Thursday, August 26, 2004

USATODAY.com - A paparazzo stalks a pop starA paparazzo stalks a pop star
By William Keck, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — Britney Spears is in the passenger seat of her black Mercedes G500 SUV, reaching speeds close to 90 mph. With fiancé Kevin Federline at the wheel, the duo attempt to outwit, outsteer and outrun seven paparazzi on their tail.

Mel Bouzad, left, and other paparazzi wield cameras as Britney Spears walks by.
By Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY

But there's a third little face in the back seat of Spears' G-Wagon, which explains the paparazzi frenzy. Federline and Spears are returning his 2-year-old daughter, Kori, to her mother's home in Orange County, which means this could very likely be Spears' first meeting with Federline's ex-girlfriend, Shar Jackson.

Today, 25-year-old paparazzo Mel Bouzad is on a wild ride as he attempts to capture that treasured family portrait on film, a photo that could net him more than $50,000.

Although he'd like you to believe otherwise, Bouzad — while a perfectly likable bloke — is not all that different from the ruthless photographers portrayed in the new Mel Gibson-produced film Paparazzi, which opens Sept. 3. When it comes to getting "the shot," Bouzad, like the star-hunters of Paparazzi, allows nothing to stand in his way, sometimes not even the law. (Related item: Learn more about Gibson's film)

He was the first to photograph Cameron Diaz with Justin Timberlake (at a Studio City bowling alley) and credits himself with being "the one" who captured Jennifer Lopez with Ben Affleck in Savannah, Ga., after the couple called off their engagement.

That photo earned him a cool $120,000. But to land today's anticipated shot, he'll have to engage in a freeway chase, crossing double yellow lines and speeding through red lights. If something goes wrong, it could cost him his driver's license, or even his life.

Whether you love the paparazzi or share George Clooney's disdain for the ground they stalk on, there's no denying these guys live an exciting life. And with demand for celebrity photos at an all-time high and with the weekly bidding war among Star, Us Weekly, People and In Touch magazines, there's a lot of money to be made.

Morning: Quarry sighted ...

We meet up with Bouzad at 9 a.m. in his 2002 Mercedes-Benz Kompressor, parked outside his high-rent Santa Monica apartment building. There's still a parking ticket on his windshield from the previous day, not an unfamiliar reminder of the traffic laws he routinely breaks in the pursuit of his art. "I bankroll the city of Santa Monica," Bouzad says, acknowledging that a parking or speeding ticket is a small price to pay for a shot that could net him thousands.

The paparazzi suspected the Spears/Jackson meeting could happen today because they spied Federline bringing Kori to Spears' home a few days earlier for their first "family" weekend. Now it's Monday, and Kori is due back home with Mama.

Bouzad has been keeping Spears under 18-hour-a-day surveillance at her new Malibu home. The surveillance will be increased to 24 hours around the clock as Spears' wedding date nears. The photographers' sources tell them the ceremony will take place in the fall.

As he cruises down the Pacific Coast Highway toward Spears' house, Bouzad catches a glimpse of a passing black Mercedes-Benz G500. "That was Jessica Simpson," he shouts in his strong British accent. "She must be coming from her home in Calabasas." Simpson was in the passenger seat, with her husband, Nick Lachey, at the wheel. Normally, Bouzad would spin his car around and pursue the hot MTV couple, but Star has hired him to get a photograph of a Malibu monastery Spears scouted over the weekend as a possible wedding locale.

A product of Fleet Street, the center of London's newspaper district, Bouzad has been snapping celebrities since he was 17. He moved to Los Angeles three years ago and runs his own agency, MB Pictures, which employs nine other photographers. Also on his payroll: many high-placed secret sources, including celebrities' bodyguards and personal assistants, as well as employees at airlines, hotels, hospitals, schools, restaurants, gyms, hair salons and tanning parlors. A hot tip could earn a source hundreds, or in the case of the Lopez/Affleck shot, thousands of dollars.

