LOS ANGELES &
They've tried reining in the paparazzi before &
with little success.
There was the time Los Angeles County prosecutors vowed to use criminal conspiracy charges against photographers who drove recklessly while chasing celebrities around. And remember when the California Legislature passed a law making it easier for celebrities to sue aggressive paparazzi?
But now, authorities are bringing in the big guns: the city's much-feared parking enforcement division.
The Los Angeles Police Department and Department of Transportation have been converting streets around Paris Hilton's Hollywood Hills home to "Tow Away/No Stopping" zones as the hotel heiress was about to be released from jail today. The goal is to prevent a repeat of the internationally televised chaos of June 1, when hundreds of reporters essentially closed down Hilton's narrow canyon road to traffic in anticipation of her first trip to jail.
"We put up the signs Saturday. We gave verbal warnings (Monday) and expect to be out there in full regalia" Tuesday, said Bruce Gillman, a spokesman for Los Angeles' Department of Transportation. "We will have a legion of tow trucks at the bottom of the hill gathered like vultures."
The throng of photographers and reporters gathered for Hilton's return will be coming up against a 550-person team known for its persistence and energy.
Parking enforcement officers brings in $113 million in revenue a year &
and have made so many enemies that officials earlier this year urged state lawmakers to pass legislation increasing penalties for those who physically attack officers.
Anyone who parks in the roughly mile-long no-stopping zone will face a $70 ticket plus a $101.50 tow charge for standard-size vehicles, Gillman said. Depending on the size of vehicle, the tow charge could be higher, he added.
Some in the Hollywood tabloid business were skeptical that even strict parking enforcement would rein in the paparazzi. They noted that on Monday morning, before the Los Angeles Police Department began ticketing cars, more than 20 media vans were parked around Hilton's house.
"It could only happen in La-La Land. That is taxpayers' money paying for that," said Frank Griffin, co-owner of the Bauer-Griffin photo agency, one of the top paparazzi firms.
Griffin said tickets and towing charges were just a cost of doing business for the photographers, who can make thousands of dollars from photos of Hilton.
The only person who could keep the paparazzi away from the Hollywood Hills is Hilton herself &
and she isn't likely to miss a photo op, Griffin said.
"She's one of cleverest celebrities when it comes to publicity and making money off it," he said.
Veteran celebrity photographer E.L. Woody, who operates Paparazzi TV, said the agencies are crafting ways to get around the parking restrictions.
"They'll have four or five photographers with a driver in a van. They'll drive them up there. Tow trucks aren't going to stop most of these guys," said Woody. "Parking enforcement isn't going to stop these guys. It isn't just paparazzi &
there is a whole bunch of real news media up there. This is the biggest story in the world."
Hilton was sentenced to jail after a judge found that she had violated her probation by driving without a license, which had been temporarily revoked after she pleaded no contest to alcohol-related reckless driving. She reported to jail late June — after attending the MTV Movie Awards.
When Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca briefly released Hilton earlier this month, a mass of photographers surrounded the socialite's home above the Sunset Strip in what neighborhood leaders, in an "Heiress Alert" newsletter to residents, called an "intolerable" circus.
After a judge ordered her back to court the next day, the thrumming of media helicopters filled the air while photographers battled for a picture of the tearful Hilton as she was taken away in a sheriff's squad car. Dozens of photographers shoved and jockeyed for position, pushing one local TV reporter to the ground.
"The neighbors are very frustrated," said Lisa Hansen, spokeswoman for City Councilman Jack Weiss, who sought the parking enforcement effort.
But even the most determined measure to reduce neighborhood disruption can be thwarted by enterprising photographers and TV crews. One crew, according to law enforcement sources, has rented part of someone's nearby property for a bird's-eye view.
Officials said the restrictions will be lifted when the media swarm breaks up &
whenever that is. Woody and other photographers said city officials should not expect that to happen anytime soon.
"(We) are going to get the pictures," he said, "whatever it takes."
City preps for paparazzi pursuit of Paris'
LOS ANGELES &