Monday, 21 April 2008
Our growing obsession with every detail of celebrity lifestyles has turned us into voyeurs
By Keith O'Neil, Staff Columnist
One of my biggest pet peeves is celebrity news magazines and shows. They give no privacy at all to film, music or television stars.
It seems like Britney Spears can't fart without shows like "Entertainment Tonight," or "Inside Edition" reporting about it.
I don't know why these shows and magazines do not give celebrities any privacy. Some make the argument that "they are public figures; that is the price of fame."
I say this: how would you feel if every little detail about your life was under this giant microscope and every detail about your day is posted online or is talked about by Billy Bush on "Access Hollywood?"
I don't know about you, but I don't want Billy Bush talking about my day.TMZ, a gossip website, is the biggest violator of the bunch. They will post the filthiest trash about celebrities and alienate them posting paparazzi videos on the site. This trashy site is run by a guy named Harvey Levin, who presents TMZ as a "news organization."
Let me tell you, there is nothing newsworthy about actress Betty White talking about why she doesn't need Botox. On the TV version of this site, it shows that Levin will go at any length to get celebrity photos or post dirt about them. The videos they post on TMZ infuriate me.
One that startled me was one of Shia LeBouf minding his own business at an airport as a paparazzi cameraman approaches him, forcing Lebouf to run full speed to get away. Eventually, LeBouf gave up and talked to the paparazzi guy.
What celebrity news magazines do that irritates me most is that they make up stupid nicknames for celebrity couples. Every time someone does that, the English language diminishes.
Do you really think you sound intelligent saying the "words" Brangelina, Spedi or Vaughniston? When Steve Carell was on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," he pointed out that some of these nicknames don't even save that much time. He is right.
It is stuff like this that makes me fear for the future. Instead of saying "Mr. Keith O'Neil and Ms. Jessica Biel are getting married this weekend," are they going to say "Keithica O'Biel is getting married?" See how stupid that looks and sounds?
Some of the "celebrities" they highlight are famous for no apparent reason at all, which puzzles me. Can someone please tell me what Heidi Montag or Lauren Conrad from the MTV shows "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County" and "The Hills" ever did to get all this attention? Seriously, from what I have seen of them they contribute nothing to society.
Why do they have cameras following them everywhere they go and what did they do to get their own television show? Just because someone is good looking doesn't mean they should have their own show.
I think everything that can be said about Paris Hilton and Nichole Ritchie has been said, so I will leave them alone.
The most famous "celebrity" of this bunch is Kim Kardashian. From what I have seen from her reality show "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," she and her family have a lot of money to throw around if they can afford to buy chickens just to get organic eggs. She has done nothing to get all this attention. Joel McHale, the host of "The Soup" on E! describes her perfectly.
On "The Soup," when introducing a clip of Ms. Kardashian's show, he says "Kim Kardashian is famous for having a big ass and a sex tape." That just about sums her up perfectly.
To all you celeb magazines and shows, please stop hunting down celebrities and exposing their private. For the love of God, stop making celebrities out of these reality television stars.
Keith O'Neil is a senior majoring in journalism. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the Equinox.
Coming up next: Gerard Depardieu fined after headbutting paparazzi
Friday, 18 April 2008
While I’ve only posted a little over a dozen posts in this blog so far, it becomes clearer and clearer to me what an industry the paparazzi has become. Paparazzi agencies are making thousands by selling their pictures to trashy gossip mags all over the world, while sites such as PerezHilton.com and other so-called “celebrity juice” sites stick pictures up on a daily basis – flattering, mocking or shocking, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s juicy enough to get people reading. Over the last year we’ve seen paparazzi beating each other up, celebrities attacking the paparazzi, the paparazzi being accused of murder and provoking mental illness (as was the case with Britney Spears back in January), paparazzi getting arrested and fined, and paparazzi suing celebrities over heated accusations, or even violence. Phew, that was a long sentence. What I’m trying to say is…
If you think about it, and think hard, the numbers of celebrity pictures you come across daily are quite the few – especially if you surf the web or read papers. Thinking further about it, it might be shocking to know just how many of these pictures are taken by the paparazzi… Paparazzi pictures can be found everywhere. Even in the upper-market newspapers there’s always a few of them. There’s a never-ending public demand for celebrity pictures, and as long as the paparazzi know there is a demand, they will go out of their way to get the pictures.
