'That is the price celebrities have to pay for their fame.'
By RUTH EGLASH
What did Israeli model Bar Rafaeli and Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio expect when their plane touched down in Israel earlier this week? That they would be able to get away with a quiet holiday in the holy land? That Israelis, with their unstable politics and troubling security situation, would not be interested that one of the biggest stars in the world is spending the week at a local Israeli girl's house in Hod Hasharon?
By now most of us are aware that their visit caused a media frenzy. One celebrity journalist, Guy Pines, even went so far as to hire a helicopter to get a better glimpse of the activities in the Rafaeli household. And when the two, who have been dating for just over a year, took a trip to the capital's holiest of sites, the Western Wall, the event turned into a full-blown police investigation when Rafaeli's father Rafi and DiCaprio's body guards scuffled with local paparazzi, leaving one photographer with a broken nose and smashing camera equipment.
Following the fracas, Rafaeli's mother Tsipi Levine, who also acts as her daughter's business agent, issued a statement saying, that the family was "saddened by this incident."
"That is the price celebrities have to pay for their fame," commented Ora Lapidot, one of Israel's top public relations consultants, who has dealt with visits from a whole host of foreign stars.
"The combination of Leonardo, a huge celebrity, and Bar, who has been turned into an Israeli hero of sorts, is bound to court interest," she said. "Who can blame the paparazzi and the newspapers for being curious? Photographers know that they can make a lot of money abroad by taking a photograph of the couple."
Lapidot said that when she organized a visit last year by Hollywood actress Sharon Stone, one of the first things she did was to arrange a press conference and photo opportunity for the media.
"After the initial interest, she was left alone to continue her tour," she said.
Another of Israel's top PR people, Ronit Arbel, who has facilitated trips to Israel by such stars as Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Bjork and the rock group REM, told The Jerusalem Post that she does not remember a visit getting so out of hand.
"Even private trips by mega stars need to be dealt with by professionals, I am very surprised that Leonardo DiCaprio's staff did not seek out professional help here," said Arbel, who was among the Israeli media returning to Israel from a press junket in Ireland that found themselves on the same Lufthansa flight as the celebrity couple. "It was clear from the beginning that their secret cover would be blown. Just the fact that Bar is dating Leonardo puts her automatically in the spotlight, I can't understand why she did not have a professional person organize this trip."
Arbel said that if the couple had given the hungry media their one photo shoot then the anti-social and aggressive actions of the photographers could have been avoided.
"It's possible that Bar's mother Tsipi was looking for this kind of publicity; she knew that Leonardo's visit to Israel would get people excited and maybe she wanted to show him that her daughter was just as big a star in her home country," she said. "Of course stars need to find a balance between their private and their public lives, but on the other hand the public has a natural curiosity to find out more about them. They should have just given the photographers what they wanted."
Arbel recalled the trip to Israel by Dylan, where upon his arrival in the country he gave a quick press conference and then requested that he be left in peace to make a spiritual visit to the Western Wall.
"I asked photographers and journalists to respect his wish to visit the wall in private; I even told them what time he would be there so they would know that was when he did not want to be disturbed," said Arbel. "The photographers came with their long lenses and took shots from a distance, they respected the request."
As for whether Israel as a nation should be getting so riled up about a visiting celebrity, Arbel is nonchalant: "This happens everywhere in the world, everyone wants to know more about celebrities and how they live their lives. The question is how they go about dealing with that curiosity."
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