Hollywood stars were diving for cover yesterday as eleven US states declared celebrities to be ‘in season’ and accordingly prepared to issue hunting permits for several varieties of film, TV and recording stars. “It’s been thirty-odd years since we last did this – their numbers have more than recovered and we feel a cull is entirely appropriate,” said Wyoming State Legislature spokesman Dan Tuft, in answer to criticisms from conservationists that this move could endanger several rare types of celebrity. “They’re breeding out of control! Damn it, just how many Baldwin brothers do we need? I know people think they’re real cute, with their chiselled jaws and big brown eyes, but they forget the damage these critters can do to the environment – before you know it you find yourself overrun with paparazzi, hangers on, prostitutes, drug dealers, renting every available property, tearing down forests to build new ‘luxury’ homes! Just look at that Carradine infestation they had down Wisconsin way in ’74 and how long it took to sort that mess out!” Whilst celebrity culls were originally brought in by a number of the smaller, less fashionable, states to try and discourage seasonal infestations of film and rock festivals trying to take advantage of cheap facilities, this time they have been joined by the one state usually seen as a safe haven for celebrities fleeing culls elsewhere in the US.

In a surprise move, California announced that, for the first time ever, it would also be issuing celebrity hunting licences. “Unfortunately, as a result of our past leniency, their numbers are now getting out of control – there are far too many so-called celebrities consuming a disproportionate share of resources,” California Governor Schwarzenegger, himself a former celebrity, told a press conference, arguing that a cull would make both artistic and economic sense. “Basically, there are too many ‘stars’ chasing too few starring roles. Consequently, producers are being forced to make increasingly crappy movies and TV series to accommodate their egos, thereby completely devaluing the artistic value of the Hollywood product! This way we will be improving Hollywood by ensuring that only the fittest celebrities survive!” He remains confident that any short-term loss in revenues to the state caused by producers moving elsewhere to try and protect their stars will be easily be compensated by the projected profits from the sale of hunting licences. “You’d be surprised at the number of people who’d be willing to pay a lot of money to be able to legally take a shot at Joe Pesci or Jessica Simpson,” he chortled, before addressing the issue of whether celebrity culling is humane form of population control. “Look, would you rather we shot them or do something really inhumane to control them – like raise their taxes or make them get proper jobs?”

Unlike previous culls, which have concentrated on issuing licences for the extermination of lower-level celebrity vermin, this time A-list stars are being specifically targeted, although some celebrities will be exempt. “Obviously, elder statesmen like Paul Newman, who haven’t made a decent movie in years, will be exempted. After all, where is the sport in hunting down some old codger who can barely walk like Richard Widmark or Ernest Borgnine, with a pack of dogs? There have to be some limits. We’re civilised people, after all,” explains Governor Schwarzenegger, who is also exempted on grounds of holding a public office. “Also, it would be unfair to class as a ‘movie star’ some poor schmuck who hasn’t been in a top-ten movie for the past five years, likewise for TV shows or records with regard to TV or music ‘stars’.” This ruling has left Ben Affleck ruing the day he agreed to appear in Sum of All Fears and Pearl Harbor. “I was so sure crap like that would bomb! I only did them for the money – why didn’t I just stick to indie shit with Kevin Smith?” he was allegedly heard lamenting in a West Hollywood bar.

Indeed, the world of celebrity generally has been left reeling by California’s decision to join the cull. “In the past it hasn’t been that bad – it is pretty easy for the achingly trendy and glamourous to avoid the likes of Oregon and Idaho, but California? This is a disaster for our members, how are they going to work, let alone live in the style they are accustomed to for the duration of hunting season?” asks Screen Actors Guild (SAG) President Melissa Gilbert, herself thankfully exempt from culling as a result of her universally crappy TV movies of the past decade. “I mean, I just shudder at the thought of those poor celebs having to slum it for the summer in dreadful places like Monaco or St Lucia! It was bad enough that time New York state declared open season and the Hamptons were off limits all summer – we had to spend two months in Italy!”

Others suspect a political motive for the California Governor’s decision, pointing out that the hunting season doesn’t end until after November’s Presidential elections, and that a large number of the threatened celebrities are notorious Democratic Party sympathisers. “Schwarzenegger knows the devastating impact a celebrity endorsement can have, and is trying to protect his pal Dubya by driving the stars out of the country for the duration,” opines SAG Director Tom Bosley, a notorious radical firebrand. “All it would take would be for one star of the magnitude of Renee Auberjonois or Mike Farrell to get on the platform with Kerry and Bush would be finished!” However, Governor Schwarzenegger remains unrepentant over the cull, dismissing fears that the targeting of A-list celebs could lead to a serious talent shortage when the hunting season ends. “There is no shortage of celebrities – all the time TV shows like American Idol are churning out new ‘stars’ just as talented as their predecessors,” he claims. “All we are doing is clearing away the dead wood, so as to give the new talent a chance to flourish.”

Nevertheless, the announcement of the cull has resulted in a mass exodus of celebrities from California, many heading for Canada or Europe. Other, hardier, stars are determined to see out season, stockpiling firearms and barricading themselves into their Beverly Hills mansions. Top Hollywood weirdo Christopher Walken, for instance, has reportedly turned his apartment into a fortress and has threatened to fillet anyone who comes near him with a fish knife, even though his home state of New York isn’t participating in this year’s cull. Other celebrities, such as Bruce Willis, are embracing the concept of celebrity hunting, and have themselves applied for licences. “I’m going to get me a piece of that Ashton Kutcher’s ass,” grinned the chrome-domed action star yesterday, as he cleaned his AR-15 rifle.