Crazy About Keanu

How I helped create one of the web’s most notorious fansites

September 15, 2014. It’s mid-morning in the Hollywood Hills, and Kerry Colen Raus is skinny-dipping in Keanu Reeves’ pool.

Prior to stripping down for a swim, Raus had the… courtesy?… to break into Reeves’ house and take a shower. Makes you wonder if there is a “Please Shower Before Entering” sign hanging next to the pool.

Raus, 50, thinks Reeves knows where to find her father, whom she believes was abducted by the government and placed in the witness protection program. She also believes her father is actor Ray Winstone, which — if true — would mean he was quite precocious when he was eight years old.

Two days before Raus was found naked in his pool, Reeves was awoken at 4 a.m. by a noise. He got out of bed and saw a dark figure standing in his bedroom doorway, carrying a suitcase.

A woman in her mid-40s had broken into the house hoping to meet her biggest celebrity idol. Reeves calmly talked with her and invited her to sit in his library, after which he called 911.

In both cases, the women were not arrested but instead detained pending a psychological evaluation.

Both women were served restraining orders, and — as Keanu Reeves obsessives — there’s a very good chance both women were regular readers and posters on, the sleaziest Keanu Reeves fan page on the internet.

A website created by me.

Interview magazine, September 1990.

“Dennis Cooper: Are you gay or what? Come on, make it official.

Keanu Reeves: No. [long pause] But ya never know.”

My neighbor Jeff and I created Ugossip in the summer of 1994, after my brother showed us what the internet was and gave us a book on HTML coding.

Our fledgling website changed rapidly in its first few months, evolving from us writing barely literate reviews of movies and Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes to a very active Hollywood gossip chatroom and message board community. The site was originally called — for Jeff, Teresa (my sister), and Joe — but we soon changed the name to better reflect what the site had become.

Back when Yahoo was Google before Google was Google, our site was linked from Yahoo’s “Entertainment” hub page — resulting in thousands of hits every day. Seemingly overnight, a website created by a couple of kids became one of the most popular Hollywood gossip sites on the web.

Heady times for a middle-schooler.

“Questionable Keanu. Is Keanu Reeves gay?”

I was 12 when I wrote that — young, homophobic, and alliterative. It was a headline for one of Ugossip’s message boards.

Keanu Reeves was a hot young star, and his sexual orientation was the subject of much interest and debate. It was perfect grist for one of the internet’s biggest Hollywood gossip sites.

Reeves had starred in several plays and movies in which his character was gay, and appeared in a homoerotic photoshoot.

Tabloids reported that, after a torrid affair, Reeves had married music producer David Geffen. His lack of a high-profile celebrity girlfriend, and his reluctance to refute the rumors, only fueled the gossip.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Reeves was asked why he never gives a straight (pun intended) answer to questions about his sexual orientation. His response? “There’s nothing wrong with being gay, so to deny it is to make a judgment.”

It was all too juicy for any self-respecting gossip site provocateur to ignore.

Visiting Ugossip in 2015 is like time-traveling to the Wild West of the web.

The first thing you notice is the movement — a gif of snowfall animates the background, while ancient emoticons flicker ceaselessly above a beckoning comment box. It is an archaic message board unlike nearly anything else on the internet today.

It is raw, unfiltered, and impossible to follow. Usernames are not required, resulting in web anarchy in its purest form.

Below is curated selection of Ugossip posts from November 29, 2015. All posts sic.

As Nobokov says, look at this tangle of thorns:

Referring to the movie John Wick, in which Reeves’ character has a pet beagle. He does not actually own the dog.

11/29, 08:39:31

Keanu shouldn’t have picked the beagle because beagles are hounds, scent hounds they were bred to follow their noses, not take orders from some old actor dude type abusive freakO

Two users arguing about Reeves’ love life:

11/29, 13:22:05

You are in deniel , he is fucking Sushi for over 6 months now, not only that, they do more destructive things together. Just no one puts a gun to his head, but she is a facilitator He wants to drop it and does not know how to. Drop the bitch

11/29, 13:38:55

no he is not fucking the three different woman who you refer to as sushi…disgusting. If he was with her, his people would make sure she had a name. A name that fans would know. Stop fooling yourself, he is not involved with a woman and that is the truth. Stop being afraid of his gayness, it won’t hurt you.

