Dealing with paparazzi is part and parcel of being this famous, and most people feel like it’s a necessary evil of being in this celebrity game. There’s a mutual relationship to it too… Celebrities gain from the publicity the paparazzi offer, and the paps gain from them in return.
But the paparazzi-celebrity dynamic doesn’t only affect the celebs and photographers. Sometimes, as in the case of Justin Bieber on the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles earlier this month, the pursuit of the money shot (paparazzi photos have been known to pay anywhere from $250 to $50,000 per photo, depending upon the rarity of the shot), other people’s lives are put in danger.
The LA Times tells the story:
L.A. City Councilman Dennis Zine, who was among those calling 911 to report the chase involving Bieber’s high-priced chrome Fisker sports car, said that as a former traffic officer he would have arrested Bieber and his pursuers for reckless driving.
Zine said he saw Bieber cut from the fast lane to the slow lane and even onto the shoulder. He was being pursued by several cars.
“It was like slot cars, they were going so fast,” Zine said. “It was a very dangerous driving situation. I figured someone was going to crash, so I called 911.”
Zine said he did not know Bieber was involved until later.
Bieber was pulled over and cited for reckless driving, but the cars pursuing him were not.
I’ve seen a number of these types of chases living in Los Angeles, especially since I used to work on one of the most famous celebrity shopping streets in the city. Nearly every day, giant SUVs with tinted windows would tear down Robertson Boulevard with four or five cars in pursuit, all weaving and passing to get in front of the celeb’s SUV.
In one famous 2005 case, actress Reese Witherspoon and friends were harassed by a pap at Disneyland who behaved in a manner unsurprising to anyone who deals with celebrities. Hollywood.com reports:
The actress was enjoying a day out at Disney’s California Adventure theme park in Anaheim on Friday when she was confronted by an “aggressive and frightening” photographer.
As park employees attempted to move Witherspoon to a safer area, the snapper allegedly assaulted two park employees, prompting security to call the police.
The photographer… was cited for two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery and will appear in court next month.
The same photographer in the Witherspoon case once harassed and stalked me, even physically threatening me when I was pregnant, because I was standing in front of an actress he was trying to photograph. After she left the store, Wallace backed his car into the vehicle behind him, and then smacked the front of his car into the vehicle in front of him in order to pursue her. After I called the police, he began stalking and threatening me regularly, until I got a restraining order.
Sure, this is the case of just one man with a long criminal record, but in the past I was purposefully shoved or knocked over numerous times by paparazzi. I’m fine, of course, and I always had a mouthful of obscenities to shout at anyone who dared touch me, but it speaks to the ways in which non-famous people who get in the way of a great photo are in danger.
So the question presents itself: where does the responsibility for high-speed chases lie? With the paparazzis or the celebrities?
How about when a celebrity allegedly assaults a paparazzo, as in the cases of Justin Bieber and Alec Baldwin who were both recently in hot water for allegedly striking photographers?
How about the high speed chases?
In the LA Times article, Zine is quoted as saying that if the celebrity didn’t drive 90 MPH, neither would the photographers, and people wouldn’t be put in danger, but it could also be argued that if the paparazzi didn’t pursue the celebrity, there would be no high-speed chase. In many cases, including a well-documented case also featuring Reese Witherspoon, paparazzi will park to block people into parking spaces and take photographs inside the car, so the celeb will be forced to get out of the car in order to escape.
What do you think? In what ways does the celebrity/paparazzi relationship reflect a bigger problem in our society?
In what ways are we all responsible for the dangerous situations paparazzi put bystanders in?
AP Photo/Evan Agostini