He snapped a windblown Jackie O on Madison Avenue and captured in that moment the most mesmerizing image of the icon.
He responded to a sucker punch from Marlon Brando by wearing a football helmet the next time he was alongside him in a very public stunt.
And he spent days locked in a warehouse, an effort rewarded with intimate pictures of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor bickering over breakfast.
Ron Galella has been called ‘the Godfather of US paparazzo culture’, ‘Paparazzo Superstar!’ and, his personal favorite, ‘Paparazzo Extraordinaire.’
He is the most prolific and infamous paparazzo in the world with a career that spans six decades and encompasses more than 3 million pictures.
Now, with the publication of his book, ‘Donald Trump: The Master Builder,’ a collection of images of the President, the 86-year-old pro has exclusively opened his home and archives to DailyMail TV.
Ron Galella has been called ‘the Godfather of US paparazzo culture’ and has collected 3 million photos of his iconic muses, including Donald Trump in his early business days. Pictured: Trump with Ivanka on his lap during the US Open Tennis Championship in 1991
Galella said it was his late wife Betty who told him to begin photographing Donald Trump, predicting that he was ‘going to be hot’. Pictured: Trump and Melania in 1999
The photographer’s most prized photo is this snapshot of Jackie Onassis while she was walking in New York City with no makeup on in 1971 (pictured)
Another one of his favorite images comes from when he was locked in a warehouse trying to get shots of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in 1969. He was able to get this image of Taylor putting up drapes to avoid spectators gawking at her
Galella had a famous run-in with Marlon Brando when the actor sucker punched him, breaking his jaw. The next time he was set to see him, Galella wore a football helmet (pictured)
Playful Galella, at his New Jersey home during DailyMailTV’s exclsuive interview, dons the signature helmet he used after Brando broke his jaw
Galella has his late wife Betty, who sadly passed away in January age 68, to thank for many of his pictures of Trump.
Speaking exclusively to DailyMail TV he admitted: ‘It was my wife Betty who said, “Shoot Donald Trump. He’s going to be hot.” And I followed her instructions. She was right.’
Today Galella feels a certain affinity to The Donald, whom he thinks is ‘great.’
He said: ‘I’m a publicity hound, just like Trump. He was very easy to photograph. He loved publicity. He’s a self-promoter all of his life.’
Certainly Galella is a similarly divisive figure – one man’s legend, another’s price tag of the first amendment.
The walls of the great room in the Montville, New Jersey, home that he and Betty designed almost 20 years ago are hung deep with prints of his works.
These are riches of which the Bronx native never dreamed when he first started taking pictures of ceramics for antiques stores after graduating from the Arts Center College of Design, Los Angeles in 1958.
Then one day Hollywood star Rosalind Russell walked into the store. He took a picture and so it began.
He photographed Trump and his second wife Marla Maples at a Yankees game in 1992 (left) and at an event in 1991 (right)
Galella said: ‘I’m a publicity hound, just like Trump. He was very easy to photograph. He loved publicity. He’s a self-promoter all of his life’. Pictured: Trump and his first wife Ivana in 1989
Galella’s photos of Trump also include some images of Ivanka in her childhood, including this photo of the father and daughter in 1993
Today, the pride of place in the imposing room is given to a vast print of, ‘Windblown Jackie.’
Smiling Galella explained: ‘I call it my Mona Lisa because the biggest thing of that great painting is the smile from her eyes and her lips, the beginning of the smile. And that holds the future.
Pictured: The Master Builder by Ron Galella
‘In my picture she has the beginning of a smile. It has great composition. The wind blowing her hair, no make-up.
‘People see Jackie in a Valentino gown at events. They don’t see her informally dressed and walking on Madison Avenue.’
Galella hadn’t set out to photograph Jackie that day. He had volunteered his services to a model he’d met, Joyce Smith, who needed a portfolio.
‘I was a fool for beauty in those days,’ he admitted.
He said, ‘She lived on 88th Street near Jackie. So I picked her up and we went to the park.’
He was photographing Joyce when Jackie came out of her house and headed in the direction of Madison Avenue.
Galella said: ‘I did something very smart. I hopped a cab because if I ran after her she’d see me and I’d never get the picture. So for $2 I caught up to her on 90th Street at Madison Avenue.
