The usual scandals, crims and business movers and shakers dominated the headlines in 2020 across NSW, Australia and the world.
The usual scandals, crims and business movers and shakers dominated the headlines in 2020 across NSW, Australia and the world.

Who are the 50 most talked about people of 2020?

We started the year with the state ablaze, and finish it with many people in the grip of a Christmas COVID lockdown.

Little wonder politicians and bureaucrats lead the Saturday Extra list of the 50 Most Watched People of 2020.

But even as their bushfire and COVID briefings became must-see TV, firefighters and scientists also found themselves in the spotlight as the nation marvelled at their expertise and determination to pull us through.

The usual scandals, crims and business movers and shakers also dominated the headlines, as did the stars who lead the flight from Tinseltown to the safety of Aussiewood.

And while we watched the US election as closely as if it had been our own, for many it is the unexpected heroes who made the most impact.

Who can forget volunteer firey Paul Parker's choice words in telling off the PM? And comedian Celeste Barber who rallied Australians to raise a staggering $51m for the Rural Fire Service only to run into a wall of controversy about how it would be distributed?

See who made our team's list:

(Put together by Linda Silmalis, Ava Benny-Morrison, Brenden Hills, Ben Pike, Annette Sharp, Kathy McCabe, Jane Hansen, David Meddows, Jack Morphet and Jessica McSweeney)

 

 

 

FULL TEXT

STATE POLITICS

PREMIER GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has had the most tumultuous year of her political career, leading the state through the bushfires then the pandemic, before being embroiled in personal and political scandal.

There's no doubt she has been regarded as a strong leader throughout much of the year, but it didn't start out that way.

The Ruby Princess debacle which cost the lives of many and led to a massive spread of COVID across the country could have been avoided with stronger restrictions by NSW Health on quarantine.

The Premier was able to get through the scandal to put NSW into a tough lockdown, keeping people confined to their homes for all but the most essential of activities.

Berejiklian remained popular with voters, especially as her interstate colleagues slammed their borders shut while she vowed to keep the state open.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard
Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard

All in all the year was looking better for one of the most hardworking politicians in Australia but then the Daryl Maguire scandal hit.

News of Berejiklian's close relationship with the disgraced MP sent shockwaves through her government and shattered her reputation as a stickler for the rules. Raising even more eyebrows was the fact Berejiklian had fired Maguire when his dodgy deeds first came to light.

Speculation as to whether she would resign dominated the news cycle for weeks, as debate raged as to whether she had breached her own ministerial code of conduct.

Berejiklian could have been forgiven for approaching the end of 2020 with a sense of relief at having weathered its storms and due some well-earnt rest.

But the rapidly blooming Avalon COVID cluster put an end to any thoughts like that.

Another hill to climb, and one which the state leader is so far tackling with her usual stoicism and calm. JM

 

JOHN BARILARO

IT was a fiery and frenetic year for NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro, whose brand of all-or-nothing politics very nearly proved his undoing.

His father died, he lost his licence for speeding, and he bizarrely became the obsession of popular YouTube conspiracy theorist cum political commentator and self-styled comedian Jordan Shanks who attacked him over a range of topics including bushfires and brumbies.

Barilaro took four weeks' mental health leave in September after threatening to split the Coalition government over a planning policy designed to expand koala protections.

The NSW Nationals leader sent a series of text message tirades to political allies when his bid for federal politics collapsed in May.

Sky News revealed Mr Barilaro accused federal Nationals leader Michael McCormack of undermining his attempt to contest the Eden-Monaro by-election.

"To feel threatened by me clearly shows you have failed your team and failed as a leader. You will never be acknowledged by me as our leader. You aren't. You never will be," Mr Barilaro wrote to Mr McCormack.

"The Nats had a chance to create history, to change momentum, and you had a candidate that was prepared to risk everything to make it happen. What did you risk? Nothing. Hope you are proud of yourself."

The Daily Telegraph revealed Mr Barilaro told a parliamentary colleague that friend and fellow minister Andrew Constance was a "c…" for weighing up whether to contest Eden-Monaro as well.

The NSW Nationals leader remains popular among his party and voter base in the bush. He has vowed to have more of his political fights behind closed doors next year, believing he has proved to swing voters in the bush the NSW Nationals are not beholden to the Liberal party. JM

 

 

BRAD HAZZARD

He is one of the State's longest-serving parliamentarians, but no role has been as important for Liberal MP Brad Hazzard than as the health minster during a one in one-hundred year pandemic. Seen by his colleagues as "a safe pair of hands", Hazzard was handed the portfolio in 2017 after a series of controversies beset his predecessor.

Three years on, the former high school science teacher and solicitor found himself thrust in the spotlight along with Premier Gladys Berejiklian, federal officials and senior health bureaucrats over the handling of potentially-infected passengers on the Ruby Princess.

A subsequent Special Commission of Inquiry led by Bret Walker, SC, subsequently found the health department had made "serious mistakes", including failure to ensure self-isolation aboard the ship. The incident appeared to serve as an early wake-up call. Unlike other in other major cities, Sydney has only battled a handful of outbreaks with no community transmissions for almost a month until the latest cluster on the northern beaches.

Fiercely protective of his department, Hazzard credits the health officials led by NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant for guiding the Government through the pandemic and keeping infection rates. Having entered state parliament almost three decades ago, many wonder if this will be Hazzard's final - and most significant - role. LS

 

TREASURER DOMINIC PERROTTET

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet began the year expecting to deliver his fourth consecutive surplus. However, that was before devastating bushfires tore across the state followed closely by a global pandemic that forced the state into a hard lockdown.

Instead, the man touted as a future leadership contender was forced to declare NSW had been plunged into an $16 billion deficit with a return to surplus not expected until 2024.

Despite the enormous challenges, Perrottet has managed to keep the state trucking along with two COVID-19 response packages worth a record $29 billion, including critical health funding for contact tracing - argued to be the nation's best - along with vowing to use record low interest rates and the State's fiscal and economic firepower to restore jobs and rebuilt the economy.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet with this daughters. Picture: Toby Zerna
NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet with this daughters. Picture: Toby Zerna

Throughout the year Perrottet has worked closely with industry to keep Australia's biggest economy open alongside virus. Unlike other states, the NSW budget looked beyond the crisis with a tax reform plan to drive greater home ownership, productivity and economic prosperity.

This includes a job-creating $100 billion infrastructure pipeline along with the bold move to slash the headline payroll tax rate to the lowest in the nation as part of an effort to lure national and international businesses to NSW. With the latest COVID-19 outbreak resulting in a temporary return of local restrictions, the economic challenges for Perrottet are far from over. LS

 

FORMER MP DARYL MAGUIRE

Who would have thought a NSW MP forced to resign in 2018 would be at the heart of one of 2020's biggest political scandals. The ICAC inquiry into former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire began in September, investigating allegations he used his position in government, including as parliamentary secretary, to broker business deals for his own financial gain.

