In the late 2000s, a string of robberies befell the wealthy and well-known. Houses in and round Calabasas, California – the flashiest of the flashy neighborhoods, residence to Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Will Smith, and lots of, many extra – have been being ransacked. Paris Hilton, Audrina Patridge, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, and Lindsay Lohan have been all focused in lower than a yr. When 5 suspects have been arrested between September and October 2009, the media consideration was immediate and insatiable: The suspects have been all aged between 18 and 19. Some of them have been highschool classmates. All have been youngsters.
Nick Prugo, Rachel Lee, Alexis Neiers, Diana Tamayo, and Courtney Ames turned generally known as the Bling Ring, a nickname filled with all the flavors of a tabloid saga. While the case made its manner by the authorized system, it additionally turned a popular culture oddity, many instances analyzed, deconstructed, and put again collectively once more. There was a Lifetime film. There was a memorable Vanity Fair write-up by Nancy Jo Sales, titled “The Suspects Wore Louboutins.” Perhaps most notably, there was the 2013 Sofia Coppola film The Bling Ring, based mostly on Sales’s article, which dramatized the group’s story and even featured Hilton herself.
A brand new three-part docuseries, Netflix’s The Real Bling Ring, re-examines this mythology. For 13 years now, individuals have checked out the story with a starvation for yet one more narrative about fame, wealth, and those that would do something they might to get hold of them. The children in the Bling Ring needed to be well-known, we’ve been advised. They yearned to change into the very celebrities whose designer clothes and money they pilfered.
It was a story that made sense. It wasn’t onerous to consider in the concept of a bunch of youngsters so fame-hungry and looks-obsessed they turned criminals. I had by no means heard of the Bling Ring till Coppola’s film got here out in 2013. For years after, their story was, in my thoughts, not possible to dissociate from Coppola’s expert dramatization. The phrases “Bling Ring” instantly known as to thoughts an American-absented Emma Watson – who portrayed a personality based mostly on Neiers in the film – impishly telling her mates: “I wanna rob.”
But there’s one other narrative to be present in The Real Bling Ring, Look previous the documentary’s styling results – reminiscent of scripted voiceovers by Neiers and Prugo, the solely members of the Bling Ring who participated in the collection – and you will see a brand new story emerge. One extra banal, extra plausible, and altogether extra human than the one we’ve heard till now.
This oral history of the Bling Ring, at times fractured, is based primarily on the firsthand accounts of Prugo and Neiers, whose memories sometimes clash spectacularly. Yet, they both agree that things started on Prugo’s side, after he met Lee. (Lee did not participate in the documentary, and did not comment when The Real Bling Ring contacted her, according to a disclaimer at the end of the program.) Per Prugo’s recollection, it all began after Lee, on her way back from a party with Prugo, pulled on the door handle of a car only for the vehicle to open. The two stole from the car, and “ended up with all these credit cards,” Prugo says in the show.
Presumably high from the thrill of the steal, Lee and Prugo kept going. Every time they left a party, they’d do “this thing we called ‘checking cars,’” Prugo says, meaning the two looked for unlocked cars to rob. One night, according to Prugo, Lee stole one of the cars after finding its key.
That’s how it began. Not with celebrities. Not with gossip websites. Not with Paris Hilton’s house. But with two adolescents robbing their neighborhood cars. The Bling Ring story, at its heart, began with petty theft – and escalated quickly.
This is not to say that the Bling Ring saga is solely indifferent from materialism and standing. “We felt like we were such hot s***,” Prugo says in the collection of driving round in the stolen automobile. “It made me feel like who I was. I felt like it was a reflection of me. It was a great feeling.”
It’s impossible to ignore, too, that the Bling Ring’s antics were in part shaped by the shifting geometry of their teenage friendships. “I was not raised to steal. I had never stolen,” Prugo says. “But with Rachel, I’d never had a friendship like that. It gave me that confidence, and I didn’t want to give that up.” Later on, when the group grows from two to four to go rob Orlando Bloom’s house, it’s only because of tensions between its members: the way Prugo recalls it, Lee wanted to bring Tamayo, which made him feel like he’d been “traded in” as a buddy, and so he introduced Neiers.
