In LA, Even the Homeless Know How to Use and Abuse Celebrities

Meet Kevin. He's homeless. Every evening he trawls Hollywood looking for stars and their associated paparazzi. Oscar weekend will be huge for him—because Kevin has figured out how to get celebrities to give him big money.

Kevin Jones is 37. He moved to Los Angeles in 1996, with a business degree from Indiana University that he abandoned to pursue his dream of making music. Until the crash, he was a recording engineer. Then, last year, he got fired—"there was no safety net, no family or savings," he said on a recent night outside celebrity nightclub Voyeur, surrounded by $500,000 Ferraris and Bentleys and a dozen paparazzi. He wore a dirty red sweatshirt, gray scarf and beanie and held up a creased cardboard sign that said "Lost Job, Lost Home, Anything Will Help, Thank You, God Bless". The sign was lit with a tiny battery operated lamp "so the cameras pick it up."

He said he now lives in the laundry room of a half-built apartment block off Sunset Boulevard. A month or so ago he had an idea. Around 7pm each night he goes to every hotspot in Hollywood and Beverly Hills—"the hotels, the [Chateau] Marmont especially, the clubs"—and joins the paparazzi pack. When celebrities emerge from their shiny cars, in a cloud of cologne and entitlement, he blocks the cameramen and helps these buffoons in dubloon-stuffed pantaloons enter the venue as best he can. "They tip big sometimes," he explained, eyeing a sky blue BMW X6, with the Vanity Fair logo on its back doors, just in case. "I don't kid myself. It's not because they're grateful. It's because it gets them in the tabloids and makes them look good." Heidi and Spencer Pratt gave him a crisp $100 bill, posing all the while. Brody Jenner gave him $50. Winona Ryder and Jason Bateman were less generous, with $5 each. "Last week some dude at the Marmont said 'everyone thinks I'm a tight ass, so here,' and handed me $200 from this huge wad," he shrugged. "Someone told me it was Britney Spears' attorney."

"I plan to be everywhere this weekend," said Kevin. We asked him if he had a drug habit or a history of mental health issues. "I used to take drugs when I was in music but now I can't afford them," he said. At that point, a celebrity that we could not recognize stepped out of a tinted Mercedes. "Hey honey," shouted one boisterous pap, "get them nanas out!" Kevin rushed to her aid, but couldn't stop the flashbulbs popping. She didn't notice him. "Make that money! Make that money!" yelled the photographer, equally oblivious, looking at his shots on the LCD screen in the back of his camera as the starlet/model/reality TV person disappeared into the club. Kevin had missed his chance. But he returned to his spot to wait for the next one. [Full disclosure, we gave him $5. This probably doesn't count as paying a source, but still.]