When you work for an extremely popular mega-star, one of the major responsibilities is dealing with the paparazzi. They can be like sharks with cameras, and navigating rough waters with a famous celebrity can be tricky and sometimes downright dangerous.
I worked for a major recording celebrity in the 1980s who didn’t like having his picture taken. He was always asking us to try and confiscate the film. One time, as my client was getting into his limousine, a photog jumped into the car with him to snap a close shot. The client went crazy, and the head of security asked us to handle the situation. I was young, but I knew that if I laid my hands on this photographer, or his camera equipment,Â it could mean big trouble since the law would be on his side. The other two bodyguards in the entourage jumped into action–forcefully ejecting the guy from the car and grabbing his camera and film.
Of course, the photog called the police and one bodyguard was arrested for battery and the other for robbery. They spent the night in jail.
Since our client was so adamant about not letting people take his picture, it was always a big pain dealing with the paparazzi. He’d order us to confiscate the film from the camera (that was back before digital) but we’d all learned our lesson, and it wasn’t worth jail or the consequential smear on our records to steal property from other people just because he was camera-shy! It got so we’d keep rolls of film in our pockets, just so he’d think we’d done his bidding. We’d race off after a guy, and a couple minutes later, return. He’d ask to see the evidence, and we’d reach into a pocket and pull out one of our decoys.
I’ll never forget one time when we were on tour in London. The paparazzi had been out for blood that night, chasing us down streets, circling around the car as we sped through town. I understand what the atmosphere must’ve been like for Princess Diana–these Londoners were ruthless. While our client was dining inside a restaurant, we crept out to the parking lot and let the air out of the tires of one of the cars that had been in hot (and dangerous) pursuit. As luck would have it, a police officer came by, and caught us in the act. He located the photographer, and asked him if he wanted to press charges. Thankfully, the guy was a good sport about the whole thing and declined. He knew it was all a game and that we were doing our job–just as he was doing his.
Over the course of my career, I learned how to keep the feeding frenzy of these camera-crazed people in check. I understood that their livelihoods depended on getting some photos to sell to the magazines, who in turn are obliging the hungry public. We’d negotiate with them. They could snap a few pictures if they remained orderly and maintained a certain distance. Having an adversarial attitude towards them seemed to only incite more aggressive behavior. If we were cooperative but firm, we managed to keep our client safe and the sharks well fed.