In Los Angeles, tourists are regularly accosted by street-corner vendors selling "maps of stars' homes". These should really be called "maps of stars' gates" since that's all you're likely to see - no peeks of Robert De Niro putting out the rubbish, alas.
Now, it seems, Visit London is bringing the trend to our fair city by having "celebrities" point out their favourite sights and sounds in their particular corner of the metropolis. (Here's how the BBC reported the story.)
Anything that entices the people of the world to come and experience our city is fair play, as long as the visitors make a solemn pact that they will not clog up escalators, ticket machines and platforms on the Tube. But the celebrity maps are cheap and shallow.
For a start, look at the "celebrities"that have been roped into the project - or rather, they probably weren't roped in, they probably pounced at the chance considering the number of seasoned self-publicists involved. Tara-Palmer Tomkinson? Remind us, what is she famous for again? Giorgio Locatelli? Apparently a cook of some sort. "Pete, Geoff and Kelly"? Radio DJs, allegedly. With the exception of TPT, who apparently has some weird hold over the picture desk at the Evening Standard, these people are largely unknown in London, let alone outside it.
Next, there's the absurdity at the heart of the concept. The BBC saith: "Visit London compiled the maps, after a survey showed 87% of visitors wanted to be shown around by real Londoners." (Great comma usage, Auntie!)
Real Londoners? Giorgio Locatelli? Tara Palmer Tomkinson? Maps by actual, genuine, proper, down-to-earth Londoners might be interesting - little-known corners of the city, trade secrets, back passages. However, Visit London has sadly opted for self-promoting drivel.
This brings us to the maps themselves. They are a heady mix of outright show-offery, a few decent recommendations, and the bloody obvious.
Let's take "Pete, Geoff and Kelly"'s guide to Soho. Their number one recommendation?
Virgin Radio - Golden Square. The country's best radio station is in the corner of one of London's most chilled out and least known squares. For music you love, tune into 105.8fm in London, 1215AM nationwide or www.virginradio.co.uk - wherever you are in the world. Golden Square is a brilliant place to relax and enjoy summer sun in London.
Fair and balanced! And it's so sweet they think that Golden Square is one of London's "least-known". Local knowledge! And they point out little-known local venues for local people. Like Ronnie Scott's.
Tara-Rara-Boomdeay's Kensington & Chelsea list is rather more respectable, if you like very posh shops. Real Londoners! Giorgio Locatelli, however, takes the biscuit. His first plug is for a restaurant where he is consultant chef. But then, it's a wild ride through shadowy back streets as he exposes hidden attractions such as ... The Tate Modern! The London Eye! And perhaps best of all ... the River Thames! It's like a whole different city!
Isn't the point of these guides to point out things that tourists won't be able to find in every single frickin' guidebook under the sun?