Bouzad has a $3,000 Pioneer in-car navigation system mounted to his dashboard that helps him find his prey. Two hundred celebrity addresses are programmed into the computer, in addition to the homes of such celeb offshoots as "Brit's mom" or "Brit's bro." With just a touch of a button, the system will guide him to any one of his programmed celebrities' homes. He also has a printout of 400 celebrity license plates.

Afternoon: Hunt resumes ...

Bouzad reaches Spears' house just in time to see the heavily tattooed Federline cruising home from the grocery store. "That guy's a chump," says Bouzad. "And you can print that."

Bouzad routinely injects his personal feelings for the celebs he hunts, maintaining contempt for most. He insists that if he invested enough time and manpower, he could find dirt on them all and systematically destroy their lives.

He gets lunch at 1:15 p.m., but as soon as Bouzad's cheeseburger arrives, he gets a call that "Brit's on the move."

He shoves his burger into a to-go box, retrieves his car keys from the valet, takes one bite of the burger, then discards his uneaten lunch in the restaurant parking lot and pulls his car onto the busy Pacific Coast Highway. One of his men is already following Spears and informs Bouzad that her car is about a minute away from passing him.

Bouzad spies Federline and Spears in his rearview mirror and pulls out to join a caravan of seven cars all in pursuit of the same shot. Spears has no license plate on the back of her rented SUV, but there's no doubting that it is her in the passenger seat sipping a beverage, her bare feet propped up on the dashboard.

As Federline turns the car south onto Interstate 405 (the San Diego Freeway), Bouzad realizes Federline and Spears are indeed returning Kori, who can now be seen bobbing up and down in the back seat (though safely strapped in), to her mother's home. The first shot of Spears with Jackson is what the tabloids have been craving for weeks. "This is a massive picture," Bouzad announces.

Bouzad knows Jackson lives in a gated community, so he sends two of his photographers to sneak in through the open gates — piggybacking behind entering cars — before the competition arrives. Bouzad phones an airport to see about the availability of a helicopter, but all are in use.

At 1:45 p.m., Federline crosses a set of double-yellow lines, illegally entering the carpool lane at 85 mph. Bouzad radios to his men to keep on their victim. "Don't worry about fines," he says. "I'll pay them. We don't want to miss this."

As the chase picks up speed, Federline makes frequent lane changes and drives off the freeway, then back on. He succeeds in losing two of his pursuers, but five cars remain on his tail. Then suddenly at 2 p.m. Federline gets off the freeway and pulls into a mini mart so Spears can make a pit stop, a common occurrence for her. "The girl's got such a weak bladder," Bouzad says.

A quick stop, a quick snap ...

The paparazzi abandon their cars in the parking lot and jump out to follow the barefoot Spears as she walks calmly into the store to request keys for the toilet. Informed the bathroom is already in use, Spears walks out to the back and patiently waits for the bathroom door to open. She signs an autograph for a little girl, providing a fun photo op for the frenzied photogs.

Bouzad is excited when he spots brand-new tattoos (perhaps temporary) on Spears' right hand — one a braid around her wrist, the other an image of a sun. Close-up photos of these alone will sell around the world for roughly $4,000.

After Spears finishes her business, the chase resumes. Bouzad confirms that his men already are inside the gated community, so it is his hope that once the caravan arrives, only Federline and Spears will pass through the gates, allowing his inside guys to grab the exclusive shot. A few miles later, that's exactly what happens.

"It's an exclusive, boys!" Bouzad announces, and he celebrates by pulling off the road and finally taking his own pit stop behind some bushes.

Not quite a trophy catch

But unfortunately, when he pulls into an Anaheim Starbucks and downloads the photos his men took, they're not the $50,000 images he had hoped for.

Spears never got out of the car, so Federline alone delivered Kori to Jackson. Federline kept a safe distance away as Jackson only briefly passed by Spears' window to collect a bag from the backseat.

Far from the happy meeting he'd anticipated, Bouzad now tries to sell the images as "Shar snubs Britney," insisting the photos show Jackson giving Spears a dirty look.

