February 26, 2009

Largest US camera store seeks bankruptcy protection

Ritz Camera, the largest dedicated camera retailer in the US has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company, which owns over 800 stores across the country, under a series of names, including Wolf Camera, has proposed a restructuring plan that will aim to see the chain continue in some form. As part of this, the company has applied to the bankruptcy court for permission to continue to honor its customer loyalty and rebate schemes.

In an affidavit to the court Marc Weinsweig, appointed as Chief Restructuring Officer and COO as part of the Chapter 11 process, describes his actions as being aimed at 'maintaining the day-to-day operations of the company's business with minimal disruption' in what he characterizes as 'daunting economic times.'

Court papers suggest that Ritz Cameras owes over $40 million to its two largest creditors: Nikon's US subsidiary Nikon Inc. and Canon USA, with a further $8.4 million owed to Fujifilm USA, a subsidiary of which owns around a third of the company. To put the $26.6 million owed to Nikon Inc. into perspective, it would represent somewhere in the region of 20% of Nikon Inc's expected annual operating income.

Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code provides companies with protection from their creditors while they attempt to restructure. However, US retailer Circuit City, which filed for bankruptcy protection in November 2008 announced the closure of all its stores and the liquidation of its assets on January 16th.

Officials: Pentagon OKs media photos of war dead

Defense and congressional officials say news organizations will be allowed to photograph the homecomings of America's war dead under a new Pentagon policy.

The officials say Defense Secretary Robert Gates has decided to allow photos of flag-draped caskets at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, if the families of casualties agree.

Gates planned to announce his decision later Thursday. The current ban was put in place by President George H.W. Bush.

February 25, 2009

Photographer Annie Leibovitz pawns her life's work for a £10m loan to pay her mortgage

Photographer Annie Leibovitz has borrowed £10million against some of her most famous pictures to pay the mortgages on all her homes.

The artist, 59, has become so concerned with her mounting debt, accumulated on properties she inherited in 2004 after the death of her lover Susan Sontag, she has turned to a company that lends money with fine art as collateral.

Documents seen by the New York Times reveal she secured the funds by giving the company, Art Capital, ownership of all her work - past and future - until the loan is repaid.

Victim of the credit crunch? Annie Leibovitz with her famous portrait of a pregnant Demi Moore

The images include those taken for the 1981 Rolling Stone front cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono shot on the day of Lennon's death, the photograph of a naked and pregnant Demi Moore, images of Michelle Obama for Vanity fair and of a semi-nude singer and actress Miley Cyrus taken for the same magazine.

Ian Peck, a co-owner of Art Capital, said Leibovitz was not alone in choosing to use her work to raise money at a time when share portfolios are plunging and homes have no equity left to borrow against.

One of Leibovitz's photographs for the Walt Disney Year of a Million Dreams campaign shows actress Scarlett Johansson, depicting Cinderella

'What's amazing is that individuals and institutions who previously we thought were untouchable are being deeply affected.

Leibovitz has shot Michelle Obama for this month's cover of U.S. Vogue magazine

'People who were truly enormous financially are now scrambling,' he said.

But he said many people found it very difficult to part with art work during times of hardship: 'It's akin to giving up your home, particularly for people who have built up collections over many years. People don't feel emotionally about stocks and bonds, but they certainly do over art.'

His company, dubbed an art pawn shop, issues loans of $500,000 (£350,000) or more at interest rates from 6 per cent to 16 per cent. Art becomes subject to sale if owners default.

The company has recently taken in - and put into secure and climate-controlled specialist art warehouses for safekeeping - pieces by Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Henry Moore and Picasso.

Clients have also borrowed against vintage film posters, antique teddy bears and valuable scientific instruments.

Mr Peck said only about one in ten of the deals end in default: 'Our aim is to avoid defaulting at all costs. Given the trouble involved in a default, it's better karma and business not to.'

February 23, 2009

OSCARS 2009: Red carpet no-shows irk photogs

Among those less than enthused with the changes to this year's Oscarcast were the red carpet photographers.

