August 1, 2005— -- How do you get ahead in Hollywood?
Forget working your way up through the mailroom. Heather Robinson turned to cyberspace to get to celebrities and now she and her mother, Jan, are up-and-coming movie moguls.
Heather Robinson was looking to meet people online and found celebrity e-mail addresses in a database while she was working at AOL in 1997, a time when online privacy was not as protected as it is now.
"I just thought they were fascinating," Heather Robinson said, explaining her motive for reaching out to stars. "I wondered what they were like in real life."
Heather Robinson would check out celebrity profiles to find out what the stars were interested in, then research the latest in mountain biking or flying so she would have something to chat about with them. She always revealed who she was up front, and she never talked about the entertainment industry, she said.
Some people may have called Robinson an electronic stalker who "hacked her way into Hollywood," but she said she followed the rules set out by AOL.
"He [my supervisor at AOL] said I could do that as long as the celebrity was in a chat room or had an online profile," Robinson said.
Robinson gathered a group of more than 100 celebrity friends, including Carrie Fisher, Matthew Perry and an ABC anchor she declined to name. She even became involved with one celebrity after meeting online, and another friendship launched her own Hollywood career.
Robinson was chatting with Carrie Fisher and told her about an episode from her own life she thought would do well on the big screen: when Robinson was a teenager, she tried to make her mother, Jan, feel better after her divorce by making up an online suitor and carrying the hoax on for eight months.
Thanks to the help of Fisher, that story is the basis for "The Perfect Man," starring Heather Locklear and Hillary Duff.
Jan Robinson said she and Heather have three more movie scripts in the works, two based on real-life experiences, as well as a sitcom.
"This introduced us to the wonderful world of creating things and telling stories," Jan Robinson said.