Star magazine passes on the photos, saying they're not strong enough to warrant reworking its layout, which is about to go to print. Bouzad considers starting a bidding war between People and Us Weekly (competitor In Touch, says Bouzad, has "no money"), but ultimately he decides to try to sell them exclusively to People for low five figures.

When People also passes the next morning, Bouzad is forced to unload the pics overseas. The American tabs, he says, will run his photos next week.

It's now 4:45 p.m. and even though Bouzad's day is coming to a close, his army is still hours away from retiring. Spears has been followed to a Blockbuster Video, where she's browsing DVDs.

As long as it takes Spears to select her movie, Bouzad's men will be waiting for her — and their next shot.

Rally PlanetCitroen - Rally Japan preview
Aug-26 2004 / 10:15 CDT

The Xsara in the land of rising sun

Six months after Mexico, it's the turn of Japan to join the family of FIA World Rally Championship organising countries. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti will be in the land of the rising sun with their respective Xsara WRCs to discover this event which is based in Hokkaido, the northernmost of the four main islands that make up the Japanese archipelago.

The presence of a WRC round in Japan is a long-awaited moment. A number of manufacturers from this major car-producing nation have either been involved, are currently involved or plan to be involved in world class rallying, and Citroën is delighted to have this opportunity to compete on their home ground. There is also the added pleasure and excitement of discovering a culture that continues to have a certain mystery for Westerners, even though some of its traditions are now well known across the world.

The history of the sport in the archipelago dates back to the Japanese Alpine Rally which was organised for the first time in 1959, and eighteen times in all. The Hokkaido Rally saw the light of day in 2001 with the ambition of one day gaining World Championship status, working its way up via the Asia-Pacific Championship towards which it has always counted. Last year, sensing that its inclusion in the WRC was imminent, Citroën sent Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and engineer Didier Clément to take a look at the 2003 event.

Hokkaido is covered with conifer, ash and birch forests and the weather is generally rather wet in September, something which Seb, Daniel and Didier were able to experience at first hand. They also saw how narrow and fast the 2003 route was, although the stages have been modified to a large extent this time round. "From what they tell us, the going will also be sandy and could cut up," says Technical Manager Jean-Claude Vaucard. "As with all non- European events, pre-event testing on-site is not allowed. We will only have the two hours of shakedown to adjust the car's set-up to the terrain, presuming that the shakedown stage is representative of the rally. Add to that the weather factor and I think this could well be a tough rally."

Indeed, the newcomer promises to be a difficult event for all the teams who will have to adapt as quickly as possible, an exercise in which Citroën is generally quite strong. Combined with the Xsara's reliability, this should be a positive feature for Sébastien and Carlos, especially since their respective positions in the Drivers' championship – just like that of their team in the Manufacturers' standings – means that their tactical options should be quite flexible in Japan.

Facts and figures:

• After Turkey (in 2003) and Mexico (this year), it's the turn of Japan to join the FIA World Rally Championship.

• The time difference between Japan (GMT +9) and continental Europe (GMT +2) is 7 hours, to be added to the times listed below to obtain Continental European time.

• The event's host town is Obihiro, situated on the northernmost of the four main Japanese islands, Hokkaido. Sapporo, its capital, hosted the 1972 winter olympics.

• Recce (two runs over each stage) takes place over Wednesday September 1st (07:00 until 19:00) and Thursday September 2nd (06:00 until 11:00).

• The single service park and start and finish will be in Kita Aikoku, near Obihiro.

• The 'New Tokapci' Shakedown stage (5.4 km) is located close to the service park.

• A ceremonial start will take place on Thursday September 2nd at 19:30 in Obihiro city centre and will be preceded by a Rally Show (18:00: 'meet the crews', autograph signing session).

• Total length of the three legs is 1,675.55 km, including 387.50 km divided into 27 stages (12 different).

• Leg 1 (Friday September 3rd): 644.30 km, including 150.58 km divided into 9 stages. Starts from the Kita Aikoku service park at 05:30; 'Yam Wakka 1'/'Kunneywa 1'/'Niueo 1'/'Rikubetsu 1'; Service A (11:51, 20 minutes); 'Yam Wakka 2'/'Kunneywa 2'/'Niueo 2'/'Rikubetsu 2'/'Satsunai super-special 1'; Service B (19:43, 45 minutes). Cars enter parc ferme (Kita Aikoku) between 20:28 and 22:18.

