Photos By Steven Perilloux
Paparazzi—they’re just like us! They get annoyed by invasive assholes too.
I think we can all agree that paparazzi are some of the lowest forms of life on planet Earth. Yet society tolerates the profession because it enables our base desires of nosiness and voyeurism without the risk of feeling like an asshole. The ever-growing business of invading public persons’ privacy—and the seemingly insatiable appetite for such garbage—proves that more than ever, people are looking for glimpses into lives that seem more interesting than their own.
As a guy who variously works in a mailroom, does stand-up, writes articles, and resets people’s credit ratings on the side, I have been involved in my share of very shady things. Were the paparazzi any worse than me? Were they just trying to get by? To find out, I had to confront a few members of the profession and ask them stupid questions while a photographer shoved his camera in their faces.
Before setting out on my stalkerazzi mission, I needed some expert advice on locations, protocol, etc. After asking various contacts, I was put in touch with “Peter”—a professional (and somewhat jaded) paparazzo who agreed to give me all the pertinent details I would need to capture my prey in exchange for his anonymity. I’m unable to get into specifics about who he’s worked for and how active he is, but rest assured that the answers are “all of them” and “very.”
The first thing Peter made clear is that paparazzi refer to themselves as “paps,” but you and I can never call them that. We haven’t “earned it.” When I asked him what that meant, he didn’t have a clear answer, but he was sure I wasn’t allowed to use the term to refer to him or anyone else in the profession. How’s that for some bullshit?
Not once during our hour-long interview did Peter try to convince me that what he was doing was artistic or honorable. He did, however, sell me on the fact that his work is very much in demand by both tabloids and celebrities alike. He claimed that famous people routinely call him to tip him off on where they’re planning to be at a particular time. He also said that there are a select few “freelance photographers,” such as himself, who adhere to a moral code of sorts. For instance, he would never snap someone’s kids, but other creeps have no problem with it. He also said that, with camera in hand, he’s caught celebrities in embarrassing situations and let them off the hook: “Arnold Schwarzenegger is someone I definitely wouldn’t take advantage of.”
At one point, I asked Peter why he decided to become a paparazzo instead of shooting for quality magazines or weddings. He started to tear up and said that his first priority is taking care of his family, and that his chosen line of work is the quickest and easiest way to make decent money. “I could be shooting wedding videos and working for magazines like you guys,” he said, “if you would just fucking hire me!” I felt for the guy, but I wasn’t sure I entirely believed him.
Peter broke down the four categories of paparazzo: minimum-wage droogs with shitty consumer-grade cameras (most likely stolen), decent photographers in need of money, super-creep steely-eyed psychopaths who could probably make it through Navy SEAL training, and the Brazilians. “Whatever you do, be careful of the Brazilians; they are very territorial,” he said while showing me a few YouTube videos of crazy capoeira motherfuckers beating the shit out of one another and huge black bodyguards outside of clubs. He also schooled me on the paparazzi circuit and its respective territories: Beverly Hills (mainly a nail salon and café on Camden Street and a Rite Aid right around the corner), the Westside (Brentwood/Santa Monica/Venice), LA (popular spots include Malibu Country Mart and Craig’s), and LAX. With this information at my disposal, I was ready to start my rampage of invasiveness.