Germaphobia is the hot new celebrity affliction

By MICHAEL RECHTSHAFFEN

http://www.ottawasun.com/Showbiz/OtherShowbiz/2007/03/18/pf-3775412.html

HOLLYWOOD — Anorexia and bulimia might generate more ink in this image-conscious town, but look past the starvation and dehydration and you’ll find far more intriguing manifestations of that chronic behavioural catch-all known as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It’s enough to get you wondering if OCD is the latest celebrity must-have acquisition, based on the growing numbers of big names who have been coming clean and giving the late Howard Hughes a run for his germ-infested money.

There would seem to be enough certified OCD behaviour going around to fill an entire season of Monk in neat, carefully measured instalments.

Howie Mandel, the unofficial poster boy of OCD, has made no secret of his crippling mysophobia — that’s a fear of germs, to the unaffected. His patented “knuckle knock” on both the American and Canadian versions of Deal or No Deal is Mandel’s creative way of avoiding having to shake hands with contestants while not showing them any disrespect.

Mandel also credits mysophobia, not a receding hairline, for his impeccably shaved head and has publicly admitted that when he checks into a hotel he’ll have room service bring up an additional two dozen towels, which he’ll use to create a walkway over the carpeting.

But Mandel is just one of a seemingly growing number of celebrities with an all-consuming fear of cooties.

The lovely Jessica Alba might get invisible as Susan Storm in Fantastic Four, but out of sight definitely does not equal out of mind in real life. Whenever she stays in hotels, she brings along a bottle of antibacterial Febreze and spritzes all the bedding.

Ben Stiller reportedly has an aversion to Winnebago toilets, requiring the use of real indoor plumbing when on location. He has also been known to insist his trailer be thoroughly cleaned each time he vacates it.

Turns out The View’s Rosie O’Donnell isn’t the only person who doesn’t warrant a handshake from Donald Trump. The Donald also won’t press the flesh with school teachers, contending they have more germs on the surface of their desks than any other professional. The billionaire germaphobe also likes to avoid touching the ground floor button of an elevator for the same reason.

Jerry Seinfeld carries those antibacterial wipes around with him wherever he goes and pulls one out each time after somebody shakes his hand. He then follows up with some lotion for good measure.

Gwyneth Paltrow also has an aversion to hand-shaking, and is said to bring along her own brush and comb when visiting the hairdresser.

Among Billy Bob Thornton’s numerous obsessive-compulsive behaviours is his inability to use utensils provided by on-set caterers or restaurants, out of fear that they aren’t clean enough. He uses plastic knives and forks in their place.

Not to be outdone, habitual hand-washer Cameron Diaz has been seen opening doors with her elbows so as not to have to touch those nasty doorknobs. The knobs in her own home are regularly given intense rubdowns.

And that’s just for starters.

Other names that keep popping up on unofficial OCD membership lists include Howard Stern, who wrote at length about his disorders in his book Miss America, but now claims to have been cured of most of them with the help of a specialist, Alec Baldwin, Carrie Fisher, Charlie Sheen, Roseanne, Kathie Lee Gifford, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen (surprise, surprise), Michelle Pfeiffer, Harrison Ford and David Beckham.

Poor, compulsive things. Now where did I put that jug of Purell?

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