The Expert: Rules of Engagement for Paparazzi, Scientology

lindsaylohan2 The Expert: Rules of Engagement for Paparazzi, Scientology

Last week, celebrity life coach Patrick Wanis, PhD, wanted to tell our readers his list of the Top Ten Celebrity Meltdowns of 2007.

Today, on the phone with the Daily Transom, he got a little more daring.

First up: recent news that Lindsay Lohan has started to use the paparazzi to her own advantage, setting up and pocketing proceeds from snaps of her own mug.

“I say kudos to her!” he said. “I was thinking last week, Why don’t celebrities just use their brain?

Mr. Wanis said that working with the roaming shutterbugs, as opposed to making them your enemy, simply makes good business sense.

“If you’re smart or mature enough to accept that it’s going to happen, then just use the system to your favor. There’s nothing wrong with that.

“I understand and empathize with both sides. I can understand when celebrities want privacy, but then don’t go shopping down Rodeo Drive,” he said. “How can you expect to have privacy then? That is so absurd. Don’t go into the haunts where all the celebrities hang out, because you’re not going to get privacy there.”

After further discussion, he pointed to Johnny Depp, an actor who famously avoids most pesky photogs by living outside of celebrity hot zones—Los Angeles, New York, Miami and London, among them—and by entering high-profile restaurants and hotels through their back entrances.

“[Mr. Depp] finds a way to avoid the attention because he doesn’t want it,” he said. “It’s interesting—in my mind, some of the most successful, seasoned celebrities and professionals are good at doing that. It seems to be the younger ones that really want the attention, or whose life is generally out of balance, or spinning out of control, that put themselves in those places.”

Yeah, alright, but what about the innocent children of celebrities like Julia Roberts, who recently flipped out and chased down a photographer taking pictures of her tots outside of their school?

“I think some celebrities think they can control things over which they have no control. Sure, you can tell the paparazzi not to take pictures of your son or daughter, but why would they listen to you? It’s their job to take pictures of stars and their families,” he said. “It comes down to: ‘How private do you want your life to be?’ We expect to see [famous faces] in New York, L.A. and South Beach. If they’re there, people will probably take pictures of them.”

He then brought up Will Smith, who often casts his own children in his films. (His daughter appears in I Am Legend and his son stars in The Pursuit of Happiness.) Then, Mr. Wanis said, taking pictures of the actor’s kids is fair game.

At this point in our discourse, the expert was willing to discuss all the recent rumors suggesting that Will Smith is a Scientologist. John Travolta, the musician Beck and Fox News’ Greta van Susteren, he said, are somehow able to be Scientologists and not have everybody getting worked up about it. Will Smith, he thinks, will be more like them than like Mr. Cruise.

“Will Smith will get away with it," he said. "The difference between Will Smith and Tom Cruise isn’t in their star power. It’s how they approach their beliefs. Tom Cruise made two mistakes. First, he jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch, so he made a caricature of himself. The second mistake was when he started talking about psychiatry and medication. It wasn’t what he said that was a problem, it was the way he said it.”

“When you come out as an extremist and make things black-and-white, it’s easy for the media to attack you. Plus, he was attacking multi-billion-dollar corporations… He might be a great actor, but that doesn’t make him a great communicator and spokesperson.”

"When most people make negative judgements about other religions, they usually don’t even know what their tenets are—the beliefs of those religions. I mean, look at the comments of [Republican Mike] Huckabee”—Mr. Huckabee reportedly asked a reporter, rhetorically, if Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers—“He was expressing his own ignorance, even though he ended up trying to qualify his remarks and back off. Even so-called intelligent, educated people can come out with really ignorant remarks that show they don’t know anything.”

We were starting to be confused. So, is Scientology necessarily a P.R. problem for a celebrity? Possibly one? Or never one?

Mr. Wanis asked us to question whether the popular distaste for Scientology stems from its innate difference from the “normal religions,” or from a principled rejection of its teachings. Mr. Wanis told us that he is not himself, in any way, shape or form, a Scientologist.

But:

“Don’t just do what everyone else is doing,” he said. “Stop and question your own values; question your own beliefs; do your own research; and then make your decision.”