She’ll be out soon, but cash for story seems unlikely



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Kathy Hilton, mother of Paris, leaves Municipal Court in L.A. earlier this month.


WILL WE ALWAYS HAVE PARIS? I’m as tired of hearing about Paris Hilton as you are, and for the longest time I’ve had the theory that her fame, while obviously not based on talent, achievement or even notable beauty, was probably a phenomenon entirely dependent on the mere presence of an audience – that like the tree in the forest that falls without anyone hearing, you might be able to make a philosophical argument that she doesn’t actually exist. At least, I’d be willing to entertain the possibility, if only as a form of wish fulfillment.

And because one of the marvels about celebrity culture is its frequent lapses into the realm of abstraction, it seems that we might be able to imagine a world without Paris. Ever since she began serving her 45-day DUI sentence – since reduced to 23 days for “good behavior”, which suggest the possibility that, at least somewhere, there’s a place where Hilton’s behavior can be described as “good” – there has been the usual cynical speculation that she’d find a way to turn her tearful incarceration to profit, with the media as a willing accomplice.

With her release expected tomorrow, speculation reached a high point last week, with rumours that NBC was going to pay her US$1 million for her exit interview. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, this was a rumour started by Hilton’s family as part of their negotiations with ABC, which fell apart rather unhappily late last week when all three major networks presented a unified front and said they were no longer interested in a Hilton interview.

The week began with ABC execs stating that NBC’s Today Show with Meredith Viera had beaten them out on Hilton’s first post-jail sit-down, luring her with a licensing deal worth between $750,000 and a million, but then NBC went into spin mode, denying that there was any such agreement. This prompted an increasingly desperate series of phone calls and messages between the Hiltons and ABC’s venerable Barbara Walters.

Hilton’s mother Kathy, an acquaintance of Walters from high society, called just before midnight on Friday and offered a no-strings attached deal, followed by a 2am call from Paris herself. (One imagines the young Hilton crouched by a pay phone in a doo-rag and prison jumpsuit while a burly guard slowly walks in a circle behind her, one eye on the clock.) Hilton’s father followed up with another message the next morning, by which point Walters, “irked by the machinations” as the Times put it, decided not to bother.

By this point, Ryan Seacrest had already done a phone interview with the incarcerated Hilton for E! News, no charge, so the relative value of a Hilton interview had clearly plummeted on the celebrity exchange. As I write this, it looks like Hilton will be doing her exit interview with CNN’s Larry King, without compensation in either cash, licensing deals, or any combination of air fare, luxury hotel accommodation, meals or entertainment – a typical tactic in the media industry to avoid actually signing a cheque and appearing venal. Of course, there are those of us for whom a King interview is the equivalent of invisibility, since we’d rather be dead than watch one, but that’s an entirely subjective opinion, isn’t it?