People of the Year — 2a. Denzel Washington


Last minute addition here. I can’t explain why the Mount Vernon native didn’t figure into our pre-countdown planning, given that he’s had easily the best year of his career — his Oscar-worthy performance as real-life heroin kingpin Frank Lucas in “American Gangster”; starring in, directing, producing, and filling just about every other production credit in “The Great Debaters” (which I haven’t seen yet, but, given its Golden Globe Best Picture nod, I’m figuring is pretty decent).

Sure, Denzel doesn’t live in Westchester any more, but when you factor in all the times he returned to the area (to film “Gangster,” to stump for mayor candidates in Mount Vernon) — well, the omission would be inexcusable.

Fortunately, I happened to read that today is the man’s 53rd birthday. What better time to right that wrong and celebrate This Year in Denzel?

Where we left of this time last year, Washington had just put out an inspirational anthology, “A Hand to Guide Me,â€? which includes 70 celebrities’ accounts their mentors, including Washington’s own role model at the Mount Vernon Boys and Girls Club. After wrapping on “American Gangster” early in the year, he took another another meaty role in the soldier story “Journal for Jordan,” about an American soldier in Iraq who keeps a journal for his newborn son, as “a kind of instruction manual for…living a good life, and possibly living a life without a father.â€? He also signed on to star in a remake of the Walter Mattheau classic “The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3.”

On July 18, he turned up in his old hometown, Mount Vernon, to campaign for mayoral candidate Clinton Young, a longtime friend. While there’s no easy way to quantify just how much his celebrity endorsement helped, he beat out incumbent Mayor Ernest Davis by 2,653 votes. Then again, the FBI prove into Davis’s shady dealings may have hurt a bit, too.


Then, as if he hadn’t given back quite enough, Denzel pledged all the proceeds from the “American Gangster” premiere to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

So happy birthday, Denzel, and apologies for not recognizing your stellar year in InTown and The Journal News, too. My bad.


Prediction for 2008: At the very least, we expect Denzel to walk away with another gold Best Actor statue at the Academy Awards (for either “Gangster” or “Debaters”). At most, he’ll clean house — winning in other categories like Best Director and Best Picture, too. Then look for the two aforementioned movies to hit theaters in the fall. And after making such waves politically in Mount Vernon, will Denzel take a page from the Oprah playbook and decide to back one of the presidential contenders?

Which reminds us, now that Rosie and Dezel are accounted for, who’s left to be named our No. 1 Person of the Year? Hmmmm.

(Top: AP Photo/Marshall News Messenger, Courtney Case; Middle: AP Photo/Universal Studios, David Lee; Bottom: AP Photo/The Weinstein Company, David Lee)

Ted Mann

Ted Mann aspires to join Stephen Baldwin’s Breakthrough Ministry, more commonly known as “skateboarding for the savior." Before becoming a Senior Editor at InTown, he worked at The Atlantic Monthly, the Philadelphia City Paper, and the University of Pennsylvania Press. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times, The New York Press, and The Pennsylvania Gazette.