January 29, 2008

Paparazzi crush in Spears' neighborhood

LOS ANGELES - Police were called to Britney Spears' neighborhood after someone reported a swarm of paparazzi trespassing in the singer's gated community.

Los Angeles police Officer Mike Lopez said officers received a call around 7 p.m. Monday about a group of photographers "stepping onto the grounds" of the private neighborhood while following the 26-year-old pop star.

When officers arrived, they didn't see anyone trespassing, Lopez said. He said citations were issued for several illegally parked cars.

Lopez said he didn't know how many photographers were following Spears.

Spears has spiraled downward since filing for divorce from Kevin Federline in November 2006. Her bizarre public antics include shaving her head bald, attacking a car with an umbrella and bringing along a paparazzo pal on trips to a courthouse in her custody case with Federline.

She was taken to a Los Angeles hospital by paramedics earlier this month after police were called to her home because of a dispute involving her sons, Sean Preston, 2, and Jayden James, 1. She has lost custody and visitation rights with the boys.

January 26, 2008

Heath Ledger's body swarmed by paparazzi in New York

HEATH Ledger's body was swarmed by up to 50 paparazzi as his casket left a New York funeral home as he began his final journey home to Perth today.

In a Manhattan street, New York police officers were forced to fend off more than 50 members of the paparazzi and news crews as five employees from New York's Frank E Campbell funeral home carefully loaded a large, plain pine crate containing Ledger's body into a traditional black hearse.

"Back up. Back up, please," an NYPD officer yelled at swarming photographers as the funeral parlour employees wheeled the crate to the hearse.

The journey to Perth is expected to take two days.

Ledger's departure came just hours after his grieving father Kim, mother Sally and sister Kate landed in New York.

The Ledgers, along with their son's former fiancee Michelle Williams and Ledger's two-year-old daughter Matilda and close friends, attended a private memorial service in Manhattan.

Another memorial service is expected in Los Angeles next week.

"There is a private memorial service today and I also understand that there will be a public memorial service in Los Angeles later this week," Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, in New York for meetings at the United Nations and to attend G'Day USA events, told reporters at a Manhattan hotel today.

The Australian government has offered to assist the Ledger family in anyway it can.

"Whatever decision they take Australia stands ready to help them," Mr Smith added.

Ledger's body is expected to be laid to rest at a funeral for family in Perth next week.

While in Manhattan the actor's parents will also meet with New York's chief medical examiner, who conducted the autopsy, in the hope of finding answers to why their 28-year-old son died.

New York police sources say investigators are leaning toward an accidental drug overdose with prescription pills as the cause of death, although toxicology results expected in a week will likely solve the riddle.

New York police found six different types of prescription drugs in Ledger's apartment, including pills to treat insomnia and anxiety.

Ledger died on Tuesday in a $US23,000 ($A26,000) a month SoHo loft apartment he was renting from friend and actress, Mary-Kate Olsen.

Olsen has become a central figure in Ledger's death, despite being in Los Angeles when a masseuse, Diane Wolozin, found him face down in bed when she arrived at the loft for a scheduled massage appointment.

Wolozin made repeated calls to Olsen before calling the New York emergency phone number, 911.

New York police said they have no reason to interview Olsen.

Olsen, in her first public comment on Ledger's death, released a short statement today through her publicist.

"Heath was a friend," Olsen said.

"His death is a tragic loss.

"My thoughts are with his family during this very difficult time."

Wolozin may not escape the attention of authorities.

It was revealed today the New York Education Department has notified the NYPD that Wolozin does not have a licence to practice as a masseuse in New York.

Under New York law, anyone not authorised to practice a licensed profession could be charged with a felony.

January 24, 2008

Britney Spears Economy' Brings In Millions For Magazines, Label, Paparazzi

Portfolio estimates the pop star nets other people more than $110 million.

There are plenty of reasons to feel sorry for Britney Spears, but the troubled pop star's financial situation isn't one of them. Worth an estimated $125 million, the sometime singer reportedly still rakes in more than $700,000 a month, which, you can assume, is not for what passes for her "job" these days: getting in and out of her car, shopping, eating at restaurants and missing court dates.

But even though she isn't making any money touring -and she's not likely raking in much dough from the bombing Blackout -Spears isn't the only one making millions off her shenanigans. Portfolio magazine has published an account of who is banking off Brit, ranging from her label to the ever-present paparazzi, ex-husband Kevin Federline, celebrity magazines and the companies that license the singer's name.

