Addicted to novelty since 2001

The unintended impacts of sharing a celebrity photo

Azure Window, Gozo, Malta

The Day I Exposed a Rock Star’s Infidelity

This article originally appeared on Medium.

The day I betrayed Anthony Kiedis began like any other. It was August, 2007, and I was living in Malta. Specifically, I was living in Gharb, a tiny village on Gozo. An island roughly the size of Manhattan, Gozo is a ferry trip away from Malta, which is itself a tiny spot of land about 100 km off the south coast of Sicily.

Life in Gharb is Stealing Beauty on quaaludes. I emphasize this so you’ll understand how unlikely it makes the following events.

My friends Rob and Suze were visiting. That morning, we drove to Gozo’s premiere tourist attraction: the Azure Window. It’s a limestone arch that juts out from the west coast of the island. To get the best view of the arch or to swim through it, you wade out to the edge of another geological wonder: the Blue Hole. It’s a deep sinkhole that’s popular with divers.

A few minutes later, Rob stepped close to me and gestured at some tourists nearby. “Hey,” he said, “that’s Anthony Kiedis.” As a casual fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I recognized him mostly from his sundry tattoos. My friend snapped a couple of photos of Anthony and his group.

Anthony Kiedis at the Blue Hole

When I got home, I posted the photos to Flickr and wrote a short blog post about the surreality of seeing one of the world’s biggest rock stars at the end of the world.

A few days later, the emails started arriving.

“Sorry to bother you… But could you tell me when you took the AK pic you posted?”
“Did the girl next to anthony look pregnant to you?”
“All I want to ask you if you actually remember that they were holding hands because to me the photo doesn’t look like it.”

I received at least 40 such emails and messages through Flickr. I answered the first few and ignored the rest until one thoughtful correspondent explained the sudden interest.

Members of a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan forum called Sir Psycho Sexy (“a place where very enthusiastic female fans talk about Anthony”) had discovered my photo and begun a CSI-worthy forensic analysis:

In the photo of Anthony you have posted on your site, there is a tall brunette girl in shorts standing beside him and what looks to be holding his hand. The only problem is, Anthony has a girlfriend, Heather Christie, who is about to give birth to his first (that we know of…haha) child any day now. So, for her to be in Malta last month is pretty much impossible since you’re not supposed to fly in the third trimester.

I answered her questions and confirmed that the woman with Kiedis definitely was not pregnant. She promised that she’d take my answers back to her forum and that the rabid fans of Sir Psycho Sexy would leave me alone. And they did.

A Phone Call in the Night

A few days later, my wife and I were lying in bed when my Canadian cell phone rang. It was midnight, so I answered my phone with a sinking feeling. Midnight phone calls from halfway around the world are rarely good news.

It was a woman, and she began asking me the same Kiedis-related questions as before. Given the time and the cost of a 2007 transcontinental cell phone call, I grew frustrated. She sounded terse, which seemed kind of rude to me. Here’s how I remember the conversation:

Her: Were they definitely holding hands?
Me: Yes. You can see them in the photo.
Her: And they definitely looked like they were together? Like, together, together?
Me: Yeah, definitely.
Her: Was she attractive?
Me: Look, I don’t really remember. And it’s really late here. I don’t really know if this was his girlfriend or what.
Her: Well, it wasn’t. Because I’m his girlfriend.

I stared mutely at my phone, as if I had forgotten what it was for.

I recovered myself and offered an apology, more in sympathy than anything else, and we hung up.

Anthony Kiedis’s pregnant girlfriend called me to confirm his infidelity, which I inadvertently exposed by posting a photo on the Internet. I had become Paparazzo, Destroyer of Relationships.

Christie was indeed quite far along. She gave birth to Everly Bear Kiedis on October 2, 2007. She and Kiedis broke up the following summer.

I Was Wrong to Take the Photo and More Wrong to Post It

I’ll never know if I played a role in their separation. A relationship between a model and a rock star, particularly one with a 23-year age gap, is a volatile thing. Still, I’ve thought a lot about the rightness or wrongness of what I did.

It was wrong to take a creepy photo of Anthony Kiedis. I feel confident of that. And, therefore, it was also wrong to post it online. I wasn’t alone in doing this—here’s an article about his visit from Malta’s newspaper of record. But I’m somebody who loathes celebrity culture, yet here I couldn’t resist its appeal. Did I do it for the page views? I hope not, and besides, it’s only the 774th most popular page on my site in its 13 year history.

In my defence, I’ve seen other celebrities in the world and left them entirely alone. Most recently, I let John Cusack enjoy his macchiato in unphotographed peace.

Does a global rock sensation have an expectation of privacy in a far-flung corner of the Mediterranean? I don’t know, but I regret taking Kiedis’s photo, and the unintended consequences that resulted.