By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
LOS ANGELES, June 26 -- She is free, but are we?
She is on three years probation. What. If. She. Gets. Arrested. Again? Let's review: She goes to parties . . . for a living. Public transportation, sadly, not an option. And so reels the mind.
Questions, you likely have them, but if not, do not e-mail us about obsessive media coverage of the Hilton Affair. We are so beyond that now. The vortex is too powerful. All matter in the universe? It is her plaything. Unknown life forms in a galaxy far, far away are currently scrolling through paparazzi pics.
Questions: Paris Hilton is out of the clink and back in the big house. The celebrity heiress was released from county jail shortly after midnight Tuesday after serving three tumultuous weeks for repeatedly violating the terms of her probation in a drunk-driving case. So, how did she look? She looked absolutely fabulous. She changed in a hallway bathroom at the jail into a chic sage short-sleeved jacket over skinny jeans and serious heels, naturally. Lip gloss? Check. Blond hair in a braid over her right shoulder, looking very Heidi, very "Sound of Music." As opposed to her usual rather porny nightclub appearance, Hilton looked fresh-faced, almost innocent.
That sucking sound? That is the vortex.
Questions: What will she do with her life now that she is free? Perhaps a career in the arts. Before her release, she gave her attorney Richard Hutton a pencil drawing to deliver to the uber-celebrity-gossip Web site TMZ.com. Hilton's schoolgirl sketch showed a weird self-portrait of Hilton, with those alien doe eyes, garbed in county jail drawstring pants and smock, standing beside a pay phone (the horror), with a TV mounted to the wall containing an image of CNN's "Larry King Live" with guest host Harvey Levin, overlord and progenitor of TMZ.com. This has got to be a hoax? So we called Levin's publicist at TMZ who confirmed: It is real. (Somewhere a graduate student in psychology has just begun writing a doctoral thesis that is pure gold.)
Questions: This is from a report by ABC celebrity interview doyenne Barbara Walters: "On Sunday at 3 p.m., Paris Hilton phoned me collect from jail. Prisoners must call collect. The unusual conversation came about because Kathy Hilton, Paris's mother, had phoned me, and while we were talking, Paris called on the other line. When she heard I was talking to her mother, she said she'd like to talk to me herself. She sounded tired but totally aware of what she was saying."
Hilton tells Babs, "I feel as if I'm a different person." She denies wailing, sobbing, screaming in jail before her release (for one day) to home detention, but confesses, "I was not eating or sleeping. I was severely depressed and felt as if I was in a cage. I was not myself."
"How are you different?" Walters gently inserts the probe.
"I'm not the same person I was," Hilton says. "I used to act dumb. It was an act. I am 26 years old, and that act is no longer cute. It is not who I am, nor do I want to be that person for the young girls who looked up to me. I know now that I can make a difference, that I have the power to do that. I have been thinking that I want to do different things when I am out of here. I have become much more spiritual. God has given me this new chance."
Questions? Answers. No screaming. Not dumb. An act. And now? "God," Hilton tells Walters, "has released me." Paris Almighty? Huge box office. Also: When she is not in her jail cell, Walters reported, "she can play ping pong." More to come, on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Wednesday, a battle of wits, from some of sharpest crayons in the cable box.
Specifically, what is the millionaire star of "The Simple Life" thinking of next? We were thinking more crass exploitation. But no. In her jailhouse phoners with Walters and Ryan Seacrest of E! News, Hilton said she would like to donate her celebrity to the challenges of breast cancer or perhaps multiple sclerosis or maybe "a kind of Paris Hilton playhouse, where sick children might come." Also, she told Seacrest she was looking forward to "a nice meal" (a girl has gotta eat) and to "be in my own bed."
As Hilton told Seacrest, "I just realize that the media used me to make fun of and be mean about," assuming, perhaps quite rightly, that a gigantic superbubble of mass amnesia had erased all memories of her "Simple Life" reality TV persona, in which she impersonated a fantastically wealthy spoiled airhead brat in order to lampoon the hog-slopping yokels. As Hilton put it to Seacrest, "Frankly, I'm sick of it. I want to use my fame in a good way."
Okay. We've had our fun. Let's get real here. What if Paris Hilton did volunteer her services for the good of all peoplekind -- the Michael Jackson toy playhouse thing or maybe the celebrity MS gig -- would that not be a ninth wonder of the world? Seriously, cancer is bad. Really, really bad. Nobody wants it. And so if Paris Hilton has been saved (in jail she read the Bible and "The Secret" and the Wall Street Journal) and has grown (though some reports say she lost 10 pounds in jail), can't we all just put our national tendencies of cynicism and skepticism in the delete basket and get on the (band) wagon with Paris and cure some cancer, please?
Questions: Does it really matter that during the same news cycle that TMZ.com was gorging on the Hilton Release, it also reported that her sister Nicky had been spotted partying at the Grand Resort Hotel in Athens with billionaire Hollywood spawn/boy pal David Katzenberg? Totally irrelevant.
Upon her release from the slammer, Hilton was met by her mom and dad, the older heirs Kathy and Nick Hilton, and a giddily crazed crush of paparazzi, who swarmed their black SUV with cameras, pleading "Paris! Just one word! Paris," as if she were the oracle for our strange times. Hilton rolled down the window and told the press, "I'm great." She was smiling her trademark cipher smile. She did the chin dip. "Thank you for all your support," she said. She looked happy, and composed, far different from the last time she was seen in public at the court hearing that sent her back to jail, when Hilton sat trembling and twitching, and then erupted in sobs of "Mom! It's not right!" after Superior Court Judge Michael Sauer sent her back to jail. Hilton had been briefly released to home detention because L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca said she was suffering from an undisclosed "serious medical condition."
At a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors hearing Tuesday, Reuters reported, Baca dropped some hints: "I think we all in this room know something about suicide. . . . If I know something that can be done that solves the medical problem . . . What's worth more? Serving time in the county jail for driving on a suspended driver's license or a person losing their life?"
After Hilton was sprung from the gritty reality show of the Lynwood women's facility, where she had spent most of her jail time in solitary confinement or in the medical ward, news helicopters circled overhead and then aerially stalked her as she left the jail and headed back toward Bel-Air. At one point, her SUV stopped and news copters captured images of the pappers leaping from their own pursuit vehicles to surround the Escalade with popping flashes that just shouted: Welcome back!
For those keeping track of the math of celebrity justice, Hilton served almost 23 days in detention, counting one day of home confinement, which is longer than most inmates in the overcrowded and chaotic Los Angeles jails. She was originally sentenced to 45 days for violating her probation by driving on a suspended license after a plea bargain on an alcohol-related reckless driving beef.
The time off? For good behavior.
Staff writer Monica Hesse contributed to this report.