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‘Rocky’ L.A. Run-In Spurs Paparazzi Story, No Photo

TIMES STAFF WRITER

E.L. Woody is a member of the paparazzi , that breed of photographer who chases after movie celebrities in hopes of shooting a big shot.

So when one of Hollywood’s biggest stars allegedly turned the tables and started chasing after him the other night, the idea came to Woody in a flash.

Never mind the picture. Sell the story to the tabloids.

Faster than you can say “RAMBUNCTIOUS RAMBO RAMS CAMERAMAN,” Woody was negotiating with News of the World and another London-based tabloid over the tale of how actor Sylvester Stallone allegedly chased him and crashed into his car Thursday in Beverly Hills.

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Stallone has disputed Woody’s claim. The star of the “Rambo” and “Rocky” film series has charged that Woody was the one who did the chasing, repeatedly smashing into Stallone’s car as he was leaving Bar One, a Sunset Boulevard nightspot, about 2 a.m.

It “was like an excerpt out of the ‘French Connection,’ ” Stallone, 44, said later of the incident, which covered several blocks in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.

Authorities are still investigating and plan to interview Stallone early next week, said Lt. Frank Salcido of the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Woody, who is also 44, said he was too scared during the incident to take pictures. But he said he went back later and photographed a 300-foot-long strip of rubber that Stallone’s Mercedes convertible allegedly left in the street during the fracas.

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When Thursday’s incident began, Woody said, he was sitting in a rented 1991 Honda Civic and chatting with a friend, singer-songwriter Philip Norris. He said he uses rented cars to avoid being recognized.

“It was insane. He kept ramming my car repeatedly. What kind of nut uses a $100,000 battering ram?” Woody said of Stallone. “He and his bodyguard in another car were alternating ramming me. I was very lucky not to get hurt.”

Still, the incident was all in a night’s work for Woody, a 6-foot, 3-inch Texan who joined Hollywood’s corps of paparazzi about 16 months ago after working 20 years as a portrait and fashion photographer.

Since then, he said he has sold pictures of movie stars to dozens of European publications, along with American tabloids like the National Enquirer, Star and Globe.

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Although he acknowledges that he had a recent run-in with rock musician Prince’s bodyguards outside another nightspot, Woody said most stars are friendly with him and with the estimated 75 celebrity-chasing photographers who operate in Hollywood.

Woody said he works seven days a week, hitting movie premieres during the day and staking out nightclubs each night.

He said he finishes shooting pictures about 3 in the morning, then works the telephone calling European publications to sell his photos until about 5 a.m. He sleeps until noon, then edits his pictures from the night before.

On Friday, many inquiring minds in the celebrity-watching business were wondering who really was to blame for the “Rocky” vs. Woody episode.

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“The nature of this business has changed,” said Dick DeNeut, West Coast bureau chief for Globe Photos, a 50-year-old picture agency that specializes in entertainment photos. He said star-shooting was a more gentlemanly profession in the old days.

“For as many crummy photographers you find out there these days, you find crummy celebrities,” DeNeut said Friday.

Barry Levine, Los Angeles bureau chief for the Star supermarket tabloid, defended Stallone as an “extremely sensitive man. . . . I can’t see him doing anything like that unless he was provoked.”

Levine said conflicts between celebrities and photographers have increased in recent years. In the past, he said, such run-ins were infrequent. And often accidental.

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But now, “this thing has festered so photographers are trying to set these things up . . . some of these photographers torment celebrities, follow them around from clubs to home. After they’ve gotten numerous pictures, they harass them.”

Some paparazzi, Levine said, “would love nothing more than Sly Stallone raising his fist at them. They could sell that picture around the world for $50,000.”

Woody figures his story is worth about $5,000.

News of the World editors in London could not be reached late Friday. But Woody said he is keeping quiet about Thursday’s unusual incident until the deal is signed.

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And please, he said, no pictures.

“I don’t even want people to know where I live. They’ve got thugs all around them,” he said.


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