An angel hovers over the giant, heart-shaped virtual doily containing the head of Alyssa Milano and logos from all her TV shows -- from Who's the Boss to Melrose Place and Charmed. "Welcome to the Official Web Site for Actress Alyssa Milano," reads the text below the angel's fluttering wings.
Gold cursive writing capped with sunbursts, fluttering angels and heart shaped doilies are the recurring motifs of Alyssa's official Web presence. The story of its creation is far saucier.
The TV actress's 12-year-old brother was surfing the Web when he, um, stumbled across nude photos of his darling sis. He promptly freaked out and called his mom. Not all of these pics were doctored, but never mind that. In celebrityland, image is property, and these porn sites were clearly stealing. The Milanos sued and won. And since winning is never enough, they also launched SafeSearching.com, a porn-free portal, and Alyssa.com, a heavenly, virginal paradise on earth.
There she is! Sweet, innocent Alyssa Milano, dressed up in straw hat and flowery dresses.
There she is again, the cute little girl with the big personality and dreams of stardom in her teeny, kiddie brain.
Oh, and here's an update on the Justice Department's "Net Obscenity Crackdown." Gooooo Justice Department!
There are a few sultry shots of Alyssa on this Web page, as well. This is, after all, a woman who'd have no career if little boys didn't masturbate. But here, alas, she's clothed for every picture on every hearts-and-angels- themed page.
Offline, Alyssa is anything but modest. Her breasts were special guests on the last, dying seasons of Melrose Place. A 60-second perfume ad featuring Milano dressed in black lingerie and writhing in a bed while her date fumbles through a cabinet full of condoms was pulled because it was too "sexual." And Ms. Angelic recently strutted her nude stuff on the glossy teen-fantasy pages of Details.
It's not unusual for female celebrities who want to keep making money, but who bristle at being reduced to overcompensated cheesecake, to hypocritically decry the use of their image in a sexual manner.
Nicole Kidman, who can't seem to keep her clothes on these days, told Rolling Stone recently, "Tom and I aren't exhibitionists; we've never been. It's not in our personalities. We're more inhibited than that." This, above a picture of her wearing nothing more than a hat and a pair of lattice thigh-high boots.
Michelle Williams, who plays a vixen with a heart of gold on Dawson's Creek, recently told Paper magazine that the photo shoot she did for Maxim made her feel "like a piece of meat." She wore a bikini top and short shorts for the Paper shoot and is currently appearing totally naked in the off-Broadway drama Killer Joe.
Like these women, Alyssa is marketing and profiting from her sex appeal, while trying to maintain a conscience-soothing distance from it. Yet while others settle for sending a double message and collecting the check, Milano embraces both extremes simultaneously.
In print and on the small screen, Alyssa Milano's a whore for our imaginations. Yet on the Internet, where the lines between fantasy and reality are frequently blurred, she's like a virgin. Online virgin, offline whore. Never the twain shall meet.
Jenn Shreve is a freelance writer in San Francisco, a media columnist for Salon.com, and honorary member of the Alyssa Milano fan club.