I am personally not a fan of the suggested ‘Britney’s law’ that was meant to protect celebrities from the paparazzi. I believe that a certain level of hounding by the paparazzi is the price you have to pay for fame. Naturally, some celebrities cope better with fame than others, and also know how to deal with the paparazzi better. It might also be a case of knowing how to avoid them, but if you live in such a celebrity-crazed city like LA that might be quite hard. No-one deserves to be ridiculously followed and mobbed to the point Britney Spears was earlier this year by the paparazzi, and everyone deserves some level of freedom and privacy. But as long as we, the public, wants more, the paparazzi and their respective agencies will go out of their way to give us that. And admittedly, we all like to read a little bit of celebrity juice at times, or see shocking pictures of celebrities making a fool out of themselves or maybe just having a bad day. For some it might be a little escape from their own lives and own problems, for some it might be a reminder that at the end of the day, we’re all just normal people anyway. I, for one, can say that I enjoy reading the ‘London last night…’ section in The London Paper everyday. Because if I stumbled out of a club at 4am in the morning, drunk, it’s reassuring to know that Lily Allen did the same thing.
On a serious level, we’ve seen what happened to Britney Spears, Heath Ledger and even Princess Diana. They say everyone wants fame… Think again. Is that really so?
Coming up next: ‘Our growing celebrity obsession has turned us into voyeurs’
Sunday, 13 April 2008
Lawsuit alleges that photographers bought the drug for the late Hollywood actor so they could then – secretly – film him snorting it.
The lawsuit accuses the Splash agency, which employed the two paparazzi, of paying for cocaine so they could secretly video the actor snorting the drug in a hotel room.
By Susie Mesure
Sunday, 13 April 2008
Paparazzi supplied the Hollywood actor Heath Ledger with cocaine in a Los Angeles hotel room and then secretly filmed him snorting the drug, according to US court documents.
Footage of the set-up – some of which was shown briefly on US television, prompting protests – was then sold to media outlets including British newspapers for more than $1m (£500,000).
Two paparazzi who were working for the LA-based Splash News & Picture Agency paid for cocaine which they then used to entice the Brokeback Mountain star into a meeting where he was secretly filmed.
The claim against the Tinseltown photo agency thrusts the actions of unscrupulous paparazzi back into the limelight just days after photographers in search of the ultimate scoop were partly blamed by an inquest jury for the "unlawful killing" of Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed.
Although the footage of Heath Ledger in the Chateau Marmont Hotel – where the actor John Belushi died of a drug overdose in 1982 – was shot more than two years ago, it hit the headlines just days after his death in January, following its sale to media outlets around the world.
The lawsuit, filed late on Friday in Los Angeles, accuses the Splash agency, which employed the two paparazzi, of paying for cocaine so they could secretly videotape the actor snorting the drug in a hotel room on the night of the Screen Actors Guild Awards. It says the revenue generated by selling the videotape should be forfeited under a California state law forbidding paparazzi from profiting from illegal activity.
A woman who was freelancing for People magazine at the time, and who was dating one of the photographers, filed the lawsuit under the Jane Doe pseudonym, seeking unspecified damages for fraud, distress and privacy violations. She claimed that her reputation has been damaged as a result of being featured in the footage, which she wants destroyed.
It is the second time since Ledger's death – from an accidental prescription drug overdose – that the controversial video has hit the headlines. America's two most-watched entertainment shows, Entertainment Tonight and The Insider, ran trailers promising to air the "Hollywood Drug Party" in full in January, but ended up pulling the story after an outcry from the actor's influential public relations firm.
