Interest and curiosity into the lives of the rich and famous is natural, and in my view, is as healthy a pastime as any other that doesn't involve cardiovascular exertion — certainly as healthy as collecting little figurines, giving them silly names, and talking to them as though they might answer back. I mean, that's cool if you are into that sort of thing, but keeping tabs on celebrities is a more culturally engaging form of escapism.
It makes us feel good to see those with money, power, and fame make the same, or in some cases, worse mistakes than we mere mortals do. It's grounding and reaffirming.
Celebrity gossip sites are a dime a dozen. Not surprisingly, what's popular in real life translates quickly onto the Internet, and vice versa. Unlike mainstream media, gossip sites have low overhead, and if popular, a high return. But while you can certainly get your celebrity news just about anywhere these days, not all sites are created equal.
Since I began covering entertainment gossip about six months ago, I have gleaned some insights into what makes a good celebrity website/blog and, naturally, I want to share these gems of wisdom with the world. There's no need to thank me, really, although I won’t stop you. Okay, that’s enough. This is just my way of giving back to the community that has provided me with so many laughs and good times at another’s expense. Plus, as a selective and sophisticated connoisseur of celebrity gossip, I KNOW what's the fo' shizzle and the blow fizzle, yo!
In my view, a good celeb-gossip website has to offer a handful of things: current events, unique points of view, more fact than conjecture, a sense of humor, and a touch of humility and compassion — it's not easy being rich and famous, people.
While my list is by no means comprehensive, it is a good foundation for those seeking some quality tabloid fodder.
The Superficial – Because You're Ugly is one of four blogs in the Anti-Clown media network (others include IWatchStuff.com, Geekologie.com, Hedonistica.com). Based on what I was able to dig up, The Superficial has been written by more than one person at any given time, but is published by a comic (as in cartoon) writer, Karl Wang. At some point, a Brendon Donnelly was the main writer, then he moved to IDon'tLikeYouInThatWay, and has since moved on to WWTTD. At this stage, we don't really know who's doing the writing, but this site is my favorite.
The Superficial approaches celebrity gossip as a casual bystander, like a person who doesn't really care about celebrities, but understands the appeal and can apply a distanced perspective to their behavior. Always funny, often thoughtful, and something very sparse in celebrity gossip — slightly compassionate. Another interesting note: it is my feeling that this site is written by a hetero male — which is almost unheard of in gossip writing — due to the occasional mention of the writer's erections over hot women. The writer also hates Paris Hilton as much as I do, which is virtually inconceivable. The Superficial.com on Paris Hilton: "If I had my own talk show I'd pay $650,000 for Paris to appear. Although it wouldn't technically be a talk show. It'd just be me in my basement with some rope and a crowbar, which sort of qualifies as a talk show except that there wouldn't be any talking involved. Unless screaming counts. Because there'd be plenty of that."
DListed – a real-life celebrity blog run by the regular blogger, the very gay, but also manly Michael K, who just so happens to not be embarrassed by his huge crush on Clay Aiken — who, by the way, is not gay, but he's also not hetero, he may possibly be alien. In any case, this blog is edgy, on occasion hastily edited (I can appreciate that quality), but strikes a pleasant balance between being both vicious and kind to its celebrity subjects. Like those yummy Sour Patch gummies. Michael definitely doesn't put on airs, and has a quaint street thug lingo thing going.
Dlisted on Nicky Hilton: "I know a lot of you think Nicky Hilton is the hotter Hilton sister, but you must be blind. Bitch is fug. Remove the make-up, expensive clothes and weave and what you have is a chick that should be serving me griddle cakes and sausage at a truck-stop diner in Bakersfield, CA."
GoFugYourself – a classic that doesn't need my approval, as they have already hit the big time. The two ladies behind this polished site are Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, who also write for Television Without Pity. Their job, as they see it, is to apply brutal honesty to Hollywood's fickle fashions of twisted fate. While not a celebrity blog in the strictest sense, as they focus on fashion mishaps, they do make a point of touching on the cornerstones of cultural celebrity events. They also channel a mean Britney and K-Fed — and for that, I am a huge fan. Jessica doing Britney talking to herself, sort of:
"I mean, I AM pregnant and Kevin IS running off to Vegas and drinking with those trampy-ass strippers and I swear to God if I catch him touching one of them I’m going to snatch him bald but I really don’t know how they know any of that except for that ONE phone conversation I had with that one girl who works for the Star."
TMZ – the joint venture between AOL and Telepictures is the go-to source for breaking celebrity news and on-the-scene video.
Not only did they break the recent Mel Gibson DUI scandal, but they are responsible for single-handedly breaking Paris Hilton's heart, and possibly Lindsay Lohan's wrist (well, not really, but still). With former lawyer/L.A. reporter Harvey Levin at the helm, the site bridges the gap between investigative journalism and balls-out celebrity nonsense. Plus his legal background assures that everything is kosher and whatnot.
Defamer – not my top read. There's way too much entertainment industry insider material. As a real tabloid lover, I require more substantive information, like unflattering photos of Britney Spears scarfing down a big bag of pork rinds. When they do cover the basics, they are reliably funny and well written, but think a little too highly of themselves. Like a high-falutin' blog trying to dumb it down for the masses. Let's face it, people interested in celebrity fare aren't typically reading the NYT. I mean I do, but I am a hybrid: lowbrow tastes with urbane aspirations. Defamer on a recent in-store Clay Aiken appearance:
"The only LoveSounds these horny ladies were interested in were of the twangy, high-pitched, and exceedingly fey variety. When a nervous fanatic in her prime baby-making years approached her idol (pictured), so atwitter were her twin reproductive organs that they literally shook themselves loose and fell to the floor, sending her sheepishly scrambling to collect them before they could roll into the Jazz section."
Radar Online – Best combination of actual journalism, exclusives, and interesting stories. This site hits the right tone of snark, plus actual facts, combined with a keen eye for what makes a good story. My new favorite for quality tabloid juice.
Speaking of juice, no review of celebrity sites would be complete without a mention of the hugely popular PerezHilton.com (aka, the 28 year-old Miami native Mario Lavandeira). While much has been made of this site and the man behind it, on the occasions that I have been redirected to him, I always leave feeling let down and violated by all his self-serving preening. All the self-adulation and bragging about how popular his site is, not to mention the over-the-top gayness (gay is fine, but can we dial it down a notch?) takes away from the focus of his site: celebrities.
According to Mario/Perez, his constant back patting is part of his strategy, "I think people hate seeing my picture on my website, but it's a brand-building thing. The more I put my picture up there, the more people recognize me, the more they're familiar with me, and the more it opens the doors for me to do bigger things. I'll worry when I see my traffic dip, but my traffic has been exploding."
I seriously doubt he will learn. While Lavandeira is no dummy, he has absolutely fallen victim to the oldest tale in the celebrity book: believing his own press. You are not the star, you cover the stars. A good journalist knows how to stay out of the way and the let the story tell itself.
Essentially, good tabloids don't just provide sensationalized headlines and bitter diatribe. They offer facts that lead you to your own conjectures, they bring insight into why you should feel the way you do about any given subject matter, and, most all, they provide the key elements to whether any celebrity is beyond redemption, worthy of adulation, and ultimately emulation. They are the last vestiges of what is and is not socially acceptable behavior for the rest of us.
Oh, and sometimes the pictures are funny.