Monday, January 16, 2006

Good paparazzo, bad paparazzo

"[E]verything I say is a fact” says veteran paparazzo Peter Carette – the ponytailed (ewwww!) boomer seen around the globe in the Heath Ledger water-pistol incident on the weekend.

Oh really? Then what about this nasty piece of cynical – presumably dollar-driven – photo miscaptioning by Carette.

Puzzlingly, no one else seems to be pointing out this recent lie, nor indeed Carette’s near four decades of form as a recurring sociopath.

Stalking the cancer-stricken Delta Goodrem in 2003 for the chemo "money shot" is far from Carette’s lowest moment. Indeed, given that his agency only got a relatively paltry – paltry, that is, if you’re a boomer – $3000, I’m sure that Carette himself wouldn’t disagree here.

Money-wise, Carette’s most lucrative job was, according to his own report, through his being the first photographer to snap the 1980s Grenada invasion – shots of “Americans being shot down and stuff like that”, as he quipped on radio last year.

In terms of fame/infamy though, it would have to be the young (born c. 1948) Carette’s 1969 shot of a comatose Marianne Faithfull lying in a hospital bed after a drug overdose, that is still his crowning achievement. Carette obtained this shot by impersonating a doctor. His only regret appears to be that his role was as a mere sub-contractor for another photographer, who got paid $18,000 (1969 dollars) in the escapade. From this Carrette himself only received $2000 – in 2006 Sydney house price terms, that’s about $100k, but nonetheless he claims to have been "ripped off shitless" (same URL). Diddums – but maybe not. Only a few months after his "ripped off" rumination, Carrette was boasting of having made “a lot of money . . . probably 30 or 40 000 dollars” from the Marianne Faithfull shot.

These post Diana-death days however, money and morality calculations are fortunately much simpler for the man. Carette sniffily dismisses the paparazzi who placed a listening device outside Nicole Kidman’s home last year, and their ilk, as “a new breed” of “opportunists with cameras” who “see this business as a way of making money”, as opposed to “legitimate staff, working married-gentlemen photographers . . . being paid a day rate by the ABC or The Australian”. (Translation: the latter are in a morally superior class to the former. Even though Carrette’s own role is much closer to the former than the latter, the latter are infinitely more respectable, by virtue of being a 100% boomer closed-shop. Thus, unconcerned for his future, re his post-Heath Ledger incident red-carpet ban, Carrette mocks: "They [the movie industry] need us more than we need them". Oh yeah, silly me – there’s apparently a worldwide shortage of people who can (i) operate a camera, in return for (ii) several thousand dollars per snap.)

The inconsistencies don’t end there. Despite being thrown out of the journalists' union because of his tactics for obtaining the shot of Marianne Faithfull, Carrette’s career seems never to have seriously stalled. Not only does he support orphanages in Cambodia (!), he's on excellent terms with slebs like Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts and Russell Crowe (same URL), as well as having “grown up with [actor Jack Thompson’s] son Patrick and Noah Taylor and all those kids”. (Note here that boomers, by my age reckoning, thus apparently “grow up” in their 40s.)

“Growing up” also brings us back to the Heath Ledger incident, which seems to have involved Carette and two other photographers – Pierre Smithdorf and Guy Finlay – acting in concert. From subsequent interviews, the specific reason for the trio’s action was the conduct of Heath Ledger towards Guy Finlay at another red-carpet event in Sydney last year. What happened there is unclear, but the absence of any charges being laid must now be considered the over-arching fact.

What’s still-puzzling though, is Carrette’s good-snapper/bad snapper personality. On one hand, he has said – and I have no reason to doubt it – that he’s friendly, inter alia, with a broad cross-section of the Sydney-LA Young Australian Actor scene. OTOH, there’s (leaving the Marianne Faithfull case aside as ancient history), his distinctly unfriendly relations with Goodrem and Ledger. What gives?

Okay, Delta – but less so Heath – is plainly not in Nicole Kidman or Russell Crowe’s league. My own theory of Carrette’s disconnect though, has nothing to do with this. Simply put, the man’s a hospital/illness-attracted obsessive-compulsive. Which nicely explains the 2003 Goodrem stalking (as well as that of Marianne Faithfull, FWIW). But what about healthy Heath?

In a nutshell, Heath Ledger’s no short-fused Russell Crowe. Rather, as watching Ledger’s body language – fidgety and always avoiding eye-contact – in *any* interview makes plain, the guy’s got mild autism/Asperger’s. So what, I reckon, but cue the wet-dream-of-celebrities-caught-moonlighting-in-a-medical-encyclopedia Peter Carrette. Celebrity? Ma-a-a-ate, says Carrette. But celebrity with a medical condition, major or minor? “Payday for me, you little ‘dirty junkie’” says Carrette.

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