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The Search for the Best Summer of Celebrity Gossip Ever

Runaway brides, VMA controversy, couples with portmanteau names, and a cameo from Donald Trump

Ringer illustration
Ringer illustration

Doesn’t it seem like the minute the clock strikes summer solstice, celebrities go buckwild in locales from the Hamptons to Mykonos to Ibiza to Taylor Swift’s seaside mansion? Summer might mean backyard barbecues and swamp ass for the rest of us, but for the rich and famous it means affairs, breakups, poorly executed Instagram battles, and naked pictures.

This summer, there’s been no shortage of highly watchable and discussable celeb antics. With Kim Kardashian West’s best Snapchat to date, Johnny Depp’s bloody fingers, and Chloë Grace Moretz chiming in with unsolicited tweets whenever she’s not asked, there have been enough incidents of famous people doing wildly watchable things to fill a double issue of Us Weekly each week.

But how does the gossip of summer ’16 stack up against other memorable summers? Is Kimye besting T. Swift on the same scandal level of, say, the creation of TomKat, or the dissolution of Bennifer 1? Does Diane Kruger and Joshua Jackson’s breakup make for better dinner-party conversation than any number of Nannygates through the years?

Let’s compare 2016’s Summer of Celebrity Scandal to years that came before. Points are assigned to news stories based on caliber of celebrities involved (i.e., Justin Bieber gets more points than Eric Dane); egregiousness of activity (sex tape vs. proposal); and public reach.

1991

Many remember 1991 as the year that beloved childhood hero Pee-wee Herman (+75) was caught whacking off in an XXX-rated movie theater (+25). But does anyone remember what Julia Roberts (+150) was up to? Our lady of the lips was all set to marry Kiefer Sutherland (+80). The two met while filming Flatliners. They once wore matching menswear on the red carpet. It was true love, and the date was set for June 14. The turkey-shaped bachelor cake had been baked. Her $8,000 custom-made gown that would turn into a mini-dress for the reception was all steamed. The set dressers were busy turning a 20th Century Fox soundstage into a garden paradise (+30 for each wedding detail). Perfect.

People ended up with a story with Julia bailing on her wedding (+100). Then she supposedly ran off with Jason Patric (+20) to the Galway cottage of U2 bassist Adam Clayton (+50). It inspired People to write one of the most classic pieces of tabloid journalism of all time. Roberts and Patric dated publicly until 1992, and Roberts got all the source material she needed to later star in Runaway Bride (+200).

Score: 850

2003

Ben Affleck (+339) probably doesn’t look back on this summer as fondly as we do, but it was the summer of Bennifer, the Jennifer Lopez (+400) edition (+803). It was the summer of Ben Affleck going more tan, more white-toothed, more Hollywood, more Armani’d than we’d ever thought he could (+50 for every cosmetic improvement). It was the summer Ben Affleck tried to be Puffy and failed (-90). It was the summer Gigli (+5) tried to make us all Bennifer fans and failed. And they failed the wedding industry by calling off their September Santa Barbara wedding (+300).

Score: 1,907

2004

Martha Stewart was sentenced to jail for obstruction of justice and making false statements to federal investigators (+1,000).

Score: 1,000

2005

Well, first of all, Destiny’s Child broke up. (+298) We could stop there, but there is more. So much more.

Jude Law (+80) issued a public apology for cheating on Sienna Miller (+60), his fiancée at the time, with the nanny (-30, points deducted for lack of creativity). After a year of rumors, Brad Pitt (+589) and Angelina Jolie (+680) officially became the single, glowing, fertile entity known as Brangelina (+6,000), and Jennifer Aniston (+600) had to deal with the “Sad Single Jen” label for the next decade (-60). And for more in the department of unholy unions, TomKat (+600 for Tom Cruise, +40 for 2005 Katie Holmes) made it official after two months of insane, manic, terrifying courtship. Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology (+900) proposed to Katie Holmes atop the Eiffel Tower (+1,000), while in Paris for a War of the Worlds press junket. Meanwhile, Kate Moss earned the nickname CoKate after a video surfaced of her snorting exactly five lines of cocaine (+100 for each). To top it all off, just before you could put away your white jeans and the season began to turn, Kanye West told America that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” during a live, televised concert for Hurricane Katrina disaster relief (+600 and a +100 bonus for Mike Myers’s inability to react).

