WHO ARE Paris Hilton fans? I understand the desire to read about her. The chick is fascinating: rich, pretty, mean, self-obsessed and, yet, somehow, despite all that, not at all bad in bed. But to actually root for her, to write her letters of support while she’s in jail, to stand outside her house and scream, “I love you!” -- what causes a person to do that? What kind of kid puts up a poster of a villain? What little girl says, “Sure the puppies are cute, but those pelts make Cruella De Vil look totally hot”?
To find out, I decided to get a bunch of hard-core Paris fans to watch her first post-jail interview on “Larry King Live” with me on Wednesday night. To find them, I utilized the greatest tool ever invented for journalists of incredibly stupid things: MySpace.
Within minutes I was awash in an enormous community of local Paris lovers. I sent a message to a girl in Beverly Hills who calls herself “PARIS IS FREE!!,” whose page has wallpaper of Hugh Hefner’s three girlfriends and describes her, in a phrase I’d never heard before, as “17 years young.” She also hates “liars” and “labels.”
Less than 10 minutes after I sent my message, PARIS IS FREE!! wrote me back: “Im sooooooooooo interested! I love paris she means everything to me. When she was in jail it felt like i was in jail. She is like a sis to me. I wouldn’t miss the interview for the world: P”
PARIS IS FREE!!, who apparently also refers to herself as “Whitney,” promised to gather all her Paris-loving friends and call me with a time and place to meet up that night. But as “Larry King Live” drew closer, PARIS IS FREE!! stopped messaging me. She never called. I like to think that her Sidekick was stolen or that she was scooped up by the cops for some like totally ridiculous, unfair thing, but I’m pretty sure she just Parised me.
Like the meek, damaged fans who stood outside the courthouse during Michael Jackson’s trial, Paris’ fans seem to be a lot like Paris. They’re the girls you see on “My Super Sweet 16" screaming at their parents for buying them the wrong color Lexus. They’re the girls who are chubby and outcast but find strength by demanding to be treated like queens. They are, it seems, the girls I hated in high school for reasons other than not sleeping with me.
I watched the interview anyway, alone, to try to figure out why Whitney, whose MySpace page insists that she is way interested in Jesus, feels so simpatico with Paris.
King’s show was not a good environment to discern the appeal of Paris because she had to talk. I don’t think she actually said “I don’t know” or “whatever,” but she nodded at questions an awful lot and gave one-word answers, some about never having tried drugs and others about reading the Bible. She told him that she read a lot while in jail, though she made the mistake of delivering a whole sentence afterward, in which she explained that her reading material consisted of fan mail. Throughout the interview, her demeanor was respectful, but her tone was like mine when I was 17 and my parents asked me what I was going to do that night. But then again, she too was being questioned by an old guy who didn’t have a clue.
Larry: An embarrassing thing: Were you strip-searched?
Larry: Do they do that in jail?
Larry: I know they do it in prison.
Paris: They do. They do it at any jail.
Larry: Oh, is that right?
Paris then called the strip-search “the most embarrassing experience of my life.” If this is even a little bit true, the Supreme Court needs to reconvene to declare strip-searches cruel and unusual punishment.
But I could make out the appeal of Paris Hilton, even through the fog of Larry King. Paris is the martyr for the overly self-empowered MySpace generation that competes for fame through self-promotion. She is self-assured and unapologetic, free of the shackles of modesty and self-deprecation, the long-awaited uberfrau who is strengthened by disaster.
She’s replaced celebrity phoniness with straight-up ego and entitlement. So being a Paris fan is the emotionally honest kind of fan to be. And bailing on an interview without even calling is such a genius Paris move that Paris would have been smart to use it.