Invasion of the Privacy Snatchers

The protection of privacy, at least for the rich and famous, gets a boost this year under a new California law that permits hefty civil damages to be awarded to those injured by overzealous paparazzi. The measure was prompted in part by a series of high-profile dustups: one photographer allegedly assaulted several people, including two children, while trying to obtain photos of a birthday outing for Reese Witherspoon's daughter; another was arrested for allegedly ramming his minivan into Lindsay Lohan's Mercedes in order to film her distress. Many high—or should we say low?—points of brazenness among the paparazzi are documented in Peter Howe's recent book Paparazzi (Artisan). Herewith some selections. —Matthew Quirk

1. The Term Is Coined. Buzzing around the Via Veneto on a scooter in the 1950s and 1960s, Tazio Secchiaroli was the original Paparazzo, the model for the character by that name in Federico Fellini's 1960 film La Dolce Vita. After exploding a flashbulb in Ava Gardner's face and drawing the ire of her consort, Walter Chiari, in an incident captured through the lenses of accomplices, Secchiaroli discovered that engineering conflict with a star could bring him sixty times his usual fee.

2. O's Eyes. With a persistence bordering on obsession, Ron Galella trailed Jackie Onassis from 1968 to 1982. His most famous shot, taken in 1971, shows her on a Manhattan street, smiling slightly, hair blown across her face and sunglasses in hand—one of the few times she was caught with her eyes unshielded. Onassis obtained a restraining order against Galella in 1973. He flouted it repeatedly until, brought back to court nine years later, he agreed never to photograph her again.

3. The Rest of Her. By posing as a gardener, Settimio Garritano gained access to Skorpios, Aristotle Onassis's private island, where he used a telephoto lens to get close-ups of Jackie sunbathing in the nude. The photos were sold to Larry Flynt for a 1975 issue of Hustler.

4. Pursuing the Pontiff. Adriano Bartoloni spent seven months early in John Paul II's tenure attempting to photograph the pope at his summer residence, outside Rome. Having cased the property by air, Bartoloni exploited a brief window between regular security patrols to climb into a ditch. He set up a shelter, hid a remote-controlled camera in a tree, and hunkered down for eleven days. He got the shot he was after: John Paul swimming in his pool.

5. The First of the Chopperazzi. After sifting through Madonna's trash for weeks in 1985, Phil Ramey and his colleagues discovered the secret location of her upcoming wedding to Sean Penn—atop a cliff in Malibu—and positioned themselves in a rented house next door. They were discovered and evicted at the last minute, but a hastily chartered helicopter allowed Ramey to capture the nuptials anyway, along with a message to the paparazzi scrawled in giant letters on the beach: "Fuck Off."

6. Fergie's Toes. In 1992 poolside photos ran of Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, having her toes kissed or sucked by her financial adviser; the photographer, Jean-Paul Dousset, had received an indirect tip from a car-rental agent. The ease with which Dousset got the shots—the pool, in Saint-Tropez, was visible from the road—convinced him that Fergie, who had recently separated from Prince Andrew, had been set up by Buckingham Palace in an attempt to expose the liaison. This theory was never proved, but the photos were "bought out" by persons unknown to prevent their further publication.

7. Di's Death. Princess Diana's relationship with the wealthy Egyptian Dodi al-Fayed attracted a swarm of paparazzi, whose high-speed pursuit was initially blamed for her death in a car accident in a Paris tunnel in 1997. An investigation later revealed that her driver had three times the legal level of alcohol in his blood. Still, the episode provoked a widespread backlash against paparazzi, and images of the dying princess went unpublished for several years.

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