Magazine article The American Prospect

The Web of Celebrity

Magazine article The American Prospect

The Web of Celebrity

Article excerpt

In August, Cindy Margolis kicked off The Cindy Margolis Show, a variety show taped in Miami,s South Beach for Eyemark Entertainment, CBS's syndication wing. Margolis is a thirty-something former Cal State Northridge business student-turned-model who distinguished herself from other former business students-turned-models in the mid-1990s not so much through her appearances on greeting cards or as a "Barker's Beauty" on The Price is Right or a nipple-gunning "fembot" in Austin Powers as by launching an Internet site, CindyMargolis.com, featuring photos of her friendly, curvy self. She became, according to Guinness World Records 2000, the Most Downloaded Woman in the world. She has her own calendar, has made guest appearances on sitcoms and Hollywood Squares and Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, has chatted with David Letterman and Roseanne, and has hosted a series of specials on cable's E! channel; she was one of People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in 1998, Details magazine's Sexiest Woman of the Year in 1999, and one of Forbes magazine's Top 100 Celebrities in 1999 and 2000. Soon, believe it or not, in addition to her TV show, she will be a featured attraction in Ripley's Believe It or Not! museums.

Margolis's nearest male counterpart is unquestionably Mahir Cagri, the 37-year-old Turkish accordionist/journalist whose goofy Web page became a sudden sensation last November. The site featured photos of the mustachioed Cagri in a teeny bathing suit and playing ping-pong and with his accordion. It offered a lovely "I Kiss You!!!!!" welcome, along with frank proclamations such as "I like sex" and charming made-up words such as "invitate" and "musicenstrumans." Within days of his posting, kitsch-and-irony mavens the world over were e-mailing each other about the site. By the second day, 500,000 had visited, and over the following months, page views ran into the millions. As Cagri himself put it later on his Web page, it was like "having something fall on your head while walking through."

It turned out that much of the funniest and most endearing stuff--the lines about liking sex and liking to take "foto-camera (animals, towns, nice nude models and peoples)"--was added to his site by a Turkish hacker, but by the time that news broke, Mahir Cagri was already a celebrity. An Internet company called eTour brought him on a U.S. tour. At his San Francisco debut, Janelle Brown reported in Salon, he was "surrounded by TV cameras and flashing lights and flanked by eTour P.R. people," and mobbed by a crowd of people "screaming and pushing forward and acting like a bunch of teenage girls at a Backstreet Boys concert" By now, he too has appeared on Roseanne's and Letterman's shows and Comedy Central's Daily Show. He's been profiled in People, Time, USA TODAY, and Entertainment Weekly. He was number 100 on Forbes's list of the 100 most influential people in the entertainment industry, and has reportedly received personal e-mails from Bills Clinton and Gates. Like any good celebrity, he is working on a film deal and has announced plans to use his fame to promote World Peace and help The Children.

Cagri and Margolis are two of a handful of Internet-produced celebrities, most of them still at about the same low-grade, could-end-any-second level of fame. They join people such as Matt Drudge (who made his name through online Winchellesque journalism and from there became a small-time radio and television personality and sometime pundit), Jennifer Ringley (a pioneer in online exhibitionism whose JenniCAM displays her everyday life nonstop on the Internet, and who was recently featured in Entertainment Weekly's 10th anniversary issue), Breakup Girl (an animated dating-advice superheroine, anointed as "a star on the Net" by The New York Times, who now has her own show on Oxygen and whose alter ego and co-creator, Lynn Harris, has appeared on talk shows galore), bands like the duo Fisher (whose "I Will Love You" became the most downloaded pop/rock song on MP3. …

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