West Virginia is for lovers: Controversy-courting clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has angered the governor of West Virginia, Bob Wise, by peddling a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan "It's All Relative in West Virginia." Wise has demanded that the company halt the shirt's sale, saying it "subjects our youth to unsubstantiated and false impressions of West Virginia." So far, the company hasn't heard from the governor of New Hampshire about another shirt that says "New Hampshire. 40 million squirrels can't be wrong." (AP)
They walk the line: Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon have been cast as Johnny and June Carter Cash in an upcoming Cash biopic. (IMDB)
Two on tour: Madonna kicks off her "Re-Invention" tour May 24 in Los Angeles and Paul McCartney is going to be back in the USSR with a show in St. Petersburg this June, two days after his 62nd birthday.
Elvis in a kilt? Writer Allen Morrison says he's traced the King's roots back to Aberdeenshire in Scotland and a small town called Lonmay -- where Elvis impersonators have already begun to show up. (BBC)
-- Karen Croft
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In the post-Howard Dean era, no area of campaign politics is more fertile than the fledgling territory of iPolitics. Weblogs such as Dean's Blog for America and MeetUp are just the two most visible tools recent candidates have taken up in the rush to turn new technological ground; last week, the Bush Web site took down a feature that allowed visitors to create their own campaign posters because pranksters discovered they could insert potentially damning slogans of their own.
John Kerry's official Web site, JohnKerry.com, is meanwhile asking supporters to join online social-networking groups and stump for the candidate in what seems like a new twist on viral marketing. "Sites like Friendster, Tribe and Ryze are great places to reach out and build your network of supporters for John Kerry," reads the section devoted to networking on the "Online HQ" page of the site. "Create your profile, download a picture, post information about your support for Kerry and upcoming events. By providing information, links to the Web site, issues and updates more people will learn about John Kerry and get more involved in the campaign." Among the sites listed as potential places to start are Friendster, Tribe, Ryze, LinkedIn and Everyonesconnected.
As Business Week Online mentioned a few weeks ago, the senator has already taken his staff's advice: There's a John Kerry profile, complete with windsurfing action shot, on Friendster. And, surprise: As opposed to the other 99 percent of the famous-person profiles on the site, this one is the real deal. Erin Hofteig, who works on Web-related initiatives for Kerry's campaign -- and whose profile pops up as the moderator for the "Kerry in 2004" group on Tribe -- said Kerry "had a hand in writing it, and all the information on there is true. It's a really good way for people to get to know John Kerry as a person."
Which raises the question of whether online profiles are ever a really good way to get to know someone as a person. In true Friendster fashion, Kerry's profile seems as meticulously composed as any East Village hipster's, though his tastes are different: He's interested in windsurfing, writing, hunting and, "protecting the environment, Medicare, overtime"; he like the Beatles, Bono and the Boss; his "More About Me" section walks that thin line between charming openness and dorky confession -- "I love Hostess chocolate cupcakes, although Teresa tries to limit them."
Friendster, known for its vigilance in purging fake profiles, talked to the Kerry campaign and other candidates last November to ask them for official profiles before taking down any fakester candidates, though others have sprouted up in the meantime. (Kerry has had a harder time staying on other sites; MySpace erased his profile, apparently not believing it to be real.)
Friendster spokeperson Lisa Kopp says the Kerry campaign has been using the site actively. "I'm on his Friend list now," she says. "I think he realized how useful Friendster could be. Bulletins come out every day -- he's really communicating with his friends." The "Bulletins" show up on your Friendster home page after you've added "John" as your friend. They're usually short messages or calls to action; a recent post asked recipients to sign a Democratic unity pledge written by James Carville, and asked that you "Repost this message here on Friendster and everywhere else you go online."
Friendster also bends the rules for Kerry, as it did for all the candidates with profiles on the site. "They do us the favor of allowing him to have more than the usual number of friends," said Hoeftig, referring to the limit of 500 connections for regular users; Kerry's profile currently lists 1,820 friends. He's also allowed more than the usual number of testimonials, most of which are endorsements like, "John's the type of dude where you're like 'that guy can be our president.'"
As Kopp points out, Friendster is nonpartisan. "We talked to the president's people," she said. "It turned out they weren't that interested."
-- Scott Lamb
Who will it be? Yoanna, who lost 50 pounds to be on the show? Mercedes, who's battling lupus? Or Shandi, the former Walgreen's clerk? To watch the drama unfold, check out the finale of "America's Top Model 2" (9 p.m. EST; UPN) ... Ever wonder how it is that when you get off a plane in Abuja, you always see kids wearing University of Kalamazoo T-shirts? So did Santha Bloemen, and her film "T-Shirt Travels" (PBS; check local listings) explores the phenomenon, uncovering a connection between African debt and the garment trade.
Couldn't resist the temptation: "The Last Temptation of Christ" screenwriter Paul Schrader has called Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" "medieval" and says that Gibson's casting of the Jewish priest Caiphus as "a traditional Shylock-looking guy ... is a problem." Schrader, who recalls bonding with Gibson during the controversial making of "The Passion," says he's "just troubled" by the film as a whole, adding, "It's a kind of primitive religion that I don't want to return to. It reminds me more of Shiites than it does of Episcopalians." (The Guardian)
Grope and run -- and keep on running? A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has denied the request of former stunt woman Rhonda Miller to grill Arnold Schwarzenegger under oath about her allegations that he groped her twice (actually, "groping" is putting it mildly) during the making of two films. Miller has filed a defamation suit against the governor after his aides released an e-mail to reporters suggesting they examine her background for past criminal activities, an e-mail of which Schwarzenegger disavows having had advance knowledge. Said the judge of his reluctance to haul Arnold into court, "We're talking about the governor of the state of California here." (Drudge)
He had her at "hello": Renée Zellweger was seen gushing all over Bob Dole when she ran into him yesterday at a New York restaurant. She was, she said, a great admirer of his. Responded Mr. Viagra, "And I'm an admirer of you." (Lloyd Grove's Lowdown)
Say a little prayer: Aretha Franklin, who turns 62 on Thursday, is in the hospital at an undisclosed location with an undisclosed ailment. "No other information on her illness is available at this time," said her publicist, Gwendolyn Quinn. (CNN)
And he won't dance atop cars either: Michael Jackson has decided not to appear at a preliminary hearing in his child abuse case on April 2. "He doesn't have to attend it. He won't attend it," Jackson spokesman Kevin McClin told the press. (abs-cbnNEWS.com)
Brown out: Bobby Brown has been released from jail in Georgia, where he was serving a 60-day sentence for parole violations, three days ahead of schedule so that he can appear at an emergency family court hearing in Virginia on Wednesday. The reason for the hearing has not been disclosed. (BBC News)
David Letterman will be so pleased: Joey Buttafuoco, the auto body shop owner whose teenage mistress Amy Fisher shot his wife in the face back in 1992 and whose name a certain late-night host loves to enunciate just so, is back in the news -- and is headed to jail. Buttafuoco, divorced from his wife and living in L.A., has been convicted of insurance fraud, sentenced to a year in the clink and five years of probation, and ordered to pay $4,600 in restitution. (CBS/AP)
They got you, babe: Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson have signed with ABC to host their very own variety show, "The Nick and Jessica Variety Hour," set to air on April 11 with a lineup including Kenny Rogers, Mr. T, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Babyface and Jewel. "It's very Sonny and Cher," Simpson recently told People.com. "It's 'Saturday Night Live' to the next level." (Entertainment Weekly)
-- Amy Reiter