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Chili Cook-Off photography ban puts damper on fest

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Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2009 12:00 am

Kiwanis Club officials say the ban was instituted to protect the privacy of celebrities; however, it resulted in very little coverage by local newspapers and questioning of ordinary festivalgoers with cameras.

By Olivia Damavandi / Staff Writer

A camera ban intended to protect celebrities' privacy, according to Malibu Chili Cook-Off officials, resulted in the ousting of at least two local newspaper photographers from the event last weekend and put a damper on some festivalgoers' experience.

Despite Chili Cook-Off organizers' stance that the ban was to prevent a paparazzi invasion, a photographer for The Malibu Times said she was “surrounded by five cops, had my camera taken away and kicked out” of the event by Cook-Off officials who told her MTV had paid them large amounts of money to keep other photographers out.

The Malibu Times photographer added that the incident was witnessed by three to four members of the Kiwanis Club, which sponsors the Chili Cook-Off, who said they could do nothing because Kiwanis “only owns the chili portion” of the event.

“We had another film company that we have a deal with and that's why they were denied access,” Chris Guadagno, head of Guadagno & Sons Amusements, a privately owned company that has provided rides and games for the Cook-Off for the second consecutive year, said Tuesday.

“MTV did want to come out and did make us an offer, but apparently Kiwanis wasn't happy with the offer,” Guadagno said, declining to state the amount.

But Kiwanis Club President John Taola in a phone interview Tuesday said, “One of our biggest problems is protecting celebrities from paparazzi. We wouldn't accept five cents from anyone trying to come in and photograph them.

“Last year, [a tabloid publication] offered me $10,000 to photograph Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie,” Taola continued. “I didn't allow it and it wouldn't be good advertisement because it would attract paparazzi.

“I do my best to keep paparazzi out of the situation,” he continued. “We pay security to keep them out. We've had problems with celebrities who come [to the Chili Cook-Off] relaxed, no make up, they're not ready to be put in newspapers or magazines.”

Taola said he would have permitted The Malibu Times to photograph the Cook-Off if he had been given prior notice that the newspaper planned to cover the event.

The photographer, however, said she has covered many Cook-Offs in past years and was never denied access.

This has been the case with other Times photographers as well. Taola responded that representatives from Pepperdine University who were filming the event with a tripod made the same claim, but were also forced to leave.

Many have posed questions of whether the Kiwanis Club is allowed to ban photographers from the Chili Cook-Off, a seemingly public event. City Manager Jim Thorsen on Tuesday explained that the land that has housed the Chili Cook-Off for the past 28 years (known as the Legacy Park site) is public and owned by the city, but that the event itself is private.

“It is an event sponsored by Kiwanis and permitted through the city, therefore it's a private event,” Thorsen said Tuesday in a phone interview. “It's their event, therefore they can have their own rules as far as how much it costs. If someone was not dressed appropriately, they could deny access. But I've never heard of them denying anyone access.”

Since the construction of Legacy Park is slated to begin Sept. 21, this year's Chili Cook-Off was the last that will operate at its original location.

However, Taola confirmed there would “definitely” be a Cook-Off next year at an undisclosed location.

“It might not be as big as it is now, but hopefully we'll get another piece of property close to it [the Legacy Park site] so we can put rides on it,” Taola said. “Believe it or not, there are certain people in the community who want us to fail. They don't like it, they don't want people in the area, they can't stand the dust, the lights. They forget they were young once.”

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  • anonymous posted at 5:06 am on Sat, Sep 12, 2009.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    Once again money trumps the Constitution!

  • anonymous posted at 10:35 am on Thu, Sep 10, 2009.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    As a former Malibu resident and a paparazzi I would point out that the purpose of Kiwanas is not "to protect celebrities". This stopping of news gathering by anyone, yes, we gather celebrity news, is unconstitutional, and leads to exactly what happened at the cook off, denying all news gathering. Since when did Malibu go out of it's way to kiss the rears of celebrities? For many years. celebrities have been a major cause of problems in Malibu. Maybe Mr. Taola really wants something other than privacy in a public place from the celebrities that he wants to "protect". Meanwhile, it seems that he is opening Malibu, the Kiwanas, and the Chili Cookoff, to the possibility of a Federal lawsuit regarding such news gathering activities guaranteed by the Constitution.

  • anonymous posted at 9:22 am on Wed, Sep 9, 2009.

    anonymous Posts: 0

    What total crap. This is America to heck with the celebrities. Thye want privacy go to a PRIVATE club not a publicly owned piece of property. Never see the cooks come anymore.