“It’s now official,” writes the New York-based political observer, prompted by the recent election of Arnold Schwarzenegger and his own ongoing annoyance with the Bush administration. “Americans have lost the plot. Narcissism and pernicious self-involvement have replaced reason and logic as the motivating factors behind most people’s decision-making process. Is there any way Manhattan can secede from the rest of the United States?”
A book proposal circulated by Al Franken? Guess again. The writer is the East Village-based vegan pacifist better known as the techno musician Moby. He’s joined the thousands of common folk -- and the dozens of boldfacers -- who have become online diarists with their own Web logs, or blogs.
Many celebrities have Web sites, and some have flackery masquerading as Web logs. But a strangely eclectic group has moved to the forefront of belles-lettres digital-style, better known as the blogosphere. Here, sans publicists or editors, they are free to make fools of themselves, exercise their intellect, shamelessly promote their products or merely confirm everything you suspected. (See kathieleegifford.com for news and pictures of the new breezeway at her Connecticut house.)
“It’s part of the larger Internet revolution of cutting out the middleperson,” says Drudge Report creator Matt Drudge. “It’s a great freedom for celebrities to communicate ... without quotes being taken out of context or awful tabloid pictures showing them without makeup.”
Celeblogs can herald star breakdowns (see Mariah Carey), advance titillating gossip (see Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit kiss and tell about his alleged relationship with Britney Spears) and give mothers a forum for embarrassing prose about their offspring (Spears again).
“It’s a way for them to get the unvarnished them across,” says Village Voice nightlife columnist Michael Musto, who was chided by one celeblogger for writing something she didn’t like. “Even when they’re the subject of puffy magazine stories, they can’t be certain that every glorious moment of them will come across. They get to say everything that’s cut out of interviews.”
Some stars sound so stiff (see michaeldouglas.com) that it’s hard not to believe the messages they post are written by an assistant or heavily edited. This is not the case with rocker Tommy Lee’s often raw online journal (at www.joysmayhem.com).
“Going to rock a festival in Budapest Hungary August 1st!!” Lee wrote to his fans this summer. “Gonna be sick ... ... ... Drag Racing and Music my 2 favorite things.... We’ll film it and upload the sickness when we return!!! As always......... Don’t let yer meat loaf!!”
But it’s not all about Tommy Lee’s latest high jinks or Melanie Griffith refuting the rumor du jour about her husband, Antonio Banderas (we’ll get to that later). Many celebrities use their blogs as a serious soapbox. Politics is a favorite topic for everyone from Barbra Streisand and Michael Moore to George Takei, who played Mr. Sulu on the first “Star Trek” TV series. Sir Ian McKellen decries homophobia, and Pamela Anderson writes screeds for animal rights.
Jeannette Walls, who writes a gossip column for msnbc.com and is the author of a book about the history of gossip, “Dish,” says the first celebrity bloggers surfaced about five years ago.
“They saw it as a way to control information,” she says, “but most of them didn’t have what it takes to be really honest.” Michael Douglas even charged a fee, she says, “but he stopped ... and now it’s just really boring.”
Moby says in a telephone interview that his blog began as a tour diary in September 1999. But it took on unexpected depth in September 2001, when he began reporting the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, which he watched from his downtown apartment: “I was writing a lot of factual description of what was going on, and some reporters, like BBC Radio 1, were getting some of their early information from me.”
But the average celebrity’s blog is most often a reflection of his or her public persona. In other words, nobody except a die-hard fan will care.
“Being around my horses makes me really happy,” writes Alyssa Milano, the child actress turned sultry star of the WB’s “Charmed.” “To find beauty in the complexities of a tree. This is the beauty of life. It’s so easy to overlook the little miracles that surround us every day.”
Griffith invites visitors into her own private “Avalon” on her New Age-style site. But don’t mess with her man.
“My husband is a man’s man,” Griffith wrote indignantly after the Star tabloid reported that Banderas was indulging in such unmanly pursuits as weekly manicures, pedicures, mud masks and body wraps. “In the five and a half years we’ve been together I’ve seen him get one manicure for work because his hands were in a shot. He hated it and it was his first and last time.”
In the alternate universe of the blogosphere, some B- and even C-listers have found new fame. Forbes magazine, for instance, named former child star and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” cast member Wil Wheaton as the best celebrity blogger. (The runners-up were Moby, Streisand, author William Gibson and humorist Dave Barry.)
Wheaton, who is writing a book based on his blog, is best when he candidly hashes out his struggles with early fame and cult stardom. His blunt explanation of why he left “The Next Generation": He felt the producers were preventing him from taking movie roles just to show him who was boss.
Certain actors are predictably witty and erudite. It’s no shock that McKellen writes with vigor and elan. (A recent post was titled “A Gay Gandalf -- Homophobia Is Everywhere.”) But who knew that porn queen Asia Carrera, drag queen RuPaul, Marilyn Manson and Takei could turn a memorable phrase?
Carrera, in particular, has one of the more thought-provoking blogs. The self-described “nerd of porn” says she began keeping journals as a child and continued when she started her Web site in 1996. Her blog spans everything from the story of her sad childhood to her reluctant decision to get breast implants.
Carrera says she didn’t want anyone “writing fake bios for me, putting stupid words in my mouth or creating yet another false fantasy. There’s plenty of that out there already!"Shock rocker Manson posts colorful musings such as these, from a recent European tour: “High above Marlene Dietrich Blvd. In the city of Berlin, the sun smoldered below the concrete gutter sky like a cigarette burn in a stained bedsheet. How Edgar Allan Poetic.... My escapade took me from Madrid to Milan and then to Paris. I met many characters whose company still clings to me in distorted flashbacks like lip prints on my collar.”
Takei’s monthly blog is a dense and expertly written diary that improbably mixes travel writing, dispatches from the “Star Trek” convention circuit and a longtime interest in political activism. He wrote passionately about his sympathy for Arab Americans after Sept. 11 because of his own memories of World War II Japanese American internment camps.
But Takei says his motivation for starting a blog was simple: “I learned that people were taking celebrities’ names and you would have to buy yours back if it was appropriated,” he says in a telephone interview. “I thought it was preposterous. But then I looked into it, and it was a blow to my ego when I found out nobody had taken my name. Once I got my name, I decided I better establish my turf.”
Takei says he has a better understanding of his fans after reading their feedback. Never again will he make reference to “rednecks,” he says, after the e-mails he got from a surprising number of men who happily consider themselves such.
“I hope they see a fuller me, a more whole me,” says Takei. “Most people see me in the context of ‘Star Trek.’ But, like many people, I’m a lot more than that.”
Harry Knowles, whose movie site aintitcoolnews.com has made him a minor celebrity, says he can understand.
“Famous people feel that their lives are being watched and being chronicled, so they might as well be the ones to tell it,” he says. “And once you start, you begin thinking of your readers as your friends, your community.”
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Tommy Lee: www.joysmayhem.com