April 22, 2012

Pippa Middleton’s ‘gun situation’: from royal in-law to outlaw? (4 PICS)

Pippa Middleton, sister of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, watches the mens singles final between Roger Federer of Switzerland and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France alongside an unidentified friend at the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

It’s the smile that catches you — that jet-set smile covered in frosted lipstick, behind those morning-after-the-party shades. In the photo, taken in Paris, Pippa Middleton sits in the red leather seat of a black convertible, smiling as the driver of the car points what appears to be a semiautomatic pistol directly into the lens.

Snap. In that instant, Middleton, the partying little-sister-in-law of Prince William, best known for her curve-hugging bridesmaid’s gown, joined an entourage of celebrities who have been caught in bad “gun situations.” The list is long — actors, ballplayers, rappers, politicians: T.I. Lil’ Wayne; Gilbert Arenas; Eminem; Dick Cheney; Puff Daddy and Jenny from the Block.

The photograph plays on many stereotypes. Is the royal in-law now an outlaw, irretrievably linked with the bad crowd? Or will her associations with a fairy-tale wedding and with Princess Diana’s attempt to flee paparazzi in Paris allow her to escape such categorization?

“We see the face of the guy holding the gun,” said Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University. “All we see is his right eye and it does look menacing. When you get some context to the photograph, you see that the gun — whether it is real — is aimed at the paparazzi. That gives it a narrative. And of course, Princess Diana is at the center of that narrative. People remember the paparazzi chasing Dodi [Al-Fayed] and Diana the night she was killed.”

The photo frames cultural contradictions. Celebrities “may hate the paparazzi,” Thompson said. “On the other hand, the paparazzi are part of the machine that makes them famous.”

Pippa Middleton and Alex Loudon at the quarterfinal round match between Roger Federer of Switzerland and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France on Day Nine of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis
And the public depends on the paparazzi to feed its appetite for celebrity news. “We want to see the pictures in US Weekly, in People Magazine, and OK Magazine. There is this dysfunctional relationship between the paparazzi and us.”

Details of what happened in that car are still emerging. According to reports, Middleton and the driver — identified in US Weekly as Romain Rabillard, 36, an attorney known to hang out with Paris’s chic crowd — were questioned by city police. No charges have been filed.

Paul Harrison, royal correspondent for Sky News in London, told a television reporter that Paris police are investigating the incident, a potential crime in France which could bring a two-year sentence if the gun was a toy and seven years if it was real.

“St. James’s Palace is not saying anything,” because Middleton is not a member of the royal family, said Harrison.

Pippa Middleton, sister of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, leaves the All England Tennis Club in southwest London after a semifinal between Spanish player Rafael Nadal and British player Andy Murray at the Wimbledon Tennis 
“When you reach a certain level of celebrity, it should be obvious to you or your team that being around guns is a pretty dicey thing,” says Jim Bates, a member of Sitrick and Company, a Los Angeles-based firm that handles crisis management for celebrities. “Being around guns in a loose way and in a casual way is an invitation for disaster for your image.”

Middleton has reportedly not made any public comment on the incident. But experts who often advise celebrities caught in sticky situations would advise her to get her side of the story out as quickly as possible. “It would be a good idea to express remorse,” Bates says, “and say it does not convey who she is, and then in the future make sure she stays away from incidents like this one.”

Members of the audience at a fashion show during London Fashion Week, include Pippa Middleton, the sister of Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, right, with American actress Rosario Dawson, and Peaches Geldof, left
Allan Mayer, principal partner of 42West, a public relations firm based in Los Angeles and New York, says, “People like to think of crisis management as this dark art used to solve a problem. . . . When a client has does something wrong and is unwilling to own up to that act, there is nothing that can be done.”

Middleton could easily play on the sympathy of her fans. “When you think about a royal being pursued in a car, people remember what happened to Princess Diana,” Mayer said. “And one could say, ‘I’m not surprised one driving her in the car might be moved to some response.’ ” On the other hand, Mayer went on, “If she appears to be laughing and enjoying herself in the picture, that would make it more difficult to make that connection.”

The last in the series of photos shows Middleton and her friends driving away. Through the windshield, they still look jovial.

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