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Free Sex with Tom Cruise!

Wednesday, 23rd May, 2001

Unless you choose to live your life as a ninja, there is nothing in the world more anonymous than living online.

You can set up your e-mail address to say what you like; you can register and log into chatrooms and messageboards as whatever name you like; you can wander around the world wide web at leisure without ever being open about your identity. You could be talking to some random person in a chat room without ever realising that it's the girl next door. It's all totally anonymous.

It strikes a bit of a contrast to the life of the modern celebrity. Your modern film star, rock star, entertainment giant has no anonymity whatsoever. If he goes out in public, the paparazzi tail him everywhere; if he stays at home, they will surround his house; if he says anything, it echoes back to him from the front pages of the world. Either live your life as a hermit or play along, at least to some degree, with the celebrity lifestyle.

I got to wondering about these two ways of living and how distinct they are. Then I applied the concept that opposites attract.

Tom Cruise recently split up from his wife, Nicole Kidman. You know about it, it was splashed across every tabloid newspaper and women's magazine from here to Outer Mongolia. Now put yourself into Tom's shoes. If you want to go out and have a good time, you're going to be trailed. The men with cameras will be right there, two rows back at the movies, at the next table at the restaurant, within spitting distance at the baseball game. If you dare to take someone of the opposite sex, her name, inside leg measurement and favourite shade of green will be on everyone's lips the next morning.

Heaven forbid if you wanted to chat someone up. John Doe round the corner may get away with chatting up the ladies at the Red Lion, but you couldn't manage it if you were Tom Cruise. The famous face and charm would work wonders, I'm sure, but so would the camera shutters and hey presto, the headlines would shriek the news. 'Tom Cruise On Pull!', 'Tom Cruising for Date!', 'Red Lion Ladies Fall for Tom!'.

No anonymity whatsoever. Unless he hops online.

Suddenly he loses the appeal of being Tom Cruise, the famous film actor; but he gains the anonymity of being one of the unidentified masses. How do you know that guy who chatted you up last night wasn't Tom Cruise? Nicole Kidman may be able to work it out from his spelling and his choice of phrase, but you won't have a chance. He said his name was John? Yeah, and my name's Rumpelstiltskin. It could have been Tom Cruise and you wouldn't ever know.

We know that many of the famous are technologically savvy. Some of them don't just have web sites dedicated to them, but actively contribute to them too. They give interviews in chatrooms, they field e-mail, they post online diaries. What's to stop them logging in under a new handle, returning to the chatroom after giving an interview and listening to all the backchat afterwards.

Fan 1: Wow, I got to talk to Tom Cruise!

Fan 2: Yeah, how neat can this net thing be?

Fan 3: I thought he was really nice.

Tom Cruise: I thought he was a real asshole.

Fan 1: Yeah, and who the hell are you to judge?

It does lead to plenty of strange thoughts. My formative years online were spent at a trivia quiz game that doubled as a chatroom. Cosmo's Conundrum was very good to me, enabling me to meet up with many friends all over the world and to travel with them, stay with them, enjoy their company in real life. Of course there were those who didn't want to meet up for one reason or another.

Some wanted to keep their two worlds separate, which is perfectly understandable. Especially if you're Tom Cruise...

I could set up a room in Cosmo and end up with six people in there, chatting away nineteen to the dozen, never realising that I'm the odd one out in the company of Tom Cruise, Cindy Crawford, Michael Jordan, Linda Lovelace, the Dalai Lama and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. How would I ever tell the difference?

It would give them every chance they needed to shed their celebrity lifestyles, if only for an hour or two, and enjoy themselves as everyday average people. It must happen all the time.

And what about cybersex? What if Tom Cruise feels like a little female company but knows that anyone he picks up is going to be famous the next day, in the worst possible way. What's to stop him logging into an anonymous cybersex site and having his wicked ways a world away from the media?

It's probably the safest method Bill Clinton has right now. Hillary must have her eyes on every wall of that New York mansion. She'll vet every employee, probably ensuring that only the ugliest home help get hired. Poor Bill will have to head online to get any. That guy you virtually slept with last night? It could have been the ex-president himself. He fantasised about cigars? There ya go!

George Bush Jr would find it a little more difficult of course. He'll have a couple of secret service guys standing behind him at all times just to be there in case a lunatic breaks through all security to hassle him about Kyoto.

Dubya: Hey, how do you spell 'bra'?

Secret Service Man 1: B-R-A, Mr President.

Dubya: Is that B for Barbie or D for Donald Duck?

Secret Service Man 2: B for Barbie, Mr President.

Dubya: How do you get these things undone anyway?

The more I think about all this, the more it seems to make total sense. Warren Beatty may well have slept with however many thousand women, but a hefty chunk of those could have been in an online cybersex room last weekend. Michael Jackson could interact with people without ever going out into that dangerous melting sunlight. Roseanne may not get turned down online, though that mouth of hers would surely permeate any depth of anonymity.

Maybe I'm a celebrity online, by virtue of being the only person who isn't a celebrity in real life. Maybe I'm sought after in Cosmo's Conundrum for no better reason than I've never had my own table at the Oscars.

'Hi, I'm Hal and I've never been on the front page of Time.'

'Wow, then hi there! Erm, do you come here often?'

Oh, and one more thing before you all rush off to find where they run the cybersex rooms and try to live out your fantasies with your very own celebrity. Maybe that isn't Claudia Schiffer you just pulled. Maybe it's your mother, your sister, your boss. Horror of horrors, maybe it's Roseanne.

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