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Paparazzo 'King' Feted in Lucca

Rino Barillari began career in the days of La Dolce Vita

30 June, 16:18
Paparazzo 'King' Feted in Lucca

(ANSA) - Lucca, June 30 - A show celebrating one of Italy's most notorious paparazzi, Rino Barillari, has opened in Lucca as part of a major photography festival currently under way in this Tuscan city.

Known as Er King (The King), Barillari has been surprising celebrities with his camera since the heady days of Rome's Dolce Vita - but his subjects have frequently hit back.

He claims that scuffles with irate stars and their bodyguards over the years have left him with 76 shattered cameras and 11 broken ribs, while he has had to visit the hospital emergency room on 162 occasions.

The show in Lucca, Divas: From the Dolce Vita to the Latest Scoops, focuses on shots that Barillari has taken of glamorous women in Rome from the 1950s to today.

Among the work on display at Palazzo Guinigi are stolen snaps of princesses and actresses such as Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman and Sharon Stone.

Highlights include Diana, Princess of Wales - then Lady Spencer - photographed through a car window, and supermodel Claudia Schiffer draped over the trunk of an open-top sports car on the Via Veneto. While the celebrities taking their frustrations out on Barillari and his camera have usually been male, the paparazzo has also suffered at the hands of women.

He claims to have been clouted by divas including Ava Gardner and Brigitte Bardot, while a photo on his website immortalises an ice-cream fight with the Yugoslavian actress Sonia Romanoff on Via Veneto in the 1960s, with Romanoff plunging a cone into the photographer's forehead.

In a more recent wrangle, he had the contents of a champagne ice bucket tipped over his camera while trying to snap Schiffer out dining.

Originally from a small village in Calabria, Barillari began his career photographing tourists around the Trevi Fountain.

He then graduated to catching VIPs by surprise at trendy restaurants and upmarket hotels around the Via Veneto, Piazza di Spagna and Piazza del Popolo, relying on a growing network of spies - from bartenders to cloakroom attendants - who tipped him off about where the action was.

"I came to Rome when I was 14 and it seemed like America to me," says Barillari. "It was crazy. I photographed everyone, from Richard Burton to Liz Taylor, I snapped Peter O'Toole drunk, I came to fisticuffs with Marlon Brando and (did) karate with (Charles) Aznavour".

Male celebrities with whom he has allegedly had run-ins include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who he claims on his website "beat the living daylights" out of him when he tried to snap him at an upmarket Rome restaurant.

In another incident Hollywood hardman Sylvester Stallone's bodyguards allegedly tried to "rip his moustache off".

While he is best known for his shots of unguarded VIPs, Barillari has also documented tragic episodes in Italian history, including the 1973 terrorist hijacking of Pan Am Flight 110 at Rome's Fiumicino Airport and the 1979 Red Brigades attack on the Christian Democrat party headquarters in the capital.

Barillari claims to have taken over two million snaps during his career.

Divas: From the Dolce Vita to the Latest Scoops runs at Palazzo Guinigi in Lucca until August 22.

Photos: Claudia Schiffer by Rino Barillari; Frank Sinatra at Via Veneto bar; Sophia Loren with husband Carlo Ponti in car; Barillari in hospital after scuffle. 

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