THE BLOG
03/21/2013 10:57 am ET Updated May 21, 2013

Ron Galella's Magnificent Obsession: Jackie -- New Book Celebrates Celebrity and Passion to Get the Picture Before Anybody Else

"To left alone is the most precious thing one can ask of the modern world," said Anthony Burgess.

  • I want to tell you today about something few of us mortals can afford.

You remember the paparazzo Ron Galella? He became the most famous of his breed during the 1960s and 70s. Brash and unstoppable, he was the bane of many a celebrity existence. When rebuffed or when one of his subjects fled, held a hand or a handbag in front of his or her face. Galella could become aggressive, in a rather mocking, jocular way. The stars were not amused. He was the king of the paparazzi for years. This was back in the days before cell phones. Now everyone in the world is an amateur pap, taking informal and often damaging pictures and videos (with sound!) -- of the famous and foolish.

In Galella's era, the photographers hid behind potted plants, leapt in and out of moving cars, fell all over each other, fought sometimes violently amongst themselves and depended on really inside sources (or indiscreet press reps) to find out where the stars were staying, going out for the night, eating and drinking. It was rough work. Elizabeth Taylor, who tended to cooperate with photographers, or at least allow them to snap unmolested, was often heard to mutter, "I'm going to kill Ron Galella!"

But all men have a weakness. And Galella's was Jackie Kennedy Onassis. (Only La Liz rivaled her in publicity and paparazzi frenzies.) Galella stalked Jackie from the moment she moved to New York City after the assassination of JFK. He was relentless. Finally, in extreme frustration, Jackie got a court order to keep him at a certain distance from herself and -- especially -- from her children.

Now Galella has produced a book, appropriately and truthfully titled Jackie: My Obsession. This obsession runs 400 pages!

He is publishing it himself in two editions. One is a standard edition, with a white, canvas-bound hardcover, and hits of gold foil ($400). Also a limited slip-cased edition that includes a signed and numbered 11x 14 print of the cover image -- Ron's famous "Windblown Jackie" ($2,700). Many famous VIPs are quoted herein. Jackie was presented through Galella's lens in some of her most beguiling, glamorous, dramatic moments. Of course while he was busy "tormenting" Jackie, he was also offending such as Marlon Brando, who punched him. (Ron briefly wore a football helmet after that. He was the master of his own image, as well as those of the celebrities he pursued.)

So many immortal stars -- and even fabulous flash in the pans -- are preserved for us through the magic of people like Ron Galella who never gave up, chasing and taking photos. Jackie became a historical icon, and Ron's photos played no small part in that transition. Even I am quoted in this book. And like the designer Valentino, I tend to think of the Ron Galellas of the world as vital historians of a time and place.

There's no doubt these books will become collector's items -- provided you can lift them in order to pass them on to the collectors of the future!

The book is available at the website www.jackiemyobsession.com, and at most booksellers.

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the two major producers of The History Channel's hit mini-series The Bible, insist the character of Satan, as he appears in the show -- tempting surfer-boy-looking-Jesus -- was not at all intended to resemble President Barack Obama, "Utter nonsense!" they declare. Well, maybe they didn't intend it, but somebody sure dropped the ball. Or else Downey (once the star of Touched By an Angel) and Burnett have never seen a photo of Obama.

Even Bill O'Reilly, no fan of the president, wondered, "Didn't anybody look at the rushes?"

The Bible has already caused controversy for casting a black, dread-locked Samson, the above-mentioned pretty Son of God, and various shortcuts, interpretations and liberties taken with this tale of the Good Book. However, it has been a remarkable success for The History Channel, despite (and perhaps because) of some of these issues.

I heard somebody on one of the cable stations say that the reason The Bible is such a success is that so many viewers are "starved for religious programming." I have to laugh. The History Channel has been crammed with religiosity for about a decade and there are many other religion-oriented programs dotted throughout 500 cable channels (if you have that excessive package.)

The Bible received a massive PR buildup, and in its commercials, the more violent, less holy aspects of the series have been emphasized. Often it resembles a less graphic Spartacus: Blood and Sand (or whatever that flesh fest is called this season.)

There's plenty of good wholesome family entertainment on TV. And if you don't think so, then chuck the plasma screen and read. Maybe even the Bible.

  • P.S. On the GLAAD Awards last weekend. One of the presenters was Dan Stevens, known to millions of Downton Abbey fans as the beloved (and now violently departed) character Matthew Crawley. Stevens and Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil) declined to renew for a fourth season, and both were dispatched in grisly fashion. You don't mess with Downton creator/writer Julian Fellowes!

Anyway, three seasons on the BBC series had packed some pounds on Dan. And many of them seemed to be going straight to his jawline. He also sported hair with blondish highlights. So what a surprise when he sauntered out onto the stage at the Marriott Marquis. He was super-lean, dark-haired, with that two-day scruff men seem to love on themselves, and not an extra chin to be seen. He looked terrific but almost unrecognizable.

Although Dan's Broadway venture, The Heiress has closed, he's sticking around New York. With his new look, however, he could return to Downton Abbey. Not as Matthew, but maybe... his long-lost brother?