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CONTROVERSY CLOUDS FINALS;
BERNSTEIN DECLARED CHAMPION!
Was it the "War to end all Wars?" Well, no, because we're having another one. But the 2002 Super-Hair Wars Finals between Rudi Bakhtiar and Bonnie Bernstein certainly was the most memorable yet -- and after two wild weeks with enough controversy for an N.F.L. playoff, Bernstein is declared the champion for the year!
Both women held early leads in this showdown of 1-2 seeds. But just when it appeared this match was heading for "classic" status, something happened. Here's how it broke down day by day after the finals began January 4, along with comments from voters:
DAY 1, MIDDAY: 19-19 (50%)
Fans of both styles obviously were ready to answer the bell, as evidenced by a good number of votes in less than 16 hours. This already shapes up as the toughest challenge either woman has faced.
"I agree that Bonnie is hot, but I still feel that she need to lose about 3-4" of that hair, then she would be super hot. Until such time that she get a haircut, I will not vote for her."
"In a title matchup worthy of Ali vs. Frazier comparison, it's HER BONNIENESS by a 'hair'!"
DAY 2, MORNING: BERNSTEIN, 95-51 (65%)
The Sunday night online meeting of Bernstein fans apparently mobilizes. Bakhtiar never has been pushed around like this.
"As this penultimate battle deals with the quality of one's hair, it is appropriate that the final victory for Her Bonnieness will not be a battle. It will be a coronation."
DAY 2, LATE-NIGHT: BAKHTIAR, 155-111 (58%)
Bakhtiar and her backers respond with a bigger shove. Undoubtedly Bernstein never has been pushed around like this -- and her Hall of Fame style suddenly seems to be in trouble.
Someone posts this message at an online Bernstein fan club: "The conspiracy is under way.... not letting us see the vote count was very suspicious.... Vote as often as you can!!!" Does this person also file protests on Election Day?
"I'm torn between Iranian goddess and the Jewish Princess, but in the end, Rudi rules."
DAY 3, EVENING: BERNSTEIN, 2989-182 (94%)
Someone (perhaps more than one) among the Bernstein bunch apparently becomes desperate, and takes the message board posting personally. In a move not unlike a villainous wrestling manager bashing an opponent at ringside with a briefcase full of bricks, the poll is overwhelmed by more than 2,800 votes. Our counter shows more than 1,000 visitors (not hits, distinct visitors) for the day, ranking among our busiest ever - but clearly something is amiss.
The Bernstein fans who threw blonde-yellow flags of protest when this sort of surge happened during the Jill Arrington match are strangely silent now. We receive only one e-mail, from a supporter whose title asks: "What in the world is going on?" He asks for details on the voting; we say little.
"Both are extreme beauties with high intellects. Both are exceptional in their fields. But I prefer longer hair on women, so I must vote for Ms. Bernstein."
DAY 4, MID-AFTERNOON: BERNSTEIN, 3093-192 (94%)
The apparent "auto-repeat" voting seems to finally calm down here, but seems to spread to the Crown Award ballots. We consider adding an extra filter to the polls to prevent this -- but decide it's only fair to let both sides have a chance to "stuff the ballot box."
DAY 4, EVENING: BERNSTEIN, 3103-486 (86%)
Bakhtiar wins the day and lowers the percentage, but not with enough votes to close the gap much. (By the way, none of the Bakhtiar boards we checked - and she has more than Bernstein - mention the Finals at all.)
"Who can resist Bonnie's beautiful hairstyle?"
DAY 5, EVENING: BERNSTEIN, 3372-621 (86%)
Finally an "ordinary day," but still with more votes than we used to get in two months of Wars.
"Rudi would be hot even if she were bald."
DAY 6, AFTERNOON: BERNSTEIN, 4213-659 (86%)
Yet another wave of Bernstein votes comes, only smaller. Did someone want to ensure an aftershock followed their earthquake?
"Her Bonnieness reigns supreme! Any questions? I think not!
DAY 7, EVENING: BERNSTEIN, 4256-669 (86%)
Huh?! More than 24 hours, and only 53 votes? Then we realize - Bernstein fans are watching her with seemingly shorter hair and a quite-protective hat, at the Pittsburgh-Tennessee game. (Was she reading our comments section?)
Although the lead is huge, a Bernstein backer writes on a board: "It may be time to push the panic button again at the hair site.... your voting responsiblities today should be unlimited...."
"Bonnie will reign it's plainly in the mane."
DAY 9, AFTERNOON: BERNSTEIN, 4315-689 (86%)
The new message seems to be ignored, as things settle down at last. But almost 70 votes in two days is quite a clip for us, compared with a year ago. Voters seeking a big brawl apparently have moved on to some of the Crown Award categories. (No, we won't say which ones.)
"It's the men who are voting mainly for Bonnie...they're all still so hung up on long...."
DAY 10, EVENING: BERNSTEIN, 4421-993 (82%)
Bakhtiar's supporters make a late 300-vote push - but obviously much more is needed.
"Bonnie does have beautiful hair, but it is overpowering. Rudi doesn't need all of that hair in order to be attractive.
DAY 11, LATE AFTERNOON: BERNSTEIN, 5028-1001 (83%)
A 600-vote run the other way. Yup, we sure fixed this one, didn't we?
"Bonnie is hot no matter what length her lovely hair is! She simply has got it goin' on!"
FINAL SCORE: BERNSTEIN, 5703-1012 (85%)
One last 600+ vote push -- which could be seen either as piling on, or a kick to the finish line.
After what one e-mailer correctly called a "contentious, crazy" final round, we have the following statements to make:
> To all who voted fairly and legitimately - thank you! You made the 2002 Playoffs the most active event we've ever had. We hope you'll visit our web site year-round, for our wide range of pages relating to the world's greatest hairstyles!
> To whomever engaged in auto-repeat voting (and we think we know who you are) -- you corrupted what shaped up to be a legitimately legendary final round. You may argue "all's fair in love and Wars," but you apparently have not learned the lesson of Florida in 2000. We are not laughing.
> Until further notice, all Wars will have an extra filter turned on to restrict repeat voting. (No, we will not reveal what that filter is.) This will be added to the Crown Awards as well, effective with the second set of ballots -- and we should note one upcoming category has Bakhtiar and Bernstein meeting again.
> To the "Bonniephiles:" Are you all as paranoid as you sometimes sound in your messages?
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