- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2009

NEW YORK

It’s become a celebrity cliche: a pack of paparazzi following a starlet’s every move, shouting out personal questions as the A-lister (or, in some cases, F-lister) tries to deflect their flashing lights. It’s the price you pay for fame.

But for a price as low as $729.99, your average Z-lister - yes, that means you and me - can experience what it’s like to be the subject of a media melee. Companies such as Celeb 4 a Day can turn the average Joe into Joe Jonas, as a pack of people with cameras follow the paying customer for at least 30 minutes, leaving surrounding onlookers wondering: Who is that star?

That’s what a few people were wondering in a trendy neighborhood in downtown Manhattan recently as I got the Celeb 4 a Day treatment. By now, you’re probably asking “Why would anyone pay to be hounded by cameras?”

It’s the same reason some celebrities tip off the paparazzi about their whereabouts - for the attention. And even though as an entertainment editor for the Associated Press I interview famous people everyday, I must admit, even I felt a secret thrill as I walked out of an exclusive restaurant and had what seemed like 10 people with cameras screaming my name, following my every move.



”Alicia! Alicia!”

“When are you getting married?”

“Is the wedding still on?”

“What are you wearing?”

Of course, they knew my name and knew I was engaged because I had filled out their questionnaire, which asked everything from where I worked to who was my favorite celebrity.

Nothing about the paparazzi moment was real , though - not even the paparazzi. Turns out, they are actors paid to be annoying shutterbugs.

Still, even though I knew they were going to pop out at some point, it was overwhelming. I tried to answer their questions, but it all seemed like too much and I took off running. I even pulled that well-known celebrity maneuver - ducking into a store to try and ditch them. But as soon as I went into the shop, I was bombarded with people asking who I was.

“My girlfriend said, ‘Well, that’s People magazine probably following her,’ ” said onlooker Catherine Gilmore.

Once she found out it was all a ruse, however, she was asked if she’d be interested in getting a similar celebrity treatment.

“No,” Miss Gilmore said.

And, to be honest, I was glad when my celebrity experience ended. I felt relived and grateful.

I now have a newfound respect for the stars I interview. I couldn’t imagine going through this every single day.

They can keep the fame … although I still wouldn’t mind the money and designer clothes.

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