He continued: ‘Here luck played a part. The driver was interested in Jackie and he blew his horn. When she heard the horn she turned, looking towards me and the driver, but she didn’t recognize me because I had the camera at my face and that’s how I got the picture.’
In September 1969, Galella captured a sweet scene of Jackie O and her son John F. Kennedy Jr riding their bikes in Central Park (pictured)
The agent stopped Galella from taking pictures though left his camera unharmed. But her two other agents followed him to his car and demanded he hand over the roll of film. His refusal saw him taken to the nearest precinct and arrested for harassment
The bike riding images would land Galella in a hugely controversial, high profile court battle that would come to define his relationship to his muse
Galella speaks of his days photographing iconic legends, including his obsession with Jackie Kennedy with his home doubling as a shrine to his vast array of prints of the former first lady
Galella had first photographed Jackie in 1967, the year before she married Aristotle Onassis. Back then he didn’t even know if images of her would sell
Speaking of his favorite photo of Jackie O, Galella said: ‘I call it my Mona Lisa because the biggest thing of that great painting is the smile from her eyes and her lips, the beginning of the smile. And that holds the future’
Galella did not know in that moment just how great the picture he had captured would be. He got out of the cab and followed Jackie on foot until she turned to him and said, ‘Are you pleased with yourself?’
‘Yes, thank you,’ he replied.
That was October 7, 1971, and it was probably the most cordial exchange he and Jackie Kennedy Onassis ever had.
Galella is the most prolific and infamous paparazzo in the world with a career that spans six decades and encompasses more than 3 million pictures
Galella had first photographed Jackie in 1967, the year before she married Aristotle Onassis. Back then he didn’t even know if images of her would sell.
He said: ‘She was at the Wildenstein gallery in New York but I didn’t get good pictures. It was crowded. So I followed her and that’s how I found out where she lived. And once you find that out you can stake them out.’
But his obsession didn’t really catch fire until December 1967 when he got pictures of Jackie with her former brother-in-law Robert Kennedy at a Democratic Party fundraising dinner.
He recalled: ‘That was a big seller because they figured they’d had an affair. My first picture of Jackie there was published in Newsweek so then I realized she was marketable, a good subject.’
Galella became a fixture on the sidewalk across from Jackie’s house.
He said, ‘I’d stay in my car in the winter, in the summer there was a bench across from it.’
Then, on September 24, 1969, Galella had an encounter with Jackie and her children that would see him embroiled in the hugely controversial, high profile court battle that would come to define his relationship to his muse.
The Bronx native never thought this would be what his life turned into when he first started taking pictures of ceramics for antiques stores after graduating from the Arts Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 1958. Pictured: Galella working for the Daily Mail in 1976
His career took off when Hollywood star Rosalind Russell walked into the store where he was working. He took a picture and so it began. Pictured: Galella working for the Daily Mail in 1976
He explained: ‘I got a tip from the doorman next door – I gave him $15 – that they’re in the park on their bicycles. So I ran down the pedestrian path, hid behind a tree and I got two great pictures of them coming down, each on a bike.
‘Then when they came down to the street Jackie said to her chief agent, ‘Smash his camera.’
The agent stopped Galella from taking pictures though he left his camera unharmed. But her two other agents followed him to his car and demanded he hand over the roll of film. His refusal saw him taken to the nearest precinct and arrested for harassment.
Galella argued that the agents were harassing him in a low-key case, which he won when it went to trial.
His lawyer told him he could bill Jackie for the $450 legal fees. He did but she didn’t pay.
That might have been that. But Galella made a move, which, he admitted, he would come to regret.
He said: ‘I provoked a second trial. I thought she would never go to court, that she wouldn’t want the publicity.
‘I said she was interfering with my livelihood, the agents blocking me pushing me around and that she didn’t pay for the lawyer’s fees.’
Galella had underestimated his opponent and overlooked the fact that Aristotle Onassis, a man with exceptionally deep pockets, would be picking up her legal fees.
He said: ‘It was a 26-day court battle. He paid $225,000 [in legal fees]. He brought it down. It was $500,000 they wanted to bill him.’
Galella lost and was ordered to stay 50 feet away from Jackie and her children – a distance later reduced to 25ft.
