Hulk Hogan is a worldwide celebrity living through a very public and ugly divorce and it shows.
He’s got millions of fans around the globe, but he’s also got millions of people who are very critical of his lifestyle, his actions and of his very public family dramas and disasters.
He’s what is known in the journalism world as an all-purpose public figure. It’s a term used by the U.S . Supreme Court in defining and protecting the first amendment: The right to a free press. In short, it means that if you choose to live your life in the public eye, you also agree to endure public criticism as well.
It’s the reason why tabloid newspapers, web sites and magazines can make a fortune over the latest Jon and Kate escapade, Paris Hilton’s alleged sexual promiscuity and whether Florida Governor Charlie Crist is gay or not. It’s the reason every television station in Tampa Bay, as well as TMZ and at least one freelance videographer can show up, shoot and broadcast every tawdry tidbit said in court or outside it.
There are limits to what the press can print about all-purpose public figures and there are penalities for writing or broadcasting items that are libelous or harmful to their reputations. But, to win a civil suit for libel, a public figure must prove “actual malice” or that the news outlet KNEW the item was false or used “reckless disregard” when publishing an item it thought MAY be false.
It’s very difficult to prove actual malice, yet a few celebrities have been successful in suing news outlets and many have also been successful in getting retractions and apologies without going to court.
I’m not here to cast judgement in the case. I’m merely an observer with an insight. A man with a camera hired to document the hearing and put the images in the public domain.
Hulk no longer looks like the wrestling superstar I grew up with. I understand he was a character there. He was a man playing a part, a role. He was making a living.
The reality of his life lately is much less glamorous and much more traumatic. Hulk looked like a man who was losing this round. He often appeared to be praying for relief.
Hulk’s estranged wife, Linda, currently gets $40,000 a month to maintain her lifestyle. Her attorney said she had over $740,000 in her own bank account when she was given the monthly alimony. This hearing was held because Hulk is trying to have that 40K figure reduced, claiming she spends it on drugs and her 19-year-old boyfriend.
Linda denies using drugs and has produced a drug screening that says she’s clean. Hulk brought two witnesses to court to say differently.
Tracy Morgan used to style Linda’s hair. She’s also done work for both Hulk and his current girlfriend Jennifer McDaniel. Apparently, Morgan doesn’t style Linda’s hair anymore. She testified that Linda used to ask her to cash checks for her, then have Linda’s drug dealer deliver drugs to Morgan’s business in an attempt to hide the purchases from Hulk’s attorneys. Linda’s attorney called the testimony a “complete fabrication” and repeatedly asked Morgan why she kept looking into the jury box where the press was seated. It was a dynamic battle during the cross examination. Linda’s attorney was very aggressive during his questioning of Morgan. Morgan was equally aggressive from the witness stand and was reprimanded several times by Judge George Greer to answer the question that was asked. Ironically, Judge Greer at one time also was known world-wide. He was the Judge that presided in the Terri Schiavo case and ruled that her feeding tube should be removed. She died in 2004 as a result of his rulings.
Divorce cases are notoriously ugly, more so when celebrity and large sums of money are at stake.
The hearing ended without any decisions. Apparently, Hulk has more witnesses to testify regarding Linda’s spending habits. The hearing will resume in July. The divorce case itself has yet to begin. Both Hulk and Linda are also facing a civil suit from John Graziano’s family regarding Nick’s careless driving and the devestating injuries that cost John a normal life. Some people even say that this divorce is an effort to hide and divide the family’s wealth in preparation for the large amount of money that could be awarded to Graziano’s family.
I don’t know.
Both Linda and Hulk brought their current paramours to court for some reason. It may be spite. It may be companionship and support. It may be for public relations. It may be because the press was there. I cannot speculate.
Am I a paparazzi? Nope! Getty Images does not endorse paparazzi behavior. I do not hide in trees, stake out restaurants nor chase people down the street. This was/is a legitimate news story. Many people don’t care about it, nor wish to hear about it. Many people do.
Do I like covering the case? I must admit I do to an extent. It’s a slice of life. I’ve spent many days in courtrooms over the years and there are powerful emotions and decisions exhibited there. This hearing was especially dramatic with accusations of drug use, fame-seeking witnesses, lying, cheating and alimony-money-hiding.
I like shooting stories with drama and emotion. I like capturing them. I like the challenges of shooting in a low-light courtroom with no flash. I like bantering with the baliffs and court security people and other press that are there. I like being an observer.
An intern from FOX 13 was sitting beside me during the hearing. I asked her afterwards if this was her first time in a courtroom and she said it was. I told her to savor it. Few court hearings have this much drama in such a short period of time.
For me, it’s also a dramatic change of pace from shooting weddings and models and actors and families and children and everything else I do. I actually believe that it’s good to shoot a wide variety of things. It challenges me, it makes me step outside comfort zones.
I think it makes me a better photographer.
And, it makes me happy that I’m on the viewfinder side of the camera and not the opposite one.