Blind Items: The Vice We Need To Quit, Now

Blind_item_JGPhoto: Greg Allen/REX USA.
Toothy Tile was my first. One summer, I found myself a 16-year-old intern at a post-production house during a massive SAG/AFTRA strike. No actors meant nothing to assist in post-producing, and so I spent three months arranging bagels for bored staff, alphabetizing the lunch-menu folder, and falling headfirst into the kind of Internet binge that only a teen with no responsibilities and unlimited access to Diet Coke can pull off. Within weeks, I'd discovered Ted Casablanca's column, The Awful Truth, and the endless, seductive black hole of blind gossip items. That's how I met Toothy.
Ted liked to litter his weekly gossip column with occasional "Blind Vice" items featuring damning secrets of the Hollywood elite. In order to protect himself, and E! Online, from litigation, Ted gave each character he featured a whimsical pseudonym. Emma Uh-Oh dabbled in meth. Cruella St. Shackles was faking her pregnancy. Morgan Mayhem traded sex for synthetic heroin — in rehab.
A few of the stories caught my eye, and I kept up with the commenters trying to untangle Ted's byzantine maze of clues. For all his splashy, secret tales, he was achingly cryptic when it came to pointing the reader in the right (or very wrong) direction.
In May 2005, a new character emerged. At the time, he was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. His girlfriend was equally famous and adored. And, it was all a sham. The Internet was rife with blurbs on homosexual stars who took opportunistic partners in order to maintain an on- and off-screen hetero-heartthrob persona. A miserable outgrowth of a stagnant prejudice, it's what kept roofs over the heads of gossip columnists for decades.
But, Toothy was different. He wasn't sneaking off for casual flings and coming home to his clueless girlfriend. According to Ted, his relationship was open to all but the media. Somehow, he and his "secret" partner had managed to craft a ruse, allowing them to be out in real life, but maintain consistent evidence of heterosexual relationships with women (who were as active as any in keeping up this pretense for their own financial or career gains). At one point, Ted revealed there was even a baby in the picture.
Ted's own intense interest was so clear in his writing that readers instantly latched on — no one more than I — and Toothy became the topic of chatter on blogs and columns all over the Internet. Gawker tracked the evolution of Toothy. Rival columnists called Ted to the mat. A whole new blog called Waiting For Toothy became the home base for devotees to gather and pick through Ted's clues. Toothy was all but revealed in less than a year. According to the blogs, the gossips, and everyone with a commenter handle, Toothy Tile was Jake Gyllenhaal.
toothyPhoto: Courtesy of Eonline.
The tide turned to further public outing of Toothy/Jake and a worldwide virtual game of connect the dots began. As the blogosphere grew, so too did the world of blind items, and I began to expand my "research." There was Lainey, Blind Gossip, and the ever-seductive Crazy Days And Nights, all of which generated tantalizing blinds at an exponentially growing rate. Crazy Days even offered a batch of revealed items twice a year, on 4th of July and New Year's Day. It is a fact that I once spent an entire day of a summer vacation in the French countryside inside, in the dark, on my laptop, devouring a batch of these revealed items. That was the first time I really began to feel the hate side of this love-hate habit.
By my mid-20s, I'd begun to suspect that perhaps (and it was a big "perhaps") blind items weren't the best use of my time. Even more worrisome, what if they weren't all true? The implication had always been that because they were anonymous, all the facts must be facts. But, when you're reporting incriminating gossip, protected from all repercussions, wouldn't it be easy enough to exaggerate? Or even just lie? I looked back over the archives of my favorite blind-item sources, and estimated that, according to these numbers, nearly everyone in the entertainment industry had a scandalous past, or secret lovechild, or swimming pool of methamphetamine in their backyard. I realized it didn't add up. As an aside, I'd just like to say that I did actually graduate from college.
Now, I'm not naive enough to believe that every Hollywood marriage is perfect, all starlets are drug-free, and there's absolutely nothing weird about Tom Cruise leaping all over Oprah's furniture. But, that still doesn't mean we should believe everything we read — whether it's in People or on Blind Items Exposed.
With blind items, the fun and the evil are one in the same. They're seductive and juicy and often wildly cruel. The percentage of made-up blinds is impossible to calculate, but beyond that lies a much more insidious problem: These items allow a culture of ignorance and prejudice to continue. Right now, a gay actor playing a leading man is still an anomaly and even alarming to many audiences. That's as much our fault as the industry's. Does Jake Gyllenhaal have a long-term partner with whom he shares a home and child? I don't know, but if he does — so what? Then again, if the headline was "Jake Gyllenhaal Buys Groceries With Husband, Drives Home," would as many readers click on it?
After all, why must every heartthrob be straight? Why can't a child star grow up and make some mistakes? If you had picked up a tabloid to read about "a legendary actor who's girlfriend kicked him out to keep his drug habit away from the kids," would you have felt sympathy or fascination? And, when you later heard the news about Philip Seymour Hoffman, what would you feel then?
I can't honestly say that blind items no longer intrigue me. Every now and then I find myself browsing through Crazy Days And Nights, just to look up and find that an hour has passed. But, reading them now makes me less curious about the subject than about the person who deemed someone else's personal crisis as "clicky." It makes me wonder more about what might be true and what's likely a fabrication. More than anything, it makes me wonder why this story is any of my business.

More from News

Now that James Lively is a big sib, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate the paragons of parenthood that are Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds
It has been but three years since Justin Theroux's bulge went for a jog in a pair of sweatpants, but it feels as if it happened only yesterday
Today, TMZ reported that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have come to a temporary divorce settlement that grants full custody of the six children to Jolie
You could spend all day critiquing the media for the lack of compelling content created by and starring women. But why not put the kind of female-centric...
In September 1993, Connecticut State Attorney Frank Maco declared that he would not prosecute Woody Allen in court for the charges of sexual abuse of a ...
Wisin, an award-winning reggaeton musician, has shared the news of his baby daughter's death in an Instagram post. "Thank you, my God, for one month of ...
Looks like James Lively is officially a big sister. People confirms that Blake Lively has given birth to her second child with husband Ryan Reynolds. ...
She won't say who didn't encourage her acting career — but we're pretty sure it's Ashton Kutcher
Take this as a warning to lend things to Tyga at your own risk. The rapper has been having some major financial problems lately. The latest: He's in ...
Verizon says the number will be retired for a full year instead of the usual 50 days
Nate Parker's 60 Minutes interview airs on Sunday, and the Birth of a Nation filmmaker said he doesn't feel guilty about the rape allegation that has ...
A man who once crawled under America Ferrera's skirt is now claiming that he's fighting for female body diversity. Really
Frances Bean Cobain has been ordered to dish out a pretty daunting sum of cash to estranged husband Isaiah Silva over the next four months. The 24-year-...
Update: E! News reports that Kim Kardashian has filed a complaint with French authorities against Vitalii Sediuk. The celebrity "prankster" tried to ...