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City: Worcester, Massachusetts
New England’s “second largest city” has tried many nicknames and civic slogans: “The Heart of the Commonwealth”; “Right Place — Right Time.” Currently, they’re operating under “The City on the Move” and the slightly ominous “There’s Something Wonderful Waiting for You in Worcester.” But despite the town’s best PR efforts, Worcester is more commonly referred to as “Another Burned-Out Northeastern Industrial Center.” Escaped Worcestarian Abbie Hoffman described his home town as “Seven Hills and No Thrills.”

Indeed, the industry that once made the place a commercial landmark — the drop forge, the sheet-metal fabricating plant, the abrasives factories, the barbed-wire plant — are gone, but the feudal mindset and social landscape they engendered remain. In the face of it all, people from Worcester (population 175,000 and growing more discouraged every year) love Worcester. To do so takes a powerful sense of irony, and therein lies our Second City’s unpublicized strength.
For sure, there are vestiges of flusher times to be proud of: the Worcester Art Museum, the American Antiquarian Society, the Higgins Armory, Institute Park, the Miss Worcester Diner. But the beauty of the City That Refuses To Bounce Back is the way its citizens thrive on defeat. The pop-music scene — held together for years by a spirited underground chamber of commerce nicknamed Wormtown — is a persistent incubator for new bands and a comfy resting place for pop dinosaurs and speed-metal die-hards.

More important, a night at Ralph’s or the Lucky Dog or the Palladium offers something that clubs in more cosmopolitan settings don’t — people acting like they’re actually having a good time. Hip enough for Worcester? No sweat. It’s a totally nonjudgmental environment — and proud of it.

—Clif Garboden

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Media Guy: Geraldo Rivera
He may no longer be the only media icon we all love to hate, but Geraldo was the first, clawing his way into the national spotlight by shamelessly chasing any story with even a whiff of controversy until, in April of 1986, he simultaneously hit pay dirt and rock bottom with his syndicated special The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vault. After hours of digging, Geraldo was left empty handed, a laughingstock, his career presumably in ruins.

But like that signature moustache, which has weathered dozens of fashion trends without losing a whisker, Geraldo’s impervious to setbacks. After all, this is a guy who was dis-embedded with the US military in Iraq after he used a map he drew in the sand to disclose the details of an upcoming operation, a misstep that prompted a hilarious Daily Show segment charting Geraldo’s progress in Iraq, in which Stephen Colbert drew what looked like a person in the sand and revealed that Geraldo was on a mission to stick his own head up his ass.

Not even the American military has the capability of containing Geraldo, and that’s a big part of what makes him so great. After all, it was Geraldo who first revealed the news for what it really is: high-priced infotainment created not for the well-being of its users, but to get ratings. Geraldo saw the 24-hour news cycle coming and hopped aboard, shamelessly sensationalizing any story he could get his hands on. And yet, when confronted with a creature of his own creation — Bill O’Reilly of The O’Reilly Factor — this past year, Geraldo had the guts to stand his ground, arguing that O’Reilly was using a drunk-driving accident to inflame hatred of illegal aliens. In other words, Geraldo is the ultimate in unpredictable media creations: you really never do know what he’s going to do next.

— Matt Ashare

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