If you are, let’s say, Justin Timberlake, and you spot a casual photographer lurking behind the bushes, you should think twice before calling him a paparazzo. He might be short tempered and throw his camera at you – especially if he calls himself a photojournalist! You may ask what the difference is. Well, it’s in what the word paparazzi means in Italian – buzzing, oversized mosquitoes.
Paparazzo (the singular of paparazzi) was the surname of the freelance photographer (played by Walter Santesso) in Federico Fellini’s emblematic movie La Dolce Vita (1959). Since then the name has become an epitome of insolence and annoyance as it stands for all the photographers who make money on other people’s misfortunes. They follow around the famous and pray for something shocking or embarrassing to happen. They will stalk them until their last breath just to get something, a celebrity who dares to come out without makeup or who has gained a couple of pounds. Being the parasites they are, the paparazzi are ready to do anything just to get their photo on the cover of a magazine. And we mean, ANYTHING. Sometimes, in their attempt to capture a scandalous moment, they overstep so many boundaries that it leads to… this article.
We give you our list of 15 cases when the paparazzi crossed the line.
15. Britney Spears Attacks A Paparazzo’s Car With An Umbrella
This year, photographer Daniel Ramos celebrates the 10th anniversary of the infamous incident when the infuriated pop star Britney Spears attacked him with an umbrella.
In 2007, Spears was in the middle of a nerve-racking custody battle with her then husband Kevin Federline. In the middle of a nervous breakdown, she went to an L.A. hair salon and had her hair shaved. Shortly after that, she was circled by photographers at a gas station. The singer got so enraged that she went on attack mode. Ramos’ Ford made the butt of her attacks while she was swinging an umbrella and yelling “F*ck you!”
A few months later, Spears apologized to Ramos on her website, saying she was preparing for an audition and got “carried away a little” the night of the incident.
14. Niall Horan Got Knocked To The Floor In Paparazzi-Fan Scramble
It is not uncommon that the photographers, in their zealous attempts to document every step the celebrities take, put their health (and even life) in danger.
In November 2013, after touching down at LAX airport, the members of One Direction were swarmed by hundreds of fans and over-enthusiastic paparazzi. In the scrummage, Niall Horan was knocked to the ground, which made him post the following tweet a couple of hours after the incident: “I hate the paps! Just got dragged to the floor by some idiot with a camera! I could have seen the fans as well, but they messed it all up!”
Two years later, in London, Horan again confronted the paparazzi. This time he was mobbed around Cirque le Soir. After a paparazzo pushed a fan out of the way to get a photo of him, he tweeted, “Nasty, nasty people these paps! Whoever the hell you were, don’t ever tell one of our fans to get out of the way!”
13. Reese Witherspoon Gets Involved In The Mystery Death Of A Paparazzo
Todd Wallace was a well-known member of the Hollywood paparazzi scene. He was arrested in September 2005 after allegedly striking with his camera the 5-year-old daughter of a friend of Reese Witherspoon during their visit to a Disney theme park. In an interview shortly after the incident, the actress said, “He became so aggressive. He began pushing, and shoved our tour guide.” Wallace was charged with battery. After he missed his bail hearing, authorities were convinced he had fled the country. Moreover, that wasn’t his first confrontation with the law – Wallace did some time in prison for burglary. The case was getting cold until in February the following year, his decomposed body was found in his Brentwood apartment. Given the photographer’s past history, Witherspoon was among the people who were brought in for questioning by L.A. police.
12. Paparazzo Loses His Life While Chasing Justin Bieber
This is the story of a paparazzo who actually died while trying to snap photos of a celebrity.
The fatal sequence of events happened on a cold January day in 2013 at the Four Seasons hotel in L.A., where freelance photographer Chris Guerra had been spying on Justin Bieber. He was hoping he would catch him smoking weed. “If it takes me all night, I’m staying out here, I’m getting the story. He was smoking weed. I hope something comes out of this, “ Guerra told a friend just hours before his death. When the 29-year-old paparazzo saw Bieber’s Ferrari taking off, he followed it, not knowing that it was driven by a friend of the pop star’s, Lil Twist. Guerra was crossing Sepulveda Boulevard to get his shot of glory when some cops saw him and instructed him to return to his car. He eventually complied, but while crossing the four-lane road, he was hit by a passing car and killed on the spot.
