Q: How did Kanye West keep his elaborate and showy engagement plan secret, given that the paparazzi often know the Kardashian family’s every move? And can he sue over the leak of his engagement video?
A: There’s no real magic behind a bunch of reality stars, or the rappers who love them, traveling, or even throwing a stadium party, on the down-low...especially if you know who actually helped West plan the big shebang. But let's break the proposal down into its various parts and see how hard it really is to keep earthshattering news like this under wraps.
Part 1: The Flight
We’re not looking at alchemy, here. West may be full of hot air, but he still travels via your standard private jet, not a limited-edition Fendi blimp. Ditto with the Kardashians.
In fact, luxury travel expert Lyndsey Green of Worldview Travel Beverly Hills tells me, “The Kardashians and Kanye only use one specific jet company.”
That’s a smart choice, because it limits the number of people who know about West’s or Kardashian’s travel plans--such as, say, a jaunt from Los Angeles to San Francisco for a birthday-party-slash-engagement.
Private jets themselves also allow for more secrecy that commercial flights. They still require travelers to go through TSA security clearance, but those clearances are handled in advance. That means that a star can simply pull onto the tarmac just a few minutes before takeoff; allow some assistant to throw the Vuitton luggage into the hold; step on board; and take off.
A good charter company also knows a few tricks for thwarting paparazzi who lurk at airports. Jet pilots may delay submitting passenger names to the TSA until the very last possible minute. Or they may change the registered flight plan in midair to keep the press from guessing--whatever it takes to keep Kanye’s intentions an intimate secret, right up until the moment it appears on a Jumbotron. (You can read more about how celebrities travel fabulously in my book, The A-List Playbook.)
[Related: Inside Kanye's 9-Year Courtship of Kim]
Part 2: The Party
West arranged for all the details, including the venue (AT&T Park), food (sliders and mini-hot dogs on silver trays), music (50-piece orchestra), score (Lana del Rey), lighting (75 Roman candles), creature comforts (50 portable heaters on wheels), staff and organizers (about 200 people, roughly one for each guest) and other details through a party planner, and not just any party planner.
Stanlee Gatti lives in San Francisco and knows the territory better than nearly any other in his field (pardon the pun). He also has a track record for keeping events on a tight leash until they’re over and done. By way of example: For the 2003 wedding of a then-secretly-pregnant Christy Turlington, Gatti made sure that giant umbrellas obscured any public view of the bride as she traveled to and from the Saints Peter and Paul Church in San Francisco. Gatti also personally escorted out all uninvited guests who were praying in the church before the wedding began. Turlington’s reception was held that same night at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum; however, right up until that event, the museum was telling the public that it didn’t host wedding receptions--no exceptions.
Given that kind of attention to secrecy, it’s no surprise that Gatti was able to keep Kanye’s plan equally stealthy.
The party staff just “thought this was a surprise for Kim's birthday,” Gatti later revealed to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Even the people running the Jumbotron control didn't know until the last minute what we were going to put on there."
Part 3: The Video
Per the Chronicle, E! Networks cameras were on hand to record the event, so it’s likely that the Kardashians were planning to include some of the presumed birthday footage on their reality show. It’s unclear who leaked the video, although some evidence points to YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley.
Whether West or Kardashian can sue Hurley depends on a host of factors, says entertainment attorney Owen Sloane of Gladstone Michel Weisberg Willner & Sloane.
“The real question is what kind of damages you can get,” Sloane points out. For example: If the Kardashians had an exclusive deal with E!, they may be able to argue that the value of that deal has been ruined because of the leak.
“You can say, ‘I had the intention of using this for commercial purposes’,” Sloane explains, “But then you’d have to prove what it was worth.”