There was much grumbling among the shutterbugs over the Academy's new policy of having some stars (Jennifer Aniston, Kristen Stewart, Katherine Heigl and Jessica Alba) enter through an off-camera back entrance. This way, their stylish couture was revealed for the first time when they came onstage to present or with key money shots during the telecast.

While this may have been an attempt to buck up the ratings, the photogs didn't see it as benefiting their finances.

"Magazines want photos from the red carpet -- the stars have spent hours getting ready and they're prepared to pose," said one. "We sell these photos all year. This is a disaster both for us and for the designers who want their dresses seen at the Oscars."

There were a few presenters on the red carpet who definitely expressed the feeling -- either verbally or with eye rolls -- that if they were coming to the Oscars, they were coming through the front door.

"We refused," said Phoebe Cates with husband Kevin Kline about going through the back entry. Sarah Jessica Parker laughed and said "We've been advised not to answer that question" when asked if she was nudged to skip the red carpet. And Miley Cyrus was clear she wanted to show off her gown.

"I didn't just walk into a store and just find this," said the young singer-thesp of her Zuhair Murad gown. "This is not a place to be toned down."

But even without some of the presenters, the scene on the carpet seemed active enough. Maybe down a bit from last year, but not by much.

"It a circus," said "The Reader" helmer Stephen Daldry, "but I like coming to a circus."

There were many facets to the fashion circus. Philip Seymour Hoffman wore a black wool watchman's cap. And Mickey Rourke was in a white suit, open at the collar with a picture of this recently deceased Chihuahua in a pendant around his neck.

Rourke noted that it's been 15 years since he's been invited to the Oscars. "You pay a price when you do things your way," said the best actor nominee.

And while the overwhelming feeling was joy at attending, Frank Marshall spoke for more than himself when he said: "I feel great but I'm glad we're at the end of the season."

Still, as in years past, being on the red carpet offered a consistent joy in show business -- relative unknowns relishing the recognition of an Oscar nomination.

"This is like a Cinderella story for me," said supporting nominee Taraji P. Henson. "Designers are throwing clothes and jewels at me -- it's an incredible ride."

Richard Jenkins who was nommed as actor for "The Visitor" said the experience "is amazing. And I'm eligible for Social Security next year."

"This is the epicenter of the glamour bomb," said thesp Michael Sheen, who was with the "Frost/Nixon" team. "When you're here, you know no other place on Earth is more glamorous."

Dev Patel, star of the multi-nominee "Slumdog Millionaire," still had his watch set to Bombay time. He said what he wanted most from Oscar night was a chance to meet Jim Carrey. "He's my idol," said the Indian thesp.

And on the less glamorous end of the film business, Irene Taylor Brodsky, whose docu on India's battle with polio "The Final Inch" copped a short documentary nod said: "This is the Holy Grail for documentary makers. This brings up a world of recognition we'd never get without the Oscars."

And then there's always Judd Apatow, who's more accustomed to big box office than awards accolades. Up for a short film nom, Apatow surveyed the scene and said, "I feel like a parasite on the back of the Oscar."

February 21, 2009

TMZ posts photo it claims is a beaten Rihanna

A photo that appears to be Rihanna's face with bruises, scratches and swelling from an attack allegedly at the hands of boyfriend Chris Brown was posted Thursday night by the celebrity Web site TMZ.

The close-up image shows a welt above each of the woman's eyebrows, marks on her cheek and around her lips, and general swelling. TMZ did not say how it obtained the photo, when it was taken or by whom.

Hours after the photo was posted, the Los Angeles Police Department launched an internal investigation and asked for the public's help in finding the person who leaked it. A police news release said the image "has the appearance" of one taken during a domestic violence investigation, and classified its release as a case of serious misconduct that could result in termination.

Asked earlier Thursday whether he could confirm the photo's origin, LAPD Officer Jason Lee said only that the department had not released images of the woman who accused Brown, and would not release evidence photos. A spokeswoman for the district attorney said all evidence related to the case was still with police.