A series of posts in which one user claims to meet Reeves in Central Park and share a romantic tryst with him, while other users support or deny her story.

11/29, 19:52:25

Keanu in Central Park…what a lovely soul. nice to see him close up

11/29, 19:54:15

wonder why Keanu is not in Brooklyn?

11/29, 19:55:17

Keanu has such a wonderful sense of humor…he had me laughing.

11/29, 20:03:48

You’re a sicko mother fcker and you’re getting closed down

11/29, 20:04:40

His sense of humor means nothing to you since you’ll never meet him or speak to him

11/29, 20:05:12

Your continued inappropriate behavior with a celebrity who wouldn’t chit on you will have you lose everything

11/29, 20:03:07

People lose custody of their half wit kids for less

11/29, 20:38:45

She’s at his hotel again :-{)…love D people destiny has put in my path, wish 2 discover the true reason 4 it…don’t you?…LOL… ^_~

11/29, 20:38:45

Damn right, and the room is beautiful. the king size bed is dreamy, can you hear the champagne chilling… Chocolate dip strawberries are decadent…

11/29, 20:53:20

You go girl that hotel room sounds wonderful…yummy, champagne, chocolate dipped strawberries, and Keanu…whoa, now that’s sexy.

11/29, 20:58:35

calling out crazy people isn’t stalking. Following him to his hotel and watching him fck other women Is stalking

And on and on and on and on. Hundreds of posts every day. Since 1994.

When exploring Keanu Reeves fan sites and message boards, references to Ugossip abound.

“Like a car crash. I can’t not look.”

“The cesspool of Keanu pseudo-fandom.”

“The refuge of the delusional.”

“Nothing can be as horrid as Ugossip.”

In this sad, strange, dark corner of the internet, Ugossip is the rancid, wet sludge at the bottom of the garbage pile.

Cesspool that it may be, I marvel that something I created one summer as a kid still exists. Even if it is obsessive — and often delusional, and possibly occasionally criminal — Keanu Reeves fans who keep it alive, Ugossip is still the most significant contribution I’ve made to global culture.

I take little pride in this achievement.

Within a year of starting Ugossip, Jeff and I grew tired of running the site. Before long, we abandoned it. We didn’t take it down, but we figured it would soon perish without our expert management.

Instead, it became an example of early LGBT online fan culture. (Only later did it go feral.)

LGBT Identity and Online New Media is — according to its dust jacket — “A landmark anthology, [that] is the first to critically introduce and examine constructions of LGBT identity within new media.”

Yale University professor Ronald Gregg contributed a chapter to the book focusing on how gay fans talk about celebrities online and how they construct images of stars that run counter to the “authorized” images presented by publicists.

By the time Gregg visited Ugossip in 1999, the “Questionable Keanu” thread had become a haven for homoerotic Keanu Reeves fan fiction.

At another level were sexually explicit chat rooms and fictional fantasy sites devoted to recounting both heterosexual and homosexual desire. One chat room discussion thread titled “Questionable Keanu,” for instance, asked the question, “Is Keanu Gay?” Pseudonymous straight and queer contributors quoted Keanu Reeves, talked about his movies, posted Keanu sightings, and discussed whether they believed posted Keanu sightings. Many of the people on this site, most of whom seemed to be gay men, fantasized about meeting and having sex with Keanu in such places as back allies. (Gregg, LGBT Identity and Online New Media)

I had stopped managing Ugossip by the time its gay fantasy heyday arrived, but Jeff hadn’t. He’d been there all along.

In fact, he’s still there.

Jeff Lee lives in Vancouver, Washington, and teaches fifth grade. He has won awards for his innovative use of video in his classes — his students produce a daily live “TV show” with school news, while also producing an in-depth monthly 30 minute video that the students write, shoot, and edit.

He is an evangelical Christian, and he regularly pops up in my Facebook feed sharing links from the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News. When he was in college, he became a campus pariah after writing an anti-gay opinion piece in the school newspaper.

He is possibly the most unlikely person in the world to be the manager of the internet’s most notorious — and homoerotic — Keanu Reeves fan site.

We don’t see each other too often these days. When we meet up and I start asking him questions about Ugossip, I can tell he’s uncomfortable and embarrassed.

“It’s a total cesspool. All they do is harass each other all day long.”

