Meet The Dirty, the Web's newest in-your-face place

Next time you toss your cookies in Ybor, Facebook isn't the only place where the unfortunate photos might end up.

Calling itself a "reality blog," the Web site called TheDirty.com invites the public to send in unflattering photos of friends and strangers, includes snarky one-liners from the site's creator and encourages users to comment under each pic. Forty-five cities and 27 college campuses have a Dirty channel, including Tampa, the University of Florida and Florida State University.

The Dirty has already made victims of a handful of celebs and pro athletes. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart got trash-talked all over the Internet after the Dirty posted candid photos of him in a hot tub surrounded by young — maybe too young — women. Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens caught flak after the site posted pics of him in the background of what was supposedly a porn photo shoot. (The photos have since been removed from the site.) Nick Lachey, Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer and a handful of Olympic athletes are also dissected.

But even regular folks are at the site's mercy if they're caught on camera binge-drinking or striking what they considered a hot pose. That is, until the photographer e-mails the pic to the Dirty.

"Everyone loves to see their neighbor and wants to know about their neighbor. And everyone wants to be like Paris Hilton, who's famous for nothing. This site really gives those people that kind of opportunity," said the site's founder, who goes by the screen name Nik Richie (he said he's waiting to reveal his identity until the Dirty reaches "that Perez Hilton realm" of popularity).

The 20-something Richie receives on average 1,000 photo submissions a week from across the world, including 100 to 200 for the Tampa channel, which launched in the spring. Only 15 percent of the submissions get published. The rest, Richie said, are racist, sound fake, aren't funny, or are "way too below the belt" — a phrase that means different things to different people.

In June, Tampa police detective Mark Detrio, once a contestant on Fox's Temptation Island, unwittingly returned to the limelight after someone e-mailed a photo of him to the Dirty. The pic shows a bare-chested Detrio sticking out his tongue for the camera. What follows are cheap shots from Richie, more than 20 site visitors and the sender, who claims to have dated Detrio.

"I could (not) care less what people write about me, especially people who don't even know me and are just commenting," Detrio said, noting that the Internet is full of "lies and truths."

Another photo on Dirty Tampa caused even more of a stir. A picture labeled "Hooters — An Equal Opportunity Employer" features a pregnant server in the restaurant's trademark orange shorts. While some users rag on the mama-to-be ("I'm sure she couldn't tell you who the daddy is"), others come to her defense ("you go girl . . . rock the belly sister").

Richie said when someone requests to have a photo taken off the site, he obliges. "Everyone's a fan of the site until they're on it," he said.

Richie said he hopes to host a party in Gainesville or Orlando, where the guest of honor would be an ordinary person who has achieved Dirty celebrity. The beauty of his site, Richie said, is that he'll never run out of material, despite the fact that he doesn't even own a camera.

"Pretty much everyone who has a camera phone is their own civilian paparazzi," Richie said. "The content never ends, because it's not the same regurgitated celebrities over and over and over."

Dalia Colon can be reached at dcolon@sptimes.com.

On the Web

thedirty.com

Meet The Dirty, the Web's newest in-your-face place 08/15/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 16, 2008 5:07pm]

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