Princess Diana's life should have been a fairy-tale existence. But it ended over the weekend in a nightmarish high-speed car crash along a tunnel in Paris.
The most glamorous 36-year-old woman in the world died in the most glamorous of cities after being chased by relentless photographers on motorcycles.
The photographers had plenty of outside help. Cheering them on were millions of busybodies. They weren't in the tunnel. They were miles and miles away checking out the tabloids at the grocery-store check-out counter. They were watching TV gossip shows and reading magazines and newspapers.
They were - and are - us.
Whether you were looking for it or not, it was virtually impossible to escape seeing or hearing about the latest picture of Di and Dodi. The princess and her playboy, Dodi Fayed, who died with her in the car crash, were photographed while on vacation. They were spotted sunbathing. And caught smooching.
Everyone could have just said: ''So what.'' They're both adults. He's a big boy. She's a big girl. What's the big deal?
We could have just minded our own business. Weeded the garden. Watered the lawn. Watched a ballgame. Taken a nap. Maybe even done some sunbathing and smooching of our own.
But we just had to see those photos. We just had to eavesdrop, to snoop, to pry.
These very public views of what should have been a private romance were the work of photographers like the ones who chased the princess's car into that Paris tunnel. They are the dreaded paparazzi, nervous, nervy men with sweaty clothes and expensive cameras. They stalk high-profile celebrities and ambush their prey with a flash of light and the snap of a shutter.
The lure of money
Their work may not be highly prized. Don't ever expect it to win a Pulitzer. But it is highly paid. Tattle-sheet editors - so the stories go - paid $500,000 for the picture of Di and Dodi kissing.
That was a small investment. Tabloids sell by the millions. Magazines, newspapers and TV pay for the right to show such photos. A fortune can be made off a candid kiss.
No one should feel guilt-free about this tragedy. You can't make it go away by saying: ''It's the media's fault.'' Or, ''We're not the paparazzi.''
It's true, we weren't in the tunnel.
But we might as well have been.
Instead of muttering, ''Who cares whom she's dating?'' we plunked down our dollars and - in other countries - pounds, francs and marks to find out.
The real cause of death
If we weren't such a ready audience for the paparazzis' pictures, life would have gone on. Yours and mine. And maybe hers.
If the princess didn't sell papers, the big fees for her photos would have dried up. And, like the dirtballs they are, the paparazzi would have blown away. In search of more money, they would have left her alone and gone on to their next victim.
Now, they must.
They have no other choice.
The princess is dead.
And, our need to know killed her.
Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.