11. Lindsay Lohan Crashes Mercedes Into A Van
On October 4th, 2005, the then 19-year-old actress Lindsay Lohan was driving north on Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood when she collided into a Chevrolet Astro van, which was turning in front of her. A witness told that Lohan immediately ran from the vehicle in an attempt to hide from paparazzi. Presumably, she had been chased by dozens of them before the crash. The photographers tried to take pictures of her while she was doing some shopping in a clothing store, and then followed her out to her car. Another witness claimed some of the paps were sitting ON her car, trying to take photos of her. As a result of the crash, the front of Lohan’s Mercedes-Benz was severely damaged.
That was not the first time Lohan had troubles with the paparazzi. She was involved also in an accident with a guy who was accused of hitting her on purpose. Three months after this, the then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger passed a law that came down on paparazzi who commit assault while in pursuit of their subject.
10. Russell Brand Gets Arrested After “Attacking Photographer”
Seven years ago, at the Los Angeles Airport, the British actor and his then fiancée Katy Perry were preparing to board a flight to Las Vegas. They didn’t make it to the flight though. The reason: Brand was arrested following a confrontation that occurred as the couple was surrounded by paparazzi at the terminal housed by Delta Airlines. One of the photographers must have really pissed off Brand because the police report of the incident stated that Brand was taken into custody for a “simple battery”. The actor was booked at LAPD’s Pacific Department and had to pay a $20,000 bail to get himself out of prison. We are not sure what exactly happened, but Perry threw some light on the events of that day by commenting on Twitter, “If you cross the line and try and put a lens up my dress, my fiancé will do his job and protect me.” The interesting part about the whole incident is the way Russell Brand got arrested. The paparazzo actually made a citizen’s arrest!
9. Jennifer Aniston Sues A Photographer Over Topless Pictures
In 1999, pictures of Jennifer Aniston sunbathing topless in her own backyard appeared in a couple of magazines, such as Celebrity Skin, High Society and Celebrity Sleuth. An overzealous paparazzo decided to climb her neighbor’s fence and took pictures of the actress with his high-powered lens. She then sued the magazines, and received a “friendly offering” of $550,000 as an out-of-court settlement.
Eight years later, Aniston won another lawsuit over a topless photo that came from footage during filming of The Break-Up. The shot was not included in the final version of the movie, but the notorious gossip blogger Perez Hilton somehow got hold of it and made it public. The lawsuit against him ended with an injunction barring further distribution of the unauthorized photo. No monetary damages were specified in the complaint.
8. Chris Martin Is Getting Hot Under The Collar
Coldplay front man Chris Martin ad his ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow have had their fair share of confrontations with the overzealous paps. In 2004, Martin pushed a photographer who had been snapping photos of him and his wife while they were dining in a restaurant. The “assaulted” paparazzo, Alessandro Copetti, claimed he was outside the restaurant and was in no way disturbing the happy couple when Martin appeared out of nowhere and kicked him from behind. The story, however, was not quite as Copetti told it to the police. Actually, his behavior was described as “rather aggressive” in the police report.
Four years later, in 2008, Paltrow was leaving a New York City hospital when paparazzi appeared out of nowhere and wouldn’t leave her alone. Frustrated by the violation of his wife’s privacy, Martin knocked one of them to the ground because he refused to stop taking pictures of Gwyneth.
7. Robert Pattinson’s Gal Friend Bares Breasts To Distract The Paparazzi
The notoriously private Twilight star Robert Pattinson also has had his fair share of troubles with the paparazzi. Once, a female friend of his flashed her boobs to distract the photographers in New York. The actor and some friends were trying to get into Escuelita nightclub, when the paps swarmed them, itching to take a picture of him. One of his friends, however, lifted her shirt to expose her breasts, and yelled, “Take a picture of me! I’m so cute.”
On another occasion, in July 2010, Pattinson was leaving a friend’s house in Malibu, when some paparazzi took him by surprise by the flashes of their cameras. In his attempt to avoid them, Pattinson collided with a Kia parked near the driveway. Fortunately, he didn’t get hurt, and the owner of the Kia didn’t file a complaint.
6. Paparazzi Go On Trial For Topless Photos Of Kate Middleton
The photos of the Duchess of Cambridge were taken with a telephoto lens while she and her husband, Prince William, were sunbathing on a patio at a private luxury estate in Southern France. The pictures were published in a French gossip magazine. The couple filed a court complaint, but did not attend the trial. They asked for damages of about $2.175 million! The defense lawyer, who is currently representing the two photographers, claimed his clients were innocent and stated that the whole thing was much ado about nothing. According to him, the royal couple was looking for scapegoats and found those two. The lawyer of the magazine’s owner said, “The article made everybody happy, from the readers to the royal family because the couple was presented under a very favorable light.” However, the two photographers are still waiting for the verdict which is expected on July 4.
