There’s an old story that floats around the theater community concerning legendary performer Carol Channing and her bathroom habits, one which ends in the punchline “Corn?! I don’t remember eating corn.” But given a rising trend in celebrity-stalking, the tale wouldn’t be so much legend as documented evidence, gracing gossip sites like TMZ. The new obsessives are dubbed “the pooparazzi,” and they’ve taken to recording the bowel movements of the rich and famous.
This new paparazzo isn’t content with the latest nipple-slip or panty-flash, and neither is the public. “The landscape has changed,” says Estaban Cordoba, a veteran of the scene who has captured his fair share of celebrity slip-ups. After vying with the hordes of other photographers bent on capturing the money-making shot, he’d all but given up on the trade. But when he entered the men’s room of the Chateau Marmont and saw Wilmer Valderrama exiting a stall without flushing, he new he was onto something.
“I had to use the facilities myself, so I ducked into the stall after Valderrama left and there is was, his perfectly coiled stool. It was like the goose that laid the golden egg or something.” Cordoba sold the photo to OK! magazine, and inadvertently started a trend that shows no sign of stopping.
Now, paycheck-hungry photogs have taken to infiltrating the toilets of celebrity hangouts like Hyde, posing as restroom attendants or cleaning staff to capture an incriminating photo. One clever shutterbug even managed to nab a stool shot of the recently-released-from-rehab Lindsay Lohan at a Utah airport.
Given that using the toilet is an intensely private act, how does this new wave of photographers manage to capture so many fecund fecal images?
“These are people who urinate on the street, who do coke at their banquettes. They think they’re above it all. They’re not keen on whatcha call, ‘bathroom etiquette,’ like flushing and whatnot,” said pooparazzo Angie Lampher, adding “Stars think their shit don’t stink. I’m here to prove them wrong.”
A Los Angeles nutritionist, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the shape and firmness of the stool can tell a lot about the dietary habits of celebrities. “Is Britney getting enough roughage? just consult her bowel movements. What’s the health impact of what stars eat? I think there are lessons to be learned.”
Where once the glossy magazines critiqued stars’ fashion gaffes, panels now wax humorous on the bowel movements of the most popular tabloid names. One editor of a fashion weekly stated that “People want to feel close to celebrities, from clothing to shopping habits to even, yes, their poops.”
Even gossip bloggers are posting the photos, adding their own unique brand of critique. Popular gossip blogger Rwanda Hilton, commenting on Jennifer Aniston, wrote “OMG! She tots ate beets. ROFL!”
Celebrities who have fallen victim to the probing lens of the pooparazzi are often aghast at what they feel is a violation of their most private moments. Vanessa Minnillo, whose fecal matter was recently spotlighted in US Weekly, went on record to say “this is all kinds of wrong!”
Martin Doohan, a privacy-rights activist, echoes the sentiment. “We’ve already had people digging through celebrities’ garbage, or opening their mail. But taking pictures of their poo poo? That’s beyond the pale.”
Now celebrities are being more cautious before parking their posteriors on the porcelain thrones of various establishments. Some have even gone so far as to hire “toilet companions” who make sure they flush before exiting the stall.
Will this movement last, or will the public eventually tire of seeing pictures of celebrity excrement? One trend-forecaster who was interviewed replied “Who knows? But people want to feel like they know these stars. And what’s more personal than a big steaming dump? ”
While the benefits of netting a coveted poo-shot are big (Paris Hilton’s diarrhea landed a cool million dollars), the occupational hazards to this particular line of work, beyond the usual car chases and odd celebrity punch-out, are high. “The smell, sometimes, is awful,” said veteran photographer Alina Manitoba. “But it’s the business.”
The business of stars doing their business, which in the current fame-obsessed climate has become everyone’s business.
Related: Tiny Paps