They buzz around celebrities like bees around honey, and New York's swarm of paparazzi can pack a sting.
Jane Fonda topless. Sophia Loren topless. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton embracing offscreen while she was still married to Eddie Fisher. Who can forget Jackie Onassis, so dogged by Ron Galella that she got a court order to keep him at least 25 feet away from her?
American Photo magazine editor David Schonauer, whose current issue features a look at paparazzi, admires the men and women who "pump up the celebrities and keep them in the news, but also show them as normal human beings.
"Paparazzi sort of punish the rich and famous for being rich and famous, and that's not a bad thing. We give celebrities fame and wealth; in a weird way, they belong to us. We want them, but we extract a price for their celebrity. Paparazzi are the people we send out to extract payment."
New York Daily News staff photographer Richard Corkery has reservations. "Celebrities are entitled to some privacy," he says. "When photographers lay outside their homes or haunt them day and night, that's too much. So is provoking a celebrity to get a headline-grabbing action shot. That's ugly."
But, he adds, any VIP at a public event who says "no pictures" is "in the wrong."
Mr. Corkery snapped The News' famous pre-dawn shot of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s inebriated birthday pals brawling with photographers, and he once had a friend smuggle his cameras past heavy security into a party at Regine's so he could shoot Princess Caroline dancing with boyfriend Philippe Junot.
When Robert Redford premiered "The Natural" in New York, Mr. Corkery remembers, "he snuck in the back door. I was there, waiting. When he saw the camera, he ducked his head -- and walked right into a brick wall. What an opening!"
For most paparazzi, all this is just a job. Waiting long hours to get the right shot. Being penned behind ropes or caught in a mob of shoving competitors. Getting attacked by such ever-irate celebrities as Sean Penn. Getting hassled by security people. Getting escorted outside. And, after all that, having to process and then sell the film.
Says Bettina Cirone, who has spent 22 years on the beat: "I work 18 hours a day. Deadlines are so urgent. I gave People a negative of Ben Vereen backstage at 'Jelly's Last Jam' with Greg Hines, Sigourney Weaver and Mike Douglas the night before his accident. They decided against using it, but by then, it was too late to get into any newspapers."
Ms. Cirone believes that some security people target women photographers rather than their "tougher" male counterparts. Still, that doesn't stop her. She got Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin necking. She got Madonna weeping after a performance of "A Streetcar Named Desire," despite attempts by the Madonna bodyguards to block the shots.
David McGough, co-chief of DMI photo agency, and the man who took the famous shot of Woody Allen hiding behind a La Grenouille menu -- but being reflected in a mirror -- believes Andy Warhol helped create the chaos with his "15 minutes of fame for everyone" theory.
"Today," says Mr. McGough, "even models, who were once just pretty women, are now stars."
When the camera clicks, it can mean big bucks. Russell Turiak says his photos of new parents John McEnroe and Tatum O'Neal in the hospital with their baby was an exclusive that earned him $100,000.
Hottest pictures now?
Royalty, the paparazzi agree. Fergie. Di.