Score: 11,957

2006

Paris Hilton (+10), Nicole Richie (+10), and Lindsay Lohan (+11) spent a summer terrorizing us in unique ways: Hilton received a DUI in Los Angeles. Richie was desperately trying to escape Paris Hilton’s shadow by feuding with her former best friend, Paris Hilton. And Lindsay Lohan was busy trying to be the next Paris Hilton.

Score: 31

2009

Kanye West (+500) spawned the “I’mma let you finish” meme by interrupting (+150) Taylor Swift (+200) during her VMA acceptance speech for the “Best Female Video” award. He wasn’t wrong. Beyoncé should have won it. Eric Dane (+2) and Rebecca Gayheart (+3), became household names for a brief second after Gawker posted a sex tape of the couple having a threesome with a former beauty queen (+5 because who cares. If it had happened five years later, they would have been offered a partnership with Tinder Social).

Score: 860

2012

Kristen Stewart (+230) issued a formal apology for cheating on Robert Pattinson (+180) with director Rupert Saunders (+40). There were pictures. It was gnarly. Nobody needed the apology more than the devoted Twihards who were devastated (+100) by the news and still might not have recovered. Donald Trump weighed in (+5) via Twitter. Much to Pattinson and Stewart’s delight, neither actor has received this much attention ever again. Much to Saunders’s dismay, this whole thing couldn’t overshadow how bad Snow White and the Huntsman was (-60).

Score: 495

2013

Paula Deen (+80), the Doyenne of Southern Cooking, was exposed as a racist (+123). Anthony Weiner (+90) tried to run for mayor but was defeated by Sydney Leathers and Carlos Danger (+180). Luckily, his career as a highly talented dick-pic artist was secured (+486).

Score: 959

2014

A relatively quiet year, but still, Orlando Bloom (+130) fulfilled the fantasy of so many. He was vacationing in Ibiza (+300) when he punched (+60) Justin Bieber (+415) in the face. They were fighting over Miranda Kerr (+60). Overall, the war of two man-children in a tropical playground was nothing short of intoxicating.

Score: 965

2015

Ben Affleck back (+600)! This time with more nanny and another Jennifer (+180, for Garner). While Affleck took sad trips to Disney World and reflected on the fact that he was a cliché (-30), the nanny, Christine Ouzounian (+90), lived her best life, which included a new Lexus and a ride on a private jet wearing Tom Brady’s Super Bowl rings. And she documented it all on Instagram for us to follow (+150).

Meanwhile, in California, National Hero Ariana Grande (+220) licked a doughnut without paying for it (+35) and whispered, “I hate America,” (+100) to no one in particular. As a result, Grande lost the chance to perform at the White House. She is our weirdest pop star (+400).

Score: 1,745

2016

This summer has been so full of absurd and memorable celebrity gossip, it could fill a verse in an updated version of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” In fact, here’s a quick rundown to the tune: Taylor Swift dumped Calvin Harris. Hiddleston should be embarrassed. Chloë Moretz intervened. We just saw Orlando’s peen! Justin Bieber. Gomez. Instagram feud. Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Rob ’n’ Chyna you’re absurd. Zac Efron can’t get a boo. Rita Ora, who are you? Taylor Swift beat by Kimye. WHAT ELSE DO I HAVE TO SAY?

Score: I’m still too emotionally invested to quantify, but my gut says “not quite as high as 2005, though still quite high.”

WINNER: 2005

Thanks to TomKat, CoKate, Brangelina, and every other portmanteau, 2005 remains the most jaw-dropping year of celebrity gossip. All of those stories were not just tangents at a dinner-party conversation — they were the dinner-party conversation.