The last day as a paparazzo: Going full freelance

It seems forever ago when I decided to quit my job as a staff writer for Soccerly and went full freelance, but that was only 8 months ago. The idea was to combine all my talents and work many different jobs. Many said it would be impossible to do all of them at once, now I’m doing it, and I’m going crazy…

As a writer, I’m still getting published by the same sources, which gives me some stability. I feel like I won the lottery back in February when I started translating and ghostwriting for a website (more about that later).

As a guitarist, I’m getting more playing time as a soloist. I’m working on an album with a drummer on a project we’re calling Donkey Chow (for now). Hopefully soon I’ll be playing bass with the jazz band as well.

As a photographer, I’m still not doing much, because I don’t have gear. But that will change soon.

As a tour guide, Tijuana Adventure is going great and growing by itself as a business. I barely have time for it, soon I’ll be hiring some people (which is crazy, maybe I’ll hire an assistant).

AND …

On top of all that. I’m also organizing a festival. I’m a big part of a team that is helping Tijuana Rumble Fest to happen. In fact, I’m in charge of that website (and many other things). This festival is happening, it’s going to be huge and it’s taking a lot of my time. Save the date for TRF, May 31st from noon to 5:00 am, 29 bands from California are invited. Tijuana Adventure is sponsoring (amongst many other major sponsors).

For the first time in my life I have to keep a schedule and check it constantly to see what my week is going to be like. And somehow I still spent hours on end playing the new expansion of Diablo III (which has been a major distraction from actual work).

Doing all my these jobs at once is something I never thought I would be doing in my life. Finding myself as a full-time freelance of pretty much whatever I feel like is awesome. Quitting the paparazzi life is one of the best things I’ve done in my life. To commemorate that… here are the pictures of the last day of work I have on my hard drive.

All pictures were taken on April 6th of 2011. Ten different celebrities, around 500 shutter clicks and almost no money made. Being a pap is not worth it.

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Celebrity is a state of mind: Macaulay Culkin in Tijuana again

Fame is in the eye of the beholder.

There are so many celebrities now a days and so much information online that we can give ourselves the luxury to love or hate as many we want. You know how many fucks I ever gave for the kids of Gossip Girl? I saw all of them, and they were all mean assholes. I tried watching the show once because my roommate was into it. I couldn’t watch it for more than 10 minutes.

It messed with my head that someone like Paul McCartney could be the nicest person ever when you are taking pictures of him at LAX and someone like Leighton Meester, Blake Lively and the rest of the cast can be complete dicks. I mentioned Leighton Meester because she was outright over the top crazy about her picture not being taken. She covers herself in the craziest fashion and even accused me once of hiding in a dumpster outside of her apartment in New York ….I’m never been to New York. Her airport assistant told me this information, she also hated her (and she liked me, many times gave me free tips).

Leighton Meester:

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She goes over the top for you not to get her picture, like hiring an assistant to guide her through the airport while she wears a massive coat over her head. That was the day she accused me of hiding on a dumpster outside her NY apartment….

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This other day she hid behind her ticket in an incredible fashion that it made my shoot worthless. WHO ARE YOU!?!? I only cared because a picture of her would sale between $50 to $200 (if I’m lucky, otherwise worthless).
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This one time, I was stealthy like a ninja and she didn’t see me. After this picture, she basically just hid behind the guy that is carrying her Marc Jacobs bag or whatever she has.

Blake Lively:
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She likes to carry a pillow and hide behind it, however, she’s not that great at hiding. She was never as bad as Leighton, but just a worthless average blonde.

Speaking of worthless people, Macaulay Culkin visited Tijuana again. This time with his insult of a band, The Pizza Underground. Their name like that because they play covers of The Velvet Underground and Nirvana and replace the lyrics with pizza jokes. Something that would have been great if I were 14 and it was still the 90s. It cost $10 at the door, which I refused to pay, so I missed the show (and it was the right choice). Friends that did make it informed me that the show was horrible. Well, you can judge for yourself:

The next day, Retox played the same venue. This show I did attend and it blew my fucking brains out (and it was free…). I chatted with the singer of the band and the other musicians like it was nothing, but in all honest truth, I was a bit nervous. These guys are fucking fantastic musicians and are celebrities in my mind. But people prefer to pay $10 (it was $30 in San Diego) to see fucking Macaulay Culkin insult the art of music. Here’s a review from a fellow writer for the San Diego Reader.