Among the shocking corruption allegations was that Maguire was allegedly running a cash for visas set-up out of his parliamentary office. Maguire admitted to ICAC he received thousands in exchange for procuring visas for at least 14 people, three of whom became citizens. Under the scheme it was alleged money was funnelled to Maguire through a company called G8Way International.

But the ICAC hearing went from standard to sensational when phone taps of Maguire's conversations with Premier Gladys Berejiklian were played, in which the ex-MP discussed the Western Sydney land deal he brokered in order to pay of his debts.

The Premier was forced to admit she had been in a "close personal relationship" with Maguire since 2015. In the recording Maguire told Berejiklian the deal would pay off his $1.5 million debt.

ICAC's findings are yet to be handed down, but during the headline grabbing hearing Maguire admitted to monetising his time in office. JM

 

FEDERAL POLITICS

PRIME MINISTER SCOTT MORRISON

2020 got off the a bad start for Prime Minister Scott Morrison. While the flames of Black Summer bushfires devoured towns along the eastern states, he was snapped chilling poolside in Hawaii, in a poorly timed holiday that did not go down well with many members of the public and political commentators. But then the pandemic hit Australia hard in March and with tough decisions needing to be made, ScoMo was able to claw back respect in many quarters with his resolute stance.

Some of the most historic decisions of the year were made by Morrison and the newly formed National Cabinet, including implementing level four travel restrictions and a national lockdown.

 

Morrison's stance against China also made headlines around the world as he pushed ahead with calls for an investigation into the origins of the virus, despite emphatic pushback from our major trading partner.

Having learned from his early stumbles in the Black Summer bushfires, when many Australians criticised the PM for his lack of visibility during the crisis, Morrison was talking to the public almost daily via his televised press conferences at the height of the pandemic.

Australians have seen more of our Prime Minister than ever this year, and opinion polls show him holding a healthy lead in both the preferred PM and leader satisfaction polls.

But while the all-consuming pandemic has allowed the PM a chance to avoid some of the more controversial political topics, such as the climate change debate, next year will offer another stern test of his public support if cases decline and the country gets to grips with the financial aftermath. JM

 

TREASURER JOSH FRYDENBERG

One of the hardest and most high -pressure jobs during a national crisis is that of treasurer, given the task of keeping the economy stable and food on the dinner table for millions of Australians, thousands of whom lost their jobs overnight.

Josh Frydenberg had to give Australians the devastating news that the pandemic had tipped country into recession for the first time in 29 years.

And with the backdrop of the virus Frydenberg was given the enormous task of trying to keep people in jobs and businesses viable when most of the country was shut down.

The resulting JobKeeper policy was one of the most influential government measures of the year, managing to support businesses to keep on employees even when retail turnover was plummeting.

The Treasurer again dominated the headlines when the government announced the JobKeeper payment to help businesses around the country keep their employees at work.

The biggest challenge for Frydenberg this year was delivering one of the most important federal budgets of our time. The pandemic dashed the government's hopes of a surplus, and instead Frydenberg's budget forecasted a net national debt of $966 billion by 2024.

The budget featured cash payments for the elderly to stimulate spending, and introduced the JobMaker program, incentivising businesses to hire new employees.

Frydenberg also delivered tax cuts, the Home Builder scheme, more home care packages and a boost for the manufacturing sector.

While 2020 was all about short-term emergency policies, once the JobKeeper payments expire in March next year and the country looks to get back to some semblance of normal, the recovery will be an even tougher challenge for one of the government's most challenging portfolios. JM

 

COVID

NSW CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER DR KERRY CHANT

IT is rare that a bureaucrat ends up centre-stage - except for when there is a controversy. Not so for NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant who overnight became one of our most recognisable faces as she was beamed into the homes of millions for the best part of the year to deliver the latest on the pandemic.

Embroiled early on in the Ruby Princess scandal that questioned some of the decisions of her departments' bureaucrats, Dr Chant quickly recovered to become a trusted source for information about the pandemic, local outbreaks and contact-tracing.

At the start of the pandemic, Health Minister Brad Hazzard revealed Chant was barely sleeping, at one stage working 31 hours straight before fronting the cameras. During an interview, Chant admitted she had made it to the supermarket just once in the past eight weeks, with her 19-year-old daughter doing most of the cooking.

In recognition of her achievements, the University of NSW where Chant obtained her medical degree recently awarded her the 2020 Chancellor's Award for Exceptional Alumni Achievement. In an acceptance speech Chant delivered remotely, the Epping resident revealed it was her passion to achieve the elimination of hepatitis C.

"Once I divert my attention away from COVID-19, my passion for the elimination of hepatitis C and working in partnership with academics, non-government organisations and the community in responding to hepatitis C will continue," she said. LS

 

NSW chief health officers Dr Kerry Chant. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard
NSW chief health officers Dr Kerry Chant. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard

PROFESSOR JOHN SKERRITT

When Australians begin receiving their first COVID vaccines, it will be as a result of the work of Health Department deputy secretary responsible for the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Adjunct Professor John Skerritt.

In charge of whether the vaccines will be approved for use, the former medical researcher was working in a laboratory when the race began to find a cure for AIDS back it the 1980s.

Now overseeing the TGA, he will play a critical role in deciding whether any of the vaccines the federal government has signed up for are good to go, along with overseeing the critical transportation here. In the case of the Pfizer vaccine, which has to be kept at -70C, it will be shipped by air and kept in dry ice with small IT devices attached to each batch to remotely transmit if a pot heats up accidentally.

Skerritt, who is operating on "four to five hours" sleep, has effectively told his team to "cancel summer" in order to have the vaccines ready in March rollout. Describing the vaccine development effort as the "biggest thing in medicine in the last 100 years" Skerritt has said that while vaccination would remain an individual decision, those thinking about giving it a miss were strongly urged to consider the community.

"It's not something you do for yourself," he said. "Think about what your position might do to your grandmother, your neighbour's grandmother or just someone you might walk past at Coles or Woolworths - that little old lady you've never met."

"We recognise that at the end of the day it will be your right of choice as to whether to be vaccinated, but we encourage all people to think about the broader public good." LS

 

PAUL KELLY

Before 2020 it's fair to say most Australians had no clue who our chief medical officer was. Yet this year the CMO has become just as much of a household name as the Prime Minister.

