Psst. Gossip Is Big Business

032602, story, Celebrity Scoop, JM
Village Voice gossip columnist Michael Musto loves his work, the booming business of buzz.

"I kinda float through a nightclub, and that causes people to come up and spill their guts to me," Musto says.

He shows up every evening at the latest hot spot, wrinkled notes in hand, ready to chronicle the rich and famous -- who's up, who's down, who's nobody, details CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Susan Spencer.

"Everyone loves to gossip. In high school we gossiped about the high school cheerleader and the football captain: 'Oh I hate them because they're so happy.' We want to see celebrities brought down a notch -- that's the real power of gossip," Musto says.

Musto had just left a mob scene outside Julia Roberts' new play where crowds gather nightly hoping just to see Roberts dash to her car.

But celebrity obsession is more than a cultural phenomenon these days. It's also a huge business and gossip is king.

Just ask Bonnie Fuller, executive director of American Media, publisher of the National Enquirer and Star magazine, which saw its ad sales rise 84 percent last year.

She's built a career of feeding the public's insatiable appetite for gossip.

"Listen, it's genetic. We're nosy. We've been nosy since the dawn of time. I think people were probably gossiping, you know, way back in cave man times: 'OK, what's going on in your tribe? What's the tribe leader really think? Who's he gonna pick for his wife?'" Fuller quips.

Fuller says Star fact checks everything, although it does routinely use anonymous sources and occasionally hits a snag -- remember Jessica Simpson's pregnancy?

"It turned out that the sources that had been very good on other things were just wrong on this one, but other pregnancies we've been right on," Fuller says.