Italy gave birth to the term paparazzo. Or at least Federico Fellini did: he named the jostling photographers in “La Dolce Vita” after a school chum nicknamed “mosquito” or paparazzo in dialect.
So it’s not surprising that Italians are mesmerized by the trial of 11 particularly sleazy snappers.
The most prominent one is Fabrizio Corona, owner of a photo agency, said to have extorted money from celebrities to keep compromising photos out of the press and who allegedly ran a prostitution ring with starlets or would-be starlets whose clients include prominent businessmen and soccer stars.
It’s right out of “L.A. Confidential”. The compromising photos in Corona’s “secret archive” are said to include a politician’s aide with a tranny and politician Silvio Berlusconi’s young daughter Barbara stumbling out of a Milan nightclub in questionable company.
Now, if you even glance at the covers of Italian gossip magazines, you’ll see that Corona didn’t have that much success: early softcore photos of Miss Italia and soccer players boozing are the order of the day.
Part of the feeding frenzy is due to Corona, an unusually glam dirtball. Years ago, I spent an afternoon with L.A.’s king of paparazzi, E.L. Woody, trying to get my head around celebrity behavior at his suburban home studio lined with photographs.
Woody is a big, jovial guy with glasses, armed with the kind of practiced cynicism you would expect from someone whose job it is to wait hours outside cool haunts but never go in. He is über-professional and the celebs he deals with know the drill.
As the Italians would say, Corona, however, is made from a different pasta. Young, tall, dark and handsome in a viscous young Sylvester Stallone kind of way, he’s a fringe notable in his own right as the husband of silicone-enthusiast celebrette Nina Moric.
They have a flat in central Milan’s chic Brera district, where Corona regularly sparks the ire of neighbors by parking his Bentley on the sidewalk. The café just across the street is wallpapered with signed promo photos of calendar girls and soccer players. As one go-go girl testified, if you socialized with either one of the couple, you pretty much knew the photographers would snap your every move.
Corona’s an embedded paparazzi, maybe the only one of his kind. He’s on the guest list, in the VIP room, can tip off his photographers about who may be leaving with whom; something investigators said he regularly did, with the help of A-list agent Lele Mora, who also is his wife’s agent. Or set honey traps for unsuspecting men.
Just to show he’s not afraid either of the publicity or the trial, he recently stripped down in court to a tight white T-shirt with the agency name (Corona’s) emblazoned on it in red sparkle.
And it would seem that not everyone is disgusted by his below the belt behavior — this morning photographers (maybe his own?) snapped graffiti that said “keep your hands off Corona.”
This is a new era, folks.