Ever wondered what it'd be like to be an A-lister? Celeb 4 A Day lets you experience life in the public eye -- and lens.
It’s 1 p.m. on a hot summer afternoon in Manhattan and, for the first time in nearly an hour, I think I’m safe. I’ve tucked myself into Oakley’s flagship Times Square boutique, feigning interest in a pair of wraparounds but mostly eyeing the street outside. I fiddle with my phone, compliment a fellow customer on her purchase, chat with a salesperson about the ongoing heat wave. After a few minutes pass, I crane my neck and note that the sidewalk in front of the store appears to have cleared.
I take a deep breath, pull open the glass doors and stride through them. And then I see the photographers crouched on either side of the entrance, the gaggle of onlookers they have attracted and the 20 cellphones pointed in my general direction. And then the “Larry! Look here! Larry!” refrain sounds anew and the shutters start to click. And then I pull my baseball cap low over my brow and dart down the street, trailed by the throng and the ringing “Larry!” chorus. And then it dawns on me that maybe, just maybe, I’m not cut out to be a tabloid sensation.
The photographers — four of them, each impeccably credentialed and toting a shoulderful of gear — are real. Their reason for tailing me around Times Square, on the other hand, is artificial. They’re here on behalf of Celeb 4 A Day, a service that offers the nonfamous a chance to experience life as a stalked superstar. The brainchild of photographer Tania Roberts, Celeb 4 A Day supplies the relentless paparazzi who can transform a casual stroll down the block into a four-Baldwin pileup at LAX.
Roberts came up with the idea more than a decade ago while studying at the Brooks Institute of Photography. In her downtime, she and her pals would hang out at the apartment of the one classmate who owned a television set. Inspiration struck, as it so often does, while watching Entertainment Tonight.
“They were showing some celebrity getting chased down the street by a bunch of paparazzi, and I said out loud, to no one in particular, ‘I wonder what that’s like,’ ” Roberts recalls. “Then I looked around and realized I was surrounded by photographers. It was, like, ‘We could do that. We could offer that to somebody.’ ”
It wasn’t until six years later when she was living in Austin, Texas, and working in advertising photography that Roberts acted on her idea.
During a lunch break, she dummied up an early version of the Celeb 4 A Day website and sent the link to her friends. Within days, Roberts says, the calls started coming in.