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Clicking, and then clashing, with the paparazzi

Publicist whose clients have benefited from tabloid coverage gets into a fistfight with photographers.

October 14, 2008|Harriet Ryan | Times Staff Writer

A publicist who helped advance the careers of Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag -- the reality TV couple renowned for their courting of tabloid coverage -- got into a fistfight with paparazzi Saturday over their tactics in pursuit of celebrities in his West Hollywood neighborhood.

Sheriff's deputies were summoned. One photographer went to the hospital. But there were no charges. Except irony.

The fight outside a pumpkin patch frequented by celebrities was the latest in a string of recent altercations with paparazzi, but it was notable for the involvement of publicist Rick Rhodes.

Video of the incident shot by a paparazzo shows a stunned Rhodes standing outside his residence as a crowd of photographers -- including one bleeding from the head -- shout accusations of assault.

"I work with a lot of you guys all the time," Rhodes tells them plaintively.

Rhodes represented Pratt and Montag -- known on gossip websites as "Speidi" -- until last week, he said. The pair have burnished the fame they achieved on the MTV show "The Hills" by appearing in supermarket tabloids, often in campy shots that appeared to be staged.

The confrontation occurred outside as paparazzi gathered to snap pictures of actors Tobey Maguire, Tori Spelling and Marcia Cross selecting pumpkins with their toddlers. In an interview Monday, Rhodes said he approached the group to complain about dangerous driving by photographers on his street the day before. He said one vehicle following actor Patrick Dempsey came close to striking his girlfriend and their dog.

"It should be a safer environment," he said.

The video shows Rhodes shoving a photographer named Roy, who then pushes him back. A sporadic exchange of fisticuffs follows. Sheriff's deputies arrived later but did not arrest anyone.

"Paparazzi never want to press charges because that takes time away from taking pictures," said Sgt. Scott Wolf of the Sheriff's Department's West Hollywood station.

Reached at his home, Roy declined to provide his last name.

He said he was upset about comments on the gossip site TMZ.com, which posted portions of the video, suggesting that he was a poor fighter.

"The guy was a couple inches taller than me," he protested. He said Rhodes' anger at dangerous driving was understandable but misdirected, since he was not part of the car chase.

Roy said he received "three or four stitches" and was mulling a civil suit.

"Of course! I could have made good money," he said, listing the celebrity pumpkin pickers who arrived after the fight, "but instead I was sitting in the hospital."

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harriet.ryan@latimes.com

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