Professor Paul Kelly was thrust into the spotlight as Deputy CMO to Professor Brendan Murphy, with both men alongside Dr Nick Coatsworth appearing on televisions across the country to provide information, advice and data to the public.

Since June Professor Kelly has been acting in the role of CMO and has been steering the fight to flatten the curve with his team of pandemic experts.

The decision to go for a flatten the curve strategy, or suppression, rather than eradication, was made by the expert medical panel and has shaped the country's pandemic response.

Professor Kelly has been tough on those flouting health advice from the beginning of the pandemic. His chastisement of young people not following the rules and businesses not enforcing social distancing made headlines with the stark warning "young people have died".

But like every government official he isn't without his controversies.

Kelly was pushed by journalists after promising the release of the government's coronavirus modelling, only to backtrack at a later press conference. It was a time when the public was desperate to know the figures influencing the sweeping and powerful restrictions that saw many to lose their jobs. The modelling was eventually released in April. JM

 

BUSHFIRES

RFS COMMISSIONER SHANE FITZSIMMONS

As NSW burned at the beginning of 2020, Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons marshalled the world's largest volunteer fire fighting service through the worst bushfire crisis and maintained a calm, measured and stoic front under enormous pressure.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian once described him as "a true hero".

Fitzsimmons never buckled under pressure, even giving it to Prime Minister Scott Morrison on national television for neglecting to tell him about a roll out of army reservists.

The 51-year-old, NSW's Australian of the Year, had the respect of his troops because he'd walked in their shoes.

Former RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins
Former RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins

As an unruly teen, he had joined the Duffy's Forest RFS in Sydney to keep himself out of trouble. By 19 he was brigade captain before slowly climbing the ranks and becoming RFS Commissioner in 2007.

On the first day of 2020, he was counting the cost of the devastating bushfires on the Far south coast - eight lives lost, hundreds of homes destroyed, tourists trapped on beaches, entire communities cut off. Before that, he'd spent the previous several months inside the RFS headquarters at Lidcombe, often on a few hours sleep, overseeing the response to fire emergencies all over the state.

While his professionalism was second to none, there were moments when the emotional toll of the disaster showed.

The heartbreaking image of Fitzsimmons pinning volunteer Andrew O'Dwyer's posthumous bravery medal on the chest of his 19-month-old daughter was broadcast around the world.

Fitzsimmons retired from the RFS in April and took up a job as the head of Resilience NSW. ABM

 

RFS VOLUNTEER PAUL PARKER

Volunteer firefighter Paul Parker landed his 20 seconds of fame after a spontaneous outburst directed at the Prime Minister at the height of the bushfire crisis.

The Rural Fire Service member made his anti-ScoMo sentiment clear to an unsuspecting Channel 7 cameraman after returning from the fire ground on the Far south coast in early January.

In his RFS truck, Mr Parker, 57, sidled up to the cameraman in Nelligen and asked if he was "from the media".

"Go and tell the Prime Minister to go and get f...ed from Nelligen," Parker said.

"We really enjoy doing this shit f...khead."

He later collapsed from exhaustion on the side of the road.

Explaining his strong choice of words weeks later, Parker said it was in response to Prime Minister Scott Morrison's comments about whether RFS volunteers should be paid.

But Mr Morrison, whose standing in the fire-impacted communities had already weathered a battering after his frosty reception in Cobargo days earlier, said his comments were misreported.

After Parker's clip was aired on Seven News, and subsequently by international media outlets, he became a lightning rod of anger at the Federal Government's handling of the bushfires.

He popped up on Channel 10's The Project, inspired the #Istandwithfiremanpaul Twitter trend, got a mention in Federal parliament and a GoFundMe page.

Even strangers were turning up at his local pub to leave money on the bar for his next beer.

According to the RFS, Parker was never dismissed and continues to be a member. ABM

 

CELESTE BARBER

Moved by the devastation of the Black Summer bushfires which threatened members of her family living at Eden on the Far south coast of NSW, Australian comedian Celeste Barber launched a Facebook fundraiser in January in the hope of raising $300,000 for the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and Brigades Donation Fund.

Quickly the fundraiser went viral with some 1.3 million donors chipping in and soon enough Barber had raised $51.3 million.

An overjoyed Barber declared she would share the funds around: "I'm going to make sure Victoria gets some, that South Australia gets some, also families of people who have died in these fires, the wildlife …"

But with the RFS donation fund controlled by a trust deed, it emerged the funds could only be spent on the purchase and maintenance of equipment, training and administrative costs for the RFS and could not be passed on to fire services in other states and charities such as the Australian Red Cross and animal welfare group WIRES.

Given the amount of backlash the RFS received from donors hoping their money would be spread around, the RFS decided to consult the Supreme Court.

In May the court confirmed the money could not be distributed but could be used to support rural firefighters injured while firefighting, the families of fallen firefighters and for trauma counselling.

Barber, always popular on social media, finished the year as Google's number one trending public figure.

 

LAW & ORDER

NSW POLICE COMMISSIONER MICK FULLER

Handling a global pandemic wasn't part of the job description when Mick Fuller signed on as the NSW Police Commissioner in 2017. But if it wasn't for police on the doors at quarantine hotels in 2020, NSW may have faced the same crippling coronavirus outbreak as Victoria.

Fuller was forced to step outside the traditional boundaries of a commissioner's role this year and the stakes were high.

In March, Premier Gladys Berejiklian asked him to lead the combat agency for the health crisis. That meant overseeing the enormous hotel quarantine operation, enforcing strict and sometimes unpopular public health orders and administering the NSW/VIC border closure with his own troops.

Fuller had experience in major events from his time as the Central Metropolitan Region commander but this represented an unprecedented logistical challenge.

At its peak, NSW Police were manning 28 quarantine hotels around Sydney and managing the arrival of up to 500 travellers a day.

To date, almost 110,000 travellers have been through a 14-day quarantine under his watch.

Bar a handful of escapees and a couple of minor hiccups, it has been a seamless operation.

Fuller was called on again in July to close and enforce the Victorian/NSW border.

He had 36 hours to make it happen, including mobilising 700 police officers from all over the state to man checkpoints in remote locations.

In between all that was the contentious opposition to the Black Lives Matter protest and his decision to take on the investigation into the virus-laden Ruby Princess cruise ship.

After little more than 10 days off all year, it is understood Mr Fuller had planned a Queensland holiday in January.

But COVID-19 has shaken things up again for the commissioner with the Northern Beaches cluster putting a ban on Sydneysiders travelling north. ABM

 

EDUCATION

NSW TEACHERS FEDERATION BOSS ANGELO GAVRIELATOS

When the pandemic pushed schooling from the classroom to the lounge room, there was a new-found respect for teachers.

