10 Most Fascinating People of Katie’s 2009

We don’t need a Chinese restaurant placemat to know that 2009 isn’t the Year of the Blog. I haven’t been busy so much as distracted—by school, by gall stones, by sick cats, and by more school. It ought to be calming down soon, but I’m not going to make myself any promises. I was so distracted, in fact, that last week when I saw a commercial for Barbara Walters’s annual Fascinating People special, I was surprised that it was time for that already. Lately, I have to look at a calendar several times a day just to remind me what day it is, never mind what month.

Also, I’m still figuring out how to keep Twitter from making my blog obsolete. I tweet frequently, more often when there is something else I should be doing, and I fear that the tweeting impulse keeps the blogging impulse at bay, like the way that pain killers mask symptoms. I don’t even know that I want to blog because of all the tweeting. I like Twitter, though. It has brought me closer to people in a way that blogging never could.

So I went ahead and came up with a list of the people I thought were fascinating in 2009 because I like it as a recap for the year. Because it was a Twittery year, a lot of these people were fascinating to me because of Twitter. Well, maybe not because of Twitter but definitely via Twitter.

Without further introduction, here is the list of the 10 people I found fascinating in 2009:

10. Meredith Baxter Talk about coming in under the wire. Or, rather, coming out. I was a huge Family Ties fan in my youth. What budding liberal-hippie-commie didn’t want Elyse and Steven Keaton to be their parents? I had a small crush on Mallory and liked Alex a lot, but my real crush was on the parents. There wasn’t anything lacking about my own parents, but when my eye did wander, it wandered to the Keatons. So when I found out last week, just a month or so after I had rediscovered my love for Family Ties, that Elyse Keaton Meredith Baxter is a lesbian, I couldn’t help but smile. Plus, you all know about my secret wish that all the awesome women in the world were gay.

9. Melissa Harris-Lacewell This one is brought to you by Twitter. I was first introduced to Dr. Harris-Lacewell by Dr. Rachel Maddow (excuse me while I have an academigasm), but Twitter really revealed her brillance. She is exactly the sort of academic I want to be: socially engaged, pop culturally literate, unapologetically a feminist, and a damn fine thinker. She writes for The Nation, she appears on The Rachel Maddow Show, and she teaches at Princeton. The thing I love most about Twitter is the fact that a Princeton professor can live-tweet her watching of an NFL game without compromising her academic integrity.

8. Meghan McCain A Republican? I know! Meghan is very much a Republican. I’m not going to dispute that. What I like about Meghan is that she doesn’t let her dad’s shadow eclipse her. Sure, she’s proud of Sen. McCain, and she’ll tweet on and on about how much she loves him. One of my favorite stories about Meghan is actually more a story about her dad. I don’t recall where I read this, but it’s a campaign story so I probably read it some time ago. Anyway, it goes like this: Sen. McCain is introducing Meghan at a campaign stop and he says, “This is my daughter Meghan. She just graduated from Columbia. So if anyone knows of any jobs for art history majors, let me know.” That is totally something my dad would do, and it somehow brought Meghan and me closer together. I faithfully read her stuff at The Daily Beast, and although I only agree with her about half the time (she is a vehement supporter of same-sex marriage), I always like her style.

7. Peggy Olson You didn’t expect the whole list to be made up of real people, did you? Even when I wasn’t watching Mad Men, I knew it was the best show on TV. Peggy Olson is the kind of character that feels tailor-made for me. As she navigates the murky waters of being a career woman in the 60s, she is the perfect precursor to the Mary Richardses and Rhoda Morgansterns of the 70s. Peggy is at once naive and assertive. She is easily smarter than any of the other women on the show, but she isn’t nearly as good at figuring out the sexual dynamics of the 60s as Joan or Betty is. She stumbles in ways that feel familiar. I knew Peggy was my favorite when she announced to Harry and Paul, “My name is Peggy Olson and I want to smoke marijuana,” and I haven’t looked back since.