5. Princess Diana Gets Killed In A Car Crash While Being Chased By Paparazzi
Undoubtedly, this is the most notorious case of the paparazzi going too far in order to snap a picture of a celebrity. On August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, died in hospital as a result of the injuries suffered in a car crash in the Pont d’Alma tunnel in Paris. Her companion, the son of an Egyptian billionaire, Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the Mercedes-Benz died on the scene. The only survivor of the terrible crash was the bodyguard of the couple. Although the investigation found the fatal accident was caused by the driver, Henri Paul, many are convinced that the paparazzi, who had been closely following the Princess during her stay in Paris, are to blame.
After the crash, while the victims were still in the car, the photographers, who had been driving behind the Mercedes, reached the scene. Some of them tried to open the doors and help the victims out, but others were just standing aside, taking pictures. The last thing Diana was reported to have whispered repeatedly was “Oh my God!”
4. Pregnant Tori Spelling Gets Involved In Car Accident After Being Chased By Paparazzi
In June 2011, the paparazzi decided to follow Tori Spelling…as usual. This time she was driving to pick up her kids from school. In an effort to lose them, the pregnant actress speeded up, but lost control of the car and drove directly into the wall of the children’s school. Later, in a post on her Twitter page, she wrote, “Paparazzi chased me with the kids to school. I was trying to get away from them and had a pretty bad accident. Took down whole wall of school.” The accident didn’t stop the guy from trying to get his shots of the celebrity mom and her children, Stella and Liam. “He then STILL got out to try to get pics. 10 school moms chased him away. What will it take? Someone dying for paparazzi to stop?” And then she added, “Going to the doctor now to check on the baby. I think it’s just shock.”
3. Chris Brown Totals His Car While Escaping Paparazzi
On February 9, 2013, singer Chris Brown was driving to an event in L.A. when two vehicles cut him off. From the statement of his representative that followed shortly after, it became clear that the occupants of the vehicles were photographers. They jumped out on the road and aggressively approached Brown’s car. In an effort to avoid any confrontation and to get himself out of the situation, Brown backed down the alley, at which point he was cut off by the two cars. Brown lost control crashed his car. A witness called 911 and told the operator the singer’s black Porsche had smashed into a wall. The Beverly Hills police department’s investigation couldn’t prove the paps were involved, although Brown’s representative made it clear in his statement that what led to the incident was the singer being “ruthlessly pursued by paparazzi.”
2. Lily Allen Gets Arrested Over A Paparazzi Attack
On June 28th, 2007, the British pop star Lily Allen was arrested over an alleged assault on a photographer outside the Wardour Club in London’s Soho. The incident occurred when Allen and her boyfriend exited the club around 1:30 a.m. on March 13th. Of course, the moment she set her foot out of the club, the flashbulbs of the paparazzi aimed at her direction. Understandably, the singer was not OK with this, and kicked one guy and punched another right in the face. Then, she must have decided it wasn’t enough and threw a bottle of water over the shutterbug. Police were called, but the “evil perpetrator” had already left the crime scene. Lily Allen had previous incidents with the rage of the paparazzi. She even got an injunction because she accused them of being far too intrusive.
1. Jackie Onassis Gets A Restraining Order Against A Notorious Paparazzo And Marlon Brando Breaks His Jaw
The 86-year-old photographer Ronald Galella is pronounced “Paparazzo Extraordinaire” by Newsweek and the “Godfather of the U.S. Paparazzi” by Time magazine. During his long career, he’s managed to piss off not one or two celebrities. In 1972, in a precedent-setting legal battle, Jackie Onassis sued Galella for harassment because he followed her and her children in Central Park. She won a restraining order against him, but subsequently the court reduced the minimal distance to 25 feet and allowed Galella to get back to work.
A year later, Galella followed Marlon Brando to a restaurant in Chinatown in New York. The actor suddenly snapped and punched the photographer so hard in the face that he knocked out five of his teeth. Galella sued Brando and the court ordered $40,000 as compensation.
Galella adopted his stake-out approach back in the late 1960s. He once paid a warehouse watchman $15 to lock him in over the weekend so that he could get exclusive shots of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.