Both Neiers’s and Prugo’s recollections of Neiers’s involvement with the group differ broadly. Prugo contends Neiers requested to be part of; Neiers denies that, however says she was “open to the idea of robbing a house to get money for drugs.” Neiers is steadfast in that characterization: She was addicted to opiates and benzodiazepines, and to her, the theft of Bloom’s home served a wholly utilitarian objective. Neiers contends she would not bear in mind the theft in full, “because I was under the influence of opiates and benzos.” (Prugo maintains she was “not out of it.”) Neiers says she “wasn’t aware of whose house it was” the evening the group robbed Bloom’s residence; Prugo says she was “very much aware that she was outside of Orlando Bloom’s house.”
As for Prugo’s motive, all through the documentary, he presents the robberies as a manner to safe friendships by materials methods. He paid for drinks. He redistributed stolen designer garments. (Neiers says she did not know the place the garments got here from and was below the impression Prugo was a stylist; Prugo asserts the opposite.) “I never knew how to make genuine friendships and connections without showing off,” Prugo says. “I was trying to buy a friendship, in a sense.”
So why have been the teenagers robbing celebrities, after they might have focused anybody else? Again, the manner Prugo remembers it, it was largely a matter of practicality. Through information and gossip web sites, the group discovered which celebrities have been going to be out of city. They discovered their addresses on-line and studied their properties’ terrain, additionally on-line. “The personality that [Hilton] gave off on her reality show [The Simple Life] was [that of] a ditzy blonde,” Prugo says bluntly. “So we thought she would be more prone to maybe leaving something unlocked.” The Bling Ring did not rob the celebrities they admired, at the very least not at first. They robbed the ones they thought may go away the door open.
The documentary cares to humanize these celebrities too. A query that can usually floor when the Bling Ring is mentioned is the victims’ wealth: Do these ultra-rich individuals actually care about lacking possessions? Did they even discover? Is that basically going to damage them?
Materially, maybe not, at the very least on the floor, however there’s a type of victimization right here: Audrina Patridge, as soon as a star of The Hills and the solely one among the group’s targets to have participated in The Real Bling Ringremembers fearing for her life when she realized somebody had damaged into her residence.Watching surveillance video of the theft, she experiences an evident feeling of violation.
“It’s sickening to watch,” she says. “… They took sentimental things that were passed down from grandmothers and great-grandmothers.” The theft, she says, left her “more guarded and not trusting of anyone or anything.” Later on, Christine Kee, a deputy district legal professional at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, calls residential housebreaking a “very serious offense”, as a result of “you can never regain that sense of safety within your own home.”
Prugo, Neiers, Lee, and Tamayo all pleaded no contest in the case. Prugo was sentenced to two years in jail and finally served one. According to The Real Bling Ring, he runs a web based enterprise together with his husband and has utilized for a governor’s pardon in addition to a certificates of rehabilitation. Neiers was sentenced to 180 days in county jail (she ended up serving one month) and three years of probation. She now works as an advocate for individuals with substance abuse, has been sober for 11 years, and has two kids. Lee was sentenced to 4 years in jail and served 16 months. According to US Weekly, she graduated from cosmetology faculty as a hairstylist in 2018. Tamayo was sentenced to three years of probation. Both she and Lee have largely averted the public eye over latest years.
If there’s a timeless narrative to be present in the Bling Ring, it’s much less about youngsters’ purported obsession with fame, and extra about the shifting form of movie star. The late 2000s marked a time when actuality TV, exhibits reminiscent of MTV’s Cribsand web sites like TMZ and Perez Hilton’s weblog (all referenced in The Real Bling Ring) collided to create an unprecedented feeling of intimacy and immediacy between stars and their public. The strains appeared to blur between celebrities and the remainder of us.
The Bling Ring occurred proper at the onset of the social media growth. By taking management of their very own platforms, celebrities discovered methods to foster an impression of intimacy between themselves and the public, usually on their very own phrases. But there’s a fallacy on this impression of proximity: after all, celebrities have remained distant, and their life unattainable. That has all the time been the entire level.