Published December 07, 2002
NEW YORK – Winona Ryder's alias for buying prescription painkillers is "Emily Thompson." Christian Slater has been known to fear Germans when he's under the influence. And despite his vigorous political stumping during Election 2000, Ben Affleck hadn't voted in years.
This isn't the stuff of trashy tabloids. It's the juicy dish found in court documents and other public records when the stars wind up acting shady.
Web sites like Court TV's The Smoking Gun lunge at the chance to post the papers that offer such meaty tidbits about the rich and famous. TSG Co-founder and managing editor Daniel Green said documents provide insight that's often missing from the PR spin the public sees.
"It gives you a lot better glance than one normally gets," Green said. "The celebrity's handlers are usually pressuring (entertainment) writers to do a positive piece. We don't have to worry about that."
The public-records peek into stars' lives is also a reminder that they're only human.
"Celebrities are the same as everyone else," said Green. "They're the same as the street dealer who gets busted with a bag of pot, or the guy who gets in a fight when you rear-end his car or the person who's in a nasty divorce. There's no one to protect you in court papers."
The most current, high-profile case is that of Ryder, sentenced Friday for shoplifting last December at the Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue. Court documents revealed she used several aliases while getting prescription drugs, and was picked up carrying painkillers like liquid Demerol, Percodan, Valium and morphine sulfate in her purse.
But Ryder certainly isn't the first star to have her dirty laundry aired in public records.
Actor Christian Slater was arrested in 1997 for a drug and alcohol-induced brawl and, according to the police report, made statements to the arresting officers like "The Germans are all coming and they will kill us."
And according to a TSG investigation of Ben Affleck's voting records from 2000, when he was pleading with people to hit the polls, the actor hadn't cast a ballot in about 10 years in any of the cities where he'd lived.
Those who represent the stars say that though divulging this kind of dish is par for the course, it's really beside the point.
"There will always be somebody out there who will release this material," said talent agent Bonnie Shumofsky of Abrams Artists. "Do I find it necessary? No. What does that have to do with booking a role in a movie? That's their personal life."
And the more well-known someone becomes, the more he or she is susceptible to gossip.
"You get the fame but you also pay the consequences," Shumofsky said. "The bigger you get, the more people feel it's OK to release your private matters."
Shumofsky said the dirt uncovered through court papers and other public records is certainly fair game but doesn't necessarily provide a more accurate picture of celebs than their media interviews.
"Nobody knows that that's the full picture," she said.
Green said the documents do give another side of a star's story.
"I don't think it portrays an inaccurate picture," he said. "It's one piece of who these individuals are."
Besides, Green believes that stars who say one thing and do another deserve to be exposed.
He pointed to Britney Spears, who demanded Coke backstage despite her mega-bucks deal to appear in Pepsi commercials; Affleck's "Do as I say, not as I do" approach to voting; and Jennifer Lopez's request for lavish food and furniture in her dressing room during a 2001 concert for charity.
"We like the idea of putting a hole in the balloons of celebrities who are hypocrites," said Green. "If you're going to do something you shouldn't do, we want to catch you doing it. It can be very entertaining."
Plus, he said, the public forgets -- and stars are pretty resilient. He used the 1980s car accident that actor Matthew Broderick had in Ireland that killed a woman and her daughter (Broderick was cleared of all charges) as an example of how a celebrity has successfully overcome a dark phase in his life.
"They are going to be able to survive," Green said. "An arrest or something embarrassing in your past isn't going to keep you down."