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Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Stars face naked truth


No nudes is good news for Cameron Diaz.

Yesterday a Santa Monica judge sealed nude photos and a videotape of the Charlie's Angels sex symbol made during a private modeling session a decade ago.

After saying that Diaz has a right to privacy of her own body, Judge Alan Haber set a Sept. 12 hearing on her request for an injunction against the photographer.

Diaz has fought to keep the images -- the contents of the tape are unknown -- from the public, making her just the latest star to tangle in a courtroom over pictures that reveal more than just naked ambition.

"Stars often do things when they're first starting out that they would never do when they're pulling down $15 million paycheques for big movies," says New York Post Page Six columnist Chris Wilson. "It's every sleazy photographer's dream that some naked pictures he took are of a young model who ends up being a huge movie star."

Decades before she was reduced to appearing in TV ads for the Gap, pop icon Madonna was a teen-friendly singer when Playboy published nude photos of her in the '80s.

"That guy thought he was just taking photos of some young chick from downtown New York and then she became this massive pop superstar," Wilson says, recalling that Madonna shrugged off the controversy, hinting at racier times ahead.

When Vanessa Williams lost her Miss America crown over nude photos Penthouse published of her in 1984, it in fact launched her career, Wilson notes. "That ended up propelling her into the publicity stratosphere. It separated her from being just a beauty queen."

Most stars, however, "feel violated and exploited" when photos of them -- either from the past or snapped by paparazzi -- turn up on a website or magazine, Wilson says.

This past spring, images of a very pregnant and topless Catherine Zeta-Jones smoking a cigarette appeared online.

Hollywood heartthrobs Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt both went to court to stop the publication of nude photos by Playgirl.

DiCaprio, at that point hot off the success of Titanic, had filed the suit after discovering the magazine had obtained the photos. DiCaprio cited invasion of privacy and emotional distress. The suit was eventually settled.

A year earlier, it was Pitt who took on Playgirl and won, convincing a judge to stop publication of an issue that included images of the actor taken while he was vacationing in the French West Indies.

Pitt claimed the nude photos -- depicting him and then-girlfriend Gwyneth Paltrow -- caused him "great distress, anxiety and depression."

"Some of these people have so much money and have so much access to the top legal professionals in the U.S., they can really use their star power to get a lot of these photos pulled from the websites," says the Hollywood Reporter's Chris Gardner. "They can show that they won't stand for this. And it's worked a couple times. I've definitely seen an increase (in stars suing over photos). They're won a lot of cases recently."

Most recently, Pitt's wife, Friends actress Jennifer Aniston, filed suit to block publication of non-explicit photos taken of her and Pitt while they were vacationing in Mexico.


But even as Hollywood's elite goes on the offensive, the demand for their unguarded images remains insatiable.

"The frenzy for these types of photos and stories has hit an all-time high in recent years. US Weekly sells tons of copies and their subscriptions are going up. There is a definite hunger for it," Gardner says.

"(With) most reputable magazines, (stars) don't have to worry," Wilson says. "But they do have to worry about the Internet and (Hustler publisher) Larry Flynt, who has shown he'll do whatever he wants. But it's not like US Weekly is going to run the photos. Even (the supermarket papers) don't run nude pictures. So it's only the fringe elements you have to worry about.

"But in this age of e-mail, (photos) can still be forwarded to thousands of people, which practically has the same effect as being in a magazine."

Some stars have even fought to prevent webmasters from making money off doctored nude images of them.

Charmed's Alyssa Milano broke legal ground when she battled webmasters posting fake nude photos of her -- winning more than $200,000 in damages.

She's gone on to sue websites for posting images from films she's bared all in.

"She made a big deal about that (because) the purpose of the scenes was being changed for the profit of these random websites," Gardner says. "As long as they have money and they have the energy to keep fighting these battles, it'll keep going. Unless they lock themselves up in a cage, they can't stop it."

-- With files from AP

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