Seven key dates in Hilton history

Times Staff Writer

Jerry Oppenheimer is the author of the recently released book “House of Hilton: From Conrad to Paris: A Drama of Wealth, Power and Privilege.” His book, which took about a year to report, posits that the only way to understand how the Paris Hilton phenomena happened is to trace the heiress’ genealogy through both her maternal and paternal forebears. It didn’t take long for Oppenheimer discovered that Paris Hilton came from a family of tabloid characters as nutty and desperate for attention as the heiress herself.

“Paris is a continuum of what was started by her grandfather Conrad Hilton and her maternal grandmother, known in the book as Big Kathy, who was a stage mother from hell,” said Oppenheimer. “I actually came away with some sympathy for Paris. She had no chance to do anything than what she’s done.”

Here he tells us seven key dates in the making of an heiress:

December 25, 1887. Conrad Nicholson Hilton is brought into the world by his German American mother, Mary and her big Swede of a husband, Gus. Connie, as he’s called, rises from the family’s primitive adobe dwelling in what was the New Mexico territory, to building one of the world’s great hotel empires, starting with a “flophouse” in a Texas dirtball town.

February 17, 1981.A future unknown by the name of Paris Whitney Hilton is delivered. Unlike her great-grandfather, Connie, her first home is in an Upper East Side Manhattan penthouse. Her mother, Kathy Hilton was raised by her mother to become a star and marry rich. She finally marries her prince charming, cute and curly-haired Rick Hilton recently graduated from the University of Denver where he excelled in volleyball and throwing student parties at $20-a-head. He never rises to the top of the Hilton hotel chain, but becomes successful as a Beverly Hills realtor, and advisor to his daughter.

July 4, 1980. Paris’ maternal grandmother, Kathleen Richards, (known as Big Kathy to Kathy Hilton’s, Little Kathy), marries the third of her four husbands. His name is Jack Catain, a real life Tony Soprano-type, who would eventually be sentenced to a lengthy federal prison term for his role in mafia related crimes. High school dropout Big Kathy’s first horrific union, essentially a shotgun wedding, was to a bad boy from Long Island who had gotten her pregnant in the back seat of her Chevy convertible. The unplanned bundle of joy grew up to be Paris Hilton’s mother.

May 15, 1954. That morning newspaper readers across the country were greeted with a film noir-ish photo of playboy Nick Hilton behind bars in the Los Angeles County Jail after being arrested on a drunk charge by Hollywood sheriff’s deputies. He was thrown in handcuffs after a brawl outside his Hollywood apartment. His run-in foreshadows Paris recent DUI arrest in Hollywood. She claims she had one margarita.

January 3, 1979. About a week after celebrating his 91st birthday, Connie Hilton dies at a hospital in Santa Monica. During his lifetime he wrote some 32 wills. He leaves only two million dollars to family and relatives. The rest of his fortune goes into a charitable foundation. One of his sons, Barron, sues the foundation and wins.

Summer 2002. Four minutes of a grainy home-made porn video starring 21-year-old Paris Hilton and a boyfriend a dozen years her senior lands on the internet. Overnight, she becomes the most infamous “celebutante” in the world, and today she earns as much as one million dollars for a single personal appearance. The video sparks a movie and singing career, both panned.

May 6, 1950. Nicky Hilton marries teenage Elizabeth Taylor in what was described as “the marriage of the century.” 200 and five days later they are divorced. Beginning with their honeymoon, Hilton spent most of time drinking and gambling, and was physically abusive.