• Leg 2 (Saturday September 4th): 627.70 km, including 124.98 km divided into 11 stages. Starts at 05:30; Service C (05:30, 10 minutes); 'Pawse Kamuy 1':'Nupri Pake 1'/'Rikubetsu 3 ':'Kimun Kamuy 1 '/'Cup Kamuy 1'; Service D (11:59, 20 minutes); 'Pawse Kamuy 2 '/'Nupri Pake 2'/'Rikubetsu 4 '/'Kimun Kamuy 2 '/'Cup Kamuy 2'/'Satsunai super-special 2'; Service E (19:31, 45 minutes). Cars enter parc ferme (Kita Aikoku) between 20:16 and 22:06.

• Leg 3 (Sunday September 5th): 293.49km, including 111.94 km divided into 7 stages. Stars at 05:30; Service F (05:30, 10 minutes); 'Rera Kamuy 1'/'Panke Nikorpet 1'/'Penke 1'/'Satsunai super-special 3'; Service G (10:18, 20 minutes); 'Rera Kamuy 2'/'Panke Nikorpet 2'/'Penke 2'; Rally finishes after Service H (15:01, 20 minutes).

• Of the 12 stages used in 2004, five were run in 2003: 'Niueo' (modified this year), 'Rikubetsu' (a short stage organised in an off-road driving complex), 'Kimun Kamuy', 'Panke Nikorpet' and 'Penke'. 'Kunneywa' was used in 2002, while 'Yam Wakka' was run in 2001. The five others, including the 'Satsunai super-special', are new.

• Tyres: two types of pattern are authorised per team. They were registered eight weeks prior to the start. The individual driver quota (identified by bar-codes and nominated on Monday August 2nd) is 60 tyres in Japan, 30 of which may be used during the event.

• Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were present for the recce of the 2003 event driving a standard road car.

• Tommi Mäkinen, who has been invited to drive the 'zero car', will be co-driven by Matthieu Baumel who usually sits alongside Citroën's Guerlain Chicherit in the Junior WRC.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

New York City - OlympicsPhelps is now an eighth wonder


August 21, 2004, 10:23 PM EDT

ATHENS -- Michael Phelps was front and center, as always. Only this time, he was smack in the middle of the cheering section. His swim meet was over. Now it was time to be spectator and cheerleader, and Phelps yelled his head off. He waved his American flag, led chants, and generally acted like a normal teenager. Normal, that is, if you discount the steady stream of swimmers from other countries who kept asking for his autograph, and the cameramen in front of him, recording every cheer for his teammates on the U.S. swim team. Phelps had himself a grand time last night. His teammates gave him a great show. Phelps was especially stoked for the 4x100- meter medley relay. That was the event he was supposed to swim before giving up his spot to butterfly rival Ian Crocker.

No one was more pleased than Phelps when Crocker burned through his leg in 50.28 seconds, which U.S. coach Eddie Reese said was the second-fastest butterfly split ever. Phelps screamed in the front row of the stands on the pool deck. He banged his fists on the side of the barrier. When Jason Lezak touched the wall in a world-record time of 3:30.68, Phelps' hands shot up in unison with his comrades on the pool deck.

"I can't tell you enough how exciting it is to be on the other side of the sport," Phelps said afterward. "Being part of the team in the stands, especially being on deck level where some of the swimmers can see you or they can hear you taking a breath, it's exciting to be part of that."

He had a swimmer's appreciation of the medley. He knew how much it meant to Aaron Peirsol (53.45) to break Lenny Krayzelburg's 100 backstroke record on the opening leg, and how much it meant to breast.stroker Brendan Hansen to hold off Japan's Kosuke Kitajima, who beat Hansen in both individual events. And how much it meant to Lezak to be the anchor.

