When a celebrity is about to charge a pap you can tell it's going to happen by the silence. You can always see when you pushed the right button, because the celeb goes from screaming and yelling to pure quiet. And it's the silence that tells you: Oh shit, they're about to attack.
Look at Kanye, look at Sean Penn: All of them go silent before they attack. Sometimes celebrities have legit beefs with paps—shooting their kids, or following them too fast in a car. Other celebs are just having bad days, and something the pap said or did set them off. But in every scenario there is that exact same moment of impending doom that crosses a celeb’s face right before they attack.
Kanye West is a double member of the "Attack a Paparazzi Club," joining such illustrious others as Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson and Mike Tyson, who once re-enacted his Spinks knockout with a pap at LAX. (Side note about this pap: He has a day job on the Venice Beach boardwalk swallowing fire for the tourists.) If you watch the video, there's a moment right before Kanye attacks where you can just see in his face that this is about to go to a different level.
Though it's against the law to attack another person, assaulting a paparazzi is viewed by most of the public as cosmic retribution. Paps are viewed as scumbags and instigators, so when they're jumped by a celeb like Kanye, the initial outcry—"Look what Kanye did!"—is soon replaced by the approving nods of the general public.
This isn't to say that paps don’t have it coming. I mean, paps know Kanye has a slight dislike for them, and he especially has issues with being shot at the airport. Five paps were waiting for him when he got off his flight—all of them short lens shooting, meaning they had to get close for shots and invade Kanye's personal space. Combine that with the slightly less-than-charming personality and barking questioning style of Dan-O, the pap he attacked, and what you have is a situation that's not going to end well.
The pap is trying to get a shot or set of pictures that tells the best story, and Kanye landing at LAX is a nonstory. Kanye getting angry and attacking the pap is a story. The pap won't ever purposely try to start a fight—paps already are viewed as the bad guy, so why add fuel to fire?—but the pap will bring up topics he knows will get a reaction. It's the reaction that he wants, whether it's a smile or a middle finger; a pap knows if he says the right things a celeb will react.
It's the times when you say nothing to incite them and the celebs still attack that are scary. When that happens, and, in reality, whenever a celeb attacks, the pap always goes right for a defensive position. Paps are ultra-aggressive, but when a celeb starts to fight they all become pacifists quite quickly.
That's why, in reality, paps don't want celebs to attack. They don't want to be part of the story—they just wanna document it. The problem is that half the paps are foreign and don't know English that well, and thus many times don't realize what they're saying can be taken as offensive. They just repeat what their bosses told them to say. The bosses, editors, producers know what they're telling the paps to ask will induce aggression but it will also produce a good story.
Of course, the problem for the pap is two-fold. He has to keep shooting for as long possible in order to get that perfect shot. Maybe a fist being raised, maybe Kanye lunging forward—whatever it is, the pap keeps shooting. At the same time the pap can never really fight back. In every celeb attack video the pap does the same thing—nothing. If the pap were to fight back, not only does the story change from "Celeb Attacks Pap" to "Pap Fights Celeb," but he loses the one thing all good celeb fights involve: the settlement.
Whether you're Penn, Britney, or (soon to be) Kayne, once you attack a pap on video, you will pay. Dan-O has a special talent at being at the wrong spot at the right time. He's been on streets for years; he used to work Britney six days a week, 15 hours a day. (Just to get the tip that Kanye was arriving at LAX shows he's on another level.) Britney was slightly unhinged, but she was never violent—until Dan-O pushed the wrong button and an umbrella attack followed. But Dan-O learned the most important lesson when being attacked by a celeb (besides "sell the umbrella"): Always claim injury.
If you watch the video it doesn’t look like Kanye truly does any fighting or assaulting. It’s more of a tussle. But Dan-O is smart. He got on his back and complained about back and neck pains—the Rolls Royce of injuries. He even had an ambulance come and take him to the hospital. If selling the umbrella was good money, the latest attack at LAX will easily be a $250,000 mistake for Kanye.
I had a friend once get attacked by Gary Busey. The pap walked up to Gary, who was sitting outside his apartment building on the Santa Monica boardwalk, enjoying a fat stogie with a man in a suit. The pap told Gary he was a big fan and wanted to ask a few questions, but before started asking them, Gary stood up and attacked him. Eventually, Gary got the camera, ripped pieces of it off, pushed the pap down and then went back inside his building, followed, of course, by the man in the suit.
The pap got to his knees and looked around, only to see some tourists watching but no other paparazzi. He then started to put his camera back together and collect his thoughts when Gary came marching back outside, followed by the man in the suit. Gary went up to the pap, helped him collect his things and then apologized, telling the pap "Sometimes the evil spirits take control of me." The pap understood, didn’t file charges and left having learned the other key lessons of being a pap: Sometimes evil spirits take hold of a celeb, and when they do, hope somebody else is shooting video to document why your neck and back are in pain. Also don’t interrupt Gary Busey when he is enjoying a cigar by the beach with a man in a suit.