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Desperate Housewives’ Choice

The Independent announced the death of the legendary paparazzi tribe this week. ‘Are they facing extinction?’ the tabloid pondered, before launching into what it described as an investigation. At first we thought this was another of the Indy’s daily global warming specials, but then it transpired they were concerned about the survival of what we at EPUK Towers prefer to think of as celebrity documentarians, or Zedlistis Smudgitis, to give them their correct title.

The Independent – a newspaper which would never dream of running a sensational cocaine celeb pic on the front page in the hope of boosting sales – spent an indecent amount of time pointing out that the Times, having announced a ban on ‘paparazzi images’, had just run a front page picture of a different Kate. There followed 2,500 words of hand wringing and cod analysis as the Indy hosed down the paps, eventually concluding that it’s all everyone’s fault. Apparently we all have neurons reserved in our brains for individual celebrities. It must be true; a scientist in California [ok, ok, we know] says so.

Elder statesmen of celebrity photojournalism, Lord Bennett and the Earl of Hogey, were wheeled out of the glass house to bemoan the decline of the formerly respectable genre. Lord Bennett reminisced about a kinder, gentler age, when relations between Zedlistis Smudgitis and their prey were ‘jovial’. But of today he said: ‘These guys aren’t interested in photography…the streets are very rough now.’

And PR guru Mark Borkowski blamed the digital revolution. Somebody had to. ‘These are people with no photographic skills. Digital technology has changed things for people. Now everyone can be a photographer.’ That Bill Gates – is there anything he can’t screw up?

However news of impending extinction will come as a hair-raising surprise to Mr Paparazzi himself, the shy, retiring Darryn ‘if you’ve got the smudge I’ve got the wedge’ Lyons, and his new partners at America On-Line. For since December 16 Lyons, the only pap to have become such a celebrity he’s been known to stalk himself, has been presenting the weekly Mr Paparazzi Show on AOL. ‘Celebs laid bare’, promises the site. ‘They can run, but they can’t hide. Each week, Darryn Lyons, Mr Paparazzi himself, will be showing you the best of the week’s celeb pics with his own inimitable commentary.’

Displaying the kind of nous that can identify large numbers of Catholics in the Vatican, the press release notes, ‘In the UK it’s clear there is a great demand for celebrity gossip’. Blending AOL’s mission – ‘to serve the world’s largest and most engaged community’ – with Mr Pap’s ‘big personality’, the show features the weekly top five celebrity stories with a wealth of celeb snaps, making a weekly appointment with the Mr Paparazzi Show imperative for all ‘serious celeb gossip and picture enthusiasts’. Yes, they really did say that.

The show runs on Thursday mornings at 11 o’clock within AOL’s ‘Eleven’ content area and ‘targets a predominantly female audience with celeb news, gossip, games and quizzes to make those mid-mornings a little more interesting’ – and we always thought that was the milkman’s job.

The Independent may think the paps are an endangered species, but after five minutes exposure – so to speak – to Mr Paparazzi what’s left of our neurons beg to differ. And this is only the beginning in what is promised to be a structured rollout plan of programming by AOL with Darryn and Big Pictures. If figures ever become available – we somehow think they won’t – it would be interesting in a few months time to compare the hits at at AOL’s Mr Paparazzi with those of the Independent’s web site.

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