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Not Since Jesus

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Disclaimer: These people are not Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie or any of their children. Sorry. But at least there’s no digital manipulation here! These are models photographed by Alison Jackson, who specializes in staging fictitious scenes involving celebrity look-alikes.   

Once upon a time, a photographer on the baby hunt might have tried to sneak into the hospital, like the Italian paparazzo Adriano Bartoloni did after Pope John Paul II was shot in 1981. Bartoloni persuaded a family friend who worked in the intensive-care unit to put his name on a visitors list; he made it all the way to the door of the pope’s private room before a security guard caught him. But with privacy laws and celebrities’ private security forces being what they are today, such feats of derring-do are a thing of the past. And so the paparazzi camped outside the hospital, where they were constantly watched by Spears’s security guards, some of whom took their own pictures of the photographers. Their hope was to spot Spears leaving the building to go home with her new baby. But they never did. That’s because, according to one paparazzo who was at the hospital, Spears had her team wheel an empty carriage out to a waiting car; as the paparazzi fixated on that, Spears and baby absconded in the back of an ambulance to her home in Malibu. (In this instance, photographers at least have the small comfort of knowing how they were fooled, unlike in 1997 when Michael Jackson vanished from Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles with his newborn. “The hospital was completely surrounded by photographers . . . If they’d all held hands, they could have formed a human chain around the place,” recalls Kevin Smith, the owner of the Splash photo agency. “And he still managed to get out with the baby and no one saw him. To this day we have no idea how he did it.”)

In Malibu, the baby hunt continued as paparazzi staked out Spears’s house. But it was largely to no avail. “She basically disappeared,” says Ginsburg. “Nobody had a for-sure sighting of her for months.” Making matters worse, there were no nearby homes for the paparazzi to commandeer that afforded a good view of Spears’s property, such as the one German photographers rented for $5,000 a day in 1996 to snap the first pictures of an unaware Madonna and her new baby, Lourdes, reportedly pocketing $150,000. And while the photo agency X17 did lease a helicopter and squeeze off a few shots of Spears in her backyard holding a small, blanketed bundle, the pictures were grainy and blurry and apparently did not fetch a very high price from the handful of celebrity weeklies that ran them. (A staffer at a magazine that passed on the pictures doubts the bundle even contained a human being: “It was a dog wrapped in a blanket, or maybe a doll.”) Baby pictures stolen from a private photo shoot were briefly available online until they were removed after the threat of a lawsuit. Finally, in November, the photo hunt essentially came to an end when Spears released those pictures to People. The paparazzi skulked away from Spears’s home with nothing to show for their weeks of effort. Says one bitter paparazzo: “The whole thing was a giant cluster-fuck, a total waste of time.”

“It’s going to be very hard, because if you think about it, a newborn is in that ‘carry’ thing, whatever the hell you call it, and you literally need to get up right next to it to get a clean shot of the face.”

And yet, like moths to a flame, the paparazzi are getting ready for the Brangelina baby. According to those whose business it is to know such things, Jolie will likely give birth at Paris’s American Hospital during the first week of May, although she’s also believed to have booked rooms at Cedars-Sinai and Malibu’s St. John’s Hospital and may have done the same at hospitals in London, Berlin, and a Third World country—possibly Ethiopia, from where she adopted her daughter, Zahara. (Some of the same people who claim to have a good idea about where and when Jolie will give birth also seem to have a good idea about how: They say it will be a C-section. They also say it’s a boy.)

So, with Paris looking at the moment like the best bet, the paparazzi are brushing up on their French—and feeling a touch frénétique. “It’s like going to the moon,” complains one American paparazzo who has shot in Paris. “First of all, there’s the language difference. Second, there’s the traffic. Nowhere in the U.S. has traffic like Paris.” Then there’s the cultural chasm: “They’re Frenchmen and we’re all just stupid Americans. They all think George W. Bush is our father.” Even Paris’s topography conspires against the paparazzi. “In Los Angeles, everyone’s outdoors a lot because of the weather and everyone has backyards,” says Peter Howe, a former director of photography for Life and the author of the book Paparazzi. “In Paris, people are in their apartments, and the landscape isn’t as flat as it is in Los Angeles, and the light isn’t as good.”


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