Thursday, January 15, 2009

Paris Hilton

“Wait, wait, do it again, Kathy got out of the car ass first” a voice somewhere out in the dark behind the TV camera said. The two women got back into the car. Someone, probably the same voice from the dark behind the TV camera, pounded on the trunk of the limo and the door opened once again. Paris Hilton got out, and then helped her mother, Kathy Hilton, out of the car, head first this time. The limo door closed and they started to walk to the Van Ness Street City Hall entrance. Kathy Hilton jerked sharply back; her wrap was caught in the door. Paris glared at her mom, and without a word they both got back into the car. Another invisible pound on the trunk and they both re-emerged. This time, Paris’s smile wasn’t quite as big, but she made sure her mom was up and out of the car quickly and without any residual clothing left behind.
Paris and her mom were on their way to one of the bigger nights of the San Francisco social season. It’s a typical social event: women in cleavage-featuring gowns, and men all wearing the same tuxedo they’ve had since the eighties. They all have dinner in the rotunda of San Francisco City Hall, then walk across the street to the Opera House.
The invitees are the usual mix of socialites and politicians, high tech CEOs, and A-list rich people. Every so often there is a celebrity in town that asks to be invited. Once, the celeb-du-jour was Sharon Stone, at the time she was dating Examiner editor Phil Bronstein. The show was sold out, so they had to put her and Phil in a private box where they made out like teenagers. This horrified the staff and put them off inviting Hollywood-types; they wanted to keep a more dignified air. Which begs the question; why is Paris Hilton here?
As I met the PR person at the front door of City Hall, she had an apologetic, yet amused smile on her face. I knew from that look that I was going to be on the receiving end of whatever was amusing her.
She told me who was scheduled to show up for the dinner. There were a few minor surprises, mostly in who wasn’t going to be there, like the mayor, who was out of town. Then, in an off-handed mumble she said Paris Hilton and her mother were coming, and the Chronicle’s news desk knew about it.
Wait a minute…Paris who? Did she say Paris Hilton? I thought they were trying to keep this thing dignified. She must mean another Paris. Is there another Paris?
I asked her to repeat that last part, hoping that she said Perry Como or Percy Sledge or Minnie Pearl or anyone else, for Christ’s sake.
Nope, she said Paris Hilton.
“Is she already here, or going to sneak quietly in through the back?” I asked, knowing there was no chance of that happening.
“She’s arriving in a limousine on the other side of the building, where everyone can see her” she said biting her lip.
“Am I the only photographer here?” I queried, knowing full well I was, but hoping I wasn’t. I don't know why, but another photographer would make me feel less......pandering.
“There might be a TV crew” she said, “Entertainment Tonight is doing a story on her. They flew up here from LA just for this, but she’s not here yet, I’ll come and find you when she shows up.”

Maybe she won’t show up at all. Or, maybe she’ll just get out of the car and walk like a normal person into City Hall, eat dinner, see the performance, and go home. Maybe monkeys will fly out my butt and hand out winning lottery tickets.
I spent about an hour shooting the society types, trying to get a photo that doesn’t look like something Weegee shot it in the 1940's of a bunch of people blinded with on-camera flash.
I went up to the mezzanine to get an overall picture of the event, and to take a little break away from all the commotion for a while. I could see the PR person below me looking around frantically. She finally looked up, she mouthed, “Paris is arriving”.
I went to the Van Ness entrance to see a limousine parked outside. As I walked toward the car, a TV cameraman came from the other side with his light on shooting ME. I gave him a puzzled look and was about to ask where Paris was, when the limo door opened and Paris and her mother got out. I shot a few frames and thought I was done. I didn’t know that getting out of a car had to be scripted, and that anyone could need three takes to do it.
By now, an almost-as-wide-as-he-was-tall San Francisco Sheriff’s deputy had come out to make sure that the media frenzy - there was just me and the TV cameraman - was under control. He saw me shooting still photos, and thought I look paparazzi enough to keep me away from the pseudo-celebrity.
“Do you want me to shoot a picture of you with Paris Hilton and make sure it gets into the Chronicle?”
“No way”
“Then you had better get out of my way”
He moved away like he was on fire.
Paris walked on by, I shot a few more frames, and she went into dinner. Or at least that’s what I thought.

She apparently went inside and directly into the restroom, where she waited for everyone to leave and then was driven across the street to the Opera House. She waited until the lights went down to go to her seat in her own private box, extreme stage right so everyone could see her without turning their heads too far. She sat there until the show started and she and her mom sneaked out of the Opera House and went home to LA.