December 31, 1999 12:00 PM

Hold it right there, fellow revelers. Before we pop the corks and start humming “Auld Lang Syne,” let’s take a last look at ’99. Is the old century going out with a bang or a whimper? Did we make progress, or were we just spinning our wheels? Were there more high notes than low blows? More guts and glory than hype and hysteria ? Judging by this year’s list of intriguers, we sprinted toward the millennium in fine style. We embraced the known as well as the new. Julia Roberts was back with a bang, and ’70s diet guru Dr. Robert Atkins put his low-carb diet on our plates again. Meanwhile, author J.K. Rowling created fresh magic with her Harry Potter books, and newcomer Ashley Judd made Double Jeopardy the place to be. Women excelled all over the field. Serena Williams aced the heavy hitters to win tennis’s U.S. Open; Brandi Chastain and her teammates put soccer over the top; and grandmother of five Judge Judy banged her TV gavel to sky-high ratings. Giving became the rage as well—by world’s richest man Bill Gates, who opened his wallet to the tune of $17 billion for charity, and by Regis Philbin, who handed out stacks of the green to ordinary folks who wanted to be millionaires. And even as we lived “La Vida Loca” with Ricky Martin, we also cheered heroic cyclist Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France after recovering from life-threatening cancer. If one thing was clear this year, it was that new roads are opening, and no one knows where they will lead. In the microscopic world of molecular biology, Dr. Martin Citron made a discovery that could one day end the tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease. And Hillary Clinton rose mightily from her husband’s long shadow hoping to propel herself into the U.S. Senate. Now, if anyone could just explain what the heck that Pokémon thing was all about…

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