Brown was arrested Feb. 8 and booked on suspicion of making felony criminal threats to a woman that authorities have not publicly identified. A person familiar with the situation, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity, confirmed that the woman was Rihanna, whose real name is Robyn Fenty.

The person said some of the injuries shown in the photo - specifically the marks on the woman's forehead - were consistent with the injuries Rihanna sustained.

Prosecutors have asked police to provide more information before deciding what charges, if any, to pursue against Brown. Police have said the 19-year-old singer could face domestic violence charges if prosecutors think they are appropriate.

An Associated Press photo of Rihanna, taken before the party on the night of the incident, shows her with a tattoo of Roman numerals on her left shoulder; the TMZ photo shows the same numerals on the same shoulder. TMZ had previously used its site to debunk a manipulated image that depicted Rihanna with a black eye.

No public statement has been issued on behalf of Rihanna, who turns 21 on Friday. Email and telephone messages left late Thursday with representatives for both Brown and Rihanna were not immediately returned.

Brown released a statement on Sunday, which read in part, "Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired." The statement, which did not mention Rihanna, said Brown was consulting with loved ones, his mother and pastor.

Brown's arrest came roughly 18 hours after he and Rihanna left a pre-Grammy party honoring music mogul Clive Davis. According to police, Brown and a woman were involved in an altercation in a car traveling through the upscale Hancock Park neighborhood shortly after midnight. Police have said the woman had visible injuries, and that Brown was gone from the scene when they arrived.

The LAPD has just released this statement.

February 20, 2009

Roberts slams 'bloodthirsty' paparazzi

Julia Roberts has branded the paparazzi's practice of photographing celebrity children as a "bloodythirsty child hunt".

The actress, who has three young children with husband Danny Moder, has slammed star snappers for their desperation to catch famous kids on camera.

"I don't know what is going on...Honestly, I think it should be against the law to take a picture of a celebrity's child," she told Allure.

The Duplicity star added that she is "sickened" by online commentators who spend time discussing and comparing the appearance of celebrity offspring.

"I had to reinstate my faith in people when, one night, I was on the computer, and I ended up stumbling upon some pictures I had never seen of my children playing at a park," she explained.

"What upset me was all these comments like, 'One is cute; that other one sure is ugly.' Even commenting nicely, what are you doing critiquing a child? It sickened me. Fortunately, it's a rare occurrence for us."

Jon Stewart nails O'Reilly's Right to Privacy

February 18, 2009

Are Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt buying a home in the Big Apple?

Angelina Jolie ignited a minor Internet storm when she was spotted looking at apartments for sale in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan on Tuesday.

With daughters Shiloh and Zahara in tow, Angie checked out a building that is being remodeled, according to an Us eyewitness:

The building had work permits and it seemed like they were probably being remodeled for [buyers'] taste. ...The building is pretty fancy. It's really nice."

The 2009 Oscar nominee (best actress in "Changeling") reportedly smiled and waved at paparazzi.

She and partner Brad Pitt just leased a 22,000-square-foot Long Island mansion to live in while filming the thriller "Salt." They'll pay $100,000 a month for the Tudor-style home.

So, will they buy in the Big Apple?

February 16, 2009

Hudgens "Creeped Out" by Paparazzi

Vanessa Hudgens uses big handbags to beat the paparazzi.

The actress - who is currently dating her former High School Musical costar - has been in the public eye for three years, but she still finds it creepy that she is followed by photographers.

"I find it weird to think that when I'm walking around, or just

out shopping, there is someone hiding in the bushes taking pictures of me," she said. "I still find it kinda creepy.

"I'm a private person so I find it really bizarre. But there's nothing I can do about it. My strategy to avoid them is big purses and running really fast."

