Mephistophelian Site Encourages “Stalking” Celebrities

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I weep not for celebrities. And by that I mean real celebrities — people with actual talent — along with the grotesquely manufactured, over-hyped, pumped-up, pseudo-faux celebrities like those Real Housewives bitches who aren’t, quite frankly, real housewives and who, in fact, regularly demonstrate that they’re nobody’s bitches at all.

I weep not for celebrities because they wind up with everything everyone wants, beginning with money, unless they manage to piss it all away, in which case I wouldn’t weep for them anyway. They wind up with mass popularity; they get to be the subject of conversation among people they’ll never imagine meeting and who care about them as if they know them intimately. They get fame and Q scores; they get endorsements, assistants and toadying lackeys; they get to force and direct their own cults of personality and enjoy a kowtowing deference that was once reserved for royalty.

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Yet many celebrities complain, whine and moan about how very tough life is. Kimberly-Clark, which owns the Kleenex trademark, should only benefit from such free advertising. After all, when you have money, mass popularity, fame, Q scores, endorsements, assistants, toadying lackeys, get to manage your own cult of personality and enjoy a kowtowing deference once reserved for royalty, you have to yield something in return, right? Like, say, privacy, safety, security. How awful for them.

Well, things are set to get infinitely more awful. On Thursday, The Clyde Fitch Report came across a press release from a new company called Top Stalker. Here, dear friends, is the headline and opening graph of the release:

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Provocative New Website Lets Fans Virtually ‘Stalk’ Celebrities
‘Fans Love Us, Celebrities Dread Us,’ Says Top Stalker

Celebrities everywhere are having anxiety attacks as Top Stalker (www.topstalker.com) announced today the launch of their new social website that lets anyone upload a photo of their celebrity sighting and instantly share it with millions of other fans around the world. By harnessing the power of a billion camera-phone-enabled fans around the globe, Top Stalker is turning the Paparazzi business on its head with a website that will soon offer more authentic celebrity photos than can be found anywhere else online, in magazines, or on television.

Mmm, can you feel the love tonight? No no, don’t sit there all breathless wondering what additional opportunities for the personal endangerment of other human beings might result from this Snoopville spin class. Not when you can read the second graph of the press release, too:

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“It’s no secret that fans everywhere are fascinated with what celebrities are really like in their everyday lives,” said Kate Casey, the Founder of Top Stalker and a self-described celebrity PR debunker. “Top Stalker is the place where you can share your celebrity sightings, post gossip and catch a glimpse of what your favorite celebrity looks like in real-life.”

Sigh. Let’s talk about this.

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First, I have always viewed celebrity as a totally Mephistophelian bargain: you want money, mass popularity, fame, Q scores, endorsements, assistants, toadying lackeys, cults of personality and a kind of kowtowing deference? Fine, give up something really, really precious, like your personal privacy and safety. Know that every minute of your life you’re a walking target. Especially when there’s a website out there, not to mention an ADD-inducing iPhone app, whose very name glorifies psychotic pursuit. Ron Galella, eat your heart out. What happened to Princess Diana was nothing. Check out the “key features” of TopStalker.com:

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  • Upload celebrity photos and describe your sighting with names, dates and locations
  • Check out the most popular photos within the community, updated hourly
  • See a real-time stream of photos for your favorite celebrities with dates and maps
  • Share gossip about your favorite celebrities by posting comments on any photo
  • Receive awards for your status and accomplishments as a celebrity “stalker”
  • Share photos and gossip to Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of other social media websites

I know, I know, so what? This is all a variation of Gawker Stalker and positively nobody is screaming about that. Well, that’s a fair response, true and perfectly accurate. But doesn’t this start to give you the creeps?

Wait, let me crystallize this and make it a little more personal. Would it be unfair or hypocritical if I told you that Kate Casey is a new mom? It’s true: it’s right there on Twitter! Bear with me for a moment more.

What if I’m some dude or dudess and I happen to think that TopStalker is, like, you know, totally amazing? And what if I think that Casey, being founder of TopStalker and all, is, like, totally a celebrity? Can I follow her around while she’s toting around her kid? Can I take photos of her and paste them up all over? Who, precisely, gets to decide who is and is not a celebrity? Who gets to decide where the lines are drawn? If anybody can have 15 minutes of fame, why isn’t Casey a celebrity? Isn’t she a celebrity if someone says so? And why, if she’s carrying her kid somewhere, isn’t that fair game?

Now, I believe the children of celebrities should always be left out of the picture. They didn’t exactly ask for Angelina Jolie or whomever to be their mother. (Well, maybe that’s a bad example.) The point is, I don’t see that TopStalker, by its very nature, does much to draw moral or security lines. And that, America, is dangerous. If you play with fire in the America of 2010, I say, you run the risk of getting very, very burned.

In the interest of fairness, the following disclaimer does appear, very prominently, on TopStalker.com:

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Top Stalker is meant to be fun for all of us who love celebrities and want to see that celebrities are real human beings like the rest of us. We want to give every person out there a chance to share their sightings and play Paparrazo in their own lives. While we may refer to our users as “stalkers,” this is just cheeky fun. No more. We do not condone any breach of the law or even general norms of polite conduct and good manners. Celebrities are people too and we need to respect them if we want them to smile and not run when a fan shows up with a camera. If you have any question as to what is OK and what is not, take a look at your jurisdiction’s laws and then ask what your mother might say about your conduct.

Here, below, is the rest of the press release. I love pop culture as much as the next dweeb. I just hope there’s someone out there who thinks, Gee, I don’t want to put other people’s lives in danger, even if they’re J Lo or J Bi.

Top Stalker has also published a free iPhone application that lets users browse the most popular photos from the community, updated in real-time, and to easily post a photo you just captured with your iPhone. The free Top Stalker iPhone application is now available in the Apple App Store.

After just a few months in private beta, the Top Stalker website has already amassed an impressive database with photos of hundreds of popular celebrities, including: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Britney Spears, Demi Moore, Jessica Simpson, Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Paris Hilton, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Zac Efron and hundreds more. But unlike Paparazzi-powered websites, all of the photos on Top Stalker are from real fans taking real pictures of real celebrities the way they really look in real-life.

Top Stalker even invites other celebrity websites to join the fun. Top Stalker encourages publishers seeking fresh and original content to use the site’s photos free-of-charge. Just like popular social websites YouTube and Flickr, Top Stalker makes it remarkably easy for bloggers and other website publishers to embed Top Stalker photos in their own web pages, giving them access to a rapidly growing database of thousands of celebrity photos.