Paparazzi Peeping

Stars Come Out for Kirk Douglas Award

Text and photos by Shannon Kelley Gould

While an argument could be made that what I do for a living constitutes paparazzism, I tend not to think of it that way. I don’t do stake-outs, engage in high-speed chases, or plumb the depths of dumpsters in the hopes of uncovering a salacious scoop, after all. Being peeped is a friendly, opt-in type of experience; paparazzi-lite. Which is why I tend to feel a bit out of my element when positioned on the edge of the red carpet, angling for a good shot while surrounded by scores of shutterbugs looking to do the same.

Sunday afternoon, at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s presentation of the inaugural Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film, I waited patiently in the sun with the other members of the press, skirting the edges of the red carpet that lined the walkway to the patio of the Bacara’s main ballroom. Then, I noticed an unfortunate phenomenon: I was shrinking. The three inches of additional height my heels had bought me were rendered null as they sank into the lawn, so I fought to keep my weight in my toes, then dealt with the dilemma by running back and forth from my carpet-side station to the crowd enjoying the cocktail hour, peeping all the while. The evening’s stars began to arrive: Carol Burnett, Christopher Lloyd, Gena Rowlands, and the man of the hour, Mr. Kirk Douglas and his wife Anne; as the celeb-spotting action wound down, I was forced to ratchet into high-gear my inner paparazzo when I spotted Wendy McCaw and her cohort, Arthur von Wiesenberger, making their first public appearance since the nasty News-Press brouhaha first erupted. Wishing I had a disguise or a more powerful lens that might allow me a shot from afar, I gulped, and headed over to ask for a picture. They obliged, and I breathed a sigh of relief as I settled back into my more comfortable peeping routine. I found the black-tie-bedecked crowd loving the novelty of a summertime SBIFF function, the stunning setting, the golden sunlight, the cocktails, and the conversation, but before I knew it, we were told that dinner and the evening’s program were about to begin.

We took our seats, and, while enjoying a four-star meal, were treated to a program that included clips that spanned the breadth of Douglas’s career, a videotaped message from Kirk’s son Michael, a welcome from Jeffrey Barbakow, SBIFF’s new president of the board, and some sweet words from Executive Director Roger Durling. Gena Rowlands, one of Douglas’s friends and former co-stars, presented him with the award, which he accepted to a standing ovation. Admired as much for his ballsy, blacklist-busting decision to credit blacklisted Spartacus writer Dalton Trumbo as for his incredible acting career, Kirk Douglas truly is a living legend. Being in the presence of such a life-loving icon was a privilege and a pleasure, and when snapping that well-celebrated smile, I felt proud to be a paparazzo.

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