While COVID-19 ultimately consumed his first full year as NSW Teachers Federation president, Angelo Gavrielatos has been buoyed by peak public support for the state's public school teachers.

The NSW Teachers Federation cited polling that suggested 91 per cent of parents gained more respect for the profession since the outbreak of COVID-19.

The NSW Teachers Federation largely gave the government free rein during the pandemic, other than fighting for chronically ill, pregnant and older teachers' right to work from home.

However, the government was loathed to admit it needed schools open for the good of the economy for fear Mr Gavrielatos would take them to task over any implication teachers are glorified child minders.

The kid gloves will be off next year when Mr Gavrielatos leverages all that public goodwill in his fight for better working conditions and pay. Expect fireworks when the findings of an independent review of changing teacher workload come down in February, which are likely to show teachers burdened by administrative tasks need more time and departmental support to do their jobs. New salary negotiations are due to begin in October and Mr Gavrielatos already has his nose out of joint over the Berejiklian's 12-month teacher wage freeze announced in May.

Gavrielatos this year thew his union's support behind The Sunday Telegraph's campaign for more school counsellors and mandatory mental health training for teachers. While teachers will be afforded the training they asked for, he will not rest until there is at least one school counsellor for every 500 students.

 

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS NSW CEO DALLAS McINERNEY

Catholic Schools NSW boss Dallas McInerney this year proved himself to be one of the shrewdest operators in the state's education system.

The former corporate regulator and financier has arrested falling enrolments at the state's Catholic schools, which started sliding on the back of the 2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

With student numbers shored up, Mr McInerney is going on a building spree worth close to half-a-billion dollars to reverse decades of decay. It has been suggested the building bonanza is the largest ever capital expansion in the history of Australian Catholic education.

If it sounds like Mr McInerney is in a rush to cement Catholic schools as the clear choice between public and high-priced private schools, it could be because Canberra is calling.

Mr McInerney is the hot favourite to replace NSW Senator Jim Molan at the next federal election, which could be called as soon as August 7.

At a series of late-night crisis meetings of the NSW Education Standards Authority board this year, Mr McInerney played a large role ensuring the HSC went ahead during the pandemic.

The board drafted a whole host of contingency plans that were thankfully never used, which ranged from scrapping exams entirely to holding all exams offsite at races courses and show grounds run by exam invigilators on the other end of a webcam.

It was Mr McInerney who spearheaded the campaign to have NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant overturn a ban on the first XV GPS rugby competition between top private schools like St Ignatius' College Riverview, The King's School and St Joseph's College (Joeys).

 

EDUCATION MINISTER SARAH MITCHELL

Bushfires, bomb threats and a pandemic proved the making of Education Minister Sarah Mitchell.
In her first full year in the job, Ms Mitchell steered more than 800,000 students from 2,209 public schools through natural and public health disasters.

The Berejiklian government has dined out on its investment in new and upgraded schools, but Ms Mitchell's year was defined by the schools she was forced to close.
During the Black Summer bushfires 350 public schools across the state were closed, two of which burned down.

A month after the bushfire season ended, Ms Mitchell defied the NSW Teachers Federation to keep NSW public schools open during the pandemic for families who could not keep their children home.

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Damian Shaw
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Damian Shaw

Students who could stay home spent a month learning online, thanks in no small part to the swift dispatch of 13,520 computers and 8,440 internet modems.
Positive cases of COVID-19 has so far forced the closure of 35 public schools, most of which were cleaned and reopened within a day. HSC students sat their final exams against the odds, despite temporary school closures because of more than 30 bomb threats.
Ms Mitchell has used the dying days of 2020 to finally step out of her predecessor Rob Stokes' shadow and set her own agenda.

A rush of reforms included clawing back power of schools from failing principals with new enforceable targets for HSC results, phonics, NAPLAN scores, attendance, wellbeing and the real-world success of graduates.

Ms Mitchell also ushered in much-needed mandatory mental health training for teachers. The Sunday Telegraph is still calling on Ms Mitchell to increase the number of school counsellors to at least one for every 500 students to address an alarming increase in youth suicide.

 

PROPERTY

JEAN NASSIF

Revelations about cocaine possession, fast cars, a lawsuit against broadcaster Ray Hadley and multimillion-dollar property wins: Jean Nassif's 2020 has been a rollercoaster.

The Toplace founder and glamorous property developer's year started with a bang amid revelations he pleaded guilty to possessing a small amount of cocaine at The Star casino in September 2019.

The 52-year-old was celebrating wife Nissy's 32nd birthday when police with drug sniffer dogs found 0.35g. This is the same Nissy made famous after Mr Nassif gifted her a Lamborghini with the words: "Congratulations Mrs Nassif. You like?'' The 2019 video went viral.

Nassif was given an 18-month conditional release order and no conviction was recorded on account of his good character.

He then took on 2GB giant Ray Hadley in the Federal Court, alleging Hadley falsely claimed Nassif was a shonky builder on his top rating radio show. The matter will drag into 2021, with reports Hadley and Nassif are attempting to settle the matter.

In October The Sunday Telegraph revealed Nassif said he would voluntarily replace almost 380 bathrooms in a Botany apartment complex after NSW Building Commissioner David Chandler uncovered serious flaws during destructive testing.

But it wasn't all that bad.

Throughout 2020 the NSW government fast-tracked the approval of a 167m tower at 189 Macquarie St in Parramatta. In another state government decision which will net his company tens of millions, large swathes of Castle Hill (including 6000sq m of his property) was rezoned to high density - increasing the property value by an estimated 60 per cent. BP

 

IN THE COURTS

MICK HAWI

Even from beyond the grave, murdered former Comancheros bikie boss Mick Hawi had influence in 2020.

The trial of two men charged with his killing yielded very little in the way of results for police and the prosecution in arguably the biggest organised crime assassination case this decade.

Mick Hawi.
Mick Hawi.

Yusuf Nazlioglu and Jamal Eljaidi were found not guilty by a jury in September.

One of the key pieces of evidence before the court was that Hawi's shooter was believed to be about 185cm and the driver was about 177cm. The only problem was Nazlioglu and Eljaidi didn't match this. Eljaidi was close to 200cm tall.

Another man, Ahmad Doudar pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to the murder.

The end result saw Doudar sentenced to a stint in jail so short that he might have enough time to finish a cup of coffee while he's there (even less if he wins his pending appeal).

The case reached farcical levels when after the trial a police complaint letter about how the crown ran the trial was posted to social media. BH

 

MICHAEL IBRAHIM

THE ever intriguing Ibrahim family were among the most talked about people this year thanks to the high point of the drug bust that saw John's younger brother Michael locked up for a maximum of 30 years.