Clips, including Ledger's confession to smoking "five joints a day for 20 years" and showing him holding a rolled-up banknote or piece of paper, are still circulating online, however. They do not show Ledger snorting cocaine, although the lawsuit claims he did.
Splash could not be reached yesterday to comment.
Coming up next: My view
Saturday, 12 April 2008
Los Angeles police oppose new legislation to restrict paparazzi
LOS ANGELES — The City Council should scrap a proposal for a new ordinance limiting the activities of paparazzi around celebrities, the city Police Commission recommended Tuesday.
Calling the proposal unfair, ambiguous and likely unenforceable, Police Department officials told the commission that numerous laws already on the books enable officers to deal with unruly paparazzi behaviour.
Cmdr. Kirk Albanese said after the meeting: "There are laws that exist out there. We need to use those laws."
The motion for a new ordinance was put forward by Councilman Dennis Zine in February after Britney Spears was taken from her home by paramedics amid a frenzy of photographers, and a phalanx of officers on motorcycles and in squad cars and helicopters was used when she was taken to a hospital a second time.
Zine said the Police Department's report on his proposals, written by Chief William Bratton, was premature.
"They are jumping the gun on this; there hasn't been any public discussion," Zine said. "If they have enough rules, why does it cost $25,000 to transport Britney Spears to the hospital?"
Among proposals Zine wants the city to consider is the creation of a "personal safety zone" that would create several metres of buffer space between paparazzi and their celebrity targets. Additional measures would likely emerge from public discussions after input from celebrities and the city attorney, Zine said.
Zine's motion notes paparazzi can create a safety hazard by blocking entrances to hospitals and courthouses and "are becoming increasingly aggressive in their tactics, posing a clear danger not only to the people they are trying to photograph, but to the general public around them."
Bratton's report suggested there may also be constitutional concerns with any new ordinance. He highlighted the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under law - something that could become an issue in defining who is a celebrity or a paparazzo.
"Are all celebrities - A list, B list, C list - entitled to the same protection?" Bratton asked in his report. "The wording of the proposed ordinance may be too ambiguous to enforce."
The Police Commission, the civilian overseers of the Police Department, voted to approve the recommendation and forward it to the City Council. Zine's motion has not yet been scheduled for committee review.
Coming up next: Paparazzi accused of drugging Heath Ledger
Friday, 11 April 2008
Verdict: Diana's Death Caused by Driver, Paparazzi
By Gina Serpe
Jurors in the official inquest into the late royal's death returned their verdict Monday, determining once and for all that she and partner Dodi Fayed were, as has been generally believed, killed due to grossly negligent driving by chauffeur Henri Paul and the relentless pursuit of the paparazzi.
The coroner's panel ruled in joint verdicts that the reckless actions of Paul and the shutterbugs were unlawful, and that the fact that Paul was driving drunk, and that neither Diana nor Fayed were wearing seat belts, contributed to the deaths in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997.
A British police investigation of the incident had previously concluded that the crash, in Paris' Pont d'Alma tunnel, was the result of Paul being both drunk and driving at exceedingly high speeds.
Prior to deliberations, the jury was informed that an unlawful-killing verdict, the most serious of five options they were given, was tantamount to a ruling of manslaughter.
However, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said it was unlikely any new criminal charges would be pursued as the deaths occurred outside the jurisdiction of the court, as all paparazzi involved were foreign.
Both Diana's sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, and Fayed's father, Mohamed al Fayed, were present in the High Court to hear the verdict. Both left without commenting to the press, though a statement subsequently released on behalf of al Fayed said the decision would disappoint "millions" of supporters.
"The French and the Scotland Yard inquiries were wrong," the statement said. "These inquests prove it. They said it was an accident and their findings are now dismissed.
"The most important thing is, it is murder."
