Ballpark Estimate: $300 to $2,500 and up
Imagine the lens of a camera on you, day in and day out, following you around as you go through the paces of your day. If you were a celebrity or other notable figure, being pursued by the paparazzi like this would be just a normal, and perhaps extremely annoying, part of your existence. But while most famous people don’t really enjoy being the focus of such persistent attention, some regular folks today are so eager to know what it feels like to be a star that they are willing to go to great lengths to actually create the experience. That’s where an array of new companies have come in, offering ordinary people the opportunity to hire “fake” paparazzi to shower them with attention. Such interest doesn’t come cheap, though. To partake in this type of staged opportunity can cost from a few hundred dollars on up to several thousand or more.
A New Breed for Hire
For the most famous personalities, bring pursued relentlessly by photographers who are watching their every move is inconvenient in the best of situations, and intolerable the rest of the time. And it can even be dangerous. In fact, a group of paparazzi were pursuing Princess Diana in 1997, when she was killed in a fatal car accident. What role the photographers may have actually had in this crash is unknown, but the fact remains that many celebrities go to great lengths to avoid being in the midst of the camera’s flashing bulbs.
Yet despite some of the negative connotations, it doesn’t seem to dissuade some regular people for wanting to know what it feels like to be the center of media attention. That’s where this new breed of paparazzi for hire are jumping in, helping even the most ordinary person feel like someone famous, at least for a few minutes. Some people choose to have this experience simply as a fun, harmless way to spend an evening or to celebrate a special occasion, caring less about the photos and more about feeling like someone special, while others choose to hire paparazzi to help them to actually capture the highlights of their day on film so they can have it to look back on in the future, sort of like a yearbook or wedding album.
A Reflection of Our Changing Culture
Americans today don’t seem to cherish the privacy that used to be sacred. Instead, the popularity of reality television shows and social network sites like MySpace have made it more acceptable for average people to live in the spotlight and to bare their deepest secrets. This new way of living has created an audience willing and eager to pay for their own paparazzi interest.
Of course not everyone is in favor of this type of indulgence. Some experts in sociology and culture worry that the public’s infatuation with fame and fortune is a sorry indication of where priorities are shifting in the wake of many other, more serious concerns, such as the war in Iraq, the weak economy, rising gas prices and the upcoming presidential elections. Yet those who think playing the part of a celebrity is harmless fun would argue that this is a way to escape those other worries, at least for some brief, but enjoyable, moments.
Playing Celebrity for a Day
If the thought of being stalked by hired photographers catches your fancy, there are a number of options available, depending on where you live. Some of the more well-known services are located in major metropolitan areas, including New York, Boston, Los Angles, San Francisco and Las Vegas.
Some services are run by small companies that provide trained photographers to serve as your personal paparazzi for as little, or as long, as you desire. For a larger investment you can receive up to six photographers to follow you around, flashbulbs popping as they ask you questions as though you are an A-list celebrity. You can think of this like an acting gig, with you and the hired help playing the part of a famous star surrounded by the media. You can also (for an extra fee) hire a faux publicist, body guards and a (real) limo and driver, to make the act more realistic. An added bonus of all of the fake fuss is that some nightclubs and bars even get fooled by the attention and allow the clients to get VIP entry into their facilities.
Other photographers operate on a more low-key scale, working alone and serving as more of a social scientist simply documenting you at work and walking through the events of an ordinary day. This is a more artful approach and generally is done anonymously. The client usually provides a schedule of daily activities and doesn’t know when or where the photographer will be watching and snapping pictures. This helps to preserve the realistic nature of the work and makes for some interesting photojournalism.
You might wonder who would actually pay for such an indulgence. According to the latest news articles that feature this concept, there is a wide range of people who are willing to ante up the money to pay for such an experience. From a couple celebrating a pregnancy to a group of men at a bachelor’s party to older people out for a night on the town, there is something to meet almost anyone’s desires. But some people don’t feel the need to wait for a special event, rather choosing to indulge in this extravagance just to feel important for a night. In addition, some clients who go this route are even actors, actresses and other people starting out in the entertainment field who hire fake paparazzi just to start a buzz around their name and to try to attract the real thing in the process.
What you can spend on your own paparazzi depends a great deal on what you want. One of the more popular companies, called Celeb-4-A-Day, has several locations and offers packages at different rates depending on the geographic area and the demand that exists. The smallest packages start at around $300 for a 30-minute experience of being flocked by four photographers. For those who desire a more intense experience, the rates can go up to about $2,500 for two hours of all-star treatment, including six photographers, a publicist and bodyguards. These prices are similar to many of the competitors, such as Boston’s Paparazzi for Hire, which starts at $499 for half an hour and goes on up to just under $2,500 for the full works with bodyguard and publicist.
Some private photographers also offer one-on-one paparazzi attention, with the rates starting at about $200 and going up from there. And one New York City photographer, whose website can be found at MethodIzaz, gives personalized quotes depending on a client’s needs, but one customer says she paid $600 to have the photographer follow her anonymously and capture “a day in her life” through an artful series of photographs. Another company, called Private Paparazzi in San Diego, allows customers to select how few, or how many, photographers they want for their step into the limelight. At a cost of $75 an hour for each photographer, people can customize the best approach for their budget and their goals.
For these various fees, some of the companies will also throw in fake magazine covers, mugs and other marketing material with a client’s photo on it as souvenir of his or her special day.
And in Las Vegas, where bigger is usually better and money is often no object, you can also request an ambitious “celebrity for a day” option through a VIP company called King of Clubs. They offer exclusive concierge services that can make anyone feel like a king, starting at about $1,500 and going on up to about $24,000 for a whole bonanza of special attention. Clients who can afford it can request such details as a private jet, VIP suite and other over-the-top amenities customized for their specific desires and taste.
But while almost anything is possible for the right price, keep in mind that many companies do have their limits as to where they will go and what they will do. To this end, some of the websites list disclaimers saying that the paparazzi need prior approval for certain locations and will not venture into any busy or dangerous situations.
If you like the idea of playing a role for a few minutes or a few hours but can’t swing the expense, there are other ways to experience the spotlight without going broke. Some experts recommend hiring photography and acting students to play the parts you desire, including fans asking for your autograph. Check with local university programs or consider posting an ad on a local networking site such as Craigslist to find people willing to take part in your skit. Just always be sure to take steps safeguard yourself before getting into a business arrangement with any strangers.