.C. is rerouted to Maine. There the FBI questions Islam and deports him back to England; he declares the incident ''unjust.'' Meanwhile, Dan Fogelberg and Christopher Cross notice a strange clicking sound on their phone lines.

Sept 27

THINGS THAT GET BUMPED IN THE NIGHT NBC reveals that Jay Leno will cede The Tonight Show to Conan O'Brien...in 2009. So mark your calendars! Or at least wait four years until the 2009 calendars are printed, and then mark them.

Oct 6

SIRIUS BUSINESS Howard Stern announces that a five-year, $500 million deal will lure him to Sirius Satellite Radio, where he'll host a new show in January 2006. By that time, technology may allow satellites to beam programming directly to breast implants, giving Stern the synergistic opportunity of a lifetime.

Oct 13

LIFE OF O'REILLY Bill O'Reilly and Fox slap associate producer Andrea Mackris with a suit claiming she tried to extort $60 million from the pundit in exchange for not going public with sexual-harassment charges. Later that day, Mackris countersues. Among the claims in her suit: O'Reilly told her he wanted to rub her in the shower with a ''falafel.'' The parties settle two weeks later, mercifully keeping us all from a trial where we might have to hear lurid details on O'Reilly's baba- ghanoush-stained bathtub.

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