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Star Search, Redefined

Hollywood's famous find new way to maintain fame

I live in the Hamptons.

There’s a slight bit of exaggeration in that statement, if you really want to pick it apart. I actually live on an entirely different coast and, by Hamptonian standards, in squalor.

Even so, when I registered at the iHamptons Web site (www.ihamptons.com), which has a quaint little e-newsletter to which I’ve become slavishly addicted, and was asked whether I’d even been to the Hamptons, had merely visited there, rented or owned, I clicked the latter. Why not? Everyone lies when they click. (There are, actually, no women at all who partake in cybersex, for instance).

Lately, the news from the Hamptons has been less concerned with the cozy community issues of summer rental prices and scraps of gossip regarding local merchants (along with the mandatory outrage attendant with the opening of a Starbucks) and more taken in with famous celebrity neighbors who are snapping up cottages around town.

What has happened to the neighborhood, once the realm of train barons, bootleggers and old-moneyed gentry? This was supposed to be a place where we cared only about ourselves, and certainly not about entertainers.

Sure, we might have the odd starlet out to the place for a dalliance. But now the court jesters, once merry providers of momentary diversions before being hurled back over the moat, have taken over iHamptons, just as they seek to take over the whole Internet.

Celebrities have flocked to the ‘Net, drawn by a new shade of limelight, and it’s surely no surprise. You get a new medium of serious caliber maybe once in a generation, and the Internet is it right now.

Don’t get enough star action from “Entertainment Tonight,” People and In Style? You can’t swing a cat on the Web now without getting claw marks on one celebrity or another hyping himself or herself in a hyperlinked frenzy of glamorous photos, praise-packed bios and the sort of junk you can buy on eBay at a fraction of the cost.

Everyone’s got one: John Travolta, Leonardo DiCaprio, Puff Daddy. Pick a name out of a hat.

Oh, good, you picked Ben Affleck, who probably stuffed the election hat, if his self-designed Web site (www.benaffleck.com) is any indication. Ben news abounds here, as do answers to all of your Ben-related questions in a FAQ section. Among the most frequently asked questions of Ben is “So, how can I get an autographed photo of Ben?” Well, why limit yourself to an autographed photo, when Affleck will sign just about anything that a Sharpie can write on, including a “Dogma” DVD ($35.99) and a “Good Will Hunting” screenplay ($19.99).

Bear in mind, Ben’s busy, so it could take a month and a half before you get any autographed items you order.

Halle Berry’s own Web site, grandly dubbed Hallewood (www.hallewood.com), designed all pink and baby blue like an 8-year-old’s bedroom, has the mandatory fan fare, but, as a bonus, you get a little letter about “The Accident,” in which she decides “not to use Hallewood to re-hash old news or to bring up useless negativity” but rather to boast that what she took out of the wretched little affair was the realization that “I am stronger and more powerful than I ever imagined.”

If you love me, according to the credo of stars who plaster themselves all over hyperspace, you love my family: Cher (www.cher.com) keeps us up-to-date on her daughter Chastity, and Joan Rivers (www.joanrivers.com) has a section about daughter Melissa.

But the most selfless mother of all is Lynne Spears, who devotes a huge chunk of her Web site to her daughter, Britney. The site (www.britneyspears.com) has everything we’ve come to expect: FAQs, photos, methods of e-mailing the idol, chats and e-postcards. But the real fun is finding out just what Mom’s up to on a weekly basis by reading her online diary, with such Lynnecentric headings as “Hi, fans, this has been a hectic week for both Brit and me,” “The holidays at the Spears’ house were very hectic this week” and, most recently, “This was a hectic week for me, so you can imagine what kind of week Brit has had.”

So, OK, fame is heck. But on the Web, at least the stars are handling it just fine.

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