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   On the morning of my 30th birthday I scaled the hills above the Malibu estate of a movie star who hadn’t been seen in public for the last decade. I hiked in jeans and a tee-shirt, my camera equipment packed into a bag on my back. The late October sun burned over my shoulder and the resinous perfume of coastal sage plumed into the air as I kicked through the brush. I had been trying to get a tabloid-worthy photograph of Angela Doubleday for three days, commissioned by the editor of Scandal Times to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the death of a stalker killed in her arms.

Midway up the hill I paused to plot a course to an outcrop of rock above the estate. The rock, worn sandstone jutting from the chaparral, would serve as the paparazzi’s equivalent of a duck blind, concealing me while I waited out the shot. Doubleday was not an easy woman to photograph. Years of self-imposed exile had honed her skills at seclusion. She may have left the house once during the three days I tracked her, ferried to Beverly Hills in the back of a stretch Cadillac driven by a liveried chauffeur. The passenger windows were smoked and the limousine cruised the streets of Beverly Hills without once pulling to the curb. The chauffeur could have been transporting a flock of parrots and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

I hiked to the rock briskly enough to work up a sweat, aware that I’d be sitting for the remainder of the afternoon. Celebrity stake-outs demand hours of idleness and solitude, valuable job skills I acquired at California Institute for Women. I’ve learned to take my exercise when I can. I unpacked the Nikon and glanced through the viewfinder. Cypress trees had been grown at the back of the estate to screen the pool and house from the view of jackrabbits, coyotes, lost hikers and the occasional enterprising paparazza with a telephoto lens. I crouched beside the rock and attached the longest lens I owned, a 500 millimeter beast the size of a rhinoceros horn. The cypress treees spired yellow-brown against the blue horizon, struck by a drought or blight that stripped the needles near the trunk. I lined up my shot through a gap in the branches, focusing on a set of French doors that opened to the pool. I waited, a dry Santa Ana wind whipping at the tendrils of my hair. Though I sometimes had moral qualms about shooting people who didn’t want to be shot, I was happy in my work. Six months earlier, the California Department of Corrections had paroled me four years into a seven year fall for manslaughter. Nobody in my family spoke to me. I had associates, but no one I’d call up just to say hello. I was good at my job, and in the absence of any sustaining human relationships, that was good enough.

I pulled from my camera bag the Leonard Maltin biography of the woman I’d been hired to shoot and passed the time reading, my eye routinely flicking up to glance through the lens. Angela Doubleday made her first film appearance in a 1970’s James Bond movie, playing a Las Vegas showgirl. The role was not coincidental. She had strutted the Vegas stage since the age of 18, wearing an elaborately stitched headdress of the Eiffel Tower and little else. A casting director noticed that her figure stuck out a little more here, tucked in a little more there. The two million men who bought the issue of Playboy featuring her that year noticed it, too. In the early 1960’s, she might have been molded into a Marilyn Monroe-style sex icon, but by the 70’s women whose figures seemed pumped by an air hose were looked up to only in automobile garages, truck stops, and other shrines to the pneumatic female. She was young enough to pattern herself with the changing times and did. She grew her hair long and straight, dispensed with bra and cosmetics, and rather than emulate the bleached-blonde bimbos of the past, she portrayed a spaced-out hippie chick, which in retrospect was still a bimbo, just one redefined by the tastes of a different era.

An hour after I began my vigil an unfamiliar figure breached the French doors behind the pool. The man’s zinc-colored hair marked him on the far side of 50 – or so I thought until I focused on his face. It wasn’t a bad looking face, the lips full and the nose prominent, like the nose on the bust of a Roman senator, but the skin at his cheekbones pulled with the tautness of youth, and a single, manly crease marked his brow. Save for that crease, his face looked as smooth as a swept sidewalk. That alone was not proof of anything, not since L.A.’s seekers of eternal youth discovered Botox, a neurotoxin that when injected into the face paralyzes the muscles, and as a side effect erases nearly every wrinkle from the skin. You can’t accurately judge anyone’s age in L.A. anymore, not from the neck up, not unless you put a gun to their head, tell them to wrinkle their brow. Those on Botox can’t.

I dipped the lens to check out his moccasin-style loafers, Gap khakis and striped polo. He glanced over his shoulder, perhaps at somebody in the house, then stared intently up the hill. I thought I’d been spotted, and fought the impulse to duck behind the brush. The point of his gaze struck above me, near the crest. I’d staked out enough celebrities to know that movement attracts the eye. I knew enough to sit perfectly still, except for the twitch of my finger on the shutter release. Maybe I was looking at Doubleday’s lover. Maybe he was the pool man. Maybe he’d turn out to be both. Only the collective imagination of Scandal Times would know for sure. The reflection of the pool in the glass shimmered when he slammed the French doors. I waited a few minutes for him to return. He didn’t. I propped the Maltin biography on my knee and turned to the next chapter.