Picks and Pans Main: Bytes
It was Lin Milano's teenage son Cory who tipped off his mom to pictures on the Web of his sister Alyssa—the actress made famous as moppet-next-door Samantha on ABC's Who's the Boss? When Lin went online in 1995, what she found wasn't suitable for the family album. Some sites featured flesh-baring freeze-frames from Alyssa's schlocky 1995 movie Embrace of the Vampire. Others electronically pasted Alyssa's head atop the bodies of people in pornographic poses. Milano, 49, called an immediate huddle with her daughter, now 24. "I told Alyssa that I was going to try to kick some butt and tell these people that this is not right," she says. "And Alyssa said, 'You go, girl!' "
Milano, who runs a Los Angeles talent-management company (her favorite client, Alyssa, is taking a turn on Melrose Place), e-mailed operators of the offending Web sites and demanded that they zap the photos. If they refused, Milano had a lawyer send a letter threatening suit, which usually did the trick. Milano then turned her Web-scouring skill into a business called Cyber Tracker. Charging $150 an hour, she sends 20 to 50 messages a day on behalf of three celebrity clients (whom she declines to name). "I'm sort of like a cybercop telling them, 'You got caught, guys. Now step away from your keyboards and spread 'em,' " says Milano, who has not taken any of her targets to court.
Even fake images can encourage stalkers and cause emotional pain, says Milano, who lives in Studio City with husband Thomas while Cory, 15, attends boarding school. Alyssa agrees, "People were e-mailing my little brother naked pictures of me, and it was really disturbing." That's enough to mobilize any mom. "It's something I feel very worthwhile in doing," Milano says. "Sort of like when you're a mommy, you do P.T.A. at school."
Ever wish you could try out a new hairdo without taking a snip or sample a new lipstick without braving the makeup counter? Two new CD-ROMs, Cosmopolitan Virtual Makeover ($39.99) and Wig Out! ($29.99), let the cautious test-run new looks. First, you need to load a digitized photo of yourself. (Both programs include free offers to put snapshots on disk.) Then it's on to the fun. The sillier Wig Out! will picture you in any of hundreds of men's and women's hairstyles—from fashionable to far-out—as well as hats, eyeglasses, even mustaches. In addition to tresses, beauty marks and colored contact lenses, the Cosmo disc lets you try Cover Girl brand cosmetics, such as Iced Cappuccino Cheekers blush or Toasted Almond lipstick. It's sometimes difficult to make the makeup look realistic (eyebrow pencil was never meant to be painted on with a mouse). But as party games, these two programs are picture-perfect.