‘Larry King Live’ featured an hour discussion on the paparazzi on Friday (April 6), with guest host Jimmy Kimmel quizing a panel that included photographers Ben Evenstad and Peter Brandt, publicist Howard Bragman, attorney Mark Geragos, RadarOnline.com’s John Cook, and Gawker.com editor Emily Gould. Asked about photo agencies which are hiring gang bangers and ex-cons to take pictures for them, Cook responded, “It’s true. They’re – the agencies like X17 is a very prominent one. JFX Direct is an agency that was actually founded by a former gang member, a Filipino gang member, in L.A. And he founded the agency sort of, in his eyes, as a way to — to get out of the gang life and to find other former gang members and sort of bring them off the streets and put a camera in their hand. The technology of cameras these days, you know, you don’t need to – there’s no art to it anymore. You just hand someone a very expensive digital camera and all they need to do is click a button. So X17 hires a lot of former gang members, a lot of illegal immigrants from Brazil come up, and many of them don’t speak English. And they just follow starlets around all day and sometimes get very aggressive with them because they know that if they get a reaction out of a Britney Spears, for instance, they’re going to get more — more money for the photograph. And there’s even a program in the state of California where if you hire someone who was released from jail in the last year, you can get tax breaks. And our sources tell us that JFX and other paparazzi agencies actually take advantage of that.”
Cook also revealed, “Well, there’s this funny story that someone told me, a paparazzi told me about Britney Spears back, again, before – you know, right now, she’s avoiding them and complaining about them. But back when she was using them, she would drive out of her house in the morning and she would have 16 paparazzi following her. And she knew they were following her. And she would go to Starbuck’s and then walk out of Starbuck’s with 16 cups of coffee and hand them out and say OK, guys, here’s where I’m going to be today and plan out her day, and say I’d like you, you know, you can take pictures here and here and here, but I’d like some privacy here.” Check out a transcript at CNN.com.