This week when it was announced that Paris Hilton’s latest reality-TV show venture, The World According to Paris was being canceled after barely scraping together 400,000 eyeballs for the premiere, it seemed like the end of an era. After all, it’s been 10 years since the celebutante, now 30, first graced us with her sometimes infuriating, often shocking, but always entertaining presence. In a way, Hilton ushered in the modern era of gossip rags and—along with Britney and Lindsay and Jessica—fueled a multimillion dollar dirt-digging industry. Without Paris, we wouldn’t have Perez Hilton. “That’s hot” would never have entered the national lexicon. And night-vision photography would never have been deemed sexy. We take a look back at the modern “It” girl, the woman who made being “famous for being famous” an art form, and her greatest hits and misses.
One Night in Paris
In another era, a sex tape would have been ruinous to any aspiring starlet. But this was 2003, the beginning of Generation Me, and just a year before Facebook launched. Instead, the leaked sex tape with her ex-beau Rick Salomon—shot in sickly green night vision—had the opposite effect: it made Paris an instantaneous infamous, international celebrity, breaking her permanently out of the New York tabloids and into feature articles in major magazines like Rolling Stone and Maxim. The week after the tape leaked, Paris’s first reality show, The Simple Life, launched. The tape ushered in the trend of reality-TV star as porn star, paving the way for Kim Kardashian. Um, thanks?
The Simple Life
Perfectly timed, The Simple Life aired a week after Paris’s sex tape hit the world. The result: she was world famous and everyone wanted to watch her and her best friend, Nicole Richie (the daughter of Lionel Richie) “slum it” by working on farms and do menial jobs. The premiere garnered 13 million viewers, and was a hit. But the show, which changed networks several times during its five season run, was plagued by the on-again-off-again nature of the friendship between Paris and Nicole. Though not as groundbreaking as The Real World, we did get an iconic phrase out of it: “That’s hot.”
The Carl’s Jr. Ad
In 2005, Paris put her naughty girl reputation to perfect use: making money. She was cast in a sexy Carl’s Jr. commercial, in which she is supposed to wash an expensive car, but instead gives herself a sudsy, suggestive shower. Then, because manual labor is hard, she takes a break to take a bite out of a big, meaty, overstuffed…. burger. The ad inspired the ire of the Parents Television Council, and uptight, humorless people everywhere.
The House of Wax
The small screen she could handle, but could she make the jump to the silver screen? In 2005, she set out to be a bona fide movie star in House of Wax, a half-hearted remake of the Vincent Price horror flick of the same name. Though she was the main draw, the movie was so dull, that even her blase acting didn’t stand out. Salon wrote: “Hilton is the one everyone has come to see, and her indolent, dull coolness does not disappoint.” Apparently at screenings, audiences cheered when she got snuffed with a four-foot stake through her forehead.
Stars are Blind… and Deaf
In 2006, determined to stay in the public eye without getting naked, the heiress embarked on a “singing” career. The result: a watered-down reggae tune called “Stars Are Blind,” which despite its stupendous mediocrity and Paris’s lack of singing ability, suggested that millions of people were deaf as it charted in the Top 10 in 17 countries.
Paris Exposed and the 'N' Word
In 2007, after a $208 storage unit holding belongings of Nicky and Paris Hilton went unpaid by a moving company, the world received a bountiful gift of the juiciest, straight–from-the-source Paris Hilton gossip that ever existed. The contents were auctioned off for $10 million to entrepreneur Bardia Persa, who wasted no time putting up a website, Parisexposed.com, which briefly showed videos of Paris and friends purportedly doing a Tony-Montana amount of cocaine off a man’s chest, videos of her hanging out with Joe Francis of Girl’s Gone Wild fame, pictures of her making out with women, pictures of her smoking what appear to be large joints and pot pipes, a copy of a prescription in her name for Valtrex, the herpes medication, pictures of her ex-bestie Nicole Richie allegedly doing something white and powdery off a plate, and most famously, videos of her and her sister dancing at a New Year’s Eve party to Notorious B.I.G. and referring to her and her sister thus: “We’re like two n-----s”. There was more—but it’s unprintable. She sued and obtained a temporary injunction against the site and succeeded in getting it shut down, but some of the content is still available in other locations on the Internet.
2006 marked the beginning of Paris’s problems with drunk driving. In September she was pulled over for driving under the influence and screened a .08 blood alcohol level; her license was suspended and she pleaded no contest to a reckless driving charge. But for some reason, the rich and famous are also young and stupid and don’t hire drivers to cart them around to their nightclubs and insist on driving themselves. (Why? We don’t know.) The result: getting pulled over again and again—the last time, after going 70 in a 35-mile-per-hour zone. For this, she was sentenced to 45 days in jail for violating her probation. Though the sheriff had decided to release her after three days in jail and allow her to serve out the rest of her sentence at home, the judge, Michael T. Sauer, reversed that decision and sent her packing to the prison, when this picture was taken.
The Hottie and the Nottie
About four years too late, in 2008, Hollywood produced an entire movie based on her catchphrase, “That’s hot.” The plot: a nerd who’s been in love with Paris (the hottie) since childhood wants to hook up with her, but has to also find love for her best friend, who has been made to look like a rotting troll (the Nottie, played by Christine Lakin). The reviews were exactly what you’d expect. With a Rotten Tomato rating of 5 percent, the critics universally panned it. Richard Roeper wrote: “It is excruciatingly, painfully, horribly, terribly awful.”
My New BFF
What do you do when your first reality-TV show ends because you and your BFF break up and your entire existence hinges on being on a reality-TV show with your best friend? Why, you make it a contest to find a new best friend and film it… as a reality-TV show. The show was set up like a Bachelorette or Bachelor-like contest, complete with elimination rounds and challenges (be a Las Vegas showgirl), with the prize being Paris’s “friendship” for life. Eighteen wannabes humiliated themselves for Paris’s attention; the first winner, Brittany Flickinger, an aspiring rocker, in a crushing shocker, ended up not being BFFs for life with Paris. Amazingly, there were not only two seasons in America, but also British and Dubai versions, as well.
Paris, Not France
Wrongly assuming that Paris was an enigma who was hiding the interesting or intriguing parts of her personality from the camera, filmmaker Adria Petty set out to show the real Paris in a 2009 ultra-short documentary—which aired on MTV. Perhaps Petty was hoping for the film to be like Madonna’s Truth or Dare. Instead the audience was subjected to an interminable 67-minute meditation on a person who ends up seeming even more dull than we suspected.
What Happens in Vegas… Ends up on TMZ
Out on the town last August with her new beau, Cy Waits, a club promoter in Las Vegas, Paris and Cy were driving around when they were pulled over. The strong scent of marijuana coming from the car led to the police leaning a little harder on the duo, and when Paris pulled out a tube of lip balm from her purse, a small .8-gram bag of cocaine fell out of her purse. At first, she denied the purse was hers, saying it wasn’t fancy enough, but later copped to the other contents being hers. She entered a misdemeanor plea deal for minor drug possession and obstructing an officer during a court hearing. and received a year of probation and 200 hours of community service. The next day she was denied entry to Japan due to her drug charge. That’s not hot.