March 26th, 2008
09:18 AM ET

Pols, take a tip from the celebs

There was a time in the not so distant past when pop culture observers like me looked to the likes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears for our daily dose of scandal. Those girls could always be counted on to flash a crotch, cop a plea or be caught in possession of an illegal substance.

Britney Spears acquitted herself well on "How I Met Your Mother."

But in recent weeks paunchy middle-aged men have replaced the pretty young things as the poster children for outrageous behavior. Now Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson, and a recently initiated member of the horny elected rat pack, Kwame Kilpatrick, have replaced Young Hollywood on the front pages of the tabloids.

As a result, in the days leading up to the Iraq war anniversary serious journalists were grappling with questions like, “What comes in a seven-diamond package?” and headline writers were churning out tawdry gems like “Ho No” (the New York Post on Spitzer).

And now we have loads of new tidbits to file away in our “too much information” folder, whether we like it or not. Do we really need to know that Spitzer prefers to keep his socks on while doing the deed? That Paterson’s romper room of choice was at, of all places, the Days Inn?

Um, I’m going to go with a resounding no.

Nevertheless, we gobble it all up –- down to the titillating mayoral text messages (thanks, Kwame). And why?

Maybe it’s because we like to watch them recklessly flout the rules we’ve agreed to live by. Maybe it’s because we like to know our leaders are, to borrow a phrase from US Weekly, “just like us.” That is, far from perfect and sometimes shockingly stupid.

But here’s the difference. Most of us don’t spend our entire adult lives focused on how to be powerful and likable enough to earn the popular vote. And most of us don’t peddle ourselves as moral leaders with impeccable judgment. Hollywood’s girls gone wild certainly never did.

After jail time, rehab stints and reams of bad publicity, the starlets finally appear to be wising up … at least for now. At the ripe old age of 21, Lindsay isn’t the night crawler she used to be. Paris is in South Africa whooping it up at night, but touring orphanages during the day (that’s hot). And back under her dad’s thumb again, even Britney, the worst of the bunch, is apparently cleaning up her mess of an act. She looked healthy and thin and - most importantly - sober the other evening when she played a receptionist on the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”

We’ll see if the boys hunker down, pull their pants up and follow their lead.

- Lola Ogunnaike, "American Morning" entertainment correspondent

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