In an e-mail from last year, a photographer reported having four airport sources for the day, including “Harold at Delta, Leon at Baggage service, Fred at hudson news, Lyle at Fruit and nut stand.” A former TMZ cameraman showed me expense reports that he had submitted in 2010, reflecting payments of forty or fifty dollars to various sources: to the counter girl at a Beverly Hills salon, for information on Goldie Hawn; to a valet, for Pete Sampras; to a shopkeeper, for Dwight Howard; and to a waiter, for Hayden Christensen.“Everybody rats everybody else out,” Simon Cardoza, a former cameraman for the site, told me.
” Kurtz asked.“It’s so funny to me that people ask that question,” Levin replied. I mean, that’s what you’re to do.” Indeed, the site has built a deep network of sources, including entertainment lawyers, reality-television stars, adult-film brokers, and court officials, allowing Levin to knock down the walls that guard celebrity life.
(He declined repeated requests for an interview.) TMZ has paid at least one mole inside B. S., a limousine service, to provide lists of celebrity customers, their planned routes, and the license-plate numbers of their vehicles. source—“a Hispanic gentleman”—at a gas station in Van Nuys, handing over an envelope filled with cash, and receiving in return a client list.
In 2009, for example, he took the call that led to TMZ’s breaking the news that Chris Brown had physically assaulted Rihanna.
(The site subsequently published a police photograph of Rihanna’s battered face.) Weakland told me that his attempts to persuade sources to follow through with a leak often resembled a therapy session.
Such information helps TMZ’s crew of a dozen or so paparazzi know when and where to “drop in on” a celebrity who is transiting through an airport.
One day’s list, from June, 2010, included the flight details for Robert Redford and Jack Kevorkian; another one, two months later, had the itineraries of Julius Erving, Kathy Ireland, and Malcolm-Jamal Warner.
When the elevator arrived in the lobby, Palmer was lying unconscious, face down, on the floor.
According to a former security supervisor at the Revel, nearly eighteen hundred cameras streamed video to a pair of monitoring rooms on the mezzanine floor.
In October, 2014, TMZ received an e-mail that, under the subject heading “Drake at Stadium Club in D. Please call me for price.” Fifty-nine minutes after a producer forwarded the tip to colleagues, TMZ posted a clip showing the rapper accidentally dropping thousands of dollars outside a Washington strip club.
(In a message to a TMZ staff member, the source asked to be paid five thousand dollars.) Russ Weakland, a former TMZ producer, told me that he sometimes negotiated payments with tipsters who were anxious about releasing sensitive information.
(On the day the Fox interview aired, TMZ’s home page featured an “exclusive” about Iggy Azalea, the Australian rapper, who was threatening to sue an adult-film company over the release of a sex tape.) Levin’s face lit up.