Celebs in cyberspace

The Star-Ledger Archive
COPYRIGHT © The Star-Ledger 2001

Date: 2001/04/22 Sunday Page: 001 Section: SPOTLIGHT Edition: FINAL

Celebs in cyberspace

Stars serve up poetry, prose and pix on their personal Web sites

By LISA ROSE
STAR-LEDGER STAFF

Lily Tomlin calls it home. Jennifer Aniston's a regular, too. Barbra Streisand, Melanie Griffith and Michael Madsen also frequent this hot spot.

Nope, it's not Spago at noon. It's the Internet, where celebrities en masse are flocking to launch official Web pages.

While most entertainment sites aren't very entertaining, with all the personality of a processor chip, a growing number of stars are trying to jazz up the Net, cozying up to fans through character-driven home pages.

Actors and models, comics and divas are laying out the virtual welcome mat, inviting surfers into their online abodes. Going wired, celebs have a place where they can kick back and get whimsical, revealing sides of themselves never glimpsed on celluloid.The Web's a world askew, where Steven Seagal riffs like Hendrix, Jimmie Walker weighs in on politics, Jeff Bridges twangs, Cindy Crawford critiques literature, Melanie Griffith gets metaphysical and Sean Young shills holistic bubble bath (see accompanying story).

Lily Tomlin's dot-com outpost (www.lilytomlin.com) is a hypertext playground with candid photos, color-tossed animation, droll sound bites and random kitsch.

"Anything that tickles me goes on my site," said Tomlin, via cell phone from Los Angeles, where she's shooting "Orange County," a film co-starring Kevin Kline and Catherine O'Hara.

"You want to have things that are quirky and personal and humorous," said Tomlin. "I'll post footage of my mother doing something dear and funny. The Net is the perfect place for those small moments that a larger audience might not appreciate"

A jigging space ship greets guests at Tomlin's digital doorstep, and the menu page features a morphable mug shot that winks and simpers with mouse strokes. She lets visitors peer in on acupuncture sessions, and her high school prom pictures are reconfigured into a point-and-click comedy series. Don't skip the Cheese Museum, where patchouli air freshener, poodle ice sculptures and other objets d'fromage are on display.

"There was no master plan," said Tomlin. "The site was one of those things where you start playing and adding things and free-associating. It's like having your own 24-hour show, a place where you can fool around and create stuff and be eclectic and personal and everything's connected."

Tomlin's Web dwelling was drafted by Bubbles the Artist, a k a Allee Willis, a painter and Grammy-winning songwriter, whose credits include the "Friends" theme song, "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth, Wind & Fire and the Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance."

"Ninety-nine percent of the Web is click on the blue shoe and link to the blue shoe," said Willis. "If only celebrities realized that they can approach the Web with the same verve that they approach their movies and TV shows with, the Net could be a much funnier place."

Bubbles also teamed up with Jennifer Aniston on Jen XX (www.jenxxonvoxxy.com), a counter-Cosmo online mag where make-up doesn't matter, thinner isn't happier and boys aren't everything. Part of the Voxxy.com entertainment network, the site is a "Roger Rabbit"-esque environ where the "Friends" star jaunts through a series of cartoon landscapes.

Jen XX is filled with "click me" interactivity. On the weight page, you can select the fudge sundae to watch toothpick models plump up or choose the bananas to drop the poundage. The makeover area lets fans outfit Aniston with afro wigs, Groucho noses, day-glo sunglasses and flicking tongues.

"The media has such a powerful influence on young girls," said Aniston, via e-mail. "There is a tendency to place celebrities on pedestals, leaving young girls pressured to live up to unrealistic expectations."

Aniston didn't know that Willis had written the theme song to her NBC show when the pair began putting the site together, recording spoken word snippets and snapping photos to cut and re-animate.

"She came to my house the first time to take some photos," said Willis. "We walked into the studio to record some sound clips and out of the corner of her eye, she saw the "Friends' sheet music on the wall. She froze and turned green. It went from "I dig this chick' to "she's a stalker.' Finally, someone told her that I'd written that song."

Most stops on the cyber walk of fame aren't quite as palatial as Bubbles' projects. Some hypertext homes of the stars are as cozy and intimate as the personal pages uploaded by non-celebs.