Tales From The Gang Bang will be a recurring feature penned by a person who worked the paparazzi beat for three years. We'll call him American Ex-Pap so he remains anonymous.
Britney Spears was like an ATM in my world, because from the grunts in the field taking the shots to the editors and owners back in the office, everyone was making withdrawals in her name. Between 2007 (from the time shaved her head) to 2009 (when she was dating paparazzo Adnan Ghalib), the money being paid to us for photos of her in various states of duress (which, at that time, was practically every time she went outside) was astronomical.
One shot of Britney slowly spiraling into insanity, one video of her shaving her head, or, the just one clip of her going fucking umbrella-attack crazy, could be your mortgage payment for the next year or a new car.
Six months after Britney was committed to the hospital, a dozen paps were driving around in new BMWs, Jaguars, and a ton of SUVs, all fully -loaded with tinted windows and decked-out sound systems. Paparazzi were making so much loot from Brit it felt illegal because nothing that paid this much could be so fun.
You’ve heard of the dot com rush in the stock market? Well this was the Britney rush, and everyone was hoping it would never end. It was a game for us, a game we all played, but it had one unique twist, it was a game where everyone could win, because there was so much money being tossed around, everyone was getting rich.
They say you can't understand what it was like to be on Brit unless you were there — because she needed her own rule book. "Britney rules" meant anything could happen at any time, it was sheer madness. It wasn’t just bullshit bragging, either, it was an everyday reality for us.
She would go for a three hour drive at 2 a.m. in her white Mercedes convertible hitting 100 mph, laughing the whole way as ten pap cars would tail her, dangerously close at times. But if you lost her it was like watching money drive away. So you'd stay close, follower her lead, and if she went to six gas stations and three fast food joints, well, you went there too.
And Britney didn't follow driving rules the rest of the world followed. She would drive erratically down Sunset Blvd during rush-hour to do battle with civilians but she didn’t care. She'd stop at green lights, fixing her hair, changing the radio station, just waiting, waiting, waiting and you would wait too. You didn't want to hop out and try to blast off a shot, cause she’d see you and take off, leaving you on foot as the rest of the caravan barreled down Sunset. Then the light would flip to yellow, and you'd wonder what she was going to do, trying to get inside the head of someone who is insane, but before you could figure it out, the light would turn red, and she would slam on the gas and peel off, crashing through the intersection at Doheny, a smile filled with madness and mischief would cover her face, as nearly a dozen cars behind her tried to beat the same red light at her intersection. If one car going through a red light causes a honk, imagine what 10 cars going through the light sounds like? A symphony, I thought.
If people weren’t buying the magazines with her on the cover or watching the shows playing her videos, we wouldn’t be here. We’re here because you want us here, trust me, no one grows up wanting to take your trash away for a living, but somebody's got to do it. And somebody has got to get pictures for next week’s Us or In Style that you are going to buy.