Al Fayed has long propagated the notion that the royal family, in particular Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, was behind the deaths. However, last week, the presiding judge, Coroner Lord Justice Scott Baker, told jurors that al Fayed's claims were without evidence or merit and prohibited them from ruling that the deaths were the result of any staged or premeditated killing.
Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Stevens, who helped launch the original inquiry, called the joint verdicts "justification" of the inquest.
"The verdict has been clear," he said. "They have said they are absolutely sure that there is no conspiracy in relation to this matter. I do hope everybody will take this verdict as being closure to this particular tragic incident and the people who've died will be allowed to rest in peace."
Prior to the decision being announced, Baker told the 11 jurors that he would sign off on a majority verdict, meaning just nine of them would need to agree on the cause of death. It's unclear whether the ruling was done by majority or was unanimous.
The jury of six women and five men spent four days in deliberations, after six months of testimony in which more than 240 witnesses took the stand.
The cost of the inquest has been a topic of great debate in the U.K., with reports claiming the case cost the British public anywhere from $6 million to $20 million.
Coming up next: Paparazzi law rejected
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
Think you're important? You can pay for star treatment.
By Ana Veciana-Suarez
McClatchy News Service
Let's hear it for blessed anonymity. For the shadow of the ordinary. For the mystery of the nameless. Don't bother with applause. That's too noisy and attention-getting. I'll settle for a nod -- and maybe even that's too much.
In a society obsessed with fame, in a culture that celebrates celebrities above all else, soulless preoccupations should no longer surprise me. After all, the media ran 24-7 with Anna Nicole's bizarre death and
Yet, in spite of all these thumb-in-the-eye reminders of
Think Wannabees Gone Wild.
Really, the ridiculousness of hiring photogs to trail you and fake fans to adore you has got me all atwitter. I can't stop laughing. Or shaking my head. So sad, so sad.
But allow me to explain the newest entry in the long log of the massively misled and the morbidly mistaken. Celeb 4 a Day -- featured in Time magazine, NPR and the Today show, hires out personal paparazzi to Joe Lunchbucket and Maria Watercooler so they can enjoy the trappings and adulation of the stars.
Pseudo celeb-dom doesn't come cheap, of course. The basic $249.99 A-list package in Austin gets you a mere 30 minutes of four rabid photographers, but the $2,499.99 Megastar extravaganza in Los Angeles includes a bodyguard, personal publicist to coach you with the "no comments!" and up to two hours of six paparazzi elbowing each other, asking you questions and shouting out your name.
Packages also come with high-resolution pics and your mug on MyStar magazine, a mock gossip publication. The deer-in-the headlights look costs nothing.
If you think this is stupid and needy and a sure sign that
A sociology professor told Time that hiring personal paparazzi is a natural result of our growing need to chronicle our lives -- check out YouTube -- and seek out fame. In the end, the act of being photographed becomes more important than the photos themselves.
"We live in a culture where if it's not documented, it doesn't exist," Josh Gamson said. "And if you don't have people asking who you are, you're nobody."
I wonder what the real celebrities -- the Jennifer Anistons and Brad Pitts and Prince Williams of the world -- think about all this. They hide from cameramen and go to court to keep them away. Some stars have exchanged punches with their stalkers in hopes of privacy and space.
I bet they think anonymity is not such a bad place to be. At least not for $249.99.
Coming up next: Paparazzi blamed for Diana's death
Monday, 7 April 2008
Making up for all the negativity posted lately - it's good to see that someone who's been hounded by the papz to the point Amy Winehouse has actually does something nice in err.. return?
After months of sneering and complaining about the constant throng of paparazzi on her doorstep, Amy Winehouse seemed to have a change of tune about the photographers yesterday.
During a visit by friend drag-queen DJ Jodie Harash, Amy was spotted taking out mugs of tea and
A source at the scene explained: “Like with Britney Spears, Amy is getting to know some of the photographers and she thought they’d like a brew after waiting around for her all day.”