Retox:

I’m so busy but all I want to do is watch House of Cards: Robin Wright at LAX.

So much work, so little time. Or maybe I’m just lazy. 2014 started out slow with my articles getting rejected so I started to look for more gigs everywhere. But after many rejections, sources started publishing me again and work started to pour in. Suddenly, it was February and I found myself overwhelmed by work to the point I didn’t want to do any at all.

I have had so many ideas for articles, Tijuana Adventure has been growing with more interest on it every day, I translated a dating website into Spanish, strangers are getting in contact with me offering stories, also gotten requests from my clients and on top of that, I finally played guitar on the street. Here are the articles I published on 2014, some of them made it into print:

San Diego Reader = Large MuralLa MaguanaAntiYouMarihuana
San Diego Red = Tacos VariosDrugs
B1Mas4 = Marihuana

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I have performed in many places, hotel lobbies, weddings, restaurants, cafes, on stage at my university, etc. But I have never performed on the street. It was for a farmer’s market that sets every Saturday in Old Town San Diego. I played for three hours, made $40 from the event organizer and $35 on tips. A friend from the RockinJazzBigBand loaned me his PA system for amplification so the whole block could hear me playing. At some point during my performance I gathered a crowd of over 20 people and some were recording me play. That felt pretty new.
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But playing for three hours with the blaring sun right on top, took a toll on me. I felt sick, stopped working and watched the whole first season of House of Cards (and now that the second season is out… I can’t stop).

I’m finding a balance between being a freelance writer and musician. But there’s still much more to add. Soon I’ll have a camera and I’m sure I’ll have photography gigs. And let’s not forget the jazz band, my experimental band and my own business.

So much to do, so instead I’ll just go back to watching House of Cards.

With that show in mind. I never saw Kevin Spacey back in my paparazzo days, but I did see Robin Wright. Both times I took her pictures was late at night in LAX. I have no memory of our interactions. Judging from the pictures, she seemed ok with it the first time I saw her when she was departing and she wasn’t happy to see me the second time when arriving. Nonetheless, her work in House of Cards is amazing and I can’t wait to keep on watching the show.

Robin Wright at LAX:

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These pictures were taken on November 14, 2009. She was still married to Sean Penn who is publicly known to dislike paparazzi (he punched a friend of mine in my first week of the job). I also shot Vanessa Hudgens, Viggo Mortensen, Jody Lynn O’Keefe, Carla Gugino and Ashlee Simpson that day.

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These were taken a month after on her arrival flight on December 16th, 2009. She didn’t seem to happy to see me. I also got Sam Worthington, Oliver Stone and Drew Carey that day.

Shia LaBeouf announces retirement from public life: Are we supposed to cry?

I had no idea about his plagiarized scandal, but you can tell that Shia doesn’t take criticism like a man. Some artists fall into a plagiarized scandal but they don’t act like he did. For example, when Coldplay plagiarized Joe Satriani. They settle that scandal like grown men with an out-of-court settlement, instead of whining and then “quitting” from public life.

What does that even mean? Is he not going to go outside anymore? Is he not going to do interviews? Is he going to stop acting all together? Are paparazzi magically going to disappear because he announced his retirement? Obviously, he will be back to his public life soon.

Now, about my experiences with Shia, I saw him a couple times and I have a very fond memory of those times. Not because of him, but because it was the same day I saw Paul McCartney for the first time. They sent me to LAX specifically for a Shia’s departing flight, but when I got there, other paparazzi were waiting at arrivals. The other paps didn’t know about Shia’s departure, but I had no idea that McCartney would be arriving. It was still one of the most surreal experiences in my life. Needless to say I didn’t give a shit about Shia anymore and concentrated on McCartney. Besides, Shia has never been a good sale and he is pretty much a dick. With all that said, I did enjoy one movie by him, Disney’s Holes.

These were taken on February 5th, 2009. The first picture is before McCartney arrived in Terminal 4. Then Shia and Paul had a brief moment in the elevator since they both got in the same one. Then I shot the rest of the pictures of him through security after Sir McCartney was already gone.
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I saw him more than twice, but I only have one other folder of him in my hard drive. I also remember this day very well, since he got away with his girlfriend in a really good cat and mouse game done by an airport helper. They were being led by a celebrity greeter that has been working greeting celebrities at LAX since 1983 (three years before I was born!) They arrived in the lower level of Terminal 3, which in most cases means that their car was waiting in the same lower level. When they saw me, they put their heads down, I gave them space and was ready to get pictures once they were outside. But then the greeter yelled “NOW!” and they sprinted towards the escalator leaving me behind and without any good pictures. Shia won that day.

