The National Post
January 26, 2006 12:00:00 Posted at January 26, 2006 12:00:00
If you are not interested, please skip to the next. I’m very, very flattered about your interest in reading the National Post article that appeared last week. So instead of emailing it to so many of you, I’ve posted it below. Vancouver Web gossip column gets the scoop: "Smuthound": Scandal sheet began as simple correspondence National Post/Fri 20 Jan 2006/Page: A2/Section: News/Byline: Kelly Patrick With their legions of professional star-stalkers, it should have been easy for the Hollywood tabloids to break news of Katie Holmes"s pregnancy. Instead the celebrity rags got scooped by the 32-year-old Vancouverite behind www.laineygossip.com, a snarky gossip Web site she runs in her spare time. How did Elaine Lui do it? And how did she parlay a tongue-in-cheek e-mail to her girlfriends into a minor sensation in the online gossip world? She can partly thank her mother"s ill-health. In late 2002, Ms. Lui left her job as a fundraiser at the University of British Columbia to return to her hometown of Toronto and nurse her mother through a kidney transplant. She also left behind two colleagues who loved listening to her poke fun at celebrities and celebrity culture. "When I left, they really missed it," she said. "So since I didn"t really have anything better to do when I was home taking care of my mom, I started writing them this daily e-mail about what was happening in Hollywood." The e-mail didn"t just boil down the latest star gossip. It mercilessly cut up the celebrities most people worship and mocked people who "think everything they read in People magazine is the absolute truth." "I was trying to poke through that illusion," she said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. Her colleagues ate the e-mail up. They started forwarding it. Before long it morphed into a newsletter with nearly 4,000 readers, prompting another friend to suggest turning it into a Web site. So with her mother recovered and a new full-time job fundraising for Covenant House Vancouver, the self-proclaimed "smuthound" launched www.laineygossip.com in December, 2004. Ms. Lui calls the site"s content "gossip editorial." It features the kind of hard-edged star chat you might hear at a sleepover for grown-ups. Each column is about 2,500 words long, split into manageable bites with heaps of commentary for readers to chew on. Actors Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz top her most-hated list. Take this entry from her latest column about Ms. Diaz and her boyfriend, former N"SYNC member Justin Timberlake: "The good news is that his mother denied reports that dogface is pregnant. The bad news is that she did not deny reports that they"re engaged." Even celebrities Ms. Lui appreciates aren"t spared. She likes Angelina Jolie, but doesn"t mince words on recent snaps of the actor"s baby belly. "Some women glow when they"re expecting. Others not so much. If you ask me, Angie looks like crap." As the site"s popularity grew -- it now receives about 17 million hits from nearly 300,000 unique visitors a month -- www.laineygossip.com attracted the attention of low-level insiders such as make-up artists, stylists and technicians in New York, Los Angeles and London. Loyal readers in the industry started e-mailing Ms. Lui juicy tips -- like the fact Tom Cruise"s bride-to-be had missed her period. Ms. Lui posted that tidbit 12 hours before People magazine online published the official announcement. She also reported news of Gwyneth Paltrow"s pregnancy a full two weeks before anyone else. While she receives a slew of tips daily, Ms. Lui doesn"t post most of them. She looks into their veracity first, phoning her tipsters and double- or triple-checking the rumours that stuff her inbox. "I have a very solid group of sources that I"ve developed good relationships with who have given me stuff before that has checked out," she said. Ms. Lui devotes about 30 hours a week to sourcing and writing her columns, on top of her full-time job at Covenant House, a shelter for street youth. The site features no ads, so Ms. Lui makes no money from laineygossip.com. But she is starting to shop for advertisers. She"s also expanding her influence from the Internet to television with regular appearances on Etalk Daily, a gig she landed after the show"s producers heard about her site through the gossip grapevine. Not everyone agrees with her. Diehard fans of the stars she bashes have e-mailed her to say they hope her house burns down or she contracts a horrible disease. One wrote that she should be locked in a basement and forced to eat nothing but peanut butter for eternity. "The highbrow sort of non-celebrity-following person out there will take a look at People magazine and US weekly and say that is just trash and to a certain extent it is," she said. "Does it save lives? No. But it"s candy, it"s brain candy. The reason why I call it smut is because I"m trying to tell people that, "Hello I"m not taking this so seriously." "