Mostly, though, Phelps knew what it meant to Crocker to be given the chance to replace the world's best swimmer on the team that traditionally closes the Olympic swim meet.

"I'm proud of giving someone like Ian another chance," Phelps said. "Tonight after the relay, he came up and gave me a big hug. It seemed like so many emotions were exchanged in that hug. It was very exciting. It felt like I was part of the race. I couldn't be more happy for the guy."

Crocker couldn't have been more moved. When told Friday night that Phelps was relinquishing his spot, Crocker did not want to take it. He knew the relay spot was supposed to go to the winner of Friday night's 100 butterfly; Phelps had come from behind to defeat Crocker.

"I didn't want to do it; I felt like I hadn't earned it," Crocker said. "I did everything I could in my power to do that and it didn't work out. It was definitely a hard thing ... trying to figure out what to do being given a gift you can't possibly accept."

Crocker ended up saying yes, and the team swam fast enough to give Phelps, who helped the team qualify for the final, another gold medal. It was his sixth gold medal of the meet and eighth medal overall, and it tied him with Soviet gymnast Alek.sandr Dityatin (1980) for most medals in one Olympic Games.

"Wow," Phelps said. "I came to win one, and I did something no one ever did in the sport of swimming before. I set a path. I wanted to become the first Michael Phelps."

He ended up swimming 17 races in eight days and set one world record, seven Olympic records and three American records. There were 13 individual events on the men's program. If Phelps were a nation -- and with the endorsements likely to come his way, his gross national product might approach that of a small country -- he would have won the gold-medal count with four. The rest of the U.S. men had three. Australia also had three, Japan took two and Pie.ter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands got the other.

Phelps swam fast, he enjoyed himself, he made a wonderful gesture to a friend, and he got to eat at McDonald's twice Saturday. He fell one short of seven gold medals, but Beijing is only four years away, and Phelps is only 19.

"Hopefully, he'll be back," coach Bob Bowman said. "Maybe this is the first chapter in a long career. He certainly met every expectation I had. He's going home with a lot more hardware than he did last time. That's sort of how we judge ourselves: Are you better now than you were four years ago?"

As Phelps stood at poolside, flag in hand, smiling, a fistful of medals back in his room, how could the answer be anything but yes.

Big Orange Volunteers To Aid Victims In Florida %3A%3A Tennessee helped raise funds to assist Floridians affected by Hurricane Charley
Big Orange Volunteers To Aid Victims In Florida

Tennessee helped raise funds to assist Floridians affected by Hurricane Charley

Aug. 22, 2004

The University of Tennessee partnered with the American Red Cross today to raise funds to assist Floridians affected by Hurricane Charley. For a donation to the American Red Cross, fans had the opportunity to get autographs from Coach Phillip Fulmer and 23 players from this year's roster at West Town Mall.

"Everybody knows someone in Florida, and Hurricane Charley touched a lot of people," said Chris Davis, director of public relations for the American Red Cross in Knoxville. "Every little bit counts. A lot of people are going to need help long-term. In the long run, things like this are going to really help people get back on their feet."

According to the American Red Cross, over 60,000 homes were affected by Hurricane Charley with at least 10,500 homes destroyed. Among those affected by the hurricane was Justin Reed, a junior tight end from Punta Gorda, Fla.

"I'm really excited to see the support from my coaches, my teammates and the community," said Reed. "Coach Fulmer offered to let me go home and help out but my parents thought I should stay here and get ready for the season. This gives me the opportunity to offer support from Knoxville."

"I saw Justin after the storm hit Florida and saw how devastated he was. I thought 'how can I help'," said Greg Atkins, assistant football coach for Tennessee. "Coach Fulmer and I talked about it and decided we wanted to find a way to help the American Red Cross raise money for their efforts.

"People in the community see these guys as football players, but these guys do so much. In the next few weeks, we'll start going out to the schools and participating in some of our other community projects. That's why they call us the Volunteers," said Atkins.

Today's autograph session raised more than $870 for the American Red Cross and their efforts to assist victims of Hurricane Charley.

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