While it's true that being a celebrity often comes with money, power and influence, these days it also comes with a pack of wolves: The paparazzi. Two years ago, the West Hollywood sheriff's station would usually receive a paparazzi complaint about once a week, reports the Los Angles Times. Now it gets several complaints a day; and not just from celebrities but from business owners and residents. The LAPD is adopting a "zero tolerance" policy against snappers who break the law by blocking traffic, creating disturbances in neighborhoods or trespassing on private property, including hospitals and businesses. Explains Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore: "[Paparazzi] numbers — and aggressiveness — have grown exponentially." When Britney Spears was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on January 3, so many photographers, reporters and onlookers crowded the hospital entrance that hospital staff and patients had trouble getting through.
Some photographers even illegally tint the windows of their cars and remove the licence plates so they won't get caught. But others are right out there in the open: Recently, TMZ.com set up a camera on a tripod across the street from the Urth Caffe, an establishment stars are known to frequent. The cafe's founder, Shallom Berkman, was shocked: "They did it without permission," he says. Berkman also notes that some photographers do anything to get the shot. "They run right through the cafe. It's like we're invisible. It hurts our business and makes it uncomfortable for celebrities and patrons to enjoy." Except people do enjoy pictures of celebrities. A few years ago, tabloid magazines were the only place you could see Lindsay Lohan getting coffee. Now, web sites (including this one!) report up-to-the-minute details on the stars personal lives, and even MSNBC.com has a gossip column. And not only do people want to see photographs of stars, they want the same treatment: "Personal paparazzi" services are springing up across the country, according to Time magazine. Celeb 4 A Day provides clients with their own cameraman stalkers — and cool shots of them living their lives, (having a birthday party, going bar-hopping) if they want. "The goal isn't to produce a product," University Of Pennsylvania sociologist David Grazian says. "It's to heighten the experience of the event. In that sense, there doesn't even need to be any film in the camera."
Chronicling the lives of idols — and ourselves — is nothing new. But the sheer volume and intense scrutiny we've come to think of as normal, really isn't. We're barrelling down a "what's yours is mine" road at breakneck speed and assuming that because we once saw someone's movie that we deserve to see them without makeup in a drug store. (Or menstruating through their underwear.) Does anyone feel like eventually something's gotta give?