Coming up next: The latest - hire your own fake paparazzi
Friday, 4 April 2008
Hilton Sparks Paparazzi Violence
Several photographers have been injured after the arrival of socialite Paris Hilton in Turkey sparked riots among the paparazzi at Istanbul airport.
The hotel heiress landed in the city on Thursday ahead of her stint as a judge in the Miss Turkey 2008 contest.
The 27-year-old's presence led to hysteria amongst the photographers all clambering to take her picture, with a major fight breaking out amongst rival snappers.
Footage of the incident, shown on TMZ.com, shows a barrage of punches being thrown, with one man seen using his video camera as a weapon. One photographer is seen walking away with blood streaming from his nose.
Paris injured in paparazzi scuffle
Paris Hilton has fallen and grazed her chin in a scuffle with paparazzi while leaving a restaurant in the Czech Republic.
The heiress was mobbed by the crowd of photographers as she left a restaurant in Prague's Staromestska Square, and subsequently fell over.
Paris is currently on tour with her boyfriend Benji Madden and his band Good Charlotte in Europe.
The pair were attempting to do some sightseeing in Prague but the heiress sparked hysteria among the photographers, and a fight broke out between rival paparazzi as they tried to get their shots.
Benji was able to help the socialite back to her feet and into a waiting car, according to reports.
So far, Hilton hasn't had a good week. Her grandfather, hotelier Barron Hilton has reportedly decided to donate 97 per cent of his $2.3 billion fortune to charity.
Coming up next: Amy Winehouse provides paparazzi with tea and biscuits
Wednesday, 2 April 2008
You're Asking for It: Chasing the Logic of the Paparazzi
By Dipayan Gupta on huffingtonpost.com
If an embittered celebrity had wanted to take out the industry that profits off of her imperfections, New York University's School of Journalism would have been a good place to start. The dons and doyennes of gossip were all there for 'The Britney Show,' a panel organized by The Atlantic in honor of its current issue featuring an article by David Samuels on the media's obsession with the bedraggled pop star. Justin Smith, editor in chief of The Atlantic said that unlike (ahem) other magazines, "when we put Spears on the cover, we did it at the peril of our news-stands sales. So even though we wrote a story about how Britney sells, our people were telling us that we were crazy to put her on our cover."
They smiled. In an arc before the audience were Regis Navarre, proprietor of Los Angeles' X17 paparazzi agency; his wife Brandy who heads X17online.com; Richard Johnson, editor of Page Six; and Bonnie Fuller, the former editor of Us Weekly and currently the editorial director of American Media. They look nothing like the scruffy paparazzi hounding starlets on TMZ.com. In fact, they look more like stars themselves, gleaming from the millions they have made following the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Rounding out the panel and playing the voice of the people were Virginia Heffernan of the New York Times Magazine and David Samuels, who led the discussion.
Samuels' first question was pitched to Fuller who is often credited with helping celebrity gossip make the leap from tabloids to magazines. Why, asked Samuels, did she do it? "I liked reading a lot of European magazines," she said, "and I loved to see the pictures of celebrities on the street. So if I liked it, I thought others would." It appealed to her as a woman, says Fuller who theorizes that magazines like Us Weekly have an 85% female readership because, "women like to talk to friends about their lives." They have mutual friends to gossip about in school, but not in the workforce. "You could go to a party where you don't know anyone," she says, "But you all know Britney and Angelina."
Is that the reason for their success? Before tabloids and gossip magazines, did women who didn't know each other sit mutely around a table? Heffernan brings another theory to account for celebrity obsession. "I think there's this phenomenal amount of forensic interest alive in the land," she mused, "a CSI like intensity. If you read the comments on Perez Hilton or TMZ, they are like art critics. They'll write something completely benign (in the caption) and leave the rest to the comment dogs."
