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California and the West | MIKE DOWNEY

'Paparazzi Stopper' May Be More Than a Flash in the Pan

April 19, 1998|MIKE DOWNEY

As I stroll around the Queen Mary, checking out every gadget and gizmo at the 12th annual Invention Convention, I just can't decide which one I'd recommend most.

I like the Hoodlum Welding Hood--a mask for professional welders, but made to resemble a bulldog, a skull or a gorilla. (No welder should be without one.)

I like the stick-on disposable bibs--like a diaper, only for the other end. (No baby or sloppy adult should be without one.)

I like the 100% natural "emu oil"--used by aboriginal tribes of Australia for years, as a skin moisturizer.

I like the flying automobile--a prototype for a car of the future, with a propeller on top. I like the thug zapper--if you are about to be carjacked, you press a button. Zap, your carjacker touches your door handle and gets 90,000 volts of electric current. (Effectively ending his jacking days for good.)

I like the Western hard hat--a standard construction helmet, except it's shaped like a cowboy hat. (Effectively giving you two Village People for the price of one.)

These inventors, they think of everything.

Practically every gadget I see here in Long Beach at the convention--today's the last day--is of interest to me, including those in a Black Inventions Museum exhibit run by Lady Sala S. Shabazz.

But OK, I do know which invention the world probably needs most.

The Paparazzi Stopper.

*

For a while there, after Princess Di died, people got all hot and bothered about photographers who pursue their subjects everywhere they go, relentlessly.

Like most hot topics, it quickly cooled off.

Well, this day, over in a corner of a very large boat sits a very large man, Dr. Joseph A. Resnick of Natrona Heights, Pa., who has come up with a very big idea.

"Here, look," he says.

Resnick shows me two baseball caps and a woman's brooch. A little hole peeks out the front of the caps.

Inside the brim, a miniature electronic device reacts whenever a photographer aims a camera at it.

And it emits a flash that ruins the picture.

Same thing for the brooch. Inside it is a similar sensor. You pin the brooch to your dress, your lapel, wherever, and faster than you can say "cheese," you foul up a photog's photo.

I can picture Hollywood celebrities now, ordering these things by the truckloads.

Joe remembers his inspiration.

"George Clooney," he says.

As any big fan of the star of "ER" knows, Clooney is not a big fan of paparazzi. I believe George would enjoy performing surgery on paparazzi in an emergency room, wearing a gorilla welding mask.

One day, Resnick mentioned to his wife, "I guess George Clooney hasn't been able to do anything to those paparazzi yet."

Her reply was, "Why don't you do something?"

A lightbulb came on over the inventor's head.

After all, this is a fellow with a lot of ideas. He's the one who came up with that thug zapper. Resnick also invented a "talking tooth," which might sound silly, but actually functions for throat cancer patients as an electrolarynx, or artificial voice box, clipped to a tooth.

"It feels like a wad of bubble gum," Joe says, demonstrating the device to me on a set of false choppers.

When the princess died, Resnick remembered Clooney's complaints about innocent people's privacy being violated. It occurred to him that if you couldn't make a photographer go away, maybe you could do something to spoil the pictures.

"Hollywood will love this," I say.

"That's why I invented it," Joe says.

*

I don't have much of a paparazzi problem myself. I'm the kind of celebrity who gets recognized in public like clockwork, every 10 or 15 years.

My biggest fear today is that Joe Resnick will go home to Pennsylvania and invent a Columnist Stopper.

He says he's working on making the paparazzi sensor smaller, so that it will be easier for wearers to conceal.

I want one.

I'll put one inside my cowboy hard hat, in case somebody tries to shoot me in my flying automobile.

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