February 7, 2009

Shameless Paparazzi Make Emma Watson Sick

Emma Watson, although more famous and enjoying more media coverage than other actresses double her age, is also known to being very down to earth and not “into” this whole celebrity thing, as she has often admitted. If there was one thing that Emma would change about Hollywood, she reveals in a recent interview, that would be the way paparazzi behaved when in the presence of celebrities.
Speaking with the media, the 18-year-old “Harry Potter” actress states that paps should be held legally responsible for the way they act whenever they see a star, because some of the things they do cross any acceptable limit. From what she’s saying, they would do anything to get that “upskirt photo” that would later sell for a lot of money, and Emma knows that firsthand, since she too found herself in such a situation with the paparazzi.

“It was pretty tough turning 18. I realized that overnight I’d become fair game. I had a party in town and the pavements were knee-deep with photographers trying to get a shot of me looking drunk, which wasn’t going to happen. I don’t have to drink to have a good time.” Emma starts by saying. And getting a photo of her looking drunk is not the worst part yet, the actress adds.

“The sickest part was when one photographer lay down on the floor to get a shot up my skirt. The night it was legal for them to do it, they did it. I woke up the next day and felt completely violated by it all. That’s not something I want in my life.” the actress further explains. However, as sickening as the photographer’s attitude was, Emma was not the first celebrity to get this kind of treatment for a shot, as most young female stars in Hollywood go through the same on a daily basis, it is being said.

What makes Emma stand out from the other celebrity girls her age (or older) is her ability to stay true to herself in a context in which everybody is telling her how to be, as she herself has revealed in another recent interview. “If I do an interview with photographs people desperately want to change me – dye my hair blonder, pluck my eyebrows, give me a fringe. Then there’s the choice of clothes. I know everyone wants a picture of me in a mini-skirt. But that’s not me. I feel uncomfortable. I’d never go out in a mini-skirt.” Emma Watson shares.


Actress JENNIFER ANISTON has heaped praise on the paparazzi who follow her everywhere, after they helped her rescue a lost dog.The former Friends star was driving along busy Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles when the husky darted out in front of her.

The animal-loving actress pulled over, slowed traffic and made an effort to catch the mutt - shouting at snappers who were trying to take her picture.

And she was delighted when the photographers put their cameras down and started helping her.
She went public with her praise on Friday (06Feb09), during an appearance on U.S. TV chat show Ellen.

The actress said, "I had this moment of going, 'Oh come on, this is a lost dog; why don't you help out and go and find the owner?' - and he actually did."

And she also singled out the snappers who helped save her own dog, Norman, when he ran away last month (Jan09).

She added, "Norman got out twice... and the paparazzi returned him.

"There's a moment when all of a sudden these people that are so inhumane they're not people; they seem like people that lurk in black cars and rush you... they're human."

February 5, 2009

New mom Jessica Alba dislikes paparazzi

Jessica Alba has never really been a fan of the paparazzi, and now that she is mom to 8-month-old Honor Marie Warren, she dislikes them even more.

“Kids pick up on your energy, so the more upset you get about it, the more your kids are affected by it. But I understand how Sean Penn or Alec Baldwin knocks out somebody who’s putting a camera in their kids’ faces. I get that,” Jessica told the March issue of Elle magazine.

When asked who “would do the knocking out,” Jessica or her husband of nearly nine months, Cash Warren, the actress said they are both angered by the paps.

“I think it’s mutual, just because it’s so invasive,” she said. “It’s not like they’re standing 100 feet away. They’re in your face, not letting you walk, standing in the way when you’re driving. It becomes a situation and it doesn’t need to be.”

And it isn’t just the snappers Jessica has trouble with. When the actress married Cash Warren in a hush-hush ceremony last summer, her wedding news was usurped by reporters, who broke the story before the couple could tell their families.

“The person who helped us sign the documents told the press that day, so my parents found our from a reporter before we got to tell them,” Jessica said. “We were planning to take them out to dinner and tell them, but that got ruined. … Journalists feel entitled to do whatever it takes to get a sensational story, no matter how it affects the person involved. We’re not really people, right? We’re just celebrities.”