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“I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles,
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.”
Paris Hilton has a problem. She lost her driver’s license a while back. Like the rest of us, she lives in a country without a public transportation system. Like us, she sometimes needs to get to work-related functions at odd hours. Like us, sometimes she’s running a little late. Sadly, after apparently receiving some bad legal advice from her publicist, she’s now run afoul of the law again. “According to the prosecutors’ motion, Hilton violated at least three conditions of her probation; she was pulled over driving at 70 mph without her headlights on in a 35 mph zone, she was found driving with a suspended license, and she violated the terms of her probation by failing to enroll in a court-ordered alcohol education program…” (Wikipedia—The encyclopedia for the bookless) Apparently, she’s now facing more than a month in the slammer for her transgressions.
The AP reports that her fans are gathering signatures on a petition, asking California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to pardon her “because she provides ‘beauty and excitement to (most of) our otherwise mundane lives.'” The petition continues, “If the late former President Gerald Ford could find it in his heart to pardon the late former President Richard Nixon after his mistakes(s), we undeniably support Paris Hilton being pardoned for her honest mistake…”
You know, they’ve got a point. Free Paris!
I didn’t really know much about Ms. Hilton. So I did what any inquiring mind would do. I went to the check-out at the local super-market and picked up a couple tabloids. Just kidding. Print media is sooo passé, even with color pictures. Instead I utilized my handy (strip-mined-coal-powered) computer. Summoning up Wikipedia entries on the celebrity hotel heiress, I discovered that the would-be pardonee is an entrepreneur. She was catapulted to fame by the unscheduled release of a revealing documentary, “1 Night in Paris.” The movie, a pas de deux with former consort Rick Salomon, won 3 AVN Awards (porn Oscar equivalents) in 2005, including “Best Title of the Year.” In addition to acclaim for her starring role, Ms. Hilton also received directorial credit in the production. In a subsequent court settlement she was awarded $400,000 from the movie’s proceeds.
Based on her camera-ready-ness she landed a hit TV series on Fox called “The Simple Life.” All I know about this reality show is what I read on the Wikipedia site, but the vehicle is apparently built around Hilton and co-celeb daughter Nicole Richie. “Simple” records immersive hinterland experiences. During the show’s first season the two “lived with a family on their farm in rural Althus, Arkansas. [It] featured Hilton and Richie’s working at a variety of blue-collar jobs, making out with local men, and performing menial tasks associated with farm life. The pair’s resistance to appreciate (sic) and engage in the ‘simple life’ was a central theme on the series.”
In a country built on continuing slave/alienated labor, and which pretends to celebrate an undying “work-ethic” supposedly rampant in a working-class whose sullen anthem is TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday), it’s easy to understand the vicarious jollies such a show might sponsor for the indentured.
Hilton has continued her movie career to acclaim, winning the “Teen Choice Award” for “Best Scream,” in “House of Wax.” That role also earned her a nomination in the category of “Best Frightened Performance.” Her self-titled debut album sold very well and garnered favorable—even glowing reviews: “It’s more fun than anything released by Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson, and a lot fresher, too,” enthused All Music Guide. The recording debuted at number 6 on the Billboard 200, and the first single, “Stars are Blind” peaked at #18 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Her book, Confessions of an Heiress: A Tongue-in-Chic Peek Behind the Pose, was less favorably reviewed but attained New York Times Best-seller status.
On the down-side, in 2006 she was voted “Worst Celebrity Role Model” just behind Britney Spears. Oh dear.
Still, her detractors aside, Ms. Hilton has never knowingly napalmed a single peasant. She never killed a single person, never mind 2 or 3 million. She never presided over the invasion of non-belligerent sovereign countries or the execution of civic minded Midwestern university students. She never commissioned thugs and killers to pursue criminal activities against people she regarded as her “enemies.” It isn’t even clear that she regards any of her fellow citizens as “enemies” in the first place. She has seldom been accused of any kind of “cover-up,” and has never lied to (or about) congress.
Compared to legendary killer-creeps like Richard Nixon and the rest, that have regularly infested this country’s highest office, Paris Hilton is a woman of demonstrable talent and virtue. Her tireless devotion to the cause of entertaining and diverting the downwardly mobile and doomed merits adulation, not the cruelties of the Prison-Industrial Complex. The bumps and grinds of her life brighten the cultural landscape in a land where the smell of death and organized mayhem hangs heavily in the fetid air.
It is a savage and backward nation which threatens to imprison Paris Hilton yet allows despoilers like the Cheney/Bush crew to walk freely among us.
Perhaps distracted by her many social responsibilities, Ms. Hilton forgot to turn on her headlights one lovely California night. Yet on other occasions her headlights have comforted millions. Her humble petitioners have it right. The Guvernator should pardon her piddling oversights. While Condi Rice is free to thrust her blood-soaked hands into the canapés, Bush the Younger murders Iraqis (and the Mother Tongue), and Richard Nixon’s pardoned corpse lies below a manicured plot unfestooned by briars and noxious weeds, Paris Hilton’s petty exuberances can be — should be– easily brushed aside.
RICHARD RHAMES lives in Biddeford, Maine. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org