Galella tells DailyMail TV in an exclsuive interview how he hid out in a warehouse and got a photo of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton arguing during breakfast. Galella said he wished he had audio as they were cursing at each other
Galella also loves a set of images featuring Elizabeth Taylor on a boat in London. He said: ‘One of the Portuguese sailors from the boat called me up and said there’s a party this weekend. So I went to the watchman on Friday afternoon and I filled up a shopping bag with food and I paid him $15 to lock me in’
His time spent locked away in the warehouse earned him intimate shots of the famed Hollywood legend and her husband
Galella took these shots from a warehouse overlooking the Thames dock where their yacht the Kalisma was moored while Burton filmed the 1969 movie, Anne of a Thousand Days
Galella spent the night locked in a warehouse overlooking the Thames dock where Liz and Dick’s yacht the Kalisma was moored while Burton filmed the 1969 movie, Anne of a Thousand Days
Burton threatened to punch Galella on another occasion when he photographed the couple coming out of the Dorchester, but Taylor restrained him
To this day it is clear that he feels wronged by the affair. He said: ‘She lied left and right to win and I was hurt.
‘She said I harassed her, I frightened her. They claimed that John Jr almost fell (off his bike) and he didn’t.
‘They even had a photographer say that I could have shot from the path, not behind the tree. They paid him $800 to say that.
‘It was not a fair trial. It was a circus. They called me Ron Gorilla. They twisted the truth.’
Galella’s fees came to $40,000. Four years later, in 1976, he made that money back with his first book, Jacqueline.
It might be natural to assume that the experience would sour Galella’s take on Jackie O. But she remained his favorite subject.
He said: ‘I understood why she did it; to win the case. I think in the end she loved my work, though she may not have loved me.’
According to Galella, all of his pictures used in that trial – and a subsequent one in 1980 when he was found guilty of breaking the restraining order – are now in the Kennedy Library in Boston.
Yet, while Jackie was Galella’s favorite subject, his archive of Elizabeth Taylor is larger.
Truth be told it is hard to know where Galella’s archives stop and his home begins.
Downstairs his basement is stuffed with boxes and files that house anywhere between three and five million images.
According to Galella: ‘Andy Warhol and myself had the same social disease. We wanted to be everywhere to get the great stars and not miss anything and there were so many things happening simultaneously in New York. We’d exchange information. We were friendly.’ Pictured: Warhol in 1975
Galella caught this image of Brigitte Bardot in 1968 after receiving a tip that she was at home in St Tropez. He hid his cameras in a mail bag, rolled up his pants and headed to the beach opposite her house where he shot until her boyfriend chased him with a hose
Marlon Brando was walking with talk show host Dick Cavett following a talk show appearance in 1973 (pictured). The pair went to a restaurant in China Town where Brando beckoned Galella over and asked him if there was anything more he wanted anything. Before Galella could answer Brando sucker punched him, knocking out five teeth and breaking his jaw
Steve McQueen reluctantly agreed to give Galella five minutes of his time when he caught up with him on the set of Papillon, in Montego Bay, Jamaica in 1973. The actor had made Galella sign a contract vowing to get on a plane and leave the country directly after. His assistant typed it up and he signed it before shooting this frame
In his collection, 8′ by 10′ prints are kept in labeled boxes, stacked high along the walls and on shelves – Eric Estrada, sits below Clint Eastwood and alongside Linda Evans and Emilio Estevez.
Others contain categories – Smoking, Eating and Drinking, Hollywood Kiss and even, among all these bonafide celebrities, one reserved for Celeb look-a-likes.
File after file holds color transparencies; envelopes are stuffed with contact sheets and negatives.
Over the years Galella’s assistants have steadily undertaken the daunting task of scanning and annotating their contents. The cream of the crop are taken and signed by Galella then filed separately.
Among those is one of Galella’s favorite images of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton – a shot taken from a warehouse overlooking the Thames dock where their yacht the Kalisma was moored while Burton filmed the 1969 movie, Anne of a Thousand Days.
It shows Taylor putting up muslin drapes around the deck in an attempt to shield them from the boatloads of tourists who floated by to gawk.
Galella recalled: ‘There was an adjacent warehouse and the guys let me in and told me the Burtons are never there during the week. They only go there at weekends to visit their dogs.’
They had several that weren’t allowed ashore as they were under quarantine.
