The word ‘paparazzo’ has made its way into the international vocabulary, but its etymology is surrounded by an aura of mystery. Writer Ennio Flaiano, who was one of the scriptwriters on “La Dolce Vita”, revealed that Fellini and he decided to give that funny name to Walter Santesso’s character in the movie by mangling the last name of Coriolano Paparazzo, a hotel owner in an early-1900s’ novel by George Gissing.
However, according to legend, the true inspiration for the movie’s character was Tazio Secchiaroli, who had told Fellini about his misadventures as a professional photographer and reporter, making a living between stakeouts and fights with furious celebrities, mad scurries on foot or on his Lambretta, running to save his photographs.
This archetypical ‘paparazzo’ was born in 1925 in Rome’s working-class district of Centocelle. Through his work, he was able to tell a wide range of stories: the wild nightlife on Via Veneto, the capital’s hotspot where he was able to catch a glimpse of Walter Chiari, Ava Gardner, Anita Ekberg, King Faruq of Egypt, and many other VIPs; but also scenes from the Italian Parliament, poverty in the outskirts of Rome, the pilgrims at the 1950 Jubilee, and much more.
Secchiaroli always kept in touch with the world of cinema, and not only by “running into” its protagonists. After 1960, he became a trusted companion to many of them – including Fellini himself and Marcello Mastroianni – accompanying some in the streets and on set. He was Sophia Loren’s personal photographer for twenty years.
Here are some of the silver screen stars he portrayed at the height of his career.