Cindy Crawford for $29.95: Stars realize there's gold in them thar"authorized" Web sites

Sick of fans and porn sites getting all the clicks and profits, image-conscious celebs are creating their own Net presence.

Published April 23, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Plug the name of any music or movie star into a search engine and you'll come up with a
baffling array of useless links -- everything from slapped-together fan sites to
Penthouse knockoffs. A simple AltaVista search of former "Melrose Place" diva
Alyssa Milano, for example, yields everything from "Deutsches Fan-sehen
mit Alyssa Milano" to a multitude of XXX sites.

Although image-conscious stars (a redundancy if there ever was one) are
quick to phone their attorneys over every unflattering tabloid story or
illegal use of their likeness on a T-shirt, as a whole Hollywood's been
slow in recognizing the incredible power of the Web. Hence the Web's bounty of unauthorized celebrity
sites has been able to thrive virtually unthreatened by copyright infringement lawsuits.

But some big names are shedding their Luddite skin and entering the already crowded online entertainment market. Some do it for fun, others
for profit, but all hope to put their best face forward on the World Wide Web.
Here's the lowdown on a few of the
celebrity-run or celebrity-authorized sites:
Although the "Wall Street Journal" recently dubbed the
now deflated sexpot
the "hottest name on the Internet,"
Pamela Anderson Lee has made little actual cash from her online presence. (She was
even frozen out of proceeds from her bestselling
honeymoon sex video with
erstwhile husband Tommy). Lee's personal site,
managed by her brother, sells memberships for $33.50 a year (that includes an
autographed picture). Unfortunately, the site has been beset by technical
problems for the last few weeks, making it impossible to join or place orders
for merchandise.
The former star of "Who's the Boss" and "Melrose Place" is on an online crusade.
After her little
brother discovered nude pictures of her (some doctored, some not) floating
around in cyberspace, Milano decided to take legal action, successfully
suing several sites offering bare-to-there pics of her. For her own site,
Milano offers horny preteens of the Web heaping doses of innocence. You half expect
teddy bears and frilly hearts to appear (beware the cupid with flaming
arrow). For those not interested in picking up some "free 'angel' wallpaper," there are still thousands of unofficial sites
yet to be put out of business.
Kelsey Grammer's personal Web page is doing
well traffic-wise thanks to some repeated on-air ribbing from Howard Stern.
In response, the "Frasier" star decided to devote one of
his online essays (previous editions have included his deep thoughts on the
impeachment of President Clinton and the bombing of Iraq) to thank the shock
jock for driving up his numbers. Grammer says he went online to "set the
record straight" on all those rumors about him and his very dewy, very busty
and very blond wife, Camille. His site charges a fee (a steep $4.95 a month;
$11.95 for three months), but profits are donated to
Director Kevin Smith ("Clerks," "Chasing Amy")
has more than
made up for inflicting "Mallrats" on an unsuspecting public with a
fantastic site that is the first and best destination for his fans. As he
puts it, the site gives you "the power of communication, as you can actually
interact with the losers who hit it big with their movies of smut and
conscience!" Interested in the controversy surrounding Smith's upcoming Matt
Damon-Ben Affleck flick "Dogma"? Click over to the "Dogma: Rumor Control"
section, in which the filmmaker gives his take on the brouhaha and offers the
curious a bushel of info on the pic. View Askew also offers one of the better
collections of celebrity merchandise, including signed editions of the
Smith-penned "Daredevil" comic book series and Jay and Silent Bob action
figures. And let's be honest: How many directors would go to the trouble to
explain how to play drinking games to their films? Spielberg? Scorsese? Not a
chance. The site even gives you the option of printing the rules out in an
easy-to-read format, perfect after you've had one too many. Finally, a
celebrity who cares about the little people.
For $29.95 a year -- the site proudly proclaims, it's really "a $39.95 value" -- Cindy
Crawford offers users a chance to get to know the "real me" and "discover something surprising."
Yeah right. What you really get is an
exclusive CD-ROM and a photo with "an imprinted signature in the corner."
There's also a personal message from Cindy that's updated every so often and
e-mail responses for a lucky few. This month, we were happy to hear that the recently married and now expectant Crawford
is "feeling great" and doing pre-natal yoga.
One of the more commercial celebrity
sites, Jackie Chan's official homepage pulls no punches when it comes to
hawking the action star's name and image: from $30 autographed copies of his autobiography to a
large collection of autographed stills ($10-$15). Of course, to
purchase merchandise, you must join Jackie's fan club, which will set you
back $20 a year. But hey, if Jackie is willing to break every bone in his
body for your amusement, the least you can do is snap up his DVD collection.,,,
These authorized sites are pretty much hands-off
and therefore have no trouble openly worshipping their subject. On Leo's
site, for example, you'll learn that "Art has always been very important" to
the "Titanic" heartthrob (but is it as important as the VIP room of Moomba?
Only time will tell). Wood offers "Elijah Up Close," while Affleck's official
page gives, well, lots and lots (and LOTS) of positive Ben-oriented info.
Sandler's site was set up by two of his college cronies, who promise to "go
through his stuff and find cool things for the page" when he's out of town.

By Kat Giantis

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