August 1, 2008 / 12:37 AM / in 10 years

L.A. officials at odds over reining in paparazzi

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Officials from around Los Angeles, joined by celebrities such as singer John Mayer, met on Thursday to discuss how to fix what some see as a growing problem of paparazzi dangerously hounding Hollywood stars.

Media crews and the paparazzi rush to the gate as a visitor exits her car at hotel heiress Paris Hilton's home, where she is expected to serve a 45 day home arrest sentence after being released from the Century Regional Detention Center for reported medical conditions, in the West Hollywood area of Los Angeles June 7, 2007.REUTERS/Gus Ruelas

But Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton criticized many of the ideas as unenforceable, and one head of a photo agency characterized some of the celebrities as whiners.

Bratton told a local news network that with tabloid sensations such as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan out of the headlines for now, there was no need for extra control.

Still, the celebrity photographers known as “paps” have become more aggressive in recent years and in some cases, their tactics have led to violence.

Earlier this year, Malibu residents fought with paparazzi who were trying to snap photos of actor Matthew McConaughey swimming in the Pacific Ocean, and last week bodyguards for Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt beat up two paps who sneaked onto the grounds of their chateau in the south of France.

In the most notorious incident involving paparazzi, Britain’s Princess Diana was killed in 1997 along with her lover, Dodi al-Fayed, when the car she was riding in crashed while being pursued by photographers in a Paris road tunnel.

Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine convened a hearing on Thursday attended by officials from West Hollywood, Malibu and other celebrity haunts, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and celebrities including Mayer and actor Eric Roberts.

Zine likened paparazzi who follow Hollywood stars to “a pack of wolves, stalking their prey,” and other officials outlined proposals for creating an emergency telephone line devoted to celebrities and licensing the paparazzi.

But at his own news conference, Bratton criticized the idea of issuing paparazzi credentials, argued it was unnecessary to spend city money on extra protection and scoffed at a plan to create personal safety zones around stars.

“What is this protected space that they are entitled to that the rest of us are not entitled to?” said Bratton.

He also believes the paps have cooled their ways. “Paris Hilton’s out of town, things are quiet; Lindsay Lohan’s got a new girlfriend, that’s keeping things quiet; and evidently Britney (Spears) has gone straight now in terms of cleaning her act up, so basically paparazzi are losing interest,” he said.

He later dismissed a reporter’s question that his remark about Lohan was inappropriate, saying he supported gay rights.

Brad Elterman of Buzz Foto said after the hearing he was happy to be a part of the dialogue, but he called some of the stars “cry-babies” and said dealing with the paps was part of their job.

“I am not ashamed of what I do, everybody benefits from the paparazzi — retail, hotels, tourism,” Elterman told Reuters.

“Hey pal,” he added. “This is the business you’ve chosen.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Eric Walsh

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