The sight of Paris Hilton’s jewelry covering the surface of a plain, wooden kitchen table was staggering.
The sight of Paris Hilton’s jewelry covering the surface of a plain, wooden kitchen table was staggering. Diamond bracelets. Bangles. Expensive watches. Cocktail rings. Pearls. This was just some of the stuff the LAPD had recovered when they raided the homes of the teens and 20-somethings we’d later come to know as the Bling Ring. It was 2009, and I was a 25-year-old correspondent for a cable TV network, crouched on the ground in front of police headquarters, scribbling notes as Detective Brett Goodkin shared pictures and descriptions of the loot with me and the three or four dozen other journalists assembled.
It wasn’t surprising to me when, less than five years later, I found myself watching the story unfold again on the big screen in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring. The fascination was already at a fever pitch in the Fall of 2009. The group was eventually linked to break-ins at the homes of Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson, and Lindsay Lohan, to name a few. TMZ was posting constant updates, Vanity Fair was investigating a big, splashy story on the crimes, and the teenage burglar bunch was a regular topic of cocktail-party conversation in LA. It was simple to track down the Bling Ring kids via social media in the early stages of the investigation, and — probably to his detriment — key suspect Nick Prugo had a used-car-salesman of an attorney who was a quick and easy source of information. Clearly it was questionable information, but it was something to go on, nonetheless. Detective Goodkin was talkative and quick to pick up the phone. In fact, his open-book approach has him in hot water these days; he was paid more than $25,000 for consulting on the movie and appearing in a cameo role, as an officer who arrests Emma Watson’s character, without asking for permission from his higher-ups. He’s being investigated by the LAPD as I write this and might lose his job.
For me, the Bling Ring story was a perfect Los Angeles tale. Nevermind that these kids lived in the suburbs of Calabasas, just an hour’s drive in traffic from the Hollywood homes they robbed. They may as well have been from Boise, ID, like me. They were total outsiders who just happened to be in close proximity.
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