Cockeyed on cam

See the winning snapshots and the other “tabloid worthy” pics from Paparazzi Photo Contest at

The regular weekend crush at the Arden Fair Mall was swollen this past Saturday by a back-to-school mob of petulant kids and sullen parents in a cold sweat, anticipating their nine-month reprieve. The standard dramatis personae were all in place, of course. Small packs of teenagers wove their way past elderly ladies and around parents pushing SUV-sized strollers. The food court was an agoraphobic terror. Cell phones and frozen lattés were everywhere. It all looked very normal. Perfect for a stunt.

A few weeks prior to Saturday’s Arden Fair adventure, Rob Cockerham, the man behind Sacramento’s own Web site for science and hilarity, posted the “Paparazzi Photo Contest.” Cockerham would be at the Arden Fair Mall between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. on August 12, “doing some leisurely shopping,” and he cordially invited would-be paparazzi to exploit this public appearance. Prizes would be awarded for the most “tabloid-worthy photo” and for the most photos captured in the allotted time.

Sounded simple, but as zero hour approached, the logistics began to look more dubious. Cockerham could have been anywhere in the mall. Surely he wanted good photographs and wouldn’t make this too much a game of hide and seek. There also didn’t appear to be many gawkers scanning for him in the crowd, nor any cameras in sight. Did anyone get the memo?

Just as visions of a complete bust began to swirl, Cockerham and his wife, Stacy, came into view, pushing their daughter’s stroller. A few flashes popped, and the couple couldn’t stifle their laughter. Some shoppers paused briefly and puzzled over the sight, but neither shoppers nor photographers congregated around the “celebs.” Cockerham ducked into the men’s room, only to be cornered in the dark hall by some observant sports who captured a grinning mug upon his re-emergence. As the family continued on, a quartet of goths, cameras at the ready, made their way toward the commotion, trying to discern their prey.

The growing buzz came to a dramatic halt when two picture takers were warned by a very deadpan security guard that unless the cameras were put away, their owners would be escorted out. Naturally, this deterred no one. A woman with a telephoto lens snapped away as the couple perused Frederick’s of Hollywood, and security, now on high alert, made another appearance. A few more stealthy photos ensued as Cockerham circled around again, but with security making its presence known, the event became less a clog of in-your-face photo hounds and more a challenge for diligent and defiant stalker-azzi. When someone invites you to invade his privacy, albeit in a very public place, isn’t your duty to comply?