Among those cashing in, according to the magazine:

» Jive Records, which has brought in more than $400 million thanks to the 83 million albums the singer has sold

» Tour promoters/ venues -Her tours have grossed $150 million, with the average take for her 265 solo shows at $583, 138 each.

» Pure Nightclub -The Las Vegas hotspot reportedly sold seats at a table next to Britney's for $50,000 at a recent party. The magazine said Spears still pulls down between $250,000 and $400,000 just for showing up at events.

» Perfume maker Elizabeth Arden -The company has sold nearly $100 million worth of the Spears scents Believe, Curious and Fantasy.

» The paparazzi -Photos of Britney can bring in anywhere from $250 for a basic going-to-get-a-cup-of-coffee shot to $100,000 or more for an exclusive. Photo agency X17, which has a team that trails the singer everywhere she goes 24/7, estimates that Britney accounts for 30 percent of its revenue. In 2007 alone, X17 sold $2.5 million worth of Britney photos, including $500,000 for its exclusive pics of the singer's head-shaving incident. Britney accounts for 10-15 percent of business for competitor Splash News, which brought in $200,000 for photos of Britney in a hot tub. At this point, the magazine estimates, Britney alone accounts for 20 percent of all paparazzi business.

» Celebrity magazines -Between January 2006 and July 2007, Portfolio reports that Britney was a cover subject of People, Us Weekly, In Touch, Life & Style, OK! and Star a total of 175 times in just 78 weeks, accounting for sales of $360 million. A celebrity tabloid with Spears on the cover sells an average of 1.28 million newsstand copies, which is almost 33 percent more than the non-Spears issue.

» Yahoo! -She's topped the annual Yahoo search rankings in six of the past seven years, dropping to #2 in 2004 when fellow tabloid staple Paris Hilton briefly stole her thunder. Searches for Britney were up 60 percent in 2007, the year of her divorce, shaved head and car wreck.

» Kevin Federline -Though his solo album flopped hard, K-Fed can still pull down almost $30,000 for nightclubs appearances thanks to the Britney connection, which nicely compliments the $35,000 a month he gets from his ex in spousal and child-support payments.

What does all that Britney action add up to for her galaxy of dependents? Portfolio puts the final tally of the Britney Economy at $110-120 million a year. Gimme gimme more, indeed.

January 21, 2008

Getty Images Up for Sale, Could Fetch $1.5 Billion

Getty Images, the world’s biggest supplier of pictures and video to media and advertising companies, has put itself on the auction block and could fetch more than $1.5 billion, people briefed on the situation said Sunday.

The firm hired Goldman Sachs to advise it on a potential sale, these people said. The company has attracted interest from several buyers, mostly private equity firms, including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Bain Capital and others.

Final bids are due by the end of the month, but people briefed on the auction cautioned that it was unclear which firms would submit a final bid. A sale is not assured, because the tightening of the high-yield debt markets has cut off private equity firms from the lifeblood of their business, making it harder to finance deals.

Getty, founded in 1995 in Seattle, has grown through a series of acquisitions into a go-to source for visual media, claiming an average service of 3.2 billion images and 4 million unique visitors at its Web site each month. The company’s main selling point is the licensing of high-quality images from professional photographers around the world. Among its main clients are advertising agencies and media companies, including The New York Times. It also offers video footage for use in movies, television and the Internet.

A spokeswoman for the company contacted last week said the company does not comment on “rumors and speculation.”

Some of the company’s premium offerings include the distribution of images from the Time Life and National Geographic collections. Early last year, Getty bought its biggest competitor, MediaVast, for $202 million, acquiring the WireImage service in the process. Last year, Getty held takeover talks with the publicly held Jupitermedia Corporation, but the discussions ended quickly without a deal.

Its main rivals, Jupitermedia, and the Corbis Corporation, a private company owned by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates, have also made a number of acquisitions, though they remain far smaller than Getty. The Internet — a medium that Getty pioneered by being the first to license images online — has made it easier for clients to find pictures for less money.

Getty’s shares have declined more than 47 percent in the last year. Its shares fell 10 percent in August, when the company lowered its full-year profit estimate because of competition from low-cost rivals. Last November, it reported a third-quarter profit of $25.7 million, down 31 percent from a year ago.

Last April, Getty also restated its earnings and took a $28 million to $32 million charge after an internal investigation into the backdating of stock options grants to executives.

Started by Jonathan Klein and Mark Getty, a scion of the J. Paul Getty oil fortune, the company began striking deals and acquiring the photo archives of companies like PhotoDisc. Its growth began to skyrocket with later acquisitions like its $183 million purchase of Eastman Kodak’s Image Bank in 1999.

