Back in the early 1990s, Spike Lee made a TV commercial as elegant as a koan. You may remember it. The ad is for Nike, and it’s little more than Lee’s alter ego, Mars Blackmon, asking Michael Jordan why he’s the best basketball player in the universe. “Is it the shoes?” he asks over and over. “Is it the shoes?”
This commercial kept coming back to me as I tracked the unfolding saga of the so-called Bling Ring, a crew of five spoiled teenagers from the West Valley’s prosperous suburbs—their original stomping ground appears to have been Indian Hills High School in Agoura Hills—who have been charged with committing a series of burglaries that might have been masterminded by a particularly witty professor of cultural studies.
Between the fall of 2008 and late summer of 2009, this enterprising coterie allegedly broke into the empty homes of Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Audrina Patridge, and several other tabloidy celebrities, walking away with more than $3 million worth of jewelry—Rolexes, Louis Vuitton luggage, designer clothes and footwear from the likes of Chanel, Gucci, Prada, Burberry, and Yves Saint Laurent.
What makes their shenanigans unusual is that these kids didn’t so much steal the stuff to sell it but to flaunt it; they wore it to Hollywood clubs and parties just as the original owners had. It let them act like they were famous. Although things didn’t work out exactly as planned—if convicted, some face up to forty-two years in prison—the Bling Ring did succeed in becoming a popular touchstone with their own Vanity Fair coverage. Even as their members are compared to the Cullen family, the stylishly amoral vampire gang in Twilight, the thieves have achieved the supreme accolades of celebrity culture. Just like Paris, O.J., and many other great Angelenos, they’re having their own tabloid-friendly trial in Los Angeles.
In some sense, the Burglar Bunch (as it was also known) earned its temporary fame or notoriety or whatever we now call it when you make headlines for doing something not worth doing. This was, after all, a groundbreaking Digital Age crime spree. Although the gap between rich and poor has grown over the last quarter century, cyber-tools like the Web and Twitter have diminished much of the old distance between celebrities and their followers. Not only did the alleged culprits use the Internet to locate their victims’ homes and monitor when they were out—Ah, Orlando is at a movie premiere!—they were eventually caught thanks to the same cyber-technology. Once security cameras helped identify a couple of them, the police were able to connect the rest of the group by examining their friending records on Facebook…
Blood and Water
Aug 2, 01:01 PMPurchase or Subscribe to Slake: Los Angeles
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