The last time I flew from LA to New York I sat next to a photographer on the plane. I could tell he was a rough, tough, angry man just from the violence with which he rammed his camera bag under the seat in front of him. Since it was going to be a long flight I thought it would be advisable to sooth the man’s savage breast; and would certainly be better than inflaming it.
In general I like photographers, and as a walker I especially like street photographers. They do a lot of walking and they take a lot of photographs of other people walking. Well, it turned out that the man I was sitting next to was a special kind of street photographer – he was a paparazzo. He told me this with a certain challenging pride, as if to say, “You got a problem with that?”
And the truth is, I have no problem with that whatsoever. Hell, if I’m walking down the street and I see a celeb, and I have my camera handy, well I too become a kind of paparazzo; as a slightly haunted Patti Smith could tell you.
Anyway, my photographer pal had been in LA specifically to photograph a certain action star, who I’d have thought was a bit second division, but presumably I was wrong because surely paparazzi don’t fly two and a half thousand miles to photograph anybody second division. My man had learned where the star was shooting his latest film and had immediately hopped on a plane.
The star, who I’m not going to name, there being libel laws and such, behaved very badly, according to the photographer. The star was sitting in a parked car on a street in LA, surrounded by a film crew of course, but the law in LA is that if they film on a public street, then the street has to remain open to the public. So my photographer had simply walked down the street and started taking photographs of the star in the car, and the star had started giving him hell, telling him he couldn’t take pictures.
And this photographer was a man who clearly didn’t take hell from anyone and he started arguing back, saying (reasonably enough it seemed to me) that he was just a guy walking down a public street taking pictures, and if the star had a problem with that maybe he should get out of the car and they could settle this mano a mano. It didn’t come to that, and I see the pictures have now appeared on various sites around the web, so I guess the trip to LA paid off.
So about a week ago I was walking around in Los Feliz, one of my usual routes, and I noticed a couple of guys standing around on a street corner. It wasn’t the kind of corner where guys usually stand around, and as I got closer I saw there were six or eight of them, hefty guys with even heftier cameras: paparazzi, evidently.
They looked at me, and they obviously weren’t sure what my attitude was going to be, and one of them said cagily, “How ya doin?” And I said, “Who you photographing?” And he said, “Gwen Stefani.” And I said, “Which house?’ “That one” and he pointed to a very elegant mid-century house. “Cool,” I said.
Well, as the days have passed, I’ve been trying to find those paparazzi shots of Gwen Stefani in Los Feliz. And the fact is, there are thousands of paparazzi shots of Gwen Stefani, many of them showing her walking, though the kind of shoes she normally wears don’t look as though they’re made for walking very far.
Anyway it took a while but I found the shots that were taken that day – that’s one above. It seems she was going to her own baby shower, organized by a friend who lived in the house. Judging by the pictures and the smiles, Gwen Stefani really doesn’t seem to have too much of a problem with paparazzi. Husband Gavin Rossdale seems to handle it even better.