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Celebs Strike Back!: Celebrities Reclaim The Web

Stars from Christian Bale to Tiffani Thiessen are using websites to change their public images

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Since the conclusion of her stint on Beverly Hills, 90210, Tiffani Thiessen has lost a middle name (the ”Amber” has been retired) and gained a website. Well, not quite: The site is getting its finishing touches. Thiessen, who gamely admits her own ”control issues,” wants to get it just right before launching. ”I didn’t really care for the colors they were using,” she says of the first version, produced by homepage-provider-to-the-stars CelebSites. ”So they changed everything.”

Why is she taking such special care? After all, it’s only one of thousands of Pravda-like propaganda shrines floating in cyberspace. But to Thiessen — and to a growing number of celebrities — an official site represents much more. It’s a chance for the stars to interact directly with the fans — and to exercise some control over their own images. Says Thiessen: ”Hopefully, fans will say, ‘This is directly from her. This is what she wants us to see.”’

Heaven knows there’s plenty of stuff out there she doesn’t want us to see. Thiessen hasn’t visited all of her fan sites, but the ones she’s seen have been, for the most part, ”false, or they were kind of nasty and gross.” Disappointed by the use and abuse of her name and image, Thiessen, 26, has set out to polish her web-utation.

”It’s the whole thing of getting your name back to you,” says the actress, whose quest to ”buy back” her moniker was complicated simply by spelling — not Aaron this time, but actual orthography. ”My name can be spelled so many different ways,” she laments. ”A lot of people have ownership over [URLs like] http://www.tiffanyamberthiessen.com — with a y.” Two such variants — http://www.tiffanithiessen.com and http://www.tiffaniamberthiessen.com — have been reserved by CelebSites, which will direct surfers to the actress’ official page.

Thiessen’s site (launching early this month) will carry news of her recent exploits, including an arc on ABC’s Two Guys and a Girl and a role in Paramount’s The Ladies Man (opening Oct. 13). But there is something she won’t be doing with her page: selling merchandise. ”I really don’t believe in that,” says the actress. Attention, illicit Tiffaniana dealers: Your investment is safe.

Here we check in with seven other celebs and their namesake sites, both fan and official. Each understands that Web presence and stage presence go hand in hand.

Anything but. Sure, it’s comprehensive, worshipful, and non-pornographic, but an eight-year-old pic of Tiff blinking her eyes in time with ”(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” is, in Thiessen’s own words, ”freaky.” B-

Earning his fangs as a vampire on The WB’s cultishly popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then getting his own show, Angel, has taught David Boreanaz that online followings can be very good things indeed. Accordingly, he sees his four- month-old official site as ”basically a thank-you” to his fans. There you’ll get both behind-the-scenes info on upcoming shows and background on David himself (he likes collecting everything from antique cigarette holders to furniture). Not the most exciting revelations, but that’s generally what you’ll find at official celeb sites. Though Boreanaz admits he thinks ”computers are boring,” he enlisted the help of a friend at Celebrityblvd — a company that helps stars fashion their sites — and chose everything from the blues music to the colors and animation.
The Look: A- Coolness: B- Navigability: B- Overall: B