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Image: Tiger Woods talks on his cell phone
Scott Halleran  /  Getty Images file
Tiger Woods, our most recent example of the electronically naïve and famous, has been a celebrity long enough to understand the advanced tools — cell phones and tape recorders— available to the gossip machine.”
Helen Popkin
By
msnbc.com
updated 12/3/2009 8:59:42 AM ET 2009-12-03T13:59:42

Not since Prince Charles of Wales told then-mistress Camilla Parker-Bowles of his desire to be her feminine hygiene product has an adulterous celebrity been so humiliated by a telephone communiqué. We’re talking about Tiger Woods here, and the voice mail message he left to an alleged mistress, released earlier this week by Us Weekly. In review:

“Hey, it’s, uh, it’s Tiger. I need you to do me a huge favor. Um, can you please, uh, take your name off your phone. My wife went through my phone. And, uh, may be calling you. If you can, please take your name off that and, um, and what do you call it just have it as a number on the voice mail, just have it as your telephone number. That’s it, OK. You gotta do this for me. Huge. Quickly. All right. Bye.”

One might argue that a British Royal erotically name-checking Tampax while engaging in illicit love talk with a wife that isn’t his is a far more crippling crime than Woods asking … er, pretty much begging … some woman to erase her identity from her own cellular device.

But, dude! Let’s consider the facts. Prince Charles — though never the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree — was busted back in 1993, when a tabloid published a transcript of the conversation. It was the comparative Stone Age of technological awareness, not to mention the fact that Charles was engaging in a one-on-one conversation for which he had every expectation of privacy. Here in the technologically savvy future, celebrities are apparently just stupid.

Woods failed to take even the most basic precautions with his digital behavior. Not that Dude should have run down to RadioShack (or “The Shack,” as it now prefers) and get a Darth Vader voice changer. Just maybe not begin with “It’s Tiger” in a message that for all intents and purposes, might as well continue, “ Hey, lady I had the sex with ,” include his Social Security number, a camphone image of his driver’s license and a plug for his latest product endorsement.

Woods, our most recent example of the electronically naïve and famous, has been a celebrity long enough to understand the advanced tools available to the gossip machine. This rock star of the golf kingdom obviously knows enough about cell phones to leave a recorded message. Woods has a family and 80 kajillion million bucks on endorsement deals to lose, yet he still willingly and purposely left an incriminating voice mail on some woman’s cell phone … along with 300-plus sexy text messages, according to the woman on the other end.

Yet Woods is not a lone star in his Luddite status. Athletes, entertainers and, of course, politicians are all amazingly ignorant when it comes to the day-to-day digital activities most everyone takes for granted. Yes, yes, you don’t have to be well-known to be technologically sloppy. From cell phones to Twitter, there are plenty of busted spouses and Facebook fired among us plebes to prove it. But unlike us, celebrities and politicians know they’re being watched. And still they fail to budget! (Anyone up for a “hike” on the “Appalachian Trail,” per se?)

Now if you’re, say, Britney Spears or maybe Fox News, odds are some puckish geek out there is going to go after your Twitter account and start broadcasting information about how you, say, worship the devil or that one of your TV hosts, say Bill O’Reilly (the guy who left that sexy “loofah” voice mail), is a homosexual — as recently happened to these two entities, respectively. Not much you can do about that other than remain vigilant so you can run damage control.

Same goes for Paris Hilton’s Sidekick, from which some clever code monkey purloined both the address book and images and posted them on the Web back in 2005 during the height of her “Simple Life” fame. Except maybe if you’ve already had your homemade porn tape released against your will, you’d want to be more careful about the images you record following that learning moment. Not so much for Hilton, whose hacked images revealed a bounty of nudie camphone shots ... not that Paris was much worse for wear. 

But pity (and I mean that sort of sarcastically) poor Miley Cyrus, forced to abandon her 2 million Twitter followers a few months ago for reasons she poignantly described in her DIY “hip-hop” video posted on YouTube. “Everything that I type and everything that I do, all those lame gossip sites take it and make it news,” the “Hannah Montana” star “rapped.” (Either that, or because her boyfriend told her to.)

Who knew those “lame gossip sites” would go and do that? (See above parenthetical re: sarcasm.) Maybe her failed country star dad, Billy Ray Cyrus, who continued to fail at parenting by begging his daughter to return to “tweeting about pimples” and “living for people,” as she rapped, on the microblogging site ASAP.

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As Dad posted: “You can’t leave everyone now. We r countin on u.”

Careful, Miley! Papa Cyrus seems well on his way to be replaying family phone calls for the masses, like that sassy Michael Lohan , before Lindsay and the rest of the clan seemed to figure out it was best not to talk to the former family patriarch before doing a full-on bug sweep. No doubt that’s why he resorted to recording and releasing conversations with everyone’s favorite man in midlife crisis, Jon Gosselin , who’s been famous long enough to know (or not know) better.

Speaking of famous fathers and their misuse of recording conversations, it’s one thing to have a full-on, massive freakout bordering on abusive to your almost-teenage daughter, but when you’re a movie star on a hit NBC show, embroiled in a “War of the Roses”-style divorce with Kim Basinger, you think you’d find the self-control to not leave it as a message on that daughter’s cell phone, Alec Baldwin .

It seems celebrity dads should take special note when it comes to technology turned against them by the children they sired. Obviously David Hasselhoff was in no condition to pick up the video camera his daughter focused on him during one particularly unattractive alcohol-and-Wendy’s fueled binge.

Oh, we could go on and on all day about entertainers soiling themselves on Twitter, politicians incriminating themselves in e-mails, that one time Michael Phelps smoked dope with a camcorder in his face, and all the icky celebrity sex tapes — stills from which TMZ is destined to inflict on us someday soon. But there’s a lesson to be had here, both for those in the spotlight and out. And that lesson comes from none other than ubiquitous Twitterer John Mayer himself.

Want to avoid technological humiliation? Just live like every second of your life is being recorded for public consumption. For example, if John Mayer gets in Twitter trouble blathering about whatever lady he’s about to dump or some other overly confident 140 characters or less, he just thinks it’s cool and ironic and poses in a Borat man-kini or runs out and adds some more ink to his sleeve (I like to imagine).

If, like Tiger Woods, you continue to operate with the willful ignorance about how technology can cut you, it may become sentient and turn against you. Three hundred stupid text messages to your mistress too many, and the next thing you know, there are 3-D videos popping up in Taiwan reimaging the events on that fateful night. There you are all animated, your Sims™-style wife chasing you like a T-10000 Terminator, her liquid metal arm morphing into a golf club, while you flee, like Sarah Connor, in your ill-fated SUV.

Or maybe just don't cheat on your wife.

Helen A.S. Popkin probably isn't famous enough to humiliate herself in any meaningful way, but you're welcome to cross your fingers when you friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter!

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