Jeff’s family owns a small auto dealership, and a disgruntled Ugossip poster from Los Angeles began making relentless phone calls to the car lot after learning it was connected to Jeff. He worries that one day someone from Ugossip might discover he’s a teacher and try to contact his school.

A few years ago, a lawyer contacted Jeff with a cease and desist request from a client who claimed she was being harassed on Ugossip. Jeff tried to block the IP address of the person posting the harassing messages, but they turned out to be very sophisticated at avoiding a ban by changing their IP address and accessing the site through a VPN to hide their identity.

“There are insane people on there. They just won’t go away, and I can’t get rid of them.”

Jeff has long since delegated day-to-day management of the site to a few volunteer moderators, some of whom have been posting on the site for nearly 20 years. (Fox, meet hen house.)

But he does profit off the site. Prominently displayed on the Ugossip home page is a donation button. If users don’t give at least $25 per month, Jeff shuts the site down. He has done so many times, but it never stays off line for more than a day or two — people are too addicted to Ugossip to let it die. He began charging in the late 90s, and has pocketed some $5000 from the site over the years.

The money is nice, but he says he would much rather be sure that his family and students are safe from being threatened by Ugossip posters than take home a few hundred bucks a year from the site.

So why doesn’t he pull the plug permanently and get rid of the headache?

“I’m scared of what some of those crazy people might do. I’m scared of the drama.”

Drama. If there’s one word other than Keanu that describes Ugossip, it’s that.

In the Ashgate Research Companion to Fan Cultures, London School of Economics professor Shenja van der Graf writes about attending an event called “Keanu Fest” that is entirely organized by fans.

It is here [Keanu Fest] that I also learned about the most important online sources. In particular, Ugossip seemed to serve the needs and interests of various Keanu-fandom communities, and provided insight into hierarchy of fan members who ‘have access’ and those who do not have trusted connections to verify or prove authentic information about the actor (and his family, friends, co-workers, and so on). More strikingly, however, was not so much the sharing and dissection of the actor’s sexuality and love life, whereabouts, past and upcoming projects, and so forth, but the ‘drama’ between fans, varying from sophisticated mind games like trolling, to arguing and impersonating each other…. Over the years, some fans stayed and others went, some new ones came and others went, but the ‘drama’ stayed. (van der Graf, Ashgate Research Companion to Fan Cultures)

The drama stayed.

And the drama endures.

I tried, without success, to contact Keanu Reeves for this story. Reeves is known to be press shy and avoid interviews, so I had little hope for my request being realized.

But I did think about what I would say to him if I did somehow get a chance to talk to him.

Would I ask if he’d ever visited the site? Would I try to make excuses for why the thread questioned his sexual orientation? Would I apologize?

I knew that before I talked to him, I had to first come to terms with my feelings about the monster I helped create that fateful summer of 1994. I’m not proud of it — especially my middle school homophobia — but I’m also not embarrassed about it. I was young, I was stupid, and I could have never known what it would grow into.

Yes, it’s a cesspool. Yes, some of its users have probably been arrested for stalking. Yes, it’s a refuge of the delusional.

But even the crazy people need a community, and for better or worse, I gave them one.

Sorry, Keanu.

Works Cited

Cooper, Dennis. “Keanu Reeves.” Interview Sep. 1990.

Gregg, Ronald. “Queering Brad Pitt: The Struggle Between Gay Fans and the Hollywood Machine to Control Star Discourse and Image on the Web.” LGBT Identity and Online New Media. Ed. Christopher Pullen and Margaret Cooper. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2010.

“Keanu Reeves Second Intruder in Two Days, And This One’s Naked.” 24 Sept. 2014.

“Keanu Reeves gets temporary restraining order against skinny dipping intruder.” New York Daily News. 4 Oct. 2014.

Lee, Jeff. Personal interview. 22 Nov. 2015.

Shnayerson, Michael. “The Wild One. Keanu Reeves on Sex, Hollywood, and Life on the Run.” Vanity Fair Aug. 1995. 29 Nov. 2015.

van der Graaf, S. Much Ado About Keanu Reeves: The Drama of Ageing in Online Fandom. Ashgate Research Companion to Fan Cultures. Ed. Linda Duit, Stijn Reijnders, and Koos Zwaan. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2014.