Getting sucked in by an undercover cop who got him on the line for importing almost two tonnes of drugs and millions of cigarettes didn't give Michael much wiggle room when he was sentenced.

Michael pleaded guilty at an early stage of the case - earning him time off his sentence as an incentive. He also hired Australia's most expensive barrister, Bret Walker SC, to run his sentencing hearing.

It didn't seem to have much impact when Judge Dina Yehia sentenced Ibrahim to a maximum 30 years' prison with a minimum 18 year term, in the Downing Centre District Court in May. BH

 

IRISH BACKPACKERS NATHAN KELLY AND CHRISTOPHER MCLAUGHLIN

Established wisdom suggests you should always reject the first offer during any negotiation.

For the office of DPP Lloyd Babb SC, this case was the exception to the rule and the reason why it was one of the most talked about criminal cases of 2020.

Irish backpackers Nathan Kelly and Christopher McLaughlin were acquitted by a jury in the NSW Supreme Court of murdering Paul Tavelardis during a huge night on the drink in Sydney's inner west in December 2018.

But it didn't have to be this way.

McLaughlin's lawyers Simon Joyner and Margaret Cunneen SC made numerous offers to the ODPP for their client to plead guilty to manslaughter in the year leading up to the murder trial, only to have Babb's office reject the approach.

"It was truly an unusual set of circumstances - we had no alternative but to run a vigorous defence and we won," Joyner said.

The trial heard that witnesses rang Triple 0 and said "there's two men killing a guy, just get the police here".

Kelly and McLaughlin were acquitted on September 21 and caught the first plane back to Ireland - at taxpayer expense. BH

 

BEN ROBERTS-SMITH

The nation's most decorated living war hero and Victoria Cross recipient was never far from the headlines in 2020 as the Seven West Media executive sued Nine/Fairfax over 2018 newspaper reports which he says are defamatory because they portray him as someone who committed murder while on deployment to Afghanistan.

Roberts-Smith claims he was defamed in reports in which it was alleged was involved in unlawful killings as an Australian soldier in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012.

Roberts-Smith will also dispute a separate allegation at the defamation trial that he punched a woman in a domestic violence incident in 2018. The trials was due before the court in June but had to be delayed until 2021 following the coronavirus outbreak. It's now set down for June next year.

After hiring an expensive team of lawyers and a high-profile PR firm to counter the claims - at a high cost reportedly also borne by his Seven boss Kerry Stokes - the retired Special Air Service soldier asked that the six-week trial be brought forward as it is causing him additional stress and anxiety.

In addition to an Australian Defence Force investigation into war crimes, Roberts-Smith is also the subject of two Australian Federal Police investigations.

Adding to the courtroom intrigue, Roberts-Smith was photographed holding hands and riding scooters with a female defamation lawyer who works for his Sydney lawyer in August. AS

 

SAM BURGESS

Hit with an interim AVO after police alleged he threatened his ex-father-in-law Mitchell Hooke during a visit to Hooke's Southern Highlands home in October 2019, South Sydney star Sam Burgess spent 2020 battling two police charges - one of intimidation, the other of domestic assault - after his estranged wife Phoebe Burgess reported him.

Burgess would plead not guilty to both charges when the estranged couple finally faced off in a Moss Vale courtroom in November 2020.

The court appearance came a month after the NSW Police and NRL integrity unit launched separate investigations into allegations South Sydney doctor Andrew McDonald was called to Burgess's eastern suburbs home in November 2018 to attend the rugby league player following a days-long drug-fuelled bender.

McDonald allegedly administered a liquid tranquilliser prescribed in Mitchell Hooke's name that Hooke, the former CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia, acquired on his son-in-law's behalf.

A drug test, for which Burgess allegedly used a false name, was subsequently ordered by South Sydney and conducted in the underground carpark of South's Juniors with Burgess testing positive for MDMA and ketamine. These allegations were contained in a 50-page police statement filed by Ms Burgess in September.

Burgess, who denies any wrong doing, would step down from his coaching assistant duties at Souths and his Fox Sports commentary role while Souths would deny being part of any alleged cover-up. AS

 

DYSON HEYDON

Man rises to the absolute apex of his profession and decades later is exposed to have been a sex harasser.

Who'd have thunk it?

That was the story of 77-year-old ex-High Court justice Dyson Heydon's 2020.

In June an independent inquiry handed down its damning finding that Heydon sexually harassed six young female associates during his career.

High Court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel ordered the inquiry after two of Heydon's former associates blew the whistle on their former boss's creepy proclivities. Aggravating the embarrassment was that it happened when he was on duty for Australia's highest court. "We are ashamed that this could have happened at the High Court of Australia," said Chief Justice Kiefel in a statement.

It was an astonishing fall from grace from one of the country's most revered legal minds. Things got worse for him after the release of the report with more people coming forward claiming to have been on the receiving end of similar treatment from Heydon.

Heydon denied the inquiry's findings and had his lawyers issue a statement that included the following clarification.

"Our client says that if any conduct of his has caused offence, that result was inadvertent and unintended, and he apologises for any offence caused."

He added: "We have asked the High Court to convey that directly to the associate complainants."

The ex judge didn't stop there. He then transitioned onto the front foot and questioned the inquiry's credibility.

''The inquiry was an internal administrative inquiry and was conducted by a public servant and not by a lawyer, judge or a tribunal member. It was conducted without having statutory powers of investigation and of administering affirmations or oaths.''

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this did not change the inquiry's findings or the public's reaction to them. BH

 

MEDIA

HUGH MARKS

HAVING confirmed the breakdown of his marriage in November 2019, Nine media boss Hugh Marks kicked off 2020 with a new role after being appointed to the board of real estate business Domain Group (59 per cent owned by Nine). By March - refreshed by his annual trip to the Australian Open tennis in Melbourne the month earlier - Marks was forced to take an axe to Nine's drama slate along with children's productions.

With Nine feeling the pinch along with other media companies due to the global advertising downturn, in August the company announced a substantial net loss. It came after Nine's streaming service Stan failed to win the contract for the most hotly contested international programming catalogue of the year, the rights to the WarnerMedia and HBO Max library (Games Of Thrones, Succession) going to Foxtel. This, in a year in which Stan also faced up to the loss of Disney programming to Disney+ but picked up the rugby union.

Marks was photographed picnicking in a Mosman park with his personal assistant in May. November brought his shock resignation after inquiries by this newspaper revealed the Nine CEO was in a relationship with a subordinate, newly departed managing director of commercial Alexi Baker. AS

 

ALAN JONES

After 35 years dominating Sydney talk radio on stations 2UE and 2GB, veteran broadcaster Alan Jones retired from radio in May - one year into a two-year contract - following an advertiser boycott that smashed Nine Radio's bottom line in 2019. It came after Jones took aim at New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and suggested Scott Morrison "shove a sock down her throat" after Ardern told a Pacific Island conference Australia would "have to answer to the Pacific" on climate change.

