5,000 lb. gorilla, room; room, 5000 lb. gorilla

If you have yet to introduce yourself to the wonder that is the twenty mile zone, well then you, sir or madam, do not know the meaning of Manny.

Like Santa Anas over some half-burning and abandoned coals, the entity know as TMZ.com has blown over the celbra-stalker-razzi industry and is threatening to turn the forest of gossip-mongering elves to ash.

Fueled by AOL money and TelePictures editorial acumen (who needs thousands of years of journalistic experience over at Time Inc. when you’ve got the guy from Celebrity Justice!), TMZ.com has been causing fits with their stalker videos of fender benders (Paris Hilton) and Halloween hair-dos (Denise Richards) and by seeming to get court papers a day or two before the rest of the world.

“I call them Tums,” said one west coast gossip reporter who has been getting an earful from his East Coast bosses about the new kid’s scoops. And we have heard the acronym ‘The New Harvey’ to describe guru Harvey Levin at least once. (If TMZ has to have a knickname, you know that our vote goes to Manny all the way.)

So what to make of this new world where any kid who got a video camera for High School graduation and happens to spot Neal Patrick Harris shoplifting cheese is a journalist? That bastion of journalistic integrity the New York Times thinks the whole thing is absolutely fabulous.

TMZ is getting it right. It has lots of video, quickly mounted, intelligently bleeped and edited so it’s not horrifying. And it has found a way through smart-enough blogging — Claude Brodesser of NPR is also writing one — to tease out some big themes. It’s almost moving. Almost. As a reader named gigi put it in the same Brangelina thread: “You read all this empty trash to entertain your bored soul and then decide to get weepy? HA. That’s funny.”

All I have to say about all this is, Claude — and this really comes from the heart — when videotaping celebrities while they are on fire or attacking other celebrities, please, for god sakes, use the tripod. I can’t stand it when the world is crashing in on itself and the image is all jumpy.

And by the way, do the people at Time Inc. have any problem with the parent company financing what is essentially an online compettitor? Will somebody please get Dick Parsons on the horn and remind him that Time Inc. is the the jewel of his kingdom? One wonders if TMZ may be the first evidence that Parsons is listening to the boardroom Iagos who want him to dump the proud fruit of Henry Luce‘s loins?