Windblown Jackie by Ron Galella, 1971

Ron Galella was the first American paparazzo, and probably the most infamous paparazzo of his day. He captured Elvis Prestley, Sophia Loren, Bruce Springsteen, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, Robert Redford and Frank Sinatra on his camera, although none of them have posed for him. Brigitte Bardot hosed him down. Sean Penn spat at him. Richard Burton’s thugs beat him up. But Galella remained unfazed. After Marlon Brando broke his jaw, he returned to take photos of Brandon wearing a football helmet.

Galella’s favorite and long suffering target was Jackie Kennedy Onassis. In the late 60s, when the former first lady was living in New York, Galella bribed many doormen and chauffeurs to follow her. Galella even dated the family’s maid to gather information on Jackie’s movements. In 1969 Galella jumped out from behind a bush to grab a snap of Jackie and her eight-year-old son, John F. Kennedy Jr, on bicycles entering Central Park. Reacting to the boy’s frightened response, Secret Service agents handcuffed Galella as Jackie yelled “smash his camera”.

LIFE magazine had his photos in 12 Feb 1971 issue, with the ‘Jackie Watching’ cover and six page portfolio. He pursued her so aggressively over two continents that she went to court twice to stop him from following her and her children. Kennedy’s new husband, the billionaire Aristotle Onassis compared him to a sniper aiming at JFK. Galella once explained: “I had no girlfriend; she was my girlfriend in a way.”

Galella’s most famous photo of Jackie Kennedy was on October 7, 1971. He remembered:

There was a model Joyce Smith who needed portfolio pictures and I’m a fool for beauty I did it for her free. So I said, “I’ll pick you up and we go to Central Park maybe I’ll discover Jackie”. As we left the pod Jackie comes out the back entrance and walks toward Madison Avenue on 85th Street and she turns north on the corner.

I did a brilliant thing. I took a taxi because you have to hide to get the off-guard picture. And between 89th and 90th I took two shots from the back window but she didn’t see me or hear me because of noise. And then the driver did something I didn’t ask. He blew his horn. He was interested in Jackie.

Jackie turns and I get my wind-blown Jackie.

Beautiful. Exclusive. Spontaneous. Unrehearsed.

Jackie doesn’t see who I am because I had the camera for my face but the moment I get out of the taxi, oh she knew me and put the glasses on.

I got her another block from 90th 91st then she turned west.

I gave one of my cameras to Joyce Smith. I said, “Take a couple of pictures of me.” I pre-focus the camera 15 feet and she’s got two great shots of me running after Jackie. I shot Jackie from behind and then Jackie turns around and says,”Are you pleased with yourself?”

I said, “Yes, thank you and goodbye.”

I call it my Mona Lisa because the smile was on her eyes and on her lips the beginning of the smile and she had no makeup and no hairdo. What was the most true about her was that she had style whatever she wore. Whether it was this season’s, last season’s, or some 50 year old piece that she pulled out of her closet, she looked great.”

Joyce Smith’s photo of Galella and Kennedy

Jackie said the stalking by paparazzi came at an immeasurable cost to her own psychological well being. Galella, she sued, was ruining her life, his constant presence lurking outside her Fifth Avenue apartment and following her as far as Greece meant she had “no peace, no peace of mind, was always under surveillance, imprisonment in my house.”

In 1972 a judge issued a restraining order, keeping Galella 150 feet away (the distance was reduced to 25ft on appeal) but Galella kept breaking them. His chase ended only in 1982 when, after Galella’s 12th violation of the restraining order, a judge threatened to jail him for 60 years and he agreed to take no more pictures of her. Later, he titled a retrospective film on his life “Smash His Camera,” after what she ordered a member of her Secret Service detail to do.

Jackie Kennedy would later be in news again with paparazzi for sunbathing nude.

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