On this episode, we're going to be swearing like a hotel heiress who didn't get her side of ranch, truly the worst thing that could happen.
So, Brooke, have you ever been to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York? No, but I've had a Waldorf salad.
OK, that's almost the same thing and fun fact. It just so happens the Waldorf salad was invented right there at the hotel in 1893. But that's not what this story is about. Thank God. Or this would be a very short series. Wait, what do you mean? A salad featuring grapes, walnuts and celery? What could be better? Literally any other kind of sound? OK, well, let me paint you a picture of the Waldorf Hotel in 2003, because that's where our story starts.
The Waldorf is on Park Avenue, and it was once the tallest and largest hotel in the world. It's got marble floors and these long mirrored hallways and fancy ballrooms and most of the people who stay there are loaded.
We're talking movie stars, kings and queens, titans of industry. In fact, two past presidents even live there. But now, in 2003, Paris Hilton lives in the residential part of the hotel, along with her parents and brothers and sister. But it's still pretty sweet digs for a 22 year old. Plus, there's housekeeping in 24 hour room service, which she calls a lot. Yeah, who wouldn't?
Can you imagine? Please send up some eggs, Beny, a bottle of Dom and some clippers. I chipped a nail. Oh, my gosh. Now, do you know why she lives in the Waldorf?
I mean, I'm assuming just because she's a rich heiress and rich heiresses live in fancy hotels, so true.
It's because she's a hotel heiress and her family owns the hotel, or more specifically, her great grandfather, Conrad Hilton, bought it back in nineteen forty nine. So as you can imagine, everyone there is really nice to her. It's Miss Hilton, Miss Miss Hilton that.
How can I make your Chihuahua more comfortable, Miss Hilton. They probably don't want to get fired and I wouldn't be surprised if they make fun of her behind her back because she's become a pretty easy target. She seems like a ditzy wild child. At least that's the way the media portrays her. She's always on page six for something or other, like the time she danced on a nightclub table and flashed her thong to the paparazzi, or the time her Nicole Richie showed up to a club in matching denim suits and nothing else underneath.
But what does parents care if she's sometimes the butt of people's jokes? She pretty much has it all. She's loaded. She's beautiful. And a few years back when she was 19, she signed with a modeling agency, Trump Model Management. Then she and her sister, Nikki Landis, shoot with one of the most famous photographers, David LaChapelle. This opens a ton of doors for Paris by 2003 in the confines of New York. She's one of the city's most famous boldface names.
The tabloids cover her antics. She's walking the runway at New York Fashion Week. She can get into any club, how clubs sometimes pay her to be there. But in the rest of the country, people still don't know much about her. If she's going to be more than just a socialite and a model with a famous last name, then the world has to know more about Paris Hilton.
And in just a couple of weeks, they will.
She's got a reality TV show called The Simple Life that's about to premiere on a major network. If it works, the show will take her career and her life to the next level and bring her face into millions of homes. And let me just say, this is 2003, well before Keeping Up with the Kardashians and the Real Housewives. She's going to be a star and then something goes terribly wrong.
In mid-November 2003, Paris is on a flight back from Australia. When someone tells her a tape is out there online, a tape of her and her ex-boyfriend.
That's, let's just say in flagrante, a sex tape. Yep. Who's the ex? His name is Rick Salomon, and he's one of the top pro poker players in the world.
And Paris's first love, they dated for about seven months, split up, then got back together. But it wasn't meant to be. And this was back in 2001. They've both since moved on. Rick got married, then had the marriage annulled. Paris got engaged to, then broke it off. Even the rich have commitment issues, especially the rich.
For Paris, the relationship was so long ago, back when she was 19, she doesn't even remember making a video with Rick. Maybe it isn't her. When her flight lands, she rushes home.
It doesn't take long to find. She holds her breath and presses play. It's a whole movie, a single camera. It looks like it was shot in night vision. She watches a woman walk into frame and this woman is tall and blonde and wears nothing but a bra and underwear. Then she looks over her shoulder at the camera and it's her. Yep. And now it's out there online and she's mortified.
Who else has seen it? When her phone rings, she knows who it is. Damage control. It's Jason more. Jason's been working to be Paris's go to manager. He's a trainee at one of Hollywood's biggest talent management firms. And Paris is his ticket to a corner office.
And he's not happy either. He knows that this tape is out there. That means the tabloids have it. The National Enquirer, The Star, A Globe. He asked her if that's all there is or if there's more details of the night start to form in Paris. Mind the drinking, Rick, with a video camera. There's more. She says, why would he do this?