Replaced by the younger Ben Fordham, the brother of Jones's manager, Jones soon announced having signed a lucrative deal with TV broadcaster Sky News to host a weeknight prime time commentary program.

He left 2GB in a blaze of glory with tributes from everyone from tennis star Roger Federer to actor Russell Crowe and billionaire James Packer.

 

FAMILY

DANNY AND LEILA ABDALLAH

Out of unspeakable tragedy emerged this year's most inspiring story of love and forgiveness.

Siblings Anthony, 13, Angelina, 12, and Sienna Abdallah, 9, and their 11-year-old cousin Veronique Sakr were killed instantly by drunk and high driver Samuel William Davidson, 30, on February 1.

Angelina would have turned 13 on Christmas Eve.

The children had been out for ice cream on a balmy summer's night when Mr Davidson lost control of his speeding Mitsubishi four-wheel-drive, mounted the footpath and killed the children.

Danny and Leila Abdallah. Picture: Rohan Kelly
Danny and Leila Abdallah. Picture: Rohan Kelly

To everyone's surprise, days after her children Sienna, Angelina and Antony died their mother Leila Abdallah forgave the driver.

"The guy, I know he was drunk, driving on this street. Right now I can't hate him. I don't want to see him, I don't hate him," she told reporters.

"I think in my heart to forgive him … I'm not going to hate him, because that's not who we are."

Abdallah parents, Leila and Danny, as well as Veronique's mother, Bridgette Sakr, have all publicly forgiven the man who killed their kids.

While their Catholic faith is a constant source of comfort, it hasn't blunted the constant pain the parents are still suffering.

People across NSW will be encouraged to reflect on the need for forgiveness in their own lives and look to the ­example set by the Abdallah and Sakr families on February 1, which will be called i4give day.

Mr Davidson will be sentenced on manslaughter charges next year. JM

 

BUSINESS

CHRISTINE HOLGATE

The CEO of Australia Post came under fire in October after appearing before the Senate's Environment and Communications committee to explain her decision to reward four executives in 2018 with Cartier watches.

She told the committee the watches were gifted to four senior staff who had done an "inordinate amount of work" negotiating a contract that saw three of the four big banks agree to pay Australia Post, which operates like a publicly-owned business, $66 million for providing financial services, a boost to the revenue streams of 3000 franchisees who run post offices.

While Holgate denied taxpayers had paid for the watches - which totalled $20,000 and were paid for on a corporate credit card - prime minister, Scott Morrison - unconcerned Australia Post is not federally funded - denounced the corporate gifts as "disgraceful" and demanded Holgate stand down, which she did.

In November the humiliated Holgate resigned as reports surfaced suggesting Australia Post's chairman, Lucio Di Bartolomeo, failed to back his executive.

An expensive report into the whole affair (and paid for by the taxpayer) was ordered by the prime minister and is yet to be released with The Australian's Robert Gottliebsen reporting it found Holgate's actions justified but damned the government.

 

JAMES PACKER

The major shareholder of Crown Resorts Ltd spent 2020 in the sights of the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority after an inquiry was launched in January 2020 to determine the billionaire's fitness to hold a casino licence in Sydney. Called to give evidence, a sweaty, halting Packer addressed the inquiry via video-link from his luxury yacht in October and admitted threats he'd made towards a financier in 2015 were "shameful" and "disgraceful". He added strong medication makes it difficult for him to recall events.

The inquiry, conducted by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin - who is due to hand down her findings by February 1 - was investigating evidence of money laundering at Crown's Melbourne casino and ties to junket tour operators linked to organised criminals. Bergin is examining whether Packer's casino violated strict ownership restrictions placed on the Barangaroo project when he attempted to sell almost half his stake in his casino business to Hong Kong businessman Lawrence Ho in 2019.

With the $2.2 billion Barangaroo casino opening delayed and Crown's Sydney licence in jeopardy, a possible merger between Crown and rival The Star is being talked up in Sydney while the Victorian government has ordered a probe into Packer's Melbourne operations.

Also in 2020, Packer was named as a witness in Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming corruption case, drawn back into the sex-for-movie-roles scandal involving British actress Charlotte Kirk, the ex-girlfriend Packer introduced to departed Warner Bros chairman Kevin Tsujihara and accused of historic assault allegations by a former Crown security guard who claims he was "intimidated" and "bullied" by Packer on New Year's Day 2016.

 

CELEBRITIES

NICOLE KIDMAN

With film and television production in Australia grinding to a halt earlier this year as the pandemic took hold, the industry was brought to its knees. Local margins are wafer thin at the best of times and this sudden and unexpected halt to filming across the country put many productions at risk and threatened the livelihood of the hundreds of actors and production staff involved in the industry.

Nicole Kidman. Picture: Instagram
Nicole Kidman. Picture: Instagram

An injection of something, anything, was needed to keep the business alive and the first to step up to the plate and provide that was Nicole Kidman. When she announced she would be filming her new series Nine Perfect Strangers in and around Byron Bay - bringing with her a massive $100 million budget and a conga line of celebrities like Melissa McCarthy, Regina Hall, Luke Evans and Bobby Cannavale to our shores.

Of course, a single production could not provide work for everyone, but Kidman moved early and was the first in a long line of international productions taking advantage of our excellent COVID standing. If helping to save the local industry wasn't enough to get Kidman on the list, she also fronted one of the most talked about thrillers of the year in The Undoing, an eight-part series that also stars Hugh Grant. It helped to break viewing records for streaming platform Binge and also saw the Aussie star's profile painted on the side of an 18-storey apartment block in Sydney. DM

 

CHRIS HEMSWORTH

No global pandemic is going to get in the way of our homegrown superhero. It has been a big year for Byron Bay royalty Chris Hemsworth. When his action film Extraction was released in April it quickly became a hit for Netflix and despite mixed reviews from critics, it wrote itself into the streamer's history books as the most-watched original title ever. It was little wonder then that Netflix execs moved quickly to secure Hemsworth's services and The Sunday Telegraph broke the news in September that the Thor star had signed a multimillion-dollar four-film contract with them, including Extraction 2 and 3. He was instrumental in bringing production of the first movie - Spiderhead - to our shores and his latest Marvel instalment - Thor: Love and Thunder - has seen a cavalcade of stars make Australia home temporarily. He's working hard to promote the country as a filming destination and it's believed he is agitating for more of his films to be made here. Hemsworth has also been doing his bit for the local tourism business which was decimated by COVID-19 lockdowns and has been posting beautiful location shots with his family across the country. DM

 

PETE EVANS

2020 was the gift that kept giving, but in Pete Evan's case, it kept taking away.