But the rise of digital photography and the Web created a host of competitors that charged as little as a dollar for an image. Recent events — from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister, to the latest foibles of the entertainer Britney Spears — have led to a surging popularity of low-quality but on-the-scene photos, many taken by cellphone cameras.

“Getty Images continues to be a company in transition, adjusting from being the leading player in an oligopolistic market to being one of many players in a highly competitive market,” Barbara Coffey, a research analyst with Kaufman Brothers, wrote in a research note earlier this month.

The company made its biggest effort to harness some of that new sector’s profit by buying iStockphoto.com, a site for cheaper if also lower-quality photos, for $50 million in 2006. It has lowered the price for some of its wares and offers low-resolution versions of its photographs for $49.

Getty has moved to diversify in other ways. Last June, it bought Pump Audio, a music-licensing company that draws on works by unsigned musicians, for $42.5 million. Another acquisition, WireImage, which does picture coverage of entertainment events like parties, has helped bolster revenue from magazine and newspaper sales as well.

Still, some analysts worry that other, cheaper rivals could continue undercutting the company’s prices. Last August, Getty announced that it was laying off 100 employees, or about 5 percent of its full-time staff, its second round of cuts in as many years.

Other analysts are more bullish about Getty’s prospects. Ms. Coffey of Kaufman Brothers raised her recommendation of the stock to hold from sell this month after its price fell closer to her target of $24.

Getty’s share price has since fallen, closing at $21.94 on Friday.

Not all of Getty’s troubles stem from competitive pressures. A special committee of the company’s board said last April that it found no signs of “intentional wrongdoing” in the backdating of stock options, but Getty was forced to restate its earnings from virtually its inception until November 2006.

January 20, 2008

Confessions of a paparazzo

For photographer Giles Harrison, who has been on the paparazzi beat for over a decade, following Britney is all in a day's work. He gave the Daily News an inside look at what the gig really entails.


Working on Britney just gets beyond insanity. Of course there are better ways to make money; they're just not as lucrative.

Usually, when she's been out all night, she doesn't go out all day.

If she does, she just goes out to eat, get her nails done or drives between her home in the Hollywood Hills and her house in Malibu. Pretty boring stuff.


At the moment there's so much going on with her, following her involves car chases every single time.

A typical run-in happened recently when she was driving on Sunset Blvd. and stopped to get gas in Brentwood. At that point, about six paparazzi were with her, which was fine. She was sitting in the car with her windows rolled down, giving us the pictures. By the time she left, there were about 20 cars chasing her, weaving in and out of traffic and driving into incoming traffic to cut other paparazzi off, and jockeying to be the first car around her.

I don't do anything that's going to put my life or somebody else's in jeopardy, but the stuff some of the others will do has a complete disregard for anyone else - even the guys they work with.


She doesn't go that far, but does just enough to make sure she gets her picture taken.

Maybe it's a cry for attention, because if she didn't want to be seen, she wouldn't be and there have been times in the past when you'd never see her.


I do feel bad for her, but the thing that I find really distasteful is the fact that she's going out with the paparazzi guy who is blatantly selling her down the river. Especially with all the problems she's got going on, like the custody case.

It's one thing if somebody falls for a celebrity, but if you're setting up pictures of her buying a pregnancy test, that's a different story. As much as I like Adnan, all he is doing is making a buck - there's no other explanation.

He sits there and tells all the other paparazzi what to do and thinks he's better than the rest of them. Some people just take no notice of him and others think he's kind of hysterical.

I just think, at the end of the day you don't make yourself part of the story.

January 17, 2008

4 paparazzi arrested for chasing Britney

Four paparazzi have been arrested for reckless driving while chasing Britney Spears' car in the San Fernando Valley.

Los Angeles
police Lt. Mario Munoz said officers observed several cars following a white Mercedes-Benz around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday in Mission Hills.

The cars were following Spears' car too closely and traveling at unsafe speed. They also made several unsafe lane changes, authorities said.

Munoz said officers stopped the Mercedes, interviewed Spears and released the 26-year-old pop star after verifying her driver's license.

But the four photographers in the cars chasing her were booked for investigation of reckless driving.

January 16, 2008

Britney Spears May Face The Same Fate As Princess Diana

NEW YORK -- I'm beginning to envision a tragic conclusion to the whole Britney Spears media circus: The Hollywood paparazzi seem determined to hound her until she is dead.

This may sound extreme, but I don't believe it's so far-fetched. Remember what happened to Anna Nicole Smith and Princess Diana? Even if you don't blame the paparazzi for Smith's demise, there is no way to defend their glee in exploiting her fame after she died. See related video.

