Hello and welcome to Gossip Time, a weekly guide to the stars by Allie Jones. This week: a royal couple escapes a “near catastrophic” car chase, a reality star denies a narrative, and Keith Urban unwittingly disseminates gossip.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were in New York Tuesday night so that Meghan could accept a “Women of Vision” award from the Ms. Foundation. She looked great! But then Harry, Meghan, and Meghan’s mom Doria Ragland left the event and were tailed by paparazzi. On Wednesday morning, the couple’s spokesperson released the following statement:
“Last night, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Ms. Ragland were involved in a near catastrophic car chase at the hands of a ring of highly aggressive paparazzi.
This relentless pursuit, lasting over two hours, resulted in multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers. While being a public figure comes with a level of interest from the public, it should never come at the cost of anyone’s safety.
Dissemination of these images, given the ways in which they were obtained, encourages a highly intrusive practice that is dangerous to all involved.”
This statement was obviously meant to evoke an emotional response, and media outlets mentioned Princess Diana in conjunction with the story right away. But the facts of the case, which trickled out over the next 12 hours or so, conflicted with Harry and Meghan’s dramatic characterization of events. Here’s what we know: Harry, Meghan, and her mom left the awards ceremony at 10 p.m. in a blacked-out SUV and were followed by several paparazzi. Thomas Buda, the owner of a private security firm hired by Harry and Meghan, told CNN that the couple’s car “took a circuitous route from 23rd street to 96th street” for over an hour before security brought them to the 19th police precinct on East 67th street. When they got to the station, they hopped in a yellow cab, which then drove them around the block before returning to the station. The cab driver, Sukhcharn Singh, told The Washington Post that two paparazzi followed them in the cab, but “I don’t think I would call it a chase. I never felt like I was in danger. It wasn’t like a car chase in a movie. They were quiet and seemed scared but it’s New York — it’s safe.”
The NYPD confirmed on Wednesday that “there were numerous photographers that made their transport challenging,” but that Harry, Meghan, and Ragland ultimately left the precinct and arrived at their destination safely without incident.
Why were they driving all over Manhattan in the first place? A member of Harry’s security team told CNN that Harry and Meghan were staying with a friend at a private home on the Upper East Side and didn’t want the paparazzi to discover their location. Aha.
Therein lies Harry and Meghan’s ultimate dilemma: They want publicity (for their Netflix projects and memoirs and awards), but they want it entirely on their own terms. The celebrity gossip ecosystem doesn’t really work like that, and the couple is already getting backlash from the outlets and agencies who have readily worked with them to create positive stories in the past.
Example one: Backgrid, a paparazzi photo agency that regularly gets exclusives of Meghan and Harry going to a sushi dinner with Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz or Meghan taking a hike in Montecito while wearing her late mother-in-law’s $40,000 Cartier watch (to cite two instances from the last week) has come out in full force against the couple. The agency released two statements this week challenging Harry and Meghan’s version of events and declining the couple’s “demand” that Backgrid turn over all photo and video that their freelance photographers captured from the night in question. Per Backgrid, paparazzi followed Harry and Meghan under the impression they were going to dinner after the awards (hmm, who told them that?), and “according to the photographers present, there were no near-collisions or near-crashes during this incident.” I can’t remember another time when a photo agency has made a statement like this against an A-lister; for them to speak out at all is unprecedented.
Example two: People. The same glossy tabloid that lent its cover to five of Meghan’s close personal friends in 2019 turned on the couple within hours on Wednesday. The magazine talked with several sources on the scene and reviewed video footage from the evening which showed that it was Harry and Meghan’s driver who was making aggressive driving maneuvers, not the paparazzi. A photographer on the scene called Harry and Meghan’s version of events “crazy hyperbole.”
Some royal watchers think Harry and Meghan initially released their statement to bolster Harry’s claims that his family needs police protection when they are in the U.K. Harry has filed a legal challenge with Britain’s Home Office to allow him to personally pay for police protection, which has been rejected. (The couple could hire their own security, but the U.K. doesn’t allow private security to carry guns.)
One royal historian told The New York Times this week, however, that he doesn’t believe this incident is helping Harry’s case. Harry and Meghan had both private security and police protection on Tuesday night and still ended up unsatisfied. “The example of what happened in New York suggests that the kind of police protection Harry wants in London is not going to be enough to protect him or his family,” Ed Owens told the Times. “He’s not engaging with this reality.”
In short: Harry and Meghan have screwed themselves on multiple levels here. I still love them and am wishing them a very happy fifth wedding anniversary!
Speaking of PR mess: The Kardashian family’s efforts to rehabilitate Tristan Thompson’s image are going about as well as Thompson’s own efforts at monogamy. In recent weeks, Kim Kardashian has been sitting courtside at Thompson’s Lakers games, cheering him on, often with her children in tow. As we know, Khloé Kardashian and Thompson are essentially back together, but Khloé doesn’t want to admit it because Thompson has pathologically cheated on her throughout their relationship.
Here’s Kim and her daughter North West at the game last Friday:
Fans have obviously noticed this strategy and commented on it, leading Khloé to once again sort-of-but-not-really deny she has a romantic relationship with the father of her two children.
STUFF BY HILARY DUFF: Hilary Duff supports the writers’ strike!
Finally, I will leave you with Keith Urban’s TikTok from Taylor Swift’s concert in Philly on Sunday:
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In addition to Urban and Nicole Kidman’s cool dance moves, you can see the previously “private” couple Bo Burnham and Phoebe Bridgers making out in the background. Fun experience for everyone.
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I read that their circuitous route was in an effort to lose the paparazzi tailing them. Like...the only reason it would escalate to a "high speed chase" is because they were driving at high speed themselves... I actually really sympathize with Harry after reading Spare. I believe that he believed that they were in danger. This kind of hypervigilance seems typical of someone with his experiences, including PTSD. But I'm not sure there's any way for celebs to prevent people from knowing where they're staying/living in NYC? It sucks! But I don't know that that's a realistic expectation??
He has ptsd and they’re constantly being stalked. I am sure they truly did feel in danger. The paps turning on them feels like Diana 2.0.