FORGET ABOUT all those polls - those grassroots straws, those scientific Gallups, those Vegas betting lines, because these days when it comes to celebs, the only true gauge of who's hot and who's not is eBay.
Take, for example, Britney Spears. The number of Spears-related items sold at the online auction site so far in 2007 total 34,345, compared with 27,377 items associated with Paris Hilton, eBay said this week.
Items associated with Spears ranged from signed CDs to disposable lighters featuring her likeness. Among the Hilton-related items sold: a toothbrush claimed to have been found in the hotel heiress' trash.
(That sound you just heard was 2,000 years of Western culture swirling down the porcelain facility.)
Lindsay Lohan? Yesterday's news. Her name was associated with just 8,099 items sold, according to eBay.
But the big winner, the No. 1 cultural icon, the most saleable brand in Celeb World? Steroidal slugger Barry Bonds, with 145,497 related items, including a grilled-cheese sandwich sold for $30 after its owner claimed that Bonds' 756th home-run ball bounced off the sandwich in San Francisco's AT&T Park.
YA GOTTA HAVE 'FRIENDS': Some of the stars of the dear, departed sitcom "Friends" have been finding that those lyrics to the show's theme song - "So no one told you life was gonna be this way . . . clap clap clap clap . . ." - pretty well described the state of their careers at the moment. So, it comes as no surprise - okay, a little bit of a surprise - that the "no way, never again" sentiments they spouted at the series' close are starting to crack a little at the seams.
Courtney Cox, when asked by Us Weekly if she could see the Cox/Jennifer Aniston/Matt LeBlanc/David Schwimmer/Matthew Perry group getting together again, did not snort the snort that that query has been getting since 2004.
"I don't think so," Cox said, "but I would never say 100 percent no."
Somebody on strike is probably already writing the script.
THERE'RE JUST NO WORDS: As for the Writers Guild of America strike, here's the explanation that Milo Ventimiglia, who stars as Peter Petrelli on NBC's rapidly deflating hit "Heroes," gave for why the show went and wrapped up its season's story arc with Monday's episode. Was it because the story had met its logical conclusion? Was it because art demanded that things end where they did? Says Ventimiglia: "We ran out of stuff to shoot." *