At 83 years old, the notorious paparazzo Ron Galella — who was infamously slugged in the face by Marlon Brando and given a restraining order from Jackie Kennedy — is currently enjoying retirement. “I can’t run like I used to,” he jokes; apart from the one night a year when he covers the Met Gala, Galella spends the majority of his days at his home in New Jersey, combing through his archives. “I’m busy, nowadays, mining the gold of yesteryear,” he told the Cut. He’s working on putting out a new book of photographs every year, the latest of which, Ron Galella: New York, focuses on his photography of New York from the '70s and '80s — including pictures of Cher roller-skating and Christie Brinkley wearing a mustache.
A man who, to this day, continues to refer to both Jackie Kennedy and New York City as his “girlfriends,” Galella is nostalgic for the golden age of paparazzi journalism. “The great thing about the '60s, '70s, and '80s was that celebrities were themselves. It was easier to get pictures of them,” he reflects. “In those days, you didn’t have to call to get on a list. Back then, when I crashed a party, nobody stopped me,” he explains, listing his favorite spots: Fifth Avenue and 58th Street, in front of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, 21 Club, and “Studio 54, of course.” “I crashed premieres in my spare time,” he says of his early career.
“Now, celebrities are more guarded, because there are paparazzi everywhere,” Galella observes. “And you get lousier pictures today — more posed pictures, which I don’t like. I want them looking at other people or responding to others — not paying attention to the photographer.” Click through the slideshow for a look back at celebrity culture of New York in the '70s and '80s, including Mick Jagger, Catherine Deneuve, Grace Jones, Diane von Furstenberg, and more.