Everyone is trying to figure out what's wrong with Britney Spears. Blender has a new diagnosis: Stockholm syndrome.
The magazine's March issue, on newsstands February 12, claims the singer has a "self-created" relationship with the paparazzi, one in which she has been chased for so long and by so many that she has come to not only accept them but need them in her life. The dozen or so photographers who stake her out regularly also change her flat tires, pump her gas, give her directions when she's lost and often pick up her tab. "She seems to be basking [in the attention], and she seems to be trapped," Blender writer Michael Joseph Gross observed. "She plays the role they expect her to play."
Riding along on one paparazzi chase, Spears adviser Sam Lutfi — whose name also frequently appears as "Lufti" — sent text messages on the singer's whereabouts to the team captain for celebrity-photo agency X17, Gross reported. That outing took place before FinalPixx photographer Adnan Ghalib, described by Gross as an "alpha pap," became Spears' on-again, off-again boyfriend. When the chase proved dangerous, one X17 videographer reportedly said, "Somebody's going to get hurt, man." If Spears were to get hurt — or worse, killed — during such a chase, his regret would be that he couldn't sell the video unless he could prove he were calling 911 at the same time. "That would be horrible," he responded, according to Gross' article. "No, no. Nobody wants that."
Some have speculated that the reason Spears has used an English accent as of late — making the leap from being Brit to being a Brit — is that Ghalib has rubbed off on her in more ways than one. Asked on "Entertainment Tonight" if Spears was pretending to be British because of a fascination with Princess Diana, who was also chased by the paparazzi to an extreme degree, Ghalib said no. "She's never mentioned Princess Diana," he said. The only thing the two women had in common, he said, is "dating an Arab."
Though speculation is also rampant that Ghalib is selling photos and video of Spears on the side — a charge he denies — it's Spears' relationship with Sam Lutfi that has her friends and family worried. Abandoned by her lawyers, dumped by her management and estranged from her family, Lutfi seems to be the only mainstay in the singer's life, besides the paparazzi and photo agencies, which he accused Lutfi of being in league with. Besides tipping off X17 as to Spears' whereabouts, X17 says Lutfi provides other invaluable information. After initially receiving tips from "funny pseudonyms," X17 co-owner Brandy Navarre told Blender that "out of the blue, Sam started telling me things ... that the TMZs and the Us Weeklys of the world would die for."
But it's not so much the prospect that Lutfi could have sold out Spears that concerns her parents, who encouraged a former friend of Lutfi's, Danny Haines, to go public about his experience with the de-facto manager, whom he now has a restraining order against. Haines described his relationship with Lutfi as alternately supportive and vicious, resulting in emotional blackmail, extortion and humiliation.
"If Sam's not doing anything wrong with Britney, if he's not worried about being exposed, why would his sister [tell me], 'Don't talk about my brother and his past?' " Haines rhetorically asked Blender, telling the magazine he had received what sounded like a threat from Lutfi's sister not to discuss what led him to get a restraining order in the first place.
In Haines' petition to the court, obtained by MTV News, Haines claimed Lutfi threatened him via text message and e-mail, expressed his hope Haines would "end up behind bars or six feet under soon" and prayed for something awful to happen to Haines' sister.
"Sam has expressed his hatred for my mother and my sister," Haines wrote in his petition, asking that they be protected under the order as well. "I have received numerous [malicious] e-mails ... and some messages where he explains the joy it would bring him to see them dead. ... I believe Sam is a dangerous person." The restraining order was granted and lasts for three years.
It's hard to say whether Spears has befriended her so-called "captors" — the chasers and/or manipulators in her life — or whether she is just isolated and has no one left to trust, but a lack of solid relationships in her life seems to be at the root of the problem, her once-closest advisers think.
"I'm not pointing fingers, but I can't believe that she woke up one morning and said, 'I don't want my family, or anyone else I knew, to be in touch with me anymore,' " Spears' former manager Johnny Wright told Blender. "People say she needs to go to rehab. I think she just needs a friend — somebody not caught up in Hollywood, not looking for a paycheck. Somebody she trusts has to step up and break it down for her."