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Much More Than a Paparazzo: I’m Ted Danson

So much has changed since I was let go from my staff job as a paparazzo back in March of 2011. I wrote a story that same day that I got “fired” and thought about writing a book re-telling my celebrity encounters as I continued to work for the same agency as a freelance photographer. I saw Elijah Wood at LAX while freelancing and told him my story about writing a book. He thought it was great idea and that day I wrote what I thought was going to be the prologue of my book. But to be a writer is not an easy task, especially with little to no skills. Before attempting to write the book and with money saved-up, I decided it was a good idea to go on a road trip through the USA. I got the idea of filming my road trip from a guy I met on craigslist under the rideshare section, where I offered a ride in exchange for gas money.

That guy turned out to be Peter Morton, a British child star that started his career as Wayne Sutcliffe for Grange Hill, a drama series for the BBC. The road took me from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, where I dropped off Peter, and spent the night with some friends. Then I was headed northeast to Detroit where I was on my way to visit my sick aunt who I lived with for a year back in 2003. I couch-surfed for the first time in Denver, which was an awesome experience, met another craigslist stranger and drove to Iowa to rest up before heading to my main destination. From Detroit I went west to Portland to meet up with my cousin. Couchsurfed in Seattle, stayed with a friend in Vancouver, stopped in Eugene to visit another friend, then some family in San Francisco and finally down back to LA. I posted some of the videos on my youtube channel. I intended to post them all, especially the video when I got arrested in Canada, but now it seems like a pointless task.

When I got back to LA, I realized that I needed to move out of that city. My brother got married that summer in Tijuana and for some reason I thought it would be wise to move to northeast San Diego. I knew I wasn’t going to be a paparazzo anymore, but I also didn’t want to do any work at all. I went on a downward depression spiral where every thing seemed pointless. I gave up on writing a book and decided to turn my stories into this blog. I had a strong desire to travel, but I was trapped by my possessions from LA and the room I rented in a house in Rancho Peñasquitos.

After not working for more than a year, I sold many of my possessions and moved to a single bedroom apartment in Tijuana because of the cheaper rent. Ironically, I didn’t want to move my things south of the border because I was concerned about safety… and now I live feel safer here than I ever did in Los Angeles. My first months in TJ I fell deeper into depression with no motivation for any type of work. I was occasionally posting on my blog with little hope of ever writing a book. I got some guitar gigs and some students, but never enough to support myself. Finally broke and rock bottom, I moved to my parents house, who moved to Tijuana after my brother’s wedding.

Living with my parents was motivation enough to get a job. I found a a writing/editing full time job for a soccer website that was just starting up, though I wasn’t up to date with the sport. Promises were made of higher paid and growth within the company, that I strove to become the best soccer writer for the site. I moved out of my parents house to downtown TJ and started to fall in love with the city I currently live in. Many friends visited me to TJ from LA and some wanted to pay me for showing them around the city, so I had the idea to create Tijuana Adventure. After several months of achieving success as a soccer journalist, I realized my potential could be bigger, or at least the pay could. I bit the bullet and quit my full time job to pursue freelance writing, combined with the other things I’m good at; music and photography.

What does Ted Danson have to do anything with this?

Nothing really. I saw him in the airport on February 4th, 2011, with his wife, Mary Steenburgen and I told him that I wanted to be like him in the show Bored to Death when I grew up. He laughed and said “that’s not a good goal to have in life.” That same day I saw Ashley Johnson, Christina Hendricks, Craig Robinson, Diane Kruger, Jay Baruchel, Jessica Lowndes, Joe and Nick Jonas, Keri Lynn Pratt, Keith Urban, Kim Kardashian, Landon Donovan, Pam Anderson, Pete Wentz, William H. Macy and Zac Efron.

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I saw him without his wife once before on April, 11, 2010. There was little to no interaction that I can recall. Though that was the same day that I got a great set of Jessica Simpson that she ruined by tweeting pictures of herself with a wig on (Simpson post)

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