In his collection, 8′ by 10′ prints are kept in labeled boxes, stacked high along the walls and on shelves – Eric Estrada, sits below Clint Eastwood and alongside Linda Evans and Emilio Estevez
Inside Galella’s home are millions of pictures of Hollywood stars, both young and old
Galella has planned his own funeral – an event, he said, fit for a superstar – with a price tag of $69,000. He has even designed his own tombstone, an over-the-top affair with the epitaph, ‘Shoot for the Stars and Seek Truth’ engraved on it
Galella said: ‘One of the Portuguese sailors from the boat called me up and said there’s a party this weekend. So I went to the watchman on Friday afternoon and I filled up a shopping bag with food and I paid him $15 to lock me in.
‘I was locked up till Monday morning and I could never got out, there were bars on the windows.’
Galella set himself up on the fifth floor. He put his sleeping bag on the sweet smelling sacks of cocoa and coffee beans but spent the first night on the roof for fear of the rats that swarmed below.
He said: ‘I looked out the window viewing the boat. It was like a TV I had to watch.’
Nothing happened the first night and Galella tried to quell his rising anxiety.
He said: ‘Saturday, nothing happened in the morning but in the afternoon they started coming.
‘Liz came, Richard Burton, some of the actors from their film. The next day I caught them having breakfast, cursing at each other, like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe. I wish I’d had sound to record them.’
Later that day he caught the image of Taylor putting up the curtains. ‘That’s my favorite of the whole take,’ he said.
Burton threatened to punch Galella on another occasion when he photographed the couple coming out of the Dorchester, but Taylor restrained him.
Galella wasn’t always so lucky.
Galella snapped this image of Ava Gardner out for a stroll with her dog in London’s Hyde Park on October 17, 1976. He said: ‘After John Lyith saw my second book ‘Off-guard’ he invited me to photograph royalty and other celebrities in the UK for three months in 1976′
One of Galella’s personal favorites in his collection is this lesser known image of the designer, Halston in New York surrounded by his employees. It hangs downstairs in Galella’s home, just off the great room. Galella loves its composition, with Halston the focus of an otherwise chaotic scene in 1972. Pictured (l-r): Bobby Breslav, Pat Cleveland, Halston and Pat Ast
In 1973 Marlon Brando was in New York filming a talk show when Galella tracked him and show host, Dick Cavett, down to a restaurant in China Town.
He said: ‘I got out of the car and [took] about ten pictures…walking to a restaurant and they got to the restaurant and Brando called me over and said, “What do you want that you don’t already have?”
‘And I looked at Dick who knew me and I said, “How about a picture without the sunglasses?” Because it was nighttime, but before I could even finish the statement he gave me a sucker punch.’
Shaking his head at the memory, Galella admitted: ‘I didn’t see it coming.
Brando hit Galella with such force that he knocked out five of the photographer’s teeth and broke his jaw.
He said: ‘At the time I didn’t know [why he’d done it]. I figured the show didn’t do good because they had bad reviews the next day. I thought maybe I was asking for too much, but he asked me what else I want.’
Years later, researching his book, ‘Jackie My Obsession’ he learned that Brando had admitted to having an affair with Jackie in 1965.
He said: ‘So that’s the reason. I believe he was sympathetic to Jackie. That’s why he socked me.’
But Brando didn’t get off unscathed – physically or financially. According to Galella he injured his fist so badly that he had to go to the New York Hospital of Special Surgery the next morning for treatment.
Galella took him to court and received a $40,000 out of court settlement. He said: ‘I used it all up for the teeth I had to replace!’
Almost a year later, at a press conference at the Waldorf Astoria where Brando was raising awareness of the plight of the Native Americans, Galella decided to pull his most famous stunt.
He roped in friend and assistant Paul Smallbach and came prepared with a football helmet.
He said: ‘I actually had to physically push Paul in front of me to get the picture of me and Brando.
‘It ran in People, a full page spread and he got paid $300 I think. And I bought the picture from him for another $300.’
Trump under an umbrella on the phone while watching the U.S. Open Tennis Championship in New York in 1989
Trump, Don King and Jesse Jackson attend Tyson-Spinks Boxing Match on June 27, 1988 at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Trump and boxer Mike Tyson attending a gala benefit in November 1989 at the Plaza Hotel
Trump dons a white hat, jeans and socks while playing a game of sand volleyball with his second wife Marla Maples in 1996
To listen to Galella’s stories is to dip into a heady world of celebrity unlike any that exists today.
