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'Snaparazzi' Use Cell Phones for Celeb Photos

You can run, but you can't hide. That might be the message for celebs as high-tech cellphone cameras are turning star-crazed fans into amateur paparazzi.

At the hippest New York City eateries and the geekiest sci-fi fan festivals, "snaparazzi" (search) are using their camera phones to snap photos of stars and instantly pass on the images to their friends.

Minutes after the Olsen twins (search) showed up at Cafe Habana in downtown Manhattan recently, thousands of New York fans were viewing photos of the duo on their cellphones and laptops.

"I'm a celebrity-sighting junkie -- an excellent, awesome stalker," admits 32-year-old Manhattan PR exec Peter Shankman, who's one of about 2,000 members in a popular local moblog (search) (a Web log of content posted from a cellphone or PDA) called "NYC Celeb Sightings."

"It makes everyone a reporter, everyone a hero. It's human nature to want to brush up against coolness."

Shankman frequents the same hot spots as the glitterati and likes to brag about that access. But now, instead of just telling one or two pals about his cha with Alan Alda on a bathroom line at Carnegie Hall, he can send off a photo to thousands.

In recent months, the star-struck flack has taken photos and sent text messages about numerous A-list stars, including Jerry Seinfeld, Mischa Barton, Gisele Bundchen, Kevin Bacon and Tony Bennett.

But Shankman says he's careful not to overstep his self-imposed boundaries.

When dining recently at the ultra-trendy Megu, he spotted "Showgirls" star Elizabeth Berkley at a nearby table.

But instead of flashing a camera in her face, he discreetly text-messaged the NYC celeb group: "Elizabeth Berkley at Megu. Hot! Hot! Hot!"

The thrill, he says, is in the bragging rights.

Business executive Frank Lazaro also gets his kicks sharing celebrity photos with fans around the world on a moblog called Flickr.com.

As a former manager of national promotions for Cingular, the 31-year-old spent three years attending after-parties and award shows in Los Angeles. He boasts Kirsten Dunst, Magic Johnson, Matthew Perry and Tobey Maguire among his camera phone conquests.

"For me, it's the coolest thing in the world," he says. "I saw Farrah Fawcett at the Blockbuster after-party, and I thought, I've got to get a photo."

Lazaro says the camera phone's unobtrusiveness makes it perfect for clandestine shooting of a star.

A photo of him and a "falling out of her dress" Kirsten Dunst has received thousands of looks at Flickr, he says.

Both Shankman and Lazaro see themselves as sophisticated amateurs, too cool to embarrass a celeb -- or themselves.

Still, there was that Alanis Morissette concert at a cellular trade show, where Shankman and a "thousand techno-geeks" held their hands up with camera and video phones. "It was dorks on parade," he laughs.

Lazaro still regrets not having a camera phone with him when encountering porn star Ron Jeremy at a Las Vegas airport last year.

"It was frustrating," he laments. "Every middle-aged guy knows who Ron Jeremy is."

It's that kind of enthusiasm that explains why many New York clubs, restaurants and gyms that cater to celebrities have began banning camera phones.

And stalking is an issue that online mobile communities take seriously.

David Friedensohn, the CEO of UPOC, the Manhattan-based moblog that includes the NYC celebrity sighting group, says anyone abusing the privileges will be thrown out.

"We try to weed out undesirables, but there's a fine line when it comes to stalking," he says. "There are only a few members of NYC celeb who totally live for this."

Users aren't allowed to post or text message gossip about celebrities, and membership in the group is by invitation only.

Not surprisingly, celeb publicists aren't fans of snaparazzi.

"It's outrageous, abusive and a violation of normal protocol," says Ken Sunshine, who reps Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake and Hilary Duff, among others.

"It leaves celebrities with no degree of privacy. In New York, we should be able to do better. I don't think this is the fair price of celebrity."

To the 2,000 members of UPOC's NYC Celebrity Sighting moblog he says, "I'd advise them to get a life. These people frankly need a more constructive way of entertaining themselves."

But as camera phones progress technologically, experts predict a more opportunistic breed of snaparazzi is likely to develop.

In Europe, enterprising shutter-bugs have already begun selling the often grainy shots to local magazines and tabloids, reports Emily Turrettini, who runs a blog called textually.org.

"It's going to be huge. Celebrities aren't going to have any privacy at all," she says.

"If you have a camera phone and you see Julia Roberts, it's going to be very hard not to take a picture."

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