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Agog with blogs

Bloggers offer access, megaphones to the showbiz underclass

Showbiz is blogging itself silly about insider comings and goings.

The industry’s underclass dishes everyone from Paris Hilton to Harvey Weinstein in a growing number of showbiz blogs. Unlike political blogs, which have broken big stories and sometimes changed the media’s agenda — most notably questioning Dan Rather and CBS News over Bush National Guard documents — showbiz blogs haven’t broken much news aside from Julia Roberts’ pregnancy.

That, by the way, was first reported by the aptly named blog, A Fly on the Wall.

What blogs have done is given a megaphone to assistants to stars and execs, personal trainers, script readers and others who before were only anonymous sources in Page Six. Unlike showbiz Web sites operated by journos of varying repute, blogs tend to be written in the first person and typically link to other sites on the Web.

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Bloggers may not have a lot of power, but they do have access, and that’s catnip to their relatively small, but devoted, cadre of readers.

“What’s interesting about the Hollywood blogs is that their big impact may not be the way they impact ‘Entertainment Tonight’ or ‘E! True Hollywood Story’ covering something but they’re carving out a new piece of real estate,” says Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.

Everyone and everything in Hollywood is fair game for Defamer, a popular blog run by former TV assistant Mark Lisanti, who doesn’t even pretend to verify the dish he gets, mostly from assistants, but occasionally from publicists.

“We do rumor as much as we do things that are verifiably true,” says Lisanti. The aspiring screenwriter claims that disseminating insider gossip “is part of what’s useful about the site.”

A little higher up the food chain are reality TV producers Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan who take on fugly (frightfully ugly as they define it) star outfits at their blog with a barbed wit that makes Cojo and Joan Rivers seem like gushing fans.

The two focus on red-carpet fashion for which stars have purposely chosen their outfits on the grounds stars — and their stylists — have chosen their outfits knowing they would be photographed.

“These people must own mirrors and it makes you think when they looked in the mirror, ‘what were they thinking?’,” Cocks reasons.

While most of these blogs are read by a small following inside and outside the biz, they’re often picked up by other blogs or by Google search results on celebs, gaining wider exposure. Defamer’s sardonic posts typically garner 50,000 visits a day, while Go Fug Yourself racks up 15,000 daily visits.

The more salacious and abrasive blogs are, the more traffic they get.

Defamer’s traffic spiked when Lisanti posted a photo of Tara Reid’s recent peek-a-boob appearance, while VH1 Web producer Scott Lapatine got the heaviest traffic ever on his site Stereogum when he posted the “Saturday Night Live” footage of Ashlee Simpson lip-syncing. Likewise, script reader Tiffany Stone got lots of attention at her site tiffanyastone.com when she speculated that “Team America” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were gay.

“That’s the problem: A lot of this stuff that’s written is not flattering,” Thompson says. “At this point celebrities are very nervous about this stuff. So much is anonymous, so few people have to take responsibility.”

Fake celeb blogs have popped up on stars from Nick Nolte to an anti-Bush site supposedly penned by George Clooney (his publicist says it’s “100% not true.”) “Pulp Fiction” screenwriter Roger Avary debunked the supposed Quentin Tarantino blog on his own blog.

Credibility is a problem, but then again, Thompson points out, mainstream media has its own trust issues.

Former “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Stand By Me” actor Wil Wheaton, who runs WilWheaton.net, cautioned that showbiz bloggers walk a fine line between developing an honest relationship with readers and promoting their projects or themselves.

“I really think if the audience thinks it’s PR, they’re going to tune it out,” Wheaton says.

Meanwhile, taking on industry targets can have its consequences, however, regardless of whether bloggers are established or still aspiring to a showbiz career.

The Academy warned Avary against posting any of his opinions about movies in Oscar contention on Avary.com or risk losing his membership.

And Universal execs and filmmakers were angered when Avary dissed the screenplay for the “Dawn of the Dead” remake; Avary later removed the posting.

“Suddenly as an insider, I had smeared somebody else’s project. That was never really my intention,” he explains.

Cynics may well wonder: Will snarky wannabes also start pulling their punches when they get more attention from the showbiz establishment? Power, as Harry Knowles of ain’titcoolnews.com discovered, can be a seductive beast.