Daniele Bellini, Restaurateur, remembers his Paparazzi Days
Some people love photography for the art. Others are in it for the adventure. Daniele Bellini, owner of Casa Mia says, “A paparazzi is born, not made. And he is a paparazzi for life.”
Even though Bellini is now in the restaurant business with Casa Mia in Paranaque, he says the paparazzi in him lives as strongly as when he first began his career at the age of 14. (When he was 16, he was assigned by Gente magazine to photograph the late President Corazon Aquino during her inauguration).
Different from the photographer’s norm
A paparazzi is different from the photographer’s norm because he/she gets photos the hard way. For example, Daniele broke the story of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s adoption of two children by living in a tree for three days.
Daniele learned that Cruise and Kidman rented a private villa in Pisa. At midnight he snuck into the villa grounds, climbed up a tree and waited, armed with a stash of water and food. On the third day the couple went outdoors, and Bellini got the photos. He then waited again until midnight so that he could sneak out again, knowing that he was trespassing.
Daniele did the same thing when he photographed the tomb of Italy’s controversial, thrice-elected former Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi. The flamboyant Berlusconi was sentenced to four years imprisonment on tax evasion charges. He is also facing some 20 other court cases involving corruption, defamation, and abuse of office, among others.
But Berlusconi’s grandiosity is best exemplified by his home, Villa San Martino which has four buildings, a library and a family mausoleum for 36 people. Berlusconi’s tomb is in the middle, and is surrounded by spaces for other family members. The outer spaces are for business associates.
Berlusconi’s tomb is marked by a 10-ton Carrara marble sculpture. The mausoleum itself includes an Etruscan chamber, a pink granite sarcophagus, huge marble steps, and many marble statues with a total accumulated weight of 100 tons. The mausoleum is also illegal according to building regulations.
Daniele managed to photograph Berlusconi’s tomb by sneaking into the villa at night and slipping into the mausoleum. He stayed there until the following day, taking photos, and then waiting until midnight before he snuck out, photos intact.
What would you do
Wound you like to work as a paparazzi?
25 Days For One Photo
Legendary Italian singer Mina (With 77 albums and 71 chart topping singles) dominated the music scene from the 60s to the 70s. Her vocal range reached three octaves and she was fearless in experimenting with music, resulting in her dominance of the country’s music industry for 15 years at unparalleled heights.
Daniele waited for Mina for more than 25 days, “from morning to night, waiting for her to come to the beach.” The wait was worth it, as he finally got the photo he wanted.
Tutored by his father
Danielle learned the craft from his father, who was also a paparazzi (Roberto Bellini owns Bellini’s with branches at Cubao and Marikina). When Daniele was 16, Gente Magazine sent him to the Philippines. His father went along with him, also on assignment, to photograph President Corazon Aquino on Dec. 13, 1986 after the EDSA revolution.
Father and son visited the Philippines a second time when President Aquino was made Woman of the Year by Time Magazine. The father was very proud of his son and the quality of his photos.
While in the Philippines Daniele also went to Araneta Coliseum and photographed Cardinal Sin and General Ramos. In Italy, he got a shot of Frank Sinatra riding his car in Milano, where he gave a concert. Daniele also shot photos of Princess Caroline on a boat. Another of is photos is of Sarah Ferguson standing on the curb, waiting. “I can be one kilometer away from a person and still manage to take a good photo,” Daniele said.
He started out with a Pentax, and then ended up using a Nikon camera. Sometimes, a celebrity or someone from the celebrity’s team would “leak” information to paparazzi to generate publicity for the celebrity’s new CD or movie.
“In this business, publicity is always good, even when it’s a scandal. Especially if you have a product that you are trying to promote,” Daniele said. Such was the case with Adriano Pappalardo, an Italian singer and actor; as well as Sting, who was in Pisa in 1990 to promote a new album; at the same time, his partner gave birth to their daughter Eliot Pauline Sumner.
What do you think?
Can Princess Diana's death be blamed on the paparazzi?
Daniele admires Princess Diana and was, like millions of others, sad when she died. However, he says, “Certainly it was not the fault of the photographers that she died.
“The car was moving at extreme speed. They could have gone more slowly,” Bellini said, pointing out that Diana and Dodi had already been photographed together when they vacationed in the Italian island, Sardinia.
Ups and Downs
While the paparazzi in Daniele will never die, he admits that the profession has its ups and downs. It can be described as a “millionaire for a day” job. Sometimes you get the photo that brings in the big bucks. Sometimes, you go out of your way to stalk a celebrity, and spend all your money waiting, yet ending up with no photo. “It’s part of the job,” Daniele said.
There have been many times, too, when Daniele has been beaten up, “But thankfully not as many times as some of my other colleagues,” he said. These are some of the things that bring the paparazzi closer together.
“When we don’t work we are friends. We go to a restaurant and eat together. But when we work, work is work,” Daniele said. To beat his competition, he tries to do things that others won’t think of.
For example, he may spot a couple dining at a certain restaurant, and recognize one as a married celebrity having lunch with a mistress. Daniele will then go back to the restaurant after a few days, realizing that this is their meeting place, and take their picture together.
Such resourcefulness has resulted in his photos coming out in some of the leading publications in Europe including Il Tirreno, La Nazione, Corriere della Sera, Gene, Novella 2000, Eva Express, Espresso and some sports dailies.
Ties to the Philippines
Daniele is part Filipino. His mother, a Filipina, died in 1984 from cancer. The family spent most of their time in Italy. When the elder Bellini went with his son to the Philippines two years later, he fell in love and married another Filipina named Luisa, whom he met at the Malacanang Press Office.
The Bellinis have a history in the restaurant business. Daniele’s grandfather ran a restaurant in Pisa before World War II. Roberto opened Bellini’s Ristorante Italiano at the Marikina Shoe Expo in Cubao, QC in 1999.
In 2008 a second branch of Bellini’s opened at JP Rizal in Sta. Elena, Marikina City. This restaurant was where Daniele learned how to run a restaurant by himself. Every morning father and son would buy fresh ingredients at 6 a.m. in the market.
Daniele Casa Mia Italian Restaurant, their third restaurant, opened in 2011 in Paranaque. It is located at 8351 Dr. A. Santos Ave. (aka Sucat Road). All three branches make their own pasta, bread and pizza from a brick oven. They specialize in authentic Italian cuisine.
And, you may rest assured that while the paparazzi in Daniele will always be alive inside of him, he won’t paparazzi you as you munch on his delicious pizza, fresh bread with pate, red wine, and a cool shot of their special port at the end of an authentic Italian meal.