My brief career as a paparazzo.

Humiliating myself for fun and profit.
March 31 2006 6:07 AM

Russell Crowe in My Viewfinder

My brief career as a paparazzo.

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(Continued from Page 2)

We were at a standoff, so I finally just asked his name.

"Patrick Bergin," he said.

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"I knew it!" I said. I explained that I was a paparazzo and he let me take his picture.

Then back we drove to our stronghold, Beverly Hills. While we were walking around the corner at Rodeo Drive, we saw a group of about eight young tourists jumping and twittering like a covey of sparrows that has just spotted a hawk. There had to be someone nearby. We scanned the horizon—nothing.

Russell Crowe. Click image to expand.
Duck! It's Russell Crowe!

Then the door to the Vilebrequin swimwear store opened and out came Russell Crowe, his young son in his arms, his pregnant wife by his side. My heart started hammering. This was the big time, but I was afraid that, given his reputation, if I were to take a picture of him, he'd punch me in the face. I didn't want to get hit—although I also knew that suing him for having to get my jaw rewired could be lucrative in the long run. While I was figuring out what to do, the family turned and climbed the stairs to that tourist mecca, Two Rodeo. At the top of the stairs was a man with a Rod Stewart shag leaning against a banister holding a telephoto lens. Russell and family then sat down at an outdoor cafe abutting Tiffany's, while the real paparazzo calmly took dozens of photos. As I contemplated why an A-list star who supposedly guarded his privacy would sit there, I ran back and forth—keeping more than an arm's length away—snapping the group.

After they had their drinks and moved on, I talked to the paparazzo. He refused to give me his name and said he wasn't a paparazzo: "Paparazzis are a-------." He said he was a photographer. I asked how he knew Russell Crowe would be there. He told me he got tipped by someone who worked at one of the stores. Store employees call paparazzi—I mean "photographers"—with sightings, and if the photographs get published, the tipster gets 25 percent of the sale. The photographer told me that since this was an exclusive of Crowe with pregnant wife and child, he'd probably get $2,500 for the shot. Then his cell phone rang.

"A Desperate Housewife? Which one? The redhead—got it."

Michael Caine. Click image to expand.
Michael Caine

It was another tip—Marcia Cross was just around the corner. Liz and I started running to find her when I saw in my peripheral vision a group of three men walking up Two Rodeo. One had on a Windbreaker and baseball cap and a scruffy gray beard. I turned back and ran alongside him and got a profile shot. For years I have had a neuron devoted exclusively to Michael Caine, and it was happily firing away in my head.

Thanks to Karen Duryea for suggesting this assignment.

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