We love to repeat rumors about the sex lives of famous people for a variety of reasons: We hold the privileged to higher moral standards than we hold ourselves, so we derive satisfaction from clucking at their foibles. Using a famous person as the subject of a story also lends it an air of immediacy — we may not even know the names of our neighbors, but the faces and habits of celebrities are familiar to everyone. At the same time we see celebrities are caricatures, so we feel free to repeat outrageous rumors about them that we wouldn’t dare say of people we know personally. And spreading salacious rumors is a time-honored way of getting back at people we dislike or envy, especially those whom we have no other way of reaching.
Catherine the Great: