Celebrities’ shouldn’t put private lives up for sale

Tragically, it’s an all too common tale. The wedding was perfect; but the photographs of the happy day look terrible — and, in this case, were plastered all over the pages of Hello! magazine.

Forget West End musicals. Forget the anti-war protests. The hottest ticket in London last week was a seat on the public benches in the Chancery Lane law courts to witness celebrity couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones give evidence in a lawsuit the pair, in tandem with OK! magazine, filed against Hello! for publishing unauthorized pictures of their New York wedding in November 2000.

OK!, which signed a deal with Zeta Jones and Douglas for exclusive pictures of the wedding, is seeking damages of £1.75m ($2.7 million) for loss of sales. Douglas and Zeta Jones are suing for £500,000 ($775,000) with Zeta Jones claiming the “cheap and tacky” pictures in Hello! left her “devastated, violated and upset.” She really should take them down from her mantelpiece.

So just what is it about these pictures that has caused Zeta Jones such anguish? Well, in one picture, all that is visible of Zeta Jones’ father is an arm. Though, it must be said, it is an immaculately attired and well-proportioned arm, the picture still irked the Oscar nominee.

“No woman would want a picture like that of her special day,” Zeta Jones said.

She’s right — the world may be on the brink of war, but these pictures of her wedding have got to last for the rest of her show-business marriage — oops, I mean life.

Another complaint from the Welsh actress was that a picture that shows her eating from a spoon held by her husband makes it look as if she did nothing but eat at her wedding. Come on. Hello! readers may not be renowned for their mental faculties but even they are capable of deducing that Zeta Jones didn’t spend her whole wedding day munching on caviar vol-au-vents and wedding cake.

At the core of this issue is privacy and the right of Douglas and Zeta Jones to conduct their wedding away from the prying lenses of the paparazzi. The celebrity couple said they felt the exclusive deal was the best way to preserve their privacy and to acknowledge the interest of their fans. What they failed to mention was the £1m they received from OK! and how, according to the owner of Hello!, Eduardo Sanchez Junco, the rights were offered to a number of publications in order to encourage a bidding war. These are hardly the actions of someone seeking to escape the glare of publicity.

With an ever-increasing fascination in the private lives of celebrities, the price of fame has never been higher than it is today. Nevertheless, such stars as Madonna, Richard Gere, Julia Roberts and Michelle Pfeiffer have managed genuinely private weddings in the recent past. If Douglas and Zeta Jones were sincerely seeking privacy for their wedding, not negotiating with magazines whose titles end in exclamation marks, it would have been a good start.

Curiously, when shown similar pictures from the pages of OK! and Hello! in court and asked to explain why one was acceptable and the other not, Zeta Jones responded that “one was legitimate, and one was stolen.” Seldom have honesty and theft been so indistinguishable.

What really upsets Zeta Jones is that Hello! obtained their pictures for free. But by profiting from their celebrity, Douglas and Zeta Jones forfeited their right to privacy. Perhaps next time they’ll just look for a wedding photographer in the Yellow Pages like the rest of us.

Chris O’Donnell is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.oracleodonnell@yahoo.com