September 21, 2007
Kid paparazzi hits Hollywood
14-year-old buys Porsche 911 with money from pics
By -- Sun Media

15-year-old Blaine Hewison and 14-year-old Austin Visschedyk pound the late-night pavement in Hollywood. (PHOTO: Martin Bouffard, Sun Media)

HOLLYWOOD -- It's 1 a.m. and a nightclub is closing. While other teenagers are sleeping, Austin and Blaine are still waiting for Paris Hilton.

They are 14 and 15 years old, the youngest paparazzi in Hollywood. Young but rich.

Like more and more Hollywood paparazzi, they defy the stereotype.

A profile of some of them:

THE SPOILED RICH KIDS

Blaine Hewison, aged 15, just bought a Porsche 911 Turbo with the money he earned from the pictures he took of famous people. He'll have to wait a whole year before being legal to drive it. We spot them near Hollywood Boulevard in the parking lot of one the hottest clubs. Don't they have school tomorrow?


"No, we do homeschooling."

And your parents know you're here?

"They're cool with it, we do it for pocket change", says Austin Visschedyk, a blond 14-year-old. Visschedyk and Hewison are friends since childhood. They were raised in Hollywood by wealthy parents. Usually,

Blaine's mother drops them at a restaurant door where they join other Mercedes-driving paparazzi.

At this moment, a patrol car passes by. Visschedyk and Hewison run to hide because a curfew is in effect: in California, minors are not allowed alone on the streets after 10 pm on weeknights and midnight on weekends.

It was six months ago that they decided to swap video games for high-tech cameras.

Visschedyk owns a $6,000 Canon Mark III camera. He takes his Iphone out of his pocket every two minutes. On the streets, he and Hewison brandish their high-priced equipment like jewels, clicking away alongsidetheir paparazzi colleagues and laughing at their old equipment.

They probably take at least 1,000 pictures a night. Most are blurred. For the moment, they don't really know much about photography, so they set their cameras on automatic mode.

Hewison tends to keep a low-profile, whereas Visschedyk is fascinatingly confident for a boy his age. He is comfortable around the stars and talks in a ghetto-kind slang with rappers entering the club.

Paris Hilton finally arrives, and before anyone else Visschedyk sees her big SUV approaching. He edges his way through the other paparazzi and gets close to the star. She recognizes him and gestures. Visschedyk and Hewison high-five their friends, then head home.

THE (FILTHY-RICH) GRIZZLED VET

By contrast, Francois Navarre is as grizzled a photographer as you'll find. He was a war photographer for Le Monde and Paris Match in Cambodia and Iraq. Then he changed course. Dramatically.

At age 44, the France native helms one of the largest paparazzi agencies in Los Angeles, X17. He has become as rich as some of the stars whose photographs he captures and peddles. His house is located in Pacific Palisades, a neighbourhood near Malibu where homes cost at least $5 million. His neighbours are Steven Spielberg and Jennifer Garner. He drives a Porsche Cayenne.

It all started in 1992. Le Monde sent him to Los Angeles to cover a series of riots. He cashed in $70,000 all at once for a pic of Sharon Stone with her boyfriend. It was enough to convince him to stay.

Today he manages nearly 120 photographers. Most are freelancers, and 60 of them work day and night. "I spend my time signing cheques!" he said.

His team also includes his own wife, Brandy, an American journalist who manages the website. His informer is Bill Graham, a former National Enquire journalist with all the contacts.

Navarre demands his photographers ring his door bell even if it's in the middle of the night if they get a scoop. "I'll get fired if I don't do it!" says Mathieu Pare, 29.

DANNY BOY AND THE UMBRELLA

We call him Danny Boy, a video-paparazzo for X17 agency. He's the one Britney Spears attacked with her umbrella in front of the house of her ex, Kevin Federline. These images went around the world, and X17 earned $150,000 for it. Spears, with her newly-shaved head, threatened Danny and kicked his Jeep. He proudly shows us the marks as if they were important artifacts, including the precious green umbrella Spears used. A few weeks ago, he put it on Ebay, just to see what the bids would be. "The offer reached $34,000!" he says. Will you sell it? "I don't know yet. Britney (apologized and agreed) to sign it for me, so the price will rise."

NOT FOR MEN ONLY

Jody, in her mid-30s, is a bit boyish and is among the few female paparazzi.. It's a big rush when a celeb comes out of a place. "At the beginning, it was difficult to be accepted as a woman, but today it's OK", she says. As a fan she used to camp in front of restaurants and red carpets, looking for autographs. Now as a paparazzo she earns between $5,000 and $10,000 a month. She does it at night, after work.

VIDEO PIONEER

For 13 years, Henry Trappler has been standing outside restaurants in Beverly Hills. He's one of the original video paparazzi. With his glasses and round belly, he looks more like prey than a predator. He has a deep voice and carries a low-profile. And he's the one Tommy Lee assaulted in 1996 in front of a club; the rocker knocked him to the ground. Henry was hospitalized for four days with a pelvis injury. For the assault, Lee received two years probation and had to pay Trappler $17,500 and perform 250 hours of community work.

FORMER BODYGUARD

Glen, aged 32, is a former celeb bodyguard who's now a video-paparazzi. He's probably the calmest person on the job. Physically, he looks just like Eminem. He knows virtually everyone working the entrances at night clubs ... because he hired them! They send him text messages to let him know which stars are supposed to drop by at night.

Result: he's always looking at his cell phone. His best scoop? A video of Lindsay Lohan's car accident, just before she was arrested for impaired driving. Selling price: $60,000.

Stay tuned for our third and final series tomorrow!