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Joe Dolce

Joe Dolce

Posted: July 28, 2008 04:45 PM

Another Weekend, Another Celebrity Skirmish with Paparazzi

Brad Pitt apparently went ballistic in France on two camouflaged paps who scaled the walls of his chateau trying to snap a pic of his new -- and no doubt gorgeous -- twinset. Brad apparently lost it; as did the paps, who reportedly bit and broke the finger of one of his security guards. Back here at home, Halle Berry brought a trespassing suit against pap who climbed the wall of her home in Hollywood to snap a fuzzy shot of her four month old daughter, Nahla.

This situation is getting nastier by the week. Skirmishes are regularly turning into brawls (legal or otherwise) and as we all know, battles usually end in someone being hurt. Or worse. (One word: Diana)

Before someone really does get hurt (again) I say we stop the Bush-era approach of not talking to our "enemies" and start some diplomacy. Really, let's hold a summit. The British created a body like this a number of years ago with The Press Council. Everyone from actors to the Royal Family rely on it to adjudicate thorny issues.

There are three parties involved: stars, paparazzi, and the magazines that buy their photos. And from my point of view, each can take a step to calm things down.

It's not going to be easy -- given this entire structure is loosely governed by the same supply and demand laws of capitalism that regulate oil prices -- but some sort of self-regulation is probably going to be necessary and each can play a role.

1. The paparazzi. It's time to establish some rules that when broken have some punitive consequences.

2. The Stars. They like to play the victims, and often they are. But they can turn down the volume. Brad and Angelina could have taken a lesson from Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick's playbook. When their son, James, was born, they called every photo agency in New York and organized a photo shoot at the door of hospital as they were leaving. In one five-minute frenzy of flashes, everyone had the photo. Of course, it sold for almost nothing and the paps were furious about that, but the hunt was over. No editor even blinks when SJP walks down the street with her child these days.

(BTW: Brangie is donating that $11 million payday to charity. While no one argues that charity is a noble enterprise there are other ways Brangie could raise money. They could host a fundraiser or they could donate the mega-bucks they'll make for their next two movie roles to a good cause.)

3. The magazines and the media. For years I defended the magazines' position. As editor in chief of Star, I needed new pictures every week to keep drawing readers in. Of course, we at Star rarely actually employed paparazzi. ("We're not commissioning them," was the line we used. "We just buy them on the open market.") But this is disingenuous. The magazines claim to love their stars, to care about their weight fluctuations, to worry over their love troubles. Well if they really care, isn¹t it time to show some, er, love? Movies advertise "No animals were harmed in the making of this film." How many celebrity weeklies and tv shows can say the same about the stars they feature? Let's invite heads of photo agencies, the stars' PR agents or the stars themselves, top magazine editors, TV execs and web producers to sit and talk (no paps outside, ok?). My agenda, if I were leading such a summit, would include establishing a code of conduct that: -allows photographers to do their jobs, but establishes some limits so that stars have some hassle-free down time. --requires magazines to to buying photos that have been taken only by agencies that agree to these new guidelinews. (And by self-policing, magazines can also gain some free mileage by showing their readers they really do care about their stars as much as they claim.)

I'm not suggesting a specific terms of this code of conduct now, because I think it should grow out of a conversation. But what I do know is this: celebrities are one of the media's most valued natural resources. Isn't time to offer them the same protections we give to endangered species of plants, pets and small rodents?

Joe Dolce, former editor in chief of Star magazine is a creative partner in the media strategy company DolceGoldin.