This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.
A few years ago, I lived at the beach in Santa Monica. It was a two-story rectangular beach house, and in the afternoons I would sit on my balcony, smoke a cigar, sip a bourbon, and watch the sun set over the Pacific.
One day, though, I was disturbed by a lot of alarming noise – ambulance siren noise, small gathering crown noise, squawking police radio noise – from the next street over. And then, fluttering above, there appeared several news helicopters. I leaned over the balcony to get a better look – far enough to crane my neck, not far enough to spill my drink – and I suddenly noticed, right below my balcony, a news van pulling up in front of my house, directly in front of my driveway (conveniently marked by a "Do NOT Park Here" sign) and several purposeful people get out and start unloading video equipment.
"You can't park there," I called down. A well-dressed lady – the reporter, I figured – looked up from her small mirror.
"We're media," she said, as if that settled that, and went back to her powdering and primping."
"Yeah, but you're blocking my driveway. You can't park there."
She looked up at me, squinted, took a small, barely perceptible glance at my drink – Ah, I could hear her thinking, the local drunk – and repeated, just in case I didn't get it the first time: "It's okay. We're media."
And the gang started bustling around again, slamming doors and hoisting equipment. She tossed her mirror into her bag.
"I don't care who you are. You can't park in front of my garage. I will have you towed."
"We're a news organization, sir. We're press. We can park where we want."
(This from the short, high-strung young man with the clipboard and the major cell phone.)
"Let me be clear." I said, in my best cranky local drunk voice, "I will have you towed. You cannot block my garage. I need to be able to pull my car out of my driveway. There's a chance…" and here I dropped my voice just a bit, and held my drink aloft, "…there's a chance I may need to step out for some ice."
This was more than the lady reporter could take. "You don't understand, sir" she cried, "this is a breaking story. Margaux Hemingway has died! "
Which turned out to be true, but since it wasn't one of the three things (major earthquake; tsunami; large cash offer) that would cause me to loosen my "No parking in my driveway" policy, I held my ground. They sighed and huffed and puffed and shook their heads at the amazing violation of First Amendment rights that glowered down at them, drink in hand, from the balcony, but in the end they moved the van. And I sat and finished my cigar and crunched softly on the melt left in my glass and thought to myself, Who the hell is Margaux Hemingway?
So I sympathize with the residents of Malibu – especially the unfamous ones – who are fed up with the reckless swarm of paparazzi stalking their beaches, speeding along their two-lane roads, parking (no doubt) in front of their garages. When the gimlet-eyed, slow-talking actor Matthew McConaughey found himself hassled on the beach recently by a cluster of photographers, some sympathetic surfer dudes stepped in: they beat the stuffing out of one of the photographers, and tossed his equipment into the ocean.
This kind of thing is happening more and more. Locals have started to fight back – paparazzi tires have been slashed, equipment destroyed, noses punched – so it was just a matter of time before Malibu attempted to solve the problem in a more traditional Malibu style. By going to court.
But, really, why bother? The problem seems insurmountable now, but as camera-phones become more and more ubiquitous, and as the internet spawns thousands of "celebrities" a day, pretty soon we're all going to be divided into two camps: those who photograph celebrities and those who are celebrities themselves. The paparazzi will be evenly distributed all over the place, not just clustered in a small beach town north of Los Angeles. In the not-too-distant future, is a news van pulled up in front of my driveway to cover the death of a minor actress, I wouldn't just allow them to park, I'd try to sell them photographs of the corpse that I took moments before, with my mobile phone.
That's progress. Sort of. And that's it for this week. Next week, the schedule bites. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.