The year stated off tame enough but then the pandemic hit. The TV chef who called coronavirus a 'scamdemic' on social media went live on April 9 in front of a pink and purple hued disco lamp thing called a BioCharger which he was flogging for $14,900 on his website.

He claimed it had a 'couple of recipes for Wuhan coronavirus' which earned him a $25,000 fine from the health watchdog.

Evan's descent into full QAnon conspiracy territory, posting ever more bizarre claims about the cabal and paedophiles running the world, and his anti-vax views, was a recipe for career disaster.

In May Seven's My Kitchen Rules parted ways with their star of 10 years.

What followed was a 'Pauline Hanson moment' on 60 Minutes in June where he suggested if he disappeared evil forces were at play "If I disappear or I have a fricking weird accident, it wasn't an accident, OK?"

As he celebrated ingesting psychotropic drugs like ketamine, ayahausca and cannabis, he simultaneously doubled down on the 'toxins' in vaccines. He flogged land sales in an eco-commune that didn't even have council approval and said he'd leave Facebook but never did. But it was his neo-Nazi post of a butterfly sporting the sonnenrad, the "sunwheel swastika", or black sun that cost him almost everything.

Evans was "cancelled" as his cookbook publisher Pan Macmillan, bookstore Dymocks, BIG W, Coles, kitchenware company Baccarat, Woolworths, House homewares, Target, Kmart, Booktopia and David Jones distanced themselves as did Channel 10's "I'm a Celebrity get me out of here".

What was left was a man believing the whole thing had nothing to do with his increasing erratic posts and everything to do with a giant media conspiracy to shut him up.

JH

 

MICHAEL GUDINSKI

When gigs stopped in March, the music industry got busy online. Promoter Michael Gudinski knew artists and arts workers needed a sense of purpose to get through the pandemic shutdown and their financial uncertainty and that fans isolated in their homes could do with some spirit boosting.

His first big virtual gig was the wildly ambitious Music From The Home Front virtual concert on ANZAC Day night featuring "live" performances from Jimmy Barnes and family, Missy Higgins and Tim Minchin and dozens of orchestra members and singers.

That success inspired him to put his money where his mouth has been for years, lamenting the lack of live music on Australian TV and in the middle of COVID-19, he launched new show The Sound, which completed two seasons worth of unforgettable performances from Midnight Oil to Ruel. KMc

 

GUY SEBASTIAN

The Choir chart star continued to dominate the Australian airwaves with its sister single Standing With You proving to be another top 10 hit.

The pop star and television personality found out who his industry friends were when some peers sought to cancel him for sharing a stage with the PM during an arts grants package announce.

Guy Sebastian.
Guy Sebastian.

And his offstage drama continued when his Federal Court fight with former manager Titus Day became a criminal matter with the talent wrangler facing 61 fraud charges.

But for all the drama, Sebastian saw out 2020 with his nine album T.R.U.T.H heading straight to No.1 on release in October and recommitting to his The Voice coach spot for the Seven reboot of the series. KMc

 

THE KID LAROI

Charlton Howard, the 17-year-old First Nations rapper and singer from Sydney became Australia's first bona fide global hip hop star.

The Kid Laroi was mentored by the late chart slayer Juice Wrld and the posthumous release of their collab track Go was the Australian artist's first to land on the US Billboard charts.

Kid Laroi's debut mixtake F… Love peaked at No.3 in Australian and the US, propelled by a succession of killer tracks including Tell My Why, So Done and Without You.

Now based in LA with his family, the prodigiously talented artist has generated more than one billion streams over the past year. KMc

 

TONES AND I

The Dance Monkey superstar continued to set new chart records around the world through 2020 with her unstoppable breakout song.

Tones and I was the most streamed female artist on Spotify for the year, an achievement she celebrated by pointing out she didn't need a dozen American hitmakers to help her write a smash.

During the pandemic shutdown, she devoted her energies to supporting emerging artists with That One Song contest which featured a new original song over 20 days.

And then she released her own next big hit Fly Away in November, which was already well over 20 million streams before Christmas. KMc

 

ACTOR HUGH SHERIDAN

After returning to Australia from the US, actor Hugh Sheridan initially tested negative and then positive on August 28 for coronavirus.

On September 2 while in quarantine he told his social media followers it was "scary, frustrating and lonely" though he had, he said, no symptoms. Then two days later an update: Sheridan's latest test was negative and doctors believed his previous test had been a false positive.

Then in October, Sheridan, a household name since starring in Channel 7's Packed to the Rafters penned a letter for Stellar magazine in which the 35-year-old said he wanted to be the person who "sticks up for people who don't pick a label." He then announced he was coming out "as a human being" and revealed he'd been bullied at school and called "faggot".

The actor also said he'd had relationships with both sexes.

Not everyone praised him for his declaration with some gays incensed Sheridan hadn't stood with them at an earlier stage.

It wasn't until it was revealed the following month that Sheridan had been cast in the lead role of the musical Hedwig and The Angry Inch for the forthcoming 2021 Sydney Festival that his critics really emerged - and they weren't homophobic straights and they weren't shunned gays either.

They were a furious trans community who felt the role - of gender queer rock singer from Germany who has a botched sex change operation and is left with an "angry inch" should have gone to transgender performer.

To the offended Queer Artist Alliance Australia, Sheridan - despite having just outed himself as a "human" non-binary LGBT member - didn't have what it takes. As a result, the acclaimed show was cancelled and Sheridan admitted to hospital.

Last week he told The Sunday Telegraph this was to deal with an "anxiety attack" due to an overloaded schedule. AS

 

WORLD AFFAIRS

JOE BIDEN AND KAMALA HARRIS

When the polls closed on election day in November and the numbers started to roll in, it looked like Donald Trump had defied the odds and would secure himself a second term. Democratic contender and former vice president Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris appeared at first glance to have fallen short of unseating one of the most divisive and controversial presidents in history.

 

After winning the Democratic nomination following a bitterly contested primary campaign, Biden chose Harris as his pick for VP and the two set about to make history - he as the oldest president (taking that honour away from Ronald Reagan) and her as the first African American vice president. With the US in the grip of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, Biden-Harris launched a massive campaign to get people to vote and vote early. For minorities that simple right can be a financial and logistical nightmare - voting is on a Tuesday and it is not a declared public holiday.

As was expected the gloves came off during the campaign. There were accusations of sexual misconduct directed at Biden - which he denied - there were claims levelled against Biden's son, Hunter, of using his father's name and allegedly promising access to make millions.

