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Programming note: CNN Presents "Chasing Angelina" explores celebrity obsession. Saturday and Sunday, May 13-14, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET

Celeb blogger: Publicists, schmublicists

Mark Lisanti


CNN Access
Angelina Jolie

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Celebrity gossip blogger Mark Lisanti, who has scorched many a celebrity on his "Defamer" site, says his job is to dissect the Hollywood culture and "make fun" of it.

Lisanti spoke with "CNN Presents" to discuss his job as part of a documentary, "Chasing Angelina: Paparazzi and Celebrity Obsession."

QUESTION: How does Defamer fit into this world of celebrity? Why is something like necessary?

LISANTI: It's just a different way of kind of looking at the entire world of Hollywood and celebrity, you know. The average thing you look at on the newsstand or on TV is tied up in the whole publicity machine, and Defamer isn't.

Q: How is Defamer going to present a story differently than the mainstream media?

LISANTI: The way Defamer kind of tackles stories like that with, you know, Angelina Jolie's pregnancy, which is kind of like this world shaking event in the world of celebrity glossies, is we just kind of look at it and we realize that the type of person that might want to read the site ... not everybody's going to want to read it in this packaged way that is being presented to them. So we'll present it with more of a humor slant, a satirical look at it, and we'll take what the media has reported and we'll pick it apart and analyze it and kind of generally obsess over it in a way that's just going to be different than you're going to get from a gigantic, you know, media company.

Q: Are you worried about your relationship with a celebrity's publicist? Do they get angry with you for posting things about their clients?

LISANTI: I'm sure I have pissed off plenty of publicists in my day, because I don't deal with them, and, you know, when you write something about their client that might seem a little bit unflattering, it's their job to not like it.

The thing about dealing with publicists is ... their job is to trade the access to their clients for coverage. And since we have no need for access to their clients, we don't have to do any kind of trades to get the information.

So there's kind of almost no reason to deal with publicists, other than to kind of deconstruct what their role is. And that's ... one of the things on the site I think that's the most fun to play around with: Taking very carefully crafted publicists statements and translating them and picking them apart and speculating about what they really mean when they say, "No comment."

Q: What do you give up not having good relationships with publicists?

LISANTI: I'm not getting a lot of gift baskets these days or free trips or expensive meals at the Four Seasons. And the other thing I'm giving up is the opportunity to sit in a room with a tape recorder and a movie star and ask them stories about their childhood or whatever else.

But, you know, that's not what we do. We make fun of that.

Q: Tell us about some of the items that got a lot of interest and hits on Defamer.

LISANTI: I did a post about a rumor that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were going to get officially engaged the next day in Paris on the press tour for "War of the Worlds." And you know a story like that, it literally went up 5 or 6 o'clock in the afternoon, and the next morning it was everywhere.

I woke up and I actually thought that when I turned on the computer and saw some news stories about it, that they had picked up a joke that I had written about him doing it at the Eiffel Tower, because ... it seemed such an obvious and cliché place to do it. And when I read the news reports that he proposed at the Eiffel Tower the next morning, I literally thought they read the item and reported it as true. You know, truth is stranger than fiction, once again.

Q: Are you ever nervous about posting something when you haven't done a lot of fact-checking or have no confirmation?

LISANTI: Not really because this is where what we do and what ... the mainstream media does kind of diverges. ... We're not afraid to put something up there that isn't fact-checked. ...

The trick is not to claim that we think it's the bible. You put it up there, you say, "Look this is just a crazy rumor that everybody's talking about. This is what everybody's chattering around the water cooler right now, let's throw it out there and see what we hear." You know, we don't need to spend the whole day fact-checking a rumor, when you can put it up. And then, if it gets debunked, you can immediately say, "Well, we heard this isn't true."

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