As a recovering gossip columnist, I thought I had seen it all.
But this week, something new hit my in-box.
It was a creep shot of Barbra Streisand, eating at one of her favorite Beverly Hills restaurants.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, a “creep shot,”—according to the modern Dr Johnsons of UrbanDictionary.com—is “a picture taken, generally of a woman, without her knowledge or consent.”
In the age of social media, you might think that nothing would be more normal than an excited diner seeing a famous person, and snapping a sneaky iPhone shot as proof.
After all, as they say on Urban Dictionary, “Pics or it didn’t happen!”
Except, this particular creep shot didn’t come from a member of the public. It came from the publicist of the restaurant.
“Hope all is well! Please see the below as well as the attached photo taken by a customer,” read the jaunty pitch.
“She is a regular customer at the Los Angeles hotspot and joined a friend for lunch. Streisand sat at a table on the first floor and enjoyed an assortment of tapas included the An’s Famous Garlic Noodles, Buddah Roll, Coconut Prawns, Crab Puffs, Dumpling Trio, Shrimp Toast, Ahi Tacos and paired it with Hot Organic Tea.”
It’s nice to see Babs has an appetite!
Also, couple things:
It is legitimate for restaurants to publicize that famous people patronize them as a way of building business. Journalists who receive attention from trafficking in famous names are complicit in and benefit from this practice.
But, I have never before seen a restaurant try to capitalize on a photo of a celebrity customer—who is at the table, mind you, still in the act of eating off her plate—that was so obviously taken without the subject’s consent.
The second thing is the claim that this picture was taken by a fellow customer.
Perhaps that’s true. But it’s at least equally possible that the image was taken by an employee.
That kind of light espionage seems like just another element of modern life after the cater-waiter, who, during the 2012 presidential campaign, videoed Mitt Romney’s infamous “47%” remarks at a private Florida fundraiser.
Once your server knows he can influence the presidency, why would he not take a pot-shot at a passing EGOTist?
Anyway: whether the image was created in-house or provided to them, the restaurant is responsible for it by hiring a publicist to send it to the media.
Celebrity media has turned into social media, where everyone is their own gossip columnist. That’s what makes this image of Streisand so unremarkable, so weirdly familiar.
Yet if we pause to consider Streisand not as a celebrity commodity, but as a person, the restaurant’s decision to publicize this seems to be professional suicide.
Why would she ever eat there again?
The celebrity math would seem to dictate that she is worth more as a PR lever than as a customer.
Either that, or it is a gross miscalculation in public relations.