06/02/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT
WHENEVER SOMETHING BREAKS," says Matt Drudge, "I go where the stink is." As 50,000 e-mail subscribers to his Drudge Report can attest, the man has a nose for news. Delivering dish about the worlds of showbiz and politics, the 30-year-old former slacker is rewriting the book on news gathering in the '90s. Among his splashiest scoops: Jerry Seinfeld's demanding $1 million an episode, Bob Dole's choosing Jack Kemp as a running mate and, most recently, the woes of this summer's Titanic movie. MSNBC newsman John Hockenberry calls Drudge "part of an evolution that comes straight out of Walter Winchell."
The unmarried Drudge spends most of his time in a cluttered Hollywood apartment that friend Andrew Breitbart, a producer at E! Online, describes as Geek Central. Relying on what he calls word-of-mouse info he gets from e-mail tipsters, he speed-dials around the country, then writes up his breathless dispatches. (Among recent tantalizers: "Is John Huang talking to Bob Woodward?" and "Source: Bill Gates eyeing Wall Street Journal.") Drudge charges $10 a year for the Report, which he also posts on the Web (at www.drudgereport.com) every few days. His success, he says, hinges on his no-holds-barred attitude: "It's a gotcha sheet in a town where nobody's playing gotcha."
The only son of a Washington social-worker father and an attorney mother, Drudge wasn't exactly born to write. "I barely got out of high school," says the ex-manager of the CBS Studio Store in Studio City: "Bad grammar, bad spelling." The Report, started in '95, has famous fans. Rush Limbaugh, noting Drudge's penchant for Clinton bashing, dubbed him "the Rush Limbaugh of the Internet." Drudge has come a long way from the days when "I used to dig in Daily Variety's trash cans." That was, he adds, "before I evolved."