A countdown of the year's most popular stories in The Fix reads like a cross-section of the national conversation: outrageous, inspirational, infuriating, deadly serious, and, at times, downright inexplicable.
Tom Sizemore's had quite a year. He just wrapped up a multi-episode stint on Hawaii 5-0, and he's got several independent film roles in the can since his tell-all interview with The Fix in June. He also scored a major legal victory back in October when he had his probation terminated 18 months early. Most recently, he sold his memoir (which will be co-written by Fix Executive Editor Anna David) to Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. One thing that hasn’t changed? His demeanor. In fact, he’s just as much of a softie now as he was when we first caught up with him, for a Q&A which became our 10th most popular story of 2011.
Our readership paid very close attention to Moe Tkacik's exhaustive investigation in November of a seemingly inexplicable nationwide Adderall shortage, which had thrown users into a panic. Cities on both coasts posted signs to turn away people who were combing Walgreens and Duane Reades, “feeling like junkies.” Of course, as Tkacik reported, the shortage was far from accidental: Adderall’s manufacturer, Shire, was itself manufacturing the shortage to steer users toward its newer, more profitable ADD drug, Vyvanse.
The Fix launched on March 27 with this investigation by Mark Ebner and Walter Armstrong into Narconon, one of the rehab industry’s oldest, biggest and most controversial chains. The examination of the self-styled “drug free” rehab’s ties to Scientology uncovered a scandal: Narconon promises a bogus recovery rate of 90%, while offering instead a classic recruit-and-convert program to the Church, disguised as “treatment” (It's Scientology’s main source of membership and money). Reader comments came fast and furious, many from former Narconon clients with their own indictments. Look for a deeper dive into Scientology’s rehab racket when The Fix and Barnes & Noble publish Narconon’s Big Con in August.
The popularity of this October news item—which appeared on the Quick Fix and quickly went viral—took us all by surprise. Jeff Forester's tale of teens creating "drunken Gummis," by soaking bears and other critters in vodka overnight, drew wildly differing reactions from readers. Some were shocked, while others yawned that they did this in high school years ago. Some criticized us for "advertising" the technique, while others expressed their intention of trying it out right away. It may be a random one, but whatever your reasons, you clicked on it in your thousands.
TV chef and Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern may not be the most famous Fix interviewee, although he certainly has a following. But the story of addiction and recovery he told Fix Managing Editor Will Godfrey in May was one of the most compelling. To go from being homeless in New York—snatching purses to support his habit and trying to end it all in one final binge—to his current success and celebrity is an extreme, inspiring turnaround. That's why publications like Gawker and the New York Post picked this up—and why enough of you read it to make it our sixth biggest story of the year.
One of the year’s biggest booze stories was the explosion of underage binge drinking nationwide. At the center of the media firestorm was an energy-beer called Four Loko, whose high-caffeine, high-alcohol, fruit-flavored contents were sold in psychedelic cans at convenience stories. Ironically, Four Loko was the only energy-beer not manufactured by a big company—it was the brainchild of three frat brothers who went into business together. Anti-Four Loko sentiment forced the FDA to pull the product from the market, and the young men disappeared. After a few months, we dispatched Jay Cheshes to pester them until they told us how it feels to go from America’s first to worst. Turns out they're a little bitter.
4. Mommy's Little Secret: The Truth About Diane Schuler
The Fix columnist Susan Cheever's July 27 story had a uniquely new angle on the much-told cautionary tale of Diane Schuler, who in 2010 drove the wrong way on a crowded highway in the Hudson Valley and collided with an SUV, killing eight people, including herself, her youngest child and her three nieces. This “perfect mother,” it turned out, had an alcohol and marijuana abuse problem that she had kept secret and denied. Although Schuler’s tragedy served as a catalyst for “women and alcohol” awareness, Cheever’s take is that Schuler was a little bit addicted to a lot of different substances, including alcohol, pot, food, and shopping. Look for Cheever to develop her argument further in next week's column.
3. Steve Jobs: LSD Was One of the Best Things I’ve Done in My Life
Good old LSD: The psychedelic seed said to have spawned the counterculture still has the power to shock—especially when it’s coupled with the name of Steve Jobs, as in Articles Editor Walter Armstrong’s news story on October 7, the day after the legendary Apple entrepreneur died from pancreatic cancer. A lifelong San Franciscan, Jobs dropped more than a little acid in his teens—“tripping” was a local rite of passage in the early 1970s—but he never actually clarified why those mind-altering experiences were so important to him. By taking the mystery to his grave, Jobs kept people guessing—and talking. This became our third most-read story of the year—and check out the flame-fest in the comments underneath, on everything from tripping to different versions of the iPad.
On a sunny day in September, Fix Editor-in-Chief Maer Roshan sat down for a lengthy interview with Courtney Love. He met her at New York's Randall Island State Park, where she was the headline act at a "recovery rally," and to which she arrived several hours late, slightly disheveled, and demanding a jacuzzi to prepare. The crowd of thousands had by then diminished to about 50 die-hard fans, one of whom suffered a heart attack when Love stepped out of her car. But the interview was the most intimate she has ever given—covering everything from her late husband to her considerable (and dangerously colorful) drug history to her desire to work a "serious program." The Fix is launching a new in-depth e-book series with Barnes & Noble in 2012. The first topic? Courtney Love.
When Ian Morgan Cron wrote this story in early October, it was part of a book he had just finished, calledJesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A Memoir…Of Sorts, which he's spent the past two months touring the country to promote. He reports that his mother proudly tells friends that Barnes & Noble picked the book as a featured title for its 2011 Discover Great New Writers Program. But he hasn’t yet told her that an excerpt from it received more hits than any other story on The Fix in 2011. “I’m waiting,” he says, “until after the holidays.”
This SoCal rehab fosters a regimented but respectful recovery environment, where teens learn how to live sober through plenty of 12-step meetings and life-skills classes—not to mention "equine-assisted psychotherapy" and mixed martial arts.