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Reality bites. Or does it?

Times have changed. Only about 100 years ago, a well-versed person needed to speak several languages, be well-read and follow current fashion trends.

Now, all a modern “renaissance man” has to know is exactly who just got voted off the latest trendy reality show.

Be it Survivor or The Real World (thank you again MTV for instilling in us the love of voyeurism), almost everyone’s guilty pleasure is to catch an episode or two of some reality show.

Until recently, audiences have rooted for their favorite contestants — those carefully screened people whose sculpted bodies look beautiful on the small screen.

But now, one of the most surprising and, frankly, unplanned twists of reality TV didn’t take place on a show at all.

It was American Idol outcast William Hung who caused more ruckus in Hollywood than the combined hype around runner-up Idol Clay Aiken and his superior (although financial inferior) Ruben Studdard.

Yes, the same William Hung whose vocalization on Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” left the public cringing. Apparently, his stiff dance moves and tuning problems were harmonious with the hearts of millions, because Hung has been on TV more than this year’s season of Idol, and is scheduled to release his own album — complete with “She Bangs” — April 6.

Reality shows are no longer just a spot for unknowns to gain their 15 minutes of fame, though. Washed up and up-and-coming celebrities alike have taken their shot at this newest trend. After all, when could we ever see Vanilla Ice and Ron Jeremy living under one roof if not in The Surreal Life?

Probably the single best reality show of the last 10 years — and I say best because the stars are actually giving back to the community — was The Simple Life, starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie on a Midwestern farm plucking chickens.

Hilton, the humanitarian that she is, finally went into the recording studio to grace the deprived public with her first album.

We can only hope that this switch from acting (and, according to ex-beau Rick Solomon, directing) to singing comes to her as easily as it did for Traci Lords.

But recording isn’t the only way Hilton enriches the commoners around her. Recently spotted at a local Tampa night club, a man who took a few pictures of the heiress getting down with her funky self just got richer by about $6,000 by selling his art to a gossip magazine.

Thank you again, Paris, for all the good you do for humanity.

Fortunately, now that Paris is in our neck of the woods filming The Simple Life 2 in Brooksville, such chances may come to many more in the Tampa Bay area.

So those of you bashing reality TV, get off your high horse (just don’t fall off like Ms. Hilton).

After all, if Paris lets anyone in on her dirty little secrets, be it via audio or video, the whole world will listen, me and you included.

Contact Entertainment Editor Olga Robak at