Skimming through his daily log book of the parties, clubs, galas and premieres he attended and celebrities he staked out gives some hint of the sheer luster.
Dip into any page and the names overwhelm: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Elvis Presley, Tony Curtis, Cher and Ali McGraw on one; Princess Margaret, Mohammad Ali, Robert Redford and Marlon Brando on the next.
Little wonder that Galella found a kindred spirit in Andy Warhol.
According to Galella: ‘Andy Warhol and myself had the same social disease. We wanted to be everywhere to get the great stars and not miss anything and there were so many things happening simultaneously in New York. We’d exchange information. We were friendly.
‘I photographed him always because he was unique physically, he had the pale face and wigs.’
Galella has an entire room devoted to Warhol in his home.
Living a life of obsession, constantly pursuing the next image could have been a lonely one for Galella were it not for his wife Betty.
They met when he was a freelance photographer and she was his assigning editor at the Washington-based publication, Today is Sunday.
Galella thanks his wife Betty (left and right) for his successful career, meeting her when he was a freelance photographer and she was his assigning editor at the Washington-based publication, Today is Sunday
Galella was 48 years old when he married Betty. He said: ‘I didn’t get married (sooner) because I never found a girl that would fit into my paparazzo lifestyle. But she did’
He fell in love with her voice never expecting to be bowled over by her beauty when, after two years, they met when she had to give him credentials for an event.
He said: ‘I said, “Are you married?” She said, “No.” I said, “I’m going to marry you.”
‘I didn’t ask her, I told her and I married her five months later. That was 1979.’
Galella was 48 years old. He said: ‘I didn’t get married (sooner) because I never found a girl that would fit into my paparazzo lifestyle. But she did.
‘She quit her job and became a paparazzo with me. We were a great team.
‘We were together. It was worth waiting for. She was the one.’
Touchingly Galella has mounted a gallery of pictures of Betty, which now hang directly beneath his print of Windblown Jackie.
All around him these walls are filled with what Galella calls the ‘harvest of his life.’
It is a life on which he has had cause to reflect of late. He has started work on a memoir, a move prompted by the death of his wife.
And he has planned his own funeral – an event, he said, fit for a superstar – with a price tag of $69,000. He has even designed his own tombstone, an over-the-top affair with the epitaph, ‘Shoot for the Stars and Seek Truth’ engraved on it.
Donald Trump and his father Fred Trump, who died in 1999, at Trump Tower in 1987
Donald Trump and Michael Jackson attend Taj Mahal Grand Opening on April 6, 1990 in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Galella also captured early images of Ivanka Trump (left with Tiffany Trump and Eric Trump in 1996 and right in 1998)
Two statuettes of rabbits will sit at its base because both he and Betty loved rabbits. Statues of them peek out at every corner in his garden and home – proof of Galella’s strange, sweet affection for the creatures.
Galella is, he said, getting his estate in order. But he isn’t done yet.
He doesn’t think much of today’s crop of paparazzi. In fact the title has become so tarnished to him that he removed the words, ‘Ron Galella Photography with a Paparazzi approach’ from his letterhead.
Now, with the publication of his book, ‘Donald Trump: The Master Builder,’ a collection of images of the President, Galella has opened his home and archives to DailyMail.com
Now he prefers to be known as an artistic photojournalist.
He said: ‘The photographers today, especially in Los Angeles, they’re very aggressive and there’s so many of them that they want to see these stars fall and create an incident.’
Galella, he said, only ever wanted to capture ‘beauty.’
There are no stars today that could inspire in him the sort of obsession that Jackie O did in the sixties and seventies.
But, he said, ‘My favorite of all subjects now is Taylor Swift. I think she has the most beautiful face.’
Galella, who still handwrites letters to the stars, has sent her seven books and she hasn’t sent him a thank you note, ‘Imagine that,’ he said with genuine disbelief.
But most stars today are, for him, ‘overexposed for very little – just because they’re beautiful.’
He said, ‘The Kim Kardashians etc. They’re very beautiful until they open their mouth. Then they’re not so beautiful.’
With a smile he said: ‘The only event I do now is the Met Gala every May. It’s a great event. I go to see what I’m missing. And I’m not missing much!’