We need Paris Hilton more than ever. A seemingly placid slate on which to project our hopes and dreams, she’s become the Mickey Mouse for the new depression.
As Cintra Wilson describes it in her book Caligula for President, the Teflon heiress is “a Warholian genius of media manipulation,” not to mention “a strobe light in an epilepsy ward.”
What’s more, she’s the only person with a sex tape and a Chihuahua to ever play a significant role in a presidential campaign. And now, she’s survived a couple of cinematic mishaps and returned to the screen in a movie that’s intentionally grim (and not the total clunker I’d pegged it to be).
It’s the Darren Lynn Bousman–directed Repo! The Genetic Opera, which seems hell-bent on cultdom with its body-fluid-laden futuristic plot, its ersatz opera and woozy rock, and its emphatic good/badness, all served with a full-throttle lack of apology. Paris has a small role as the surgically addled, painkiller-addicted Amber Sweet, and you can’t really say she disgraces herself. So, even though there’s a whole new regime coming to the White House, the view from the Hollywood hills looks exactly the same, as Paris remains in power, traversing various media with a shocking unflappability that dares you to look away.
I met the very social socialite at a Waldorf suite last week, where she amusingly wafted in wearing her designer dress backwards by mistake! I thought she should leave it on and start a whole new fashion phenom, but she dutifully reversed it and we proceeded to gab into the future. And so:
Me: Hi, Paris. You’re very brave to have done a genetic opera. What was it like to have your face falling off? That’s so not like you.
Paris: It was very uncomfortable, with different prosthetics every day. I looked like Freddy Krueger. I could not even look in the mirror, it was so gross. But it was also really cool to do something completely different than what I’m usually typecast as. This was not another typical blonde. Plus it was a musical.
Me: After this, there can never be a photo of you that anyone considers bad.
Paris: Yeah, when your face falls off in a movie, you can pretty much do anything after that!
Me: At least your head didn’t fall off, like in House of Wax. But I wanted much more of you (though I loved you singing “I’ve never been so surgically maimed”). Was anything cut, as it were?
Paris: Darren had to cut so much because the movie was four hours long. There was this cool song, “Come Up and Try My New Parts.” In the song, I’m talking to the grave-robber, and I want some of his Zydrate, which is a futuristic drug. I was offering favors for it. It’ll be on the DVD.
Me: That’ll be my futuristic drug. Did [co-star] Sarah Brightman give you any vocal tips? She hits notes only Mariah Carey can hear.
Paris: On our press day, people asked her, “Did you give Paris advice?” And she said, “Paris knows exactly what she’s doing!” I love her. She’s such an icon.
Me: She’s the world’s best-selling soprano. But haven’t there been some missteps along the way? Are you upset that The Hottie and the Nottie, um, didn’t find an audience?
Paris: I think it did. It’s doing really well on DVD. I think people are so used to seeing me as me that they can see me on TV any day like that. But in Repo, they’re gonna see something that doesn’t even look like me. It already has signs of a cult classic.
Me: And so does your Funny or Die video! I loved how you replied to “the wrinkly, white-haired guy” by suggesting your own energy policy and your proud choice of running mate (Rihanna) en route to painting the White House pink. That video cemented your role as a player in the election. How did you feel when McCain first invoked your name?
Paris: I thought it was a little bit silly. People are donating money to his campaign, and then he does such a silly comparison with Britney and I.
Me: It was absurd—though I hear Obama is doing a reality show where he’s looking for a BFF.
Paris: That’s funny.
Me: So, you were pro-Obama?
Paris: I don’t say who I vote for.
Me: I do. He’s super-sexy.
Paris: Yeah, he’s good-looking, and he’s inspiring people.
Me: But what a country he’s inheriting! Has the economy’s free fall affected you?
Paris: Not at all. The business I’m in is not affected by it.
Me: Huh? But I’m in the same business, and I’m wearing K-Mart shoes. You have no money in stocks?
Paris: Yes, but they’re in good stocks.
Me: Tell me what they are!
Me: Moving on. For your now-legendary post-stripes appearance on Larry King Live, did your team advise you on how to come across? It was make-or-break.
Paris: Yeah. I was really nervous because it was the first time I had talked to anyone.
Me: But you still meant all that stuff you said about dramatically changing your persona?
Me: Now that you’ve had a ton of time to think about what your favorite part of the Bible is, what’s your real answer?
Paris: I don’t really have a favorite part.
Me: What? So it’s the same answer?
Paris: I like it all. It’s not like I have a favorite part.
Me: Me neither. I’ve never read it!
Me: But you have changed a lot since then, no?
Paris: I’ve grown up a lot, and I have a great relationship [with rocker Benji Madden]. I was living like I was still a teenager. Now I realize I have a lot of responsibilities on my plate, and I’m running a huge empire. I don’t go out as much anymore. I’ve been to so many parties for so many years, it gets really old.
Me: You’re telling me? At least sometimes I can stay home and watch your reality show. It seems a bit scripted, though.
Paris: Just the parts when I’m on my throne, but everything else is real. I’m really friends with the girls—they text me every day. There are offers to do spin-offs of the show in Australia, Germany, Dubai, Russia . . .
Me: Woo-hoo! You have such a gift for media—I don’t want to say “manipulation.”
Paris: I just do things that interest me and live life to the fullest. I don’t do it for any other reason.
Me: But come on, your unstoppable fame didn’t just happen. You’re behind it all—it’s not just magic.
Paris: Like which part?
Me: The part where you glide through a million different projects and never destruct. You’re a Warholian, etc., etc.
Paris: I’m a businesswoman, I’m a brand, so everything I do is to escalate my brand and give it more exposure. If you want to be in this business, you have to be in the media.
Me: I’ve got chills. Got any Zydrate?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 12, 2008