Wednesday, July 11, 2007

We’ll Always Have ... Never Mind

I’m tired of people making fun of Paris Hilton. I’m tired of it because it’s just old. Plus it doesn’t make so much sense.

For instance, a lot of people say she’s famous without reason. “Famous for being famous,” is the phrase that gets shot around. But that’s entirely not true. She has a sister and two brothers. Somehow these three manage to fly pretty much under our radar, happily going around doing whatever it is properly invisible Hilton heirs do. (I imagine there’s tennis involved in that. Nice restaurants. Very shiny cars. And shopping. Quite a lot of shopping.)

But Paris... well... Paris does stuff. I mean, seriously: what were you doing when you were 26? Paris, born in 1981, has produced a movie (OK: no one seems to have actually liked 2006’s Pledge This, but that’s not the point), started a record company (the cleverly named Heiress Records), recorded an album (it ain’t high art, but it doesn’t suck any worse than the competition. In fact, AMG says it’s better). She’s been engaged (count ‘em) three times (to fashion model Jason Shaw and greek shipping heirs Paris Latsis and Stavros Niarchos III), she’s been modelling since childhood and has appeared in campaigns for Iceberg Vodka, GUESS, Tommy Hilfiger, Christian Dior and Marciano. She’s appeared in many films and television shows, although it’s true that when you scroll down the Paris Hilton listing in IMDb, for instance, she appears most often as a character named “herself.” She’s written a couple of books. OK, she had help. But still. Books. Wrote ‘em. Hell, even her dog has written a book. Obviously, she’s starred in a hit television series, the enormously vapid and successful The Simple Life. More stuff. Much more. You’ve heard it all before: all of it leading up to the media frenzy this summer when Hilton was found guilty of driving violations and ended up serving 23 days in jail.

Which actually leads me to why I’m dragging you through all of this when, clearly, I could have avoided it. After all, January has managed to publish continually for pretty close to a decade and never once mention the words “Paris” and “Hilton” in the same article. So why start now?

A couple of days ago, I came across a press release with the following headline: “PARIS HILTON ANNOUNCES SUMMER READING LIST IN EFFORT TO ENCOURAGE LITERACY.” And my first though upon seeing it was, “Whoa. Are people ever gonna laugh at that.” Because, when you think about it, people laugh at everything she does. It’s like if you’re blonde, rich and beautiful and try to actually do anything beyond mannies and peddies, it’s a license for people to point their fingers and make fun.

Here’s an example: when Paris the album was released in the summer of 2006, the artists Banksy and Danger Mouse swapped 500 copies of Hilton’s actual album with a parody they’d created. This bootleg version showed up in several locations in the United Kingdom, and included altered topless photos of Hilton, parody remixes of the songs and nasty liner notes. That’s just mean. But when you start off with an open mind and read any amount of stuff about Hilton, you realize just how much of this meanness has been directed towards her. And she goes on smiling sweetly (though some would say “vapidly”) and continues on her celebutant business with a fair amount of grace.

So, OK: back to Hilton’s reading list. “Paris Hilton has decided to use her high-profile status to help increase literacy. She has announced a four-book summer reading list that she feels is varied and will both inspire and entertain readers,” says the aforementioned press release that made the rounds on July 8th. OK: the list is a little bit lame, but the spirit of the thing is good. And anything to get people reading, right? At least, I’m in that school.
Now that she is out of jail, Paris Hilton, the celebrity socialite and actress, is anxious to do things that can have a beneficial influence on people. One of her first actions has been to announce her four-book summer reading list, filled with books old and new, with the hopes that it will help increase literacy. Paris Hilton stated that, “Oprah Winfrey has had such a positive influence on people by encouraging reading with her various book lists, book clubs, and recommended books, that I thought I could join in the effort to encourage people to not only read, but read worthwhile books, and so I have chosen four books that I know people will enjoy reading...”
I would have liked, after reading that well-intentioned paragraph, to come across a list of books that was actually slightly interesting. Unfortunately, that is pretty much not the case. Three are predictable -- The Bible, the mega-bestselling The Power of Now from 1999 and the current mega bestselling The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The fourth is just weird: a self-published baseball novel called The Knuckleball From Hell by an author whose only other book (coincidentally -- or maybe not so much -- published by the same imprint) has the spine tingling title of Quantum-Integral Medicine: Towards a New Science of Healing and Human Potential. (Try saying that six times fast.)

I haven’t seen an actual copy of Knuckleball, but a quick trip to Amazon indicates the sort of amateurish execution that brings a universal shudder from reviewers when it slides through the mail slot. (Not because we’re all big art critics, but a slapdash cover most often heralds more slapdashery between the covers and that’s not fun for anyone.)