6. Nancy Lee Grahn Alexis Davis has been my favorite General Hospital character for ages, and because in the soaps the actors are so closely associated with the characters, I have had some degree of respect for Nancy Lee Grahn for a long time as well. She is politically outspoken, which I always appreciate, especially when the politics being spoken out so echo my own. I mean, this is a woman who started a pro-choice organization in the notoriously conservative community of daytime television. What made Grahn especially fascinating this year is Twitter. She could sometimes use a filter (and a proofreader), but I prefer these raw bits of her actual personality to 140 carefully-constructed characters from her publicist or assistant.

5. Kris Kristofferson There is a whole group of artists I profess to love when I haven’t seen their movies, bought their CDs, or put their art on my walls, and Kris Kristofferson, with his ridiculous name, used to be part of that group. Recently, I started actually listening to his music rather than just whining about how much I love “Sunday Morning Coming Down” but I can never listen to it because I don’t actually have a copy of it. In this day and age, there is no excuse for not listening to the music that you want to listen to, especially when we’re talking about Kris Kristofferson. It took me 0.5 seconds to find a torrent of his 2006 album This Old Road and a collection called The Essential Kris Kristofferson. I’m still looking for his newest album, Closer to the Bone, which came out in September, but I’m enjoying what I’ve got. I might as well acknowledge the crustiness and admit that it is part of his appeal. I like that the kind of life he has lived is evident not just in his songs but on his face, in his voice, in his wild hair, and even in the way he walks. I wonder what it must be like to wake up every morning knowing that you wrote one of the most iconic songs (“Me and Bobby McGee”) of the century.

4. Portia de Rossi I already explained about Portia on this blog back in March. I had some stuff to work out and I worked it out. Things could not be better with Portia and me these days. When she and Ellen were on Oprah last month, I was again blown away by how sweet Portia is. I know that’s a common reaction because she always plays characters that are so frigid and just completely the opposite of how she really is. Speaking of the roles she plays, Portia has really good taste in TV shows. Better Off Ted is really great. It has that rare thing that so many sitcoms think they have; it’s called The Funny.

3. Jane Fonda I’ve been a Jane Fonda fan for so long that I almost couldn’t justify putting her on this list because I didn’t want it to seem like I had just discovered her. This is another instance of rediscovery through Twitter. Yeah, that’s right, even Jane Fonda is on Twitter. She doesn’t tweet a lot, but when she does, she does it in such a way that I believe it’s really her. Back in the Spring, she was doing a play on Broadway and she would tweet from backstage. That was when I started to believe it was really her. A lot of the time, her tweets are just links to her blog, which I love. Like many of the people on this list, Jane’s political (read: feminist) convictions mirror mine, and I can’t really express how validating it is to be constantly reminded of what a good choice I made all those years ago when I chose her as a role model.

1 & 2 Madeline and Logan So there’s a unshocking tie. Even if I could rank them in order of their fascinating-ness, why would I do that? It’s very important to me that these kids know that I love them both in equal amounts. Of course, they are fascinating for different reasons. You should see the hilarious expressions that Logan gets on his adorable little face. There was this one time that Andy picked him up and he looked at Andy with these huge eyes that said, “Maybe if I don’t make any sudden moves, I’ll be ok.” He didn’t cry or fuss, he just stared. Come on, Logan. Andy is the least scary person on Earth. And then there’s Madeline. You should hear the way she articulates my name: “Kay-tee.” She says it a lot. I’m not trying to brag, but she pretty much adores me. The feeling is mutual.

Here are some photos from Halloween that have been collecting metaphorical dust on my computer.


It’s almost silly to post pictures of Logan that are this old because he looks different from one moment to the next. I wish I had a picture of him from the last time I saw him. He was wearing a flannel shirt and his face has really lost all of its newborn-ness. He is just impossibly cute these days.


As you can see, Madeline was a duck, and every time she wanted me to pick her up, she would say, “Duck up.” That kid has such an awareness of herself and the way things around her work that it is almost frightening. But mostly it’s amazing.