June 8. I’m in the midst of a column about the planned U.S. attack on Iran, but I have to interrupt that project to comment on the breaking news about Paris Hilton.
“It’s not right!” she shouted to the judge ordering her back to the jail she’d been freed from a day earlier, before she was hauled away weeping.
No, nothing about this is right.
Here’s a young woman who came into our lives in August 2003, just as the mainstream press was timidly beginning to question the Bush administration lies justifying the invasion of Iraq. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the people were already rebelling against the occupation. In that context of uncertainty, Paris burst onto the scene, a rich heiress socialite party girl, in our faces on the internet, spreading for boyfriend Rick Salomon and pleasuring him orally. Relatively few saw the clip of course, but we all heard about it, and associated this emerging personality with internet porn.
It was perhaps unfair because there is so much more to Paris.
While stating she was “humiliated” by Rick’s posting of the video, Paris accepted the situation with good humor, joking about it on TV as she went on to pursue her career as model, actress, singer, heiress and socialite.
She wasn’t just fellating Rick but all of us, when America needed it most. Those accessing the readily available footage will notice her pubes were shaved. Were they only shaved for Rick, whom she soon discarded? No, I believe they were shaved for all of us, representing childlike innocence lost. A pudendum shining hairless for you, and for me, as the nation descended deeper and deeper into darkness.
Already 22, Paris had dropped out of the prestigious Dwight School in the Upper West Side of New York unfairly hounded by the accusation that “Dwight” stood for “Drunk White Idiots Getting High Together.” But she had acquired her General Education Degree (GED), serving as a role model for other dropouts who have the courage and fortitude to also take the challenging GED exam.
Just as the porn video came out Paris launched a career playing herself in a reality television series about socialites in real-world situations airing on the prestigious Fox network. In that series, she walked through cow manure in stilettos, made sausages, worked as a maid at a nudist resort. She became a Donald Trump model. She appeared in minor roles in films and released an album, Paris, on her very own label, Heiress Records, which might some day release a second album by her or someone else.
In May 2004 Paris released her “Paris Hilton” perfume. “I mixed all these scents together…it smells so good,” she explained as she continued to enrich our culture. It is true that her appearance on Saturday Night Life in 2005 (in which she hyped the video with Rick) was panned by some persnickety critics, and Tina Fey later nastily called her a “piece of shit” and “unbelievably dumb.” But she had unleashed a chain of nightclubs, and there were more nude photos of her on the net. So it made prefect sense for Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman to proclaim August 29, 2006 “Paris Hilton Day.”
On that day in 1862, the Second Battle of Bull Run began. On that day in 1966, the Beatles performed their last public concert. On that day in 1944, American troops liberated Paris. Surely Goodman had these historical events in mind as he honored our Paris.
It is sad that on September 7, 2006, at the height of her powers, Paris was pulled over by a member of the notorious LAPD on suspicion of drunken driving. Her blood alcohol content was just 0.08%. Taking advantage of her low tolerance level for alcohol, and lack of experience driving responsibly after a few beers, the officer arrested Paris. The court suspended her driver’s license and she received a 36 month probabtion sentence plus a $1,500 fine. She was ordered to attend an alcohol-education program but apparently didn’t. This is understandable. It was probably an AA program with a “higher power” religious content and the requirement that everybody hold hands. I can see why Paris would reject that.
Unbowed by this setback, Paris continued to drive through the streets of Los Angeles and on January 15 was pulled over for driving with a suspended license. She signed a document acknowledging that she wasn’t permitted to drive, but didn’t let the Man cramp her style. On February 27 was pulled over for driving without her lights on 70 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone. LA prosecutors threw the book at her, finding her in violation of the terms of her probation.
But Paris’s many admirors campaigned for her freedom of any punishment, posting the following petition online addressed to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:
Paris Whitney Hilton is an American celebrity and socialite. She is an heiress to a share of the Hilton Hotel fortune, as well as to the real estate fortune of her father Richard Hilton. She provides hope for young people all over the U.S. and the world. She provides beauty and excitement to (most of) our otherwise mundane lives.
Hilton is notable for her leading roles on the FOX reality series The Simple Life and in the remake of the Vincent Price horror classic “House of Wax.” In addition to her work as an actress, she has achieved some recognition as a model, celebrity spokesperson, singer, and writer.
Now, if that doesn’t move you, you’re just not human. But on May 4, a cruel and biased Judge Michael T. Sauer sentenced Paris to 45 days in jail on this dubious charge of violating her probation.
The day after she appeared on the MTV awards, Paris dutifully reported to the Century Regional Detention Center where she was given a private cell so she would not be sexually abused by any ugly people. She has since thanked the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and staff of for treating” her “fairly and professionally.” But confinement was too much for this sensitive young woman, whom a psychologist ascertained, was on the verge of a nervous breakdown within five days of confinement. Accordingly the Detention Center authorities released her, ordering her to serve the remaining 40 days of her sentence under house arrest at her home on Kings Road in Hollywood Hills.
But then, the hate. The pettiness. The unfairness.
The Rev. Al Sharpton denounced the early release, claiming it had “all of the appearances of economic and racial favoritism.” Obviously he had it out for Paris, just because her former friend Brandon Davis told the press that the heiress regularly refers to black people using the n-word. Given protests about the reduced sentence, Sauer ordered Paris back to jail. He gave no explanation at all for his ruling! But obviously powerful and influential people were behind this decision.
Outside the courtroom, Jake Byrd of Chino spoke for the millions whose lives have been touched by this woman who once told the British press “There’s nobody in the world like me. I think every decade has an iconic blonde—like Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana— and right now, I’m that icon.”
“No! No! No!” Jake screamed as a court spokesman announced the verdict.
Oh, the horror of this. What sort of person, looking at that photo of Paris, hand-cuffed and humiliated, sitting in the back seat of a police car, disheveled, without her make-up, her lovely features contorted with suffering, tears streaming down her face, would not be moved by the injustice pervading our society?
What will become of this candle in the wind?
I for one will be unable during these next 40 days to think of Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib without thinking too of Paris in the Detention Center. It’s just not right.
GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.
He can be reached at: email@example.com