If you were somebody, Ron Galella pointed his lens at you.
The gutsy, fearless, in-your-face paparazzo who went to extreme lengths to snap photos of the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who took him to court, and Marlon Brando, who famously slugged him in the kisser, has died. He was 91.
The famed photographer died peacefully in his sleep in his home in Montville, New Jersey, on Saturday, his reps told the Hollywood Reporter.
Known as the “Godfather of the US paparazzi culture” and “Paparazzo Extraordinaire,” the shutterbug shot more A-listers than perhaps any photographer in America during his six-decade career in photojournalism: John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Elvis Presley, Princess Diana, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Andy Warhol and so many more.
Though iconic, some of the Bronx-born fotog’s shots landed him in trouble — mostly because his subjects were unaware he was shooting them.
His work methods, regarded as unethical by some or genius by others, ultimately produced some of the most highly regarded iconographies — a testament to his keen eye — evident in “Windblown Jackie,” which infuriated the First Lady but delighted Galella.
“This decisive moment photo, which I titled, ‘Windblown Jackie,’ is my favorite, most published picture and the best-selling print of all time at my fine art galleries worldwide,” he wrote in 2021. “It’s a superior picture, like DaVinci’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa. It embodies all the qualities of my paparazzi approach: exclusive, unrehearsed, off-guard, spontaneous, no appointments — the only game.”
Galella has been called the “Godfather of the US paparazzi culture” and “Paparazzo Extraordinaire.”Cindy Ord Jackie Kennedy Onassis on Madison Avenue in New York City on Oct. 7, 1971.Ron Galella/WireImage.com Ron Galella wore a helmet in 1974 while photographing Marlon Brando.Ron Galella/WireImage.com
While memorable, Galella’s Jackie O portraits, which he obtained during a yearslong pursuit throughout New York City, landed him in a 1972 free-speech trial. Onassis said that he made her life “intolerable, almost unlivable, with his constant surveillance” and the paparazzo was slapped with a restraining order.
“Jackie was my favorite subject,” he told The Post about the 1979 shot. “I had to keep 25 feet from her but in the museum I did break it.”
After he was caught breaking the restraining order four separate times, Galella was fined and ordered not to photograph Jackie or her children. His first book, “Jacqueline” (1974), sold more than 10,000 copies.
The fotog famously fought Jackie Kennedy in court.Ron Galella Collection via Getty Elizabeth Taylor at the premiere party for “A Flea in Her Ear” at Les Ambassadeurs Restaurant in Paris shot by Galella.Ron Galella/Wireimage.com Jack Nicholson during the 43rd Annual Academy Awards’ Governer’s Ball at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.Ron Galella Collection via Getty
“To this day I cannot shoot Caroline,” he told The Post in 2019. “Actually I could, but it’s a risk. The injunction still is in effect.”
He prided himself on getting “unrehearsed, spontaneous images of real moments,” many of which included the middle finger from A-listers angry he caught them in the flesh.
And he sure saw anger personified. Galella, who studied photojournalism at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, famously was sucker-punched by Brando as he trailed him in Chinatown. While it ultimately lost him five teeth, he got a $40,000 settlement out of it — not to mention incredible stills.
It wasn’t the only time Galella was subjected to violence over his methods either. Richard Burton’s bodyguard also knocked out one of Galella’s teeth — though he lost a suit over that and was jailed in Cuernavaca, Mexico — while Elvis Presley’s security slashed Ron’s tires.
Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger at Limelight in 1984, shot by Galella.WireImage Galella’s career spanned over six decades, shooting every famous face imaginable.WireImage Robert Redford, shot by Galella.Ron Galella/Wireimage.com
Galella, who was a photographer in the Air Force during the Korean War, did have some fans, though, including Andy Warhol, who called Galella his “favorite photographer.” We had the “same social disease,” Ron said of their celebrity obsessions.
With countless photos, Galella and his wife, Betty Burke Galella, started the Ron Galella Ltd corporation in 1992 to safeguard his extensive photo library, seen in the 2010 documentary “Smash His Camera.” Galella also published several books with his work, including “Disco Years” with Grace Jones’ fierce face covering the photo art book.
All of his photos weren’t snapped through controversial methods, though. Galella told The Post that Cher was “so nice” when he was asked to get a photo of her with her new baby in 1976.
“I knew where she lived,” Galella said. “I buzzed and she said, ‘Come back tomorrow at 5.’ And I got the picture.”