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Last Updated: Saturday, 16 February 2008, 09:32 GMT
LA's obsession with Britney Spears
By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

The media surround Spears' car as she arrives at LA's Superior Court

Britney Spears faces a further two court hearings in Los Angeles next week.

One will deal with the ongoing custody battle with her former husband, Kevin Federline.

The other matter concerns the restraining order obtained by the singer's parents against her former manager.

It is anyone's guess whether the troubled pop star will turn up for either hearing.

But one thing is for certain: the LA paparazzi will once again gear up for another potentially wild week, in search of that lucrative snap of the most interesting celebrity on the planet.

Kevin Federline and Britney Spears in 2006
Kevin Federline and Britney Spears had two sons together
Whether Spears really is interesting to us is a matter of opinion.

But judging by the relentless, some would say ruthless, way the singer is pursued, the world seems to have an insatiable appetite for the latest titbit of news about the star.

She provides endless hours of water-cooler gossip and tabloid headlines.

"She's her own 24-hour reality television show," says Rob Cohen, who lives in Los Angeles.

"She gives you whatever you want, whenever you want it. She's going to do something new and screwy every second and it's always there."

"You can't avoid it, it's everywhere," adds Christine Roth, Cohen's flatmate. "Everyone's tired of Paris."

'She's like gold'

The Los Angeles paparazzi know they are on to a winner.

In Britney they have a star who almost seems to orchestrate her own tabloid coverage.

Some tabloid agencies have large teams of photographers devoted entirely to hunting down the singer.

Britney Spears in 2007
Photographers follow Spears wherever she goes in Los Angeles
"She's like gold in America right now," says Alex Passos, a video photographer who hangs around the singer's home every day, just waiting for the next big chase.

"People are excited about what she does, what she buys, where she goes."

Ever since Spears became an overnight sensation with her first big hit, Baby One More Time, she has lived her life in a fishbowl - everyone watching, all of the time.

"I think we're interested in Britney for the same reasons we are interested in a number of celebrities, and that is that they've managed to do something that we all seek to do," says Maggie Carroll, a psychotherapist based in Beverly Hills.

"They've managed to escape the life of the ordinary.

"They've managed to escape a mundane existence and we look to stars to try to figure out what we can do to try to pull off that same thing."

'Fantasy' life

But is Spears' life, as it is today, something to aspire to?

Many observers have long since concluded that she is suffering from a mental disorder.

Every aspect of her wretched existence is picked over and dissected as if world peace depended on it.

"In the case of Britney we're mesmerised, because it gives us some hope that this fallen star has some problems that we too, in spite of our own problems, can overcome our own mundane lives," says Ms Carroll.

Everyone wants to know about her and that's why it's getting out of hand and dangerous now
Alex Passos, video photographer

"Just simply reading the tabloids is an escape. It's a fantasy, it's like reading a fairytale or Greek or Roman mythology.

"It takes us out of the everyday, out of the predictable, out of our structured lives into something more spectacular."

In recent weeks, the lengths to which the paparazzi are prepared to go to get the photographs which fill the tabloids have come under intense scrutiny.

Some photographers have quit their jobs because they say the business of chasing Spears has become too aggressive.

"This sort of thing is going on because she's one of the top people in the world," says Mr Passos.

"Everyone wants to know about her and that's why it's getting out of hand and dangerous now," he adds.

But he intends to continue doing the job.

"I like these kinds of exciting things. It's like a lifestyle - but not only that, there's good money in this."

SEE ALSO
Father keeps control over Spears
15 Feb 08 |  Entertainment
Britney joke removed from musical
13 Feb 08 |  Entertainment
Parents fear for Britney's life
07 Feb 08 |  Entertainment
Singer Spears taken to hospital
31 Jan 08 |  Entertainment
Highs and lows of Britney Spears
02 Oct 07 |  Entertainment

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