From top to bottom, 2010 generated weird, embarrassing stories

Feel a chill in the air?

Is that frost on the windowsill?

That means only one thing. Old Man Winter is here, and NV Energy has shut off your power for nonpayment.

In a year of high unemployment, high foreclosure rates and high bankruptcy filings, if it weren’t for gallows humor we might have no laughs at all.

The only certainty is that 2011 will be better than 2010. (I can’t exactly support that statement with facts, but I prefer to play the optimist at this time of year.)

For my money, nothing warms the cynical heart like a good laugh at others’ misfortunes, and that means it’s time for my Bottom 10 weirdest and most embarrassing stories of the year. Just a short dozen months ago, U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-No-Tell Motel, edged out the hapless UNLV Rebels football team for most mortifying public display. Ensign’s affair with former Senate staffer Cindy Hampton was followed by revelations that his parents had paid $96,000 to Hampton and her husband.

We’ll see where Ensign ranks on the 21st annual Bottom 10, but first I have to pull myself over and show you my license and registration.

No. 10: CONGRATULATIONS, MR. SMITH. You’re under arrest. Columnist celebrates victory at the Nevada Press Association awards banquet with shiny bracelets after being stopped for DUI. Charge is pending, but humiliation is instantaneous.

No. 9: TILTIN’ HILTON. Party princess Paris Hilton “banned” from Wynn Resorts properties by the big man himself after she is stopped and found with a small amount of cocaine in her purse. Her driver was booked for DUI — don’t blame me, I was home that night — but Hilton initially denies the handbag is hers.

What’s more embarrassing, Hilton’s tall tale or Wynn’s decision to banish her for doing precisely what she’s well paid to do: party like an air-guitar rock star?

No. 8: SHEFF WHIFFS. Chris Sheff looks like a sure winner when he is hired to guide the College of Southern Nevada program, but his coaching career is cut short when it’s discovered he has committed rule violations before the team’s first practice.

No. 7: BAIL ‘MONEY.’ Las Vegas boxing champ Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. continues to prove the only one capable of knocking him out is the man in the mirror. Mayweather’s run-ins with the law escalate, and 2011 threatens to find him spending big money to remain out of jail.

No. 6: CHICKEN DANCE. Sue Lowden looks like a sure thing as the Republican U.S. Senate nominee against incumbent Harry Reid. Then she tells an audience that what American health care reform really needs is good old-fashioned bartering, including trading chickens for medical care.

By the time Reid’s attack team finishes deep-frying Lowden, her campaign is as scorched as a bucket of KFC extra crispy.

No. 5: HORREBEL FOOTBALL. New UNLV coach Bobby Hauck leads the Rebels to one of its worst records in a history of really bad seasons. Does UNLV really need a football program this much?

No. 4: SIEGFRIED & JOHN. Ensign magically escapes criminal prosecution and Senate sanction for the Hampton affair and cover-up. Now Ensign plans to run for re-election.

No. 3: ANGLE’S ‘ASIANS.’ Sharron Angle prevails in the Republican Senate primary, then runs one of the worst campaigns on record. Along the way, she says members of a group of Hispanic high school students look “Asian” to her.

No. 2: BEWARE THE DEATH RAY! As if CityCenter didn’t have enough trouble opening in a recession, a lawsuit alleges the reflection from its shimmering windows creates a beam hot enough to sizzle hairdos at poolside.

No. 1: MEDAL OF DISHONOR. David Perelman gets caught lying about winning a Purple Heart in a scheme to gain $180,000 in veterans benefits.

Meanwhile, local veterans volunteer to give Perelman fresh wounds to brag about.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at

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