We all occasionally enjoy the work of the paparazzi, but do we know the history behind this blood sport? Or that many of these camera-wielding ambulance-chasers are foreign gang members, illegal immigrants, and kids?
The origin of the word comes from Fellini, whose 1960 film La Dolce Vita featured a celebrity photographer named Signor Paparazzo. "Paparazzo" is a Sicilian word for mosquito, more or less. But times have changed! According to the L.A. Times:
[Paparazzi agency X17 founder] Francois Navarre says [many of his photographers are Brazilian] because he recruits from the ranks of valet parkers, a local industry whose ranks are increasingly filled with Brazilians. His Lohan team is Armenian… a separate X17 team, two brothers from Argentina, specializes in Kevin Federline.
[Navarre's] major brush with the legal system occurred eight years ago, when he bought photographs of Jennifer Aniston sunbathing topless in her Malibu backyard and transmitted them for sale to an Italian photo agent. Even though the photographer scaled an 8-foot wall with a telephoto lens to invade the star's privacy, Navarre does not admit to a wobbly moral compass. Instead, he says, the case was merely the result of a cultural misunderstanding.
Radar's John Cook told Jimmy Kimmel on CNN last year:
JFX Direct is an agency that was actually founded by a former gang member, a Filipino gang member, in L.A. And he founded the agency sort of, in his eyes, as a way to — to get out of the gang life and to find other former gang members and sort of bring them off the streets and put a camera in their hand. So X17 hires a lot of former gang members, a lot of illegal immigrants from Brazil come up, and many of them don't speak English. And they just follow starlets around all day and sometimes get very aggressive with them...there's even a program in the state of California where if you hire someone who was released from jail in the last year, you can get tax breaks. And our sources tell us that JFX and other paparazzi agencies actually take advantage of that.
But what about the children? We've told you before about the Pint Size Paparazzi agency, two kids in their early teens whose ‘rents were totally fine with them dropping out of school to pursue celebs. It's the blind photographing and chasing down the blind out there!