A tawdry view of Hollywood
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LOS ANGELES—"Who here likes hookers?"
The 10 people on the TMZ Hollywood Tour van looked at one another uneasily. But Adrienne Camille, their highly caffeinated guide on this late August day, didn't wait for an answer. "Well, we know Hugh Grant does, and right here on this corner is where he got caught in his car with one," Camille said brightly.
One passenger, a lawyer from Australia, craned his neck for a better view. The others, including a 10-year-old girl, stared in silence. With that, the cherry-red TMZ van lurched into traffic and drove on—to the hotel where Paris Hilton filmed a sex tape, the spot where a drunken Halle Berry crashed her car (into a liquor store) and the mental ward where Britney Spears was held.
Maps to the stars' homes? How quaint. Having supercharged celebrity gossip and news, first on the Web and then on television, TMZ is now doing the same thing to the venerable sightseeing tour. TMZ's open-air vans and snarky guides popped up here last year and have become hotter than a paparazzo's flash bulb. Now TMZ is bringing its tours to New York. "That's exclusive news, nobody else knows that yet," said Harvey Levin, TMZ's scoop-obsessed founder.
"We're going to show you things you actually want to see," Camille shouted as a tour began one recent afternoon. She proceeded to point out where the singer Avril Lavigne "got beaten up in a street fight", and where Jennifer Lopez supposedly goes for margaritas.
TMZ, which consistently beats its celebrity-news competitors (its scoops include the news of Michael Jackson's death and, this month, publishing nude photos of Prince Harry), has made its tawdry debut on Hollywood's tourism scene at a time when tours here are mushrooming. Thomas J. LaBonge, a Los Angeles councilman who is the chairman of the city's Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee, estimates that there are now 30 tour operators plying their services along Hollywood Boulevard.
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