As the count slowly continued through election night, it looked like the dirt might have stuck. But then the postal votes started to be counted - the ones the Biden-Harris camp had urged people to use so they could take part and have a say.

Those glued to CNN or Fox News watched as Trump's big leads slowly eroded and eventually were overtaken and the history books were rewritten again.

 

OUTGOING US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

Since taking office in January 2017, Donald Trump's time as commander in chief has been a wild ride, but in 2020 the rollercoaster seemed to fly off the rails. His failure to fully comprehend, and react to, the pandemic left the country positioned as one of the worst effected on the planet.

In February he mocked the severity of the virus and in March said 'no nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States' before later saying he wouldn't be wearing a mask and stressing to people that CDC's advice to wear masks was only voluntary.

Things took a strange turn when he appeared to suggest that disinfectant could be injected into people to knock it out. There have been more than 18 million cases and hundreds of thousands of deaths from COVID-19.

The outgoing president also failed to address the rapidly growing Black Lives Matter movement that swept the nation in response to a growing number of deaths of black men and women at the hands of police officers, instead fuelling the fire by refusing to engage and preferring to label them violent thugs as a whole.

After losing the election to Joe Biden in November, Trump has cried foul from the rooftops, calling the election rigged and taking his fight to every court in the land to try and get votes discounted. To this day he continues to claim he won the vote in a landslide and refused to acknowledge the incoming chief. DM

 

BRITISH PM BORIS JOHNSON

Brexit negotiations must have seemed a walk in the park for the British PM when he was hit with COVID crisis in early 2020. First his government stood accused of being too slow to react to the crisis as social distancing, school closures, stay-home orders and testing initiatives lagged behind those of many other countries.

 

Then Johnson became a high-profile victim of the virus in late March, his worsening condition prompting his admission to intensive care. Better news came with the arrival of his son with partner Carrie Symons shortly after.

The remainder of 2020 has unfolded in similar fashion for the British PM, with good news around vaccine development tempered by burgeoning case numbers and new restrictions for the festive season.

 

ACTOR CHADWICK BOSEMAN

When news broke in late August that Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman had died, there was a massive outpouring of shock and grief from all walks of life. Fellow actors, pillars of the business community and world leaders paid tribute.

The announcement of his passing on Twitter was the most liked tweet in the platform's history.

 

Boseman was not just an actor - he had become a beacon of hope to generations of fans across the globe and was proof that anything was possible if you put your heart and mind to it.

His death was even more shocking when it was revealed he had secretly been battling colon cancer since being diagnosed in 2016. Initially assessed as stage III, the disease worsened to stage IV and he underwent numerous surgeries all while maintaining his busy filming schedule.

He was best known for being a superhero on the big screen, but his most heroic actions were away from the cameras. Boseman, who also received critical acclaim for portraying worked tirelessly with black youth in encouraging and guiding them to reach heights they may not have thought possible.

He once visited the Obama White House to speak with a number of children. After the actor's death, the former president paid tribute to his work. "You could tell right away that he was blessed. To be young, gifted, and Black; to use that power to give them heroes to look up to; to do it all while in pain - what a use of his years," he said. DM

 

TV HOST ELLEN DEGENERES

For years, Ellen DeGeneres and her eponymous daytime talk show were synonymous with fun and positivity. There was dancing, music, hilarious games and a guest list only Oprah could top. But on the inside, a molten toxicity was slowly bubbling towards the surface, one that erupted in the most spectacular fashion and threatened to ruin its star in the process.

Cracks started to appear in March when comedian Kevin T Porter called DeGeneres "notoriously one of the meanest people alive" on Twitter and invited others to share their horror stories about the TV star.

There was an avalanche of replies and some wild tales but given the forum it was impossible to tell if they were real. In May, a former bodyguard told of how the host was "cold" and "demeaning". Then in July, Buzzfeed News published a report in which current and past employees spoke of a toxic workplace culture, racism and harassment. There were reports of sexual misconduct by an executive producer who was fired along with two others in the wake of an investigation by Warner Bros.

The show has restarted but there are reports ratings are down, sponsors have shied away and A-listers are staying away." DM

 

BASKETBALLER MICHAEL JORDAN

The legend surrounding the world's greatest basketball player has never really dissipated since his third retirement from the game almost 20 years ago. The basketball Jordan - and even the slightly cringe-worthy baseball Jordan - were alive and well. But with the release of the documentary series The Last Dance we got to see the psychology behind all that public-facing stuff. The Jordan name once again became the headline.

Hours and hours of unseen footage was used to craft this 10-part series that focused on Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during the 1997-98 NBA season. This was intertwined with present-day interviews with the cigar-smoking star talking talks about what it was like to be one of the most competitive sportspeople alive. There was a lot of Jordan's brain in this series while a lot of it wasn't particularly flattering, all of it was fascinating. DM

 

ACTORS JOHNNY DEPP AND AMBER HEARD

The who's who of Hollywood splash a lot of cash to keep their private lives - and their secrets - private. So, there was global interest in a case being played out inside a London courtroom involving one of the highest paid actors in Tinseltown.

Johnny Depp was suing the UK's Sun newspaper for libel after it called him a "wife beater" in relation to alleged abuse against ex-wife Amber Heard. Claims of a troubled drug and alcohol fuelled lifestyle were put forward together with details about serious domestic abuse (that Depp denies) and violent fights between the former couple.

There was destroyed property, severed finger tips and in one particularly foul piece of oversharing, claims of giant faeces deposits on a bed.

The court ruled in favour of the newspaper which meant it found the accusations were 'substantially true'. The fallout was swift. Depp admitted he was asked to exit the Fantastic Beasts franchise after losing the case. His lawyers have signalled they will appeal the decision and there is another case in the US against Heard over an opinion piece she penned for The Washington Post. DM

 

ROYALS HARRY AND MEGHAN

This time last year the royal spare and his actor wife should have been enjoying their first Christmas with their seven-month old son Archie. But the festive spirit was not enough to deflect nasty criticism of Meghan, who was accused of photoshopping her face in the black and white photo.

And that was just a taster of what was to come when the royal couple announced in early January that they would be relinquishing their roles as "senior" members of the royal family.

Megxit instantly became one of the words of 2020, inducted into the online edition of the Collins English Dictionary no less.

"The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly … there really was no other option," Prince Harry would later stay.

As commentators forensically examined who was at fault, the couple made their escape, first to Canada, then to California where they have since bought a home.

Mega content deals with Netflix and Spotify followed as the couple forged ahead with a life plan the even the most fanciful writers of The Crown could do justice to.

Originally published as 50 Most Talked About People of 2020



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