I love the shortcuts in Los Angeles that can take you from trafficked boulevards into rustic canyons. For natives only. Skies so blue. As my car screeched to a halt the other day – almost causing an accident behind the white van blocking the road – I looked up and realized that I was in front of Courtney Cox’s house. The white Starline Tours van was precariously wedged halfway between those going up and those coming down the canyon street.

How can the celebrities that live in the hills above Sunset stand the lack of privacy that they must endure when they become a target of the Starline Tours?

Where do you draw the line between public and private these days? Standing in line at the supermarket, the magazines and tabloids are filled with all kinds of incredible stories: celebs and non-celebs. Where do they get all of this stuff? And how do you “hide” if you’re famous and live in a city like L.A.?

Not easily, it turns out if you’re a famous person. Even the “simple folk” residents of the Hollywood Hills are up in arms these days as the immediacy of the information available via public records has beefed up business for Starline Tours. The vans were a familiar site snaking their way through Beverly Hills and the surrounding areas, slowing down to point out the Desi and Lucy house and others of a bygone era of Hollywood. Then they realized that their audience had no idea who owned 80 percent of the homes, and business started to drop. Dead movie stars don’t make good house tours for most people.

So they re-routed the tours to point out where the young and fabulous people live. Right now. Their cars are in their driveways. Their trashcans are in their yards. Winona, Keanu, Courtney, Ellen, Toby, Leo. You know who they are.

Even to us “regular guys” who live next door, the sight of the white van crawling along the streets of the Hollywood Hills now means only one thing – a considerable loss of privacy. 

“Do you know that I’m on the Starline tour?” a famous friend asked recently. “I saw them. In front of my house. Stopped. Staring.”

Now to me, the bus is little more than an annoyance that slows down the local traffic. But suddenly I had the creeps. “They know where you live?” I responded, sounding very naive. “That’s weird,” I said. “They must have gotten it off the public records.”

It used to be a joke that you would be driving along Sunset Strip and see the Star Maps for sale. Nobody had lived in the houses listed on it for at least 25 years, and who would be dumb enough to buy one of those maps? Not anymore. Today’s maps show current residents from television and movies, and musical stars.

When I arrived home, in my mailbox was a solicitation from a mortgage lender who wrote that I can refinance my recent refinance. The letter named my current mortgage lender of less than 90 days. The power of public records information is incredible: coupons welcoming me to my new home, discounts for burglar alarm systems, hardware store purchases and other invaluable offers.

Frankly, it’s a little too immediate for me. Big brother is here.

Julie Brosterman is a consultant to the real estate technology, mortgage and servicing industries. After she spent 15 years in the title insurance industry, the Internet “spoke” to her and she has never looked back. She lives in Los Angeles and can be contacted at juliebrosterman@hotmail.com.

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