Does Kanye Want to Clear the Air?
If you’ve lived in Hidden Hills for any length of time, you may have noticed that once in awhile there are helicopters circling overhead. Often, it’s not firefighters responding to a brush fire, nor is it just someone traveling from point A to point B. No, these helicopters are carrying paparazzi that have one goal in mind: shoot photos of some of our more famous residents—and their children. As in all businesses the rule of supply and demand applies, and with Americans’ seemingly insatiable curiosity about celebs and how they live (and of course what they wear, what they eat, and whether or not they sunbathe in the nude) these photogs can make a pretty good living. With practically everyone carrying their own camera in the form of a smart phone, professional paparazzi have a lot of competition. This ups the ante. They will go to great lengths to get that “money shot”, the one that nobody else can get, the one that tabloids and entertainment “news” shows will pay big bucks for.
Some argue that losing their privacy is a trade-off for fame, and that celebs should accept what basically is harassment, as part of their job. Only now it’s not just happening when they’re at The Ivy, Nobu, Kitson, LAX or anywhere else celebs are pursued by hungry paparazzi. It’s happening at their homes as well. And for some of them, their home is our home: Hidden Hills. Kanye West is not one to be shy about voicing his opinions. He and his family have been the focus of those lenses in the sky, and it has been reported by some of the very tabloids that are the end purchasers of these kind of images that Kanye was apparently annoyed enough to start a petition to make Hidden Hills a “no fly zone.” These stories claim that he reportedly even knocked on the doors of several other celebrity residents to see if they’d be on board. Now, given the source of these reports, attempts were made to confirm the existence of this effort in any shape or form and, not surprisingly, nothing to confirm any of this could be found. But this does raise an interesting question: Could such an idea, pardon the pun, fly?
According to Alison Triessl, another Hidden Hills resident and legal expert for KTLA’s Crime Watch Daily, the answer is, no. “It’s not realistic. There is no public purpose for that. It doesn’t trump a first amendment argument. But, there is a bill the governor is considering now that is specific to paparazzi and drones.” Alison discussed the issue of drones in a recent segment (you can see the segment in its entirety at www.wildabouttrial.com) explaining, “You can fly it over your neighbor’s yard, but use caution. The law when it comes to drones is that you can’t fly it over 400 feet. Anything over 400 feet is considered public highway, and certainly all the laws regarding peeping Toms, and harassment and stalking still apply. So basically, if you are just using a drone for fun, that’s fine. But if you’re using it to take photos of people in their yards or homes, and then you profit from those photos, that’s a crime.”
With both helicopters and drones, there are safety issues specific to equestrian communities like Hidden Hills. Horses and helicopters are not always a good combination. There have been cases reported in the news where horses have been spooked by helicopters, and in one instance, resulted in the death of a thoroughbred mare in Chautauqua, New York. Hidden Hills resident and veterinarian, Alex Werner says helicopters aren’t as big a problem as drones potentially are. “Really I’m more concerned about drones than helicopters. Helicopters are an annoyance and I think if you were on a horse that is able to be spooked, and a helicopter came low enough, it could spook the horse, yes. But, a low flying drone, with that kind of buzzing sound they make, would be more of a potential danger for a horse and rider than a high flying helicopter. Drones have less predictable and less controllable flight. A licensed helicopter pilot knows what he’s doing. An amateur drone operator doesn’t.” Dr. Werner advises that if you are riding a horse that starts to get spooked, regardless of the cause, get off the horse right away, and lead it.
Keeping our horses safe is important, but this noisy nuisance is also an invasion of privacy, and is especially concerning for famous parents, who would prefer not to have their kids photographed without their permission. For many years celebrities worked together alongside Halle Berry to draw attention to the issue of paparazzi taunting and harassing their children and in 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 606, aimed at protecting the privacy of the children of public figures. If a paparazzo is convicted of breaking this law, he or she faces up to a year in jail and would be made to pay a hefty fine. So there is precedent for celebs spearheading legislation regarding privacy and harassment. But turning Hidden Hills in to a no fly zone may be too much of a reach, even for someone with Kanye’s exceptional public influence.
That’s not to say that nothing can be done. Mike Bloom, a member of the public safety commission says, “I’ve lived in Hidden Hills since 1977 and one of the thing that celebrity residents have always liked about it is that it’s a sort of haven, they have their privacy. And they are entitled to their privacy and time away from the limelight.”
When asked if what should residents with concerns about the helicopters do, Mike emphatically replied, “Come to a public safety commission meeting the last Tuesday of every month at City Hall. We are always open to community involvement and we need to hear people’s voices in order to act. From there we can take it to the people on the board and talk bout it. We do work with the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Department and the idea is that if the community shows up at meetings, it makes statement that we as a community would like something to be done. Participation is key.”