The guy in the red suit must be relieved. No need to engage in that tedious task of double-checkin’ his list for who’s been naughty and who’s been nice this year. For women, 1996 was the year to be naughty and nice. And nobody did it better than our own Canadian heroine, Pamela Anderson Lee – the perfect combo of girl next door and superslut. This year Pam added acting (sort of) to her roster of talents with her first movie role as the stiletto-wielding superhero in Barb Wire. Superhero, Playboy centrefold, blonde, unapologetically augmented, athletic beach babe, trapeze artist (she likes to swing naked above Tommy Lee’s piano while he plays), amateur porn-video maker and photographer and, most recently – with the birth of her son Brandon Thomas Lee – mom, Pam’s a real 90s babe. A cover story on Pam in the May issue of Details said it all: “Tommy and Pamela were married in Cancun. The bride wore white. A bikini.” 
From centrefold to MTV host, a feature-film role in The Stupids, to currently negotiating her own sitcom, Jenny McCarthy is the latest Playboy centrefold (apparently still among the best career moves available to women) who’s risen to fame on the same gutsy but-still-every-13-year-old-boy’s-wet-dream quality so popular in ’96. “Sexy but with an edge,” as McCarthy herself describes it. 
Faster than you can say virgin, whore or bitch, Hollywood was reliable as ever this year in embracing the many facets of women known to man. Susan Sarandon snagged an Oscar for her role as a nun, Elisabeth Shue came in a close second for her role as a hooker, two of the most controversial flops this year – Showgirls and Striptease – were about strippers, and two of the most popular “women’s” films of the year – Waiting To Exhale and The Second Wives Clubs – were about women getting revenge on their men. 
An article in Details on Showgirls described the film as “a spectacular, unforgettable loser, and it brought down upon Elizabeth’s [Berkley] curly, blonde head all the snarling contempt that America holds in reserve for the woman who takes off her own clothes for her own purposes and refuses to get all tragic about it.” I doubt if I’d get that philosophical about it, but you have to admit even if the movie was a stinker the press was a tad overzealous in its trashing of Berkley (one article described her as a “glassy-eyed doorstop”). Much to her credit, Berkley didn’t get too bent out of shape over the whole affair. At least she didn’t get all self-righteous on us like Demi did over Striptease. Moore’s lofty claims that her film was an attempt to shed some light on the world of peeling made me lose what little respect I still had for her. The only thing Striptease shed light on was all the money Moore has to spend on a personal trainer. 
Other great moments in “erotic dancing” in ’96: 
Torontonians were shocked out of their own self-righteousness this fall when it was discovered that David Deaves, head of the North York city manager’s office, had apparently spent over $50,000 of the city’s money on golf games and strip clubs. 
My personal fave involves Toronto stripper Emjay Killer Foxx (she wears a Maple Leafs uniform and body checks her customers). Foxx was charged with assault after she spanked a customer’s bare butt during her stage show last month. According to witnesses, the spanking came at the customer’s request, and he seemed to be enjoying it at the time. Apparently, his father, who watched the whole thing, did not. He showed up at the bar two hours later with police and charged her with assault. The story made the Toronto Sun’s front page two days in a row. 
But you didn’t have to take your clothes off in a dark, smoky bar to gain notoriety this year. Thanks to Gwen Jacob, the Guelph woman who strolled down the street topless one hot summer day five years ago, women in Ontario can now legally bare their breasts anywhere they want. A court ruling this month said Jacob did not commit an indecent act under the Criminal Code; the decision is being heralded as a “a victory for women’s equality.” I’m not so sure. The day the “victory” was announced, one Toronto paper (okay, yes it was the Sun) featured a cartoon of two old men cheering the decision. I think I’ll keep my shirt on over this one for now. 
We still can’t handle seeing breasts in public when they’re used for what they’re actually meant for, as one Montreal woman discovered this year. When a mother was banished from Westmount Square in January for breast-feeding her baby in public, she started a bit of a breast-feeding frenzy. Gangs of nursing moms descended on Westmount Square in protest. Meanwhile, practically every bus shelter in Montreal featured a blatantly bare-breasted dancer in posters for the hit musical A Touch of Lido. 
Fetishism was all the rage in ’96, with every bar in town hosting a fetish night and Montreal’s own Fetish CafŽ hosting its first Fetish Conference in June. Even David Cronenberg cashed in on the trend with his “auto-erotic” film Crash. The film was supposed to say something about how as a culture we’re all alienated from our bodies and obsessed with cars and sex. Personally, I thought Crash was best-suited for those with a fetish for boredom. 
Getting intellectual about sex was big in ’96. Besides the Fetish Conference, Montreal also hosted its first conference on prostitution this fall, with hookers from around the world coming together to discuss the tricks of the trade, as it were, and to exchange helpful tips on how not to get killed on the job. 
Sperm wiggled its way into the headlines this year with the alarming news that, according to some studies, men are producing up to 50 per cent less sperm than they were 20 years ago. Not to panic, however: while numbers may have dropped – in some cases from 400 to 500 million of the little suckers per “unit” to 200 to 300 million – it only takes one, so the odds are still pretty good. Just to be on the safe side, guys, watch your diet, exercise, stick to boxers and don’t drink the run-off from chemical plants. 
If sperm counts aren’t low enough to be considered a breakthrough in hassle-free birth control, your girlfriend’s spit just might be. Introduced this year by Nu-Focus Canada (“importers of natural drug-free alternatives”), the PC-2000 Fertility Tester is a mini-microscope that examines a woman’s saliva and determines when she’s fertile. The company claims the method to be 96-per-cent effective, completely natural and without side effects. I’ll spit to that. For info call 1 800 661-4251. 
While we’re on the subject of saliva and sperm, several reports came out in ’96 claiming that oral sex is no longer considered high-risk activity for HIV infection. Before you give up your acquired taste for latex, consider the research. The folks at Omega Co-Hort are claiming that oral sex is low risk providing you have no cuts, cankers or gingivitis in your mouth. I don’t know, but unless you’re going out with a dental surgeon who is prepared to do a full check-up before you blow him I don’t think you want to take the chance. Besides, Boston researchers dropped a dose of simian HIV (monkey AIDS) on healthy monkey tongues, and the little guys got the virus. 
With that in mind, have a safe holiday.