Again from Amazon, the product description for the book:
The Knuckleball From Hell is a story of life, love, the New York Mets...and everything in between. It's the Marx Brothers and Three Stooges meets baseball and the Mets in this highly irreverent and extremely quirky novel. Meet the New York City bus drivers-turned-Mets general managers, the Russian Cossack first baseman, the superhero Donutman, surfer dudes, a Rastafarian quantum physicist, Hare Krishnas, the movie "To Kill a Mockingbird" remade as a feel-good, light-hearted romantic comedy, and much, much more in this wildly hilarious book. It tells the story of a fictional New York Mets team that is horrendous and been driven into the ground by its bankrupt owner, while the protagonist is a high school phenom who only wants to pitch for the Mets. Unfortunately, he blows out his arm and his career is seemingly over, until he has a chance encounter with a Professor on the lam from chicken-wing eating Department of Homeland Security agents, enabling the kid to join the Mets with a new pitch - the Knuckleball From Hell.
Actually it all sounds pretty fun... and so not Paris (not that I’m an expert, but...). Nor does it line up particularly comfortably with the other three titles chosen. So what happened? From doing rather more research into the matter than I should have, it appears that Hilton’s mom, Kathy, is big friends with celebrity socialite and philanthropist Mary Lou Whitney who lives in Saratoga Springs, New York. The author of Knuckleball is Michael Wayne, who currently lives, according to his bio, “159.5467 miles northwest of Flushing,” New York and has an office in Saratoga Springs. And the press release that went out detailing Hilton’s reading choices? You guessed it: it was datelined Saratoga Springs.

So what am I suggesting? I dunno, really. Maybe someone was doing someone a favor. Or maybe borrowing a famous friend’s name. Or maybe Hilton really does just love Knuckleball and really feels it’s “the funniest book,” she’s ever read.

Hmmmm ... I started up defending the beleaguered celebutant and ended up, I dunno, sounding quite cynical. Well, like I said, I am tired of people trashing Hilton. But, until she comes up with something that looks like an actual reading list, maybe we should leave the book suggestions to Oprah, Richard and Judy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? Paris Hilton right after Haruki Murakami? Hang your head January. Those two don't belong in the same universe, never mind web site. For shame!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 4:28:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can understand what you are saying because you like or love Paris and she is your idol.What`s more everyone has his strong points.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 6:12:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Steven said...

Well...I can see what you mean about people ganging up on her and also the fact that she does indeed work while, as you point out, she doesn't have to. A lot of people in her position would do a lot less, I think. Also, she's actually making money by being ditzy. Pretty smart.

Wish she'd read my book though...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 9:51:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Andi said...

Show of hands please - does anyone ANYONE really really think that a single soul on this PLANET will be encouraged to read because of this....this....this attempt at yet MORE @(*"%@^& publicity? GIVE ME A BREAK.

I REALLY want my life to be free of this person and do NOT want to read about her for any reason, so could you maybe promise not to write about her anymore, or something? Put up a warning banner?

I expect good websites to be free of this kind of thing - honest I really do - and it's dismaying to find mention of this sad person even here. I've stopped watching tv news because it's all "celeb" crap (words of more than two syllables are HARD, i mean, y'know?) and then I come here and...

Thursday, July 12, 2007 12:28:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another nice post Linda, the resident moron of this website...

Friday, July 13, 2007 1:01:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Linda L. Richards said...

The jerking of the knees is pretty interesting... and kinda the point.

Don't you think it's odd that anyone this removed from you has this sort of power? The power, that is, to make your eyes cross with annoyance, even anger. I don't get it. She's just a young woman who has nothing to do with you, making choices that won't create the smallest ripple in your life. And yet I watch people -- in the media, people I know -- and they are so impacted by her. It's inexplicable. She has this huge reaction on people. What's that about, do you think? Is it about her? Or about them?

Friday, July 13, 2007 5:21:00 PM PDT  
Anonymous Andi said...

She's been somehow given power.Maybe it began with the insane reaction to Princess Diana - alive or dead (I know people who woke up at some dismal hour to watch the wedding of this woman on tv.) Maybe it was OJ - I did not watch a day of the Simpson trial, but somehow I knew stuff about it. I don't watch tv/celebrity/Hollywood gossip programming, but I do read a daily newspaper. It's there too now.

I have NEVER sought to know the first thing about this appalling person (nor has my partner Stu) but we do. I've never watched "American Idol" but we know about it. I've never watched Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears doing anything, but i have seen Lindsay Lohan (pretty good too) in "Prairie Home Companion". Period. Yet somehow I know all about these people and that they were arrested or in rehab or what they wore or, or, or ...because when I turn on CNN, there's another story about them. CNN, which used to cover news. "Celebrity" CRAP is now considered news and newsworthy.
Do they really have an impact on us? Power - yeah, I guess when a gazillion reporters run to the courtroom door or whatever to cover one of these nincompoops rather than cover real news.
Is it about her? To paraphrase a old "Doonesbury" if the tv lights are turned off, Paris H would disappear. She doesn't exist outside of the monster of celebrity crapola that pretends now to be "news".
With a curmudgeonly bang of my cane on the floor,
grumble, harumph, humph, grumble

Friday, July 27, 2007 8:13:00 AM PDT  

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