On Friday night, Jimmy Kimmel guest-hosted Larry King Live on CNN. It was a very special episode about how the paparazzi and the media make the lives of celebrities just so difficult. He had a bone to pick with Gawker editor Emily Gould—apparently, a sighting had appeared on our Gawker Stalker map last June which seemed to catch the former Man Show host (who, let's remember, rose to fame on a show that featured him drinking beer throughout) "visibly drunk and talking loud." How unethical of Gawker to defame Kimmel's character by publishing this sighting without editing or fact-checking it, or even asking Kimmel's publicist for the requisite heartfelt denial! At first Emily thought that Kimmel was kidding about being so upset. He informed her that it wasn't funny. It's weird how people who are professionally "funny" often have no sense of humor! Anyway, Kimmel was so weirdly peeved that he told Emily that she was going to hell, cut her off midsentence all O'Reilly-style a bunch of times, and discussed the likelihood that "Emily's web site" would soon be shut down by the lawyers of angry celebrities.
So let's have a refresher course—it's been a while!
Gawker Stalker sightings are sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by you, the Gawker reader, and also, often, by celebrities' and restaurants' publicists. Which makes sense! Celebrities and restaurants, and the people who interview them on late night T.V., all make money by remaining in the public eye. However, part of what differentiates the sightings featured on the Gawker Stalker map from the sightings reported in celebrity newsweeklies and daily gossip columns is that we try not to post those publicist-penned "sightings." It's not that we have anything against publicists. We'd just rather hear a real person's candid take on his or her encounter with Mike Meyers and his hockey stick or how shiny Julianne Moore's hair was during her twelve millionth trip to Da Silvano.
Anyway, at some point after you send an email about a sighting to tips, we read it and spend a split second trying to determine whether it's fake and publicisty-sounding before forwarding it on to the stalker map interns, who then post it to the map. The amount of time that this takes varies considerably. It's within the realm of possibility that it could happen within minutes. It's much more common that someone has been seated next to a celebrity at dinner and emails Gawker about it the next day, or the day after, and that it takes a similar amount of time for us and the interns to do our respective jobs. For example, at the time of this writing, the most recent posted sighting is from two days ago, and also it's of Gilbert Gottfried. Crazed fans of Gottfried should take note, though: he might revisit the stretch of 22nd street between 6th and 7th Avenue sometime! We're so sure that at this very moment, someone's hanging out there with a telephoto lens, primed to ambush Gottfried and ask prying questions about his role as "Freezing Nuts Penguin" in Farce of the Penguins. The horror!
The other thing that Jimmy Kimmel seemed to have a problem with is that sometimes people make unkind remarks about celebrities. Kimmel used a recent sighting of a "fat" Kevin Costner as an example of "slanderous statements or libelous statements" that he says are prevalent on the Stalker map. Kimmel might have wanted to consult a lawyer (a real lawyer, not Mark Geragos) or a dictionary before saying this, though. "Slanderous" and "libelous" both mean "false." And Kevin Costner is (sorry!) not as slender as he used to be. Maybe the word that Kimmel was looking for was not "slanderous" but "mean."
It must be hard to be a celebrity and have people say mean things about you! The thing is, though, that everyone who's at all in the public eye, "celebrity" or no, is now subject to being insulted by anyone at any time, thanks to an innovation that makes it possible for anyone with a computer and a wireless connection to track people down and say mean things about them via email (that stands for "electronic mail"!) message or blog (sorry, "Web Log"!) post.
Case in point: after Emily's appearance, many people who didn't have anything better to do with their Friday nights than watch CNN also had nothing better to do than email Emily.
Some of these (mostly AOL users) said that they hoped their children didn't grow up to be like Emily, or that she made them ashamed to be Jewish. (That was weird!) A number were confused: They thought Emily was employed as someone who has sex with people for money. "Your site sucksss so bad and you got your ASS HANDED to you on Larry King. You are such a dumb bimbo," said Rachel Enterline. "You are a disgusting website and a disgusting person," said Sandra Mackay. And Joanne Bloomfield wrote that "Kimmell is right... someone will be killed by one of your sightings being stated on your website. Before you become an accessory to a crime, stop!!!! I viewed your website for the first time tonight. Although I hate to use the word "embarrassed" more than once, I am at a loss for words."
There was nice mail too, though! "I thought you handled that gang bang really well Friday night, especially considering big, bad Kimmel needed a lawyer and a slimy publicist at his meaty flanks to ambush you. I noticed the paps were pretty mum, even defended you a couple of times. [...] Take care, good job."
That one came from a Radar editor, but it expressed a markedly different opinion to the unsigned and pitiful hatchet job that site published today. (We hear editor Maer Roshan came down to write most of it himself. Aww!)
On Friday, Emily had briefly tried to explain to Jimmy Kimmel that stalker-style treatment is a description of public people's lives in public, and is also treatment that anyone with any kind of media or online presence—be it a Times byline, a TV show, or a MySpace profile—is now subject to. The only difference is that celebrities are protected somewhat from these verbal attacks by "piles of money."
"Not all celebrities are wealthy. I mean you know that's a silly and stupid thing to say, you know that," Kimmel replied. Emily knows no such thing. Kimmel just signed a new multi-year deal with ABC. Perhaps he can use some of the earnings for therapy or remedial computer literacy lessons. All Emily (not a streetwalker, by the way—at least, not yet!) has to protect her from the staunch defenders of celebridignity in her inbox is the knowledge that, whether or not she likes being a target of its ire, the internet isn't going anywhere and there's nothing she can do about it. Welcome, Jimmy!
CNN Larry King Live Transcript [CNN]