Brandy Navarre agrees. "We're feeding the appetite," she says, "but I don't know who's creating the appetite." Brandy believes that she was the first one to talk to Sam Lutfi, Britney Spears' opportunistic boyfriend. "He was emailing me at first anonymously," says Brandy, "He gave me this huge interview -- Hi, I'm Britney Spears' friend and I know why she shave her head -- and he never asked for money, to this day. Though he implied that he wanted good coverage. We were happy to do it! We were getting these amazing exclusives... (Other) magazines were offering him a lot of money, but he came to us. I don't know why."
And Spears herself is known to call the media to photograph her outings. "Isn't this why she's so big," says Johnson, "because she manipulated the media? She goes shopping at 2 in the morning!"
"Yeah," chimed Heffernan, "Is she always running errands?"
"Well, we knew she was a sick woman but she knew she could do this and get attention," says Brandy, "It was self validating."
Which cues the elephant in the room: are the gossip magazines enablers of celebrity meltdowns? The first time Samuels asks the question he's answered with a unanimous "YES," but then they start to backtrack. Johnson is the first, claiming that photographers got a "bad rap" for Princess Diana. "I mean, the driver didn't have to be driving at 80 miles an hour," he says. Regis Navarre agrees, remembering the time when a shorn Spears attacked one of his photographers' cars with an umbrella. "I think we are sometimes a catalyst of something that's already happening," he says, "Britney was in front of Kevin Federline's house, she couldn't see her kids and someone was taking a photo of her. So she hit a car." But, says his wife, "I don't think we're making her crazy. It isn't just Britney Spears: Lindsay Lohan is having problems. Are we the ones who gave her this problem?" Her husband concurs. "In the case of Lindsay Lohan," he says, "we sped up the healing process because of the photographs. They have sent her to rehab." "So we're enablers," says Heffernan, wrapping up the discussion succinctly, "but also guardian angels."
The most interesting discovery of the afternoon is that Paris Hilton is the "positive" example of a starlet who knows how to get the attention of the paparazzi. "Paris always made sure she looked fabulous on the street," says Fuller, "And 'The Hills' girls and Nicole Richie are good examples. Their shows don't get huge ratings but hey make sure they look gorgeous on the red carpet and even on the street. That's positive. The negatives are the DUIs and drugs." Brandy Navarre agrees. "I think Lindsay and Britney took a cue from Paris but couldn't handle it," she says, "They would go out in front of cameras without planning."
Miley Cyrus could learn from Hilton's example. "She's never really launched a magazine she's been on the cover of," admits Fuller. But that isn't to say that agencies like X17 won't send photographers after her. "We're trying to create an archive on these girls," says Brandy. "Years ago we made the decision not to go to Venice High School where Britney Spears was shooting 'Baby One More Time'," she says, "That was a BAD decision." A reporter next to me gasps in horror. The implication is that they are courting young stars like Cyrus fully expecting them to crack and fall from grace. And when they do, they'll have enough shots for a before and after.
The panelists then moved on to the final question and answer session where they were asked whether paparazzi tactics were influencing political coverage. "Yes," said Regis, referring to the picture of Sen. Barack Obama vacationing in the Virgin Islands. "I think we are seeing this in the election, " says Fuller, "People no longer see this great barrier between them and the candidates. I think that's what young people feel about Obama. He's just like US!!"
Coming up next: Paris Hilton causes stir - injured by the Paparazzi
Monday, 31 March 2008
There could be light at the end of the tunnel for Troubled Britney with the news that the paparazzi are getting bored with her (aren't we all?). Apparently the paps' main target is now FIFTEEN YEAR OLD 'Hannah Montana' star Miley Cyrus. We predict two failed marriages and three kids by the time she's 20.
Cyrus isn't particularly well-known in the
A boss of a
"Over the weekend, there were less than a half dozen covering Britney. Yet there were 30 in the pack covering Miley Cyrus. Most of them were Britney regulars, but they want something new and fresh. It's moved on to Miley."
So the pack has found new prey. Let's hope Miley is a wilier fox that Brit.
Coming up next: Chasing the Logic of the Paparazzi