Felice Quinto dies at 80; ‘king of the paparazzi’

Associated Press

Felice Quinto, a renowned celebrity photographer and the likely model for the character Paparazzo in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film “La Dolce Vita,” has died. He was 80.

Quinto died of pneumonia Jan. 16 in Rockville, Md., his wife, Geraldine Quinto, said Monday.

Quinto was often referred to as the “king of the paparazzi” -- a term derived from the character in “La Dolce Vita” -- and he pioneered some of the aggressive tactics that celebrity photographers use to this day.


He would hide in bushes, wear disguises and zip around Rome on a motorcycle, taking photos that appeared in gossip publications all over the world.

Quinto was born in Milan in 1929 and befriended Fellini while living in Rome in the 1950s. According to his wife, Fellini asked Quinto to play a photographer in “La Dolce Vita,” but he declined because he was making more money taking pictures. He briefly appeared in the film as a bystander.

“By the time Fellini came out with his movie, it was already about four years that I had been doing photography,” Quinto told the Dallas Morning News in 1985.

In 1960, Quinto snapped a picture of actress Anita Ekberg -- who appeared in “La Dolce Vita” as a starlet hounded by Paparazzo -- kissing a married movie producer at a cafe in Rome.

Quinto told ABC News in 1997 that Ekberg shot arrows at him as he stood outside her house at 5 a.m. One nicked Quinto’s hand, and another struck a photographer’s car.

Quinto married Geraldine Del Giorno, an American schoolteacher, in 1963, and moved to the United States that year to work for the Associated Press. His assignments for the AP included John F. Kennedy’s funeral and civil rights marches.

However, he was best known for his celebrity photography. He worked at the famed Studio 54 nightclub in the 1970s, and was Elizabeth Taylor’s personal photographer for a time.

Quinto, who retired in 1993, voiced few regrets about the celebrity culture he helped create.

“People are human,” he said in 1997. “They want to see these pictures, and there is too much money to be made.”