Sure, it's pathetic that these gossip hounds would want to make a buck by inflicting misery on someone simply because he or she is famous. Public figures like Spears, who find new and exotic ways to make "news" all the time, are manna from heaven for the photographers who follow them 24/7.

For sure, the paparazzi are as old as Hollywood itself. But the current crop has gone far beyond the bounds of professional behavior, not to mention good taste, human decency -- or any of those fuddy-duddy values.

I know the counter-argument by heart, too. Spears shouldn't be declared a victim in this debate. After all, the 26-year-old pop star thrives on the commotion and luxuriates in the attention. She needs the hype to advance her flagging career. It also must be a kick for her to realize that this small-town girl from Louisiana is one of the world's most famous people.

There's also another reason to resent these stars: their handlers. Celebrities have battalions of high-priced publicists who will trot out their clients whenever they have a new CD, movie or TV show to promote. Anything short of a vehicular-manslaughter charge seems to count as good publicity these days.

Setting limits

Still, enough is enough.

The paparazzi aren't interested in covering Spears' story with any acknowledgement of her right to privacy. The fiasco has spiraled completely out of control, well beyond the bounds of acceptable good taste by any reasonable standard. What's especially unfortunate is that her two small children will eventually pay a big price.

The gossip hounds answer that they are fulfilling a legitimate purpose by catering to the public's endless desire to see photos of Spears -- the more salacious or embarrassing, the better. They say that they are entitled to do their work because magazines like People, Us Weekly, the National Enquirer and OK! will routinely pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for coveted shots of celebrities.

Somehow, though, I don't suppose John Maynard Keynes or Milton Friedman ever envisioned such an inventive twist on the economic principle of supply and demand.

As even casual spectators to the madness know, the Spears saga keeps getting stranger and stranger. Nothing is out of bounds any more.

Once, onlookers debated whether her good-girl image could last. As she scrambled to sustain the media's interest and boost the sales of her CDs, she became a full-blown Media Curiosity. After a while, it wasn't enough for her to churn out big-selling CDs and embark on sold-out concert tours. She had to take the next step of becoming a freak show, having a Vegas marriage that lasted about 10 minutes, a stint in rehab and photos of her cutting her hair off and bashing a car with an umbrella.

It was as if she aced a graduate-level course called Madonna 399 because she completely grasped the Material Girl's law of always giving the public more and more thrills. (The apex of this was reached when Britney and Madonna smooched during the Grammys a few years back.) The difference: Madonna controlled her image much more masterfully. She always reinvented her look with each new album release or movie. But I don't ever remember her being portrayed as being out of control.

By now, the Spears story involves suspicions of unbalanced behavior, child custody and other legal matters, a career in free fall and a family in crisis. Naturally, the spotlight has drawn some strange participants.

Television's favorite family therapist, Dr. Phil McGraw, intruded into the proceedings earlier this month, too, elevating the stakes for people who can't get enough of Spears news. It didn't really matter that many accounts claimed that Dr. Phil wasn't welcome in Spears' inner circle. He made news, too.

The Spears train wreck is so fascinating and lucrative that it has ensnared the mainstream media, too. CNN's "Larry King Live," no stranger to tabloid television segments, examined the psychodrama in gruesome detail on Monday night.

This story seems destined to end badly for Britney Spears. If indeed the paparazzi hound her into an early grave, you can count on them to go on "Larry King Live" and the like, express their distress and offer sympathy to the Spears clan.

But they'll mostly just feel sorry for themselves -- because they've killed the golden goose.

January 15, 2008

LAPD Brass to Cops: You Aren't the Paparazzi!

TMZ has learned that a message was sent down loud and clear today to LAPD cops working the Britney court beat -- no photos allowed!
Britney Spears
Law enforcement sources confirm to TMZ that an order came down to officers at the courthouse today, mandating that no cell phone photos or video of the popwreck or the ensuing chaos be taken. This command is a direct result, we're told, of reports that last week during Britney's meltdown at her home, several members of law enforcement were seen snapping pics.


JESSICA SIMPSON's manager-father JOE has hit out at reports he sparked the media frenzy surrounding the singer's new romance with American footballer TONY ROMO.

The With You hitmaker enjoyed a festive break in Los Cabos, Mexico, with Romo and her parents - but she has since been berated by Dallas Cowboys fans for putting their star player off his game, following his team's loss on Sunday (13Jan08) to the Giants.

And new rumours claim the blonde beauty's dad Joe was the one who alerted the press to the stars' whereabouts.

