Hollywood and Washington have long enjoyed a close, if often tense, relationship. There is, of course, the old saying that Washington is Hollywood for ugly people.
So it is little wonder that celebrity website TMZ.com is expanding its coverage of Washington, D.C. and attempting to put a new face on U.S. lawmakers with its unique coverage of body shapes, car styles, sidewalk interviews and legal snafus.
Harvey Levin, the mastermind behind TMZ.com and its sister television show TMZ, was in Washington on Thursday looking to hire a second D.C. staff member who will give politicians the TMZ star treatment.
Levin's trip comes as celebrity magazines such as People and US Weekly also widen their lens from Hollywood's film and TV celebrities to breathless coverage of President Barack Obama and his family. Culture watchers say the change of focus for these chroniclers of stars holds both promise and risk.
If it leads to us doing further research to find out about where you stand and where your policy is, that's a good thing, said Cooper Lawrence, author of The Cult of Celebrity.
But if it leads us to vote for you just because you're cute and we like your children, it's limiting, she said.
In recent months, TMZ has published an item on Republican Sen. Richard Burr from North Carolina driving a 1974 Volkswagen convertible with the top down in a snowstorm.
The website posted another spot on 27-year-old Rep. Aaron Schock, a Republican from Illinois dubbed in the media as Congress' hottest freshman. Schock was on his way to an appearance on cable channel C-SPAN when a TMZ reporter with a handheld camera asked him not about public policy, but about his abdominal muscles.
Interestingly, I've been quite frankly surprised by how many constituents, who I might not otherwise have heard from, have reached out to me because they saw me on TMZ, Schock told Reuters.
Levin, speaking by phone from his Washington hotel, said TMZ is expanding its Washington coverage because there is a market for news about politicians.
These are one dimensional stick-figure people to most of America, that everyone is so tightly managed, that there's no personality that comes out, Levin said. I think that you can kind of flesh it out and show, hey these are fun people.
An attorney and a longtime TV personality, Levin said TMZ added a Washington staff member about one year ago to extend its notion of celebrity to the lives of politicians.
Washington has taken note.
After a TMZ reporter last week asked Democratic members of Congress if they Twitter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office sent an email to Democrats warning TMZ was lurking.
Lawrence, who also hosts a syndicated radio show, said the public's appetite to see politicians' more personal side is a product of the Internet age.
There's so much information out there that if we have no information about you, it makes us suspicious, she said.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)