Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pap zapping

pic:Bojan Pancevski

One of the definitions of 'celebrity status' has always been how you treat the Press. The relationship is fickle at best. Mostly either party wants something from the other. A bit like the old Hollywood casting couch auditions. The Press has it's 'needs' and the auditionee needs her/his five minutes of stardom. It's a marriage of convenience. They can't live with or without each other.

Up to a point. At Level One the wannabee celebrity is pointed by agents, PR's, managers or their mum to the latest hangout to mingle with the other aspirants, knowing that the paparazzi pack will be in waiting. For their part the Paps must make a living, servicing the tabloids and magazines. It's an agreed alliance. Mayhem often ensues because demon drink is taken and the 'celeb' goes into exhibitionist mode, having no experience of how to behave before the cameras, which is an unforgiving beast at best.

There are, of course, exceptions. Joan Collins went from a Rank starlet in these venues to become queen of Hollywood.  Jack Nicholson made headlines with his early hours exits with a blonde, a beam and a cigar. They were beloved by every paparazzo and journo they met.

Class will out and the very few who can handle it go on to Level Two.

Have you ever wondered why you don't see the true stars weaving drunkenly out of nightclub doors at 4.00am?  Firstly, they are clever enough not to go to the same venues. Secondly, they don't get raving drunk before the cameras (with some notable exceptions.) The true stars smile sweetly, say nothing outrageously stupid and move on like proper pros. If they want publicity for their latest project their management sets up an interview/picture op with selected journalists, usually in a swanky hotel.

So the link between media and celebrity is managed one way or the other.

There is a Third Level. We'll call them the 'Ghosts.' Men and women who seem, with fame to disappear from view. Now this takes serious money. Did you notice how JK Rowling vanished as Harry Potter became famous? The harassed, single-mum look vanished, too. Then she reappeared at selected events, suddenly svelte and beautiful. Paul McCartney has spent a lifetime as a 'ghost.' Even at the biggest event the organisers don't know if he will turn up until they see him, often late through the back kitchens. This is the price of true fame, and it costs giga bucks in management and security. For sure, in their shoes we would all do the same. Such is the insecurity of the modern world. The 'global village' also means the villains get closer, too.

Now Level Four is something else. The shy billionaires. Men and women who will do anything not to be photographed at all. The reclusive Howard Hughes was moved around in a fridge in public by his staff. The twin Barclay Brothers, high on the Sunday Times Rich List, live in a castle on the Channel Island of Brecqhou, shunning all publicity, only photographed when they were knighted by the Queen.

Then there's Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. Owner of Chelsea F C. Said to have lost 4.7 billion sterling in the financial crash, he's now only worth 7 billion. Just enough to commission the world's largest private yacht, Eclipse at 724 million pounds and 557 ft long. Two helipads, two swimming pools and a retractable roof over his bed so that he and his girlfriend, Daria Zukhova, can watch the stars as they plough the world's sea lanes. It also has a French missile defence system and an escape mini-submarine. Presumably all the 60 staff can't fit in it, so it's just for him and her, then? James Bond would love it.

Now what is his crowning glory on the Eclipse, which wants for nothing? It's this:

An anti-paparazzi shield. Infra-red lasers detect the electronic light sensors in any cameras, known to photographers as charge-coupled devices, that are pointed at the Eclipse. If the system detects such a device it fires back a focused beam of light into the offending camera, thus disrupting it's ability to take  pictures. The staff can shoot it manually, too at any loitering paparazzo on a quayside.

So we come full circle. Happy paps outside Chinawhite, making wannabee celebrities famous. Hapless paps zapped by Roman's guards with their laser guns. Who would be a photographer!

ps. My pap, Henrietta Fox, wouldn't be put off so easily! Try zapping a 1000mm lens in a bush, 200 yards away.

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