A source tells the New York Daily News, "Joe is well-known for his deals with the paparazzi, where the family gets a cut from the sales of the photographs.

"Nobody would have known that Tony was down in Mexico with Jessica if there hadn't been those pictures everywhere. So a lot of people suspect he tipped off the photographers, causing Tony this huge headache. When you date Jessica, you date Joe, too." But a representative for Simpson has denied the claims, insisting he would never deal with the paparazzi.

The spokesperson says, "Joe would never sell out his daughter to the media and would never do anything to hurt his own family or for that matter, Tony.
This is categorically false."

January 14, 2008

Buzz Foto Debuts Celebrity Paparazzi Photo Retrospective In Los Angeles

In one of the first shows of its kind, Buzz Foto, LLC, a Los Angeles-based paparazzi agency, is hosting a retrospective of contemporary celebrity photos in "Paparazzi As An Art Form." An opening night celebrity reception will be held Friday, February 15, 2008 at the Maryam Seyhoun Gallery on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. The show will run February 16 to 21 and is open to the public. Buzz Foto produces iconic images for magazines worldwide, bringing a certain elegance and art form to paparazzi style photography.

Encapsulating the present moment of our culture and the worldwide phenomenon of celebrity fixation, "Paparazzi As An Art Form" profiles the evolution of pop culture imagery and showcases the modern-day icons in a historical context, including enticing images of Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

"The Buzz Foto collection clearly illustrates that paparazzi photography can be a form of art. Executed properly, images of today's celebrities can exude an incredible amount of style and elegance that portray our ever-changing and exciting pop culture. Photos such as these are destined to one day grace the walls of major museums and galleries," said Brad Elterman, Buzz Foto co-founder who sold his first celebrity photo in 1974. "Consider Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans and Helen Levitt; each took photos of individuals without permission and set out to sell them. Their iconic photographs imitate the paparazzi style and today hang in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Our Buzz Foto photographs have the potential to hang next to those great masters."

Henry Flores, co-owner for Buzz Foto and a former engineer, said, "We are pleased to host a first-ever gallery showing of paparazzi art. All of our photographers maintain an excellent working rapport with the celebrity community, so we are certain they'll come out to see their photos."

Buzz Foto was founded by Elterman and Flores in 2006. Elterman is a thirty-year industry veteran who sold his prior celebrity photo agency, Online USA, Inc., to Getty Images in 2000.


Sigh. It's Monday, so that means there's a whole weekend of Lily Allen to catch up on, and she doesn't disappoint, having opened that chattering gob again. Another depressing thought is that she's pregnant and therefore she's being idiotic for two. Now the painful pop pixie is complaining about media intrusion, and quite reasonably suggesting that Prime Minister Gordon Brown bans the paparazzi.

So now, after several years of determinedly courting the media, Lily has decided that she wants nothing to do with them (not like Lily to completely change her opinion when the wind changes). Naturally, she decided to broadcast this decision through the media, and the unfortunate Marie Claire magazine were in earshot at the time.

"I got really irritated the other day when I read that Gordon Brown has vowed to clamp down on celebrities going out and getting really drunk because he said it's having a bad effect on young people," said Lily, realising that there should be a clamp down on irritating singers hiding behind nursery rhymes.

"I was like, 'Why don't you f***ing do something about the paparazzi taking pictures the whole f***ing time? Then people won't have to read about it!' Stop the nation from becoming so obsessed with a bunch of f***ing idiotic reprobates and then you won't have a problem."

All delivered without a hint or irony. Like her or not, you've got to admire her absolute cheek. Mind you, she's sticking to her principles...

"I refuse to put my make-up on just because the paparazzi are on my doorstep. I find it morally wrong. I'm just walking to the f***ing shop!" Yeah, Lily doesn't care about her image! Which is why she'll go to the shop with no make-up, wearing a ridiculous ball gown.

January 8, 2008

AP-palling News SPEARS the Heart of Journalism...

Today, the Associated Press, which bills itself as “The essential global news network,” issued an internal e-mail stating the following:

“Now and for the foreseeable future, virtually everything involving Britney is a big deal.”
The subject line: “Britney.”
No last name necessary.

Britney's new paparazzi boyfriend wants to make a buck

Britney Spears' new boyfriend wants to make a buck off of the fallen pop star (just like everyone else -- thanks Brit!)

Britney has been running with Adnan Ghalib, a paparazzi photographer for Finalpixx photo agency, since she was released from the mental ward over the weekend. Now Adnan is shopping around pics and video of he and Spears frollocking.

Ghalib is asking $1 million. Britney evidently even speaks in the video. Woot-woot, grab the checkbook!