No one can actually legally publish this video, right? I don't think so, he says. But my guess is they're going to. And all of a sudden that new life, Paris is about to start. It's going up in flames. Get a fresh start toward the future you want with the credentials you need, earn a degree or certificate online from University of Maryland global campus 20 years ago, they were one of the first universities to offer classes online.
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Business Mover's is a new podcast from one tree to dive deep into the most successful companies of all time, because behind each are stories of the difficult decisions that made them who they are. First up is Disney World. This is Mover's premieres January 14th. But you can listen January 7th, ad free by joining one plus in the one area wondering. Feel the story. From one, I'm Orisha, Skidmore Williams and I'm Brook Saffron, and this is even the rich where we bring you absolutely true and absolutely shocking stories about the greatest family dynasties the world has ever seen.
It's a show about power, how you get it, how you keep it and what happens when it goes to your head. It's also about how the rich are just like us, because even the rich love and cry and dream and hope and sub tweet about their exes while drunk. Those are the best.
So, Brooke, I'm taking the reins on this one because I'm fascinated by social media influencers. Isn't it crazy that people can be famous for just, you know, being famous and they're making money like really good money? Just today, I learned that there's a nine year old YouTube who earned twenty nine point five million dollars this year alone. I'd like to get off the ride now.
Please save. But before anyone could grow up wanting to be an influencer, before there was even the term influencer, someone had to pave the way and that someone was Paris Hilton.
She was really the first celebrity of the twenty first century who was famous for being famous and who understood the power of the media and the reality TV and social media age. She realized her fame was a brand, which is something we practically take for granted today. And her friend Kim was fast to cash in to Kim Kardashian. Yep. And the Kardashians took it to a whole new level.
That's why this is going to be a two parter with our next series after Paris Hilton focusing on the Kardashian family. But in this first part, over the next four episodes, we're going to dive into all that is Paris. We're going to learn how she was shaped by her famous family, how she turned to sex tape, which could have ruined her into superstardom, and how the name Paris Hilton went from the pinnacle of fame to people asking whatever happened to her.
This is episode one. Do you know who I am?
OK, so in order to understand how Paris became Paris, we have to go back in time to meet the matriarch who started it all, Paris grandmother Kathleen Duggan, also known as Big Gappy. Why Big Kathy? Because she eventually has a daughter named Kathy, who everyone calls little Kathy, who will marry Hilton and have our girl, Paris. But that comes later. We need to know about Big Kathy because she's the one who set this whole ball in motion.
And she's a big reason Paris became who she is. As Paris will later say, it was her grandmother who made her feel like she could be whoever she wanted. Oh, man. I love grandmas. Me too.
Picture this. It's 1957. Elvis Presley's at the top of the charts. Sheath dresses and trimmed sweaters are all the rage. Love me. A trimmed sweater.
It's truly fashion. That's what I picture Big Cathy wearing when she steps off the subway at Twenty Third Street and Park Avenue in New York City. She's 19 years old and she has flirty green eyes and chestnut brown hair done up in a bouffant hairdo like Elizabeth Taylor. She's in New York for an audition at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and she's ready to meet her destiny. Big Kathy has always gone after what she wanted. No one's sure where she got it from.
Exactly. Maybe her father, Big Ed Dugan, who was a bigger than life politician and successful businessman, or maybe from her mother, Dodo, who is an energetic, fashionable fireball. God, big ad.
And Dodo, I love these names. No big ed dodo hail from Nebraska. But when capias 10, they moved to Long Island's Gold Coast, Manhasset, to be exact, about 20 minutes outside of New York. Kathy is kid number three, but she was always the most precocious of the bunch, which is another way of saying she does things her own way. Once she drops out at 16, Bagert and Dodo barely bat an eye. Kathy doesn't have much use for studies.
She doesn't want to be a doctor. She wants to be a star famous, an actor, a singer, maybe both. And this is her shot. All she has to do is nail this audition, but it's harder than it sounds. This is the oldest and best acting school in the country.
Big Kathy walks in and a receptionist takes her into a large room. There's a huge table off to the side. Behind it are four people. These are the judges who have her fate in their hands.
They nod hello, polite, but not exactly warm. If she's going to make an impression, she's got to go big. One of the judges asked if Kathy's ready. She says yes and the stage is hers.
I don't know what she performed, but I do know she killed it because fifteen minutes later she's in.
It's a two year program, but she actually only makes it through a semester or two. Turns out acting isn't as interesting as the hunky guy she hooks up with. His name is Larry Obinze. You know, he's handsome, blonde and buff and looks like a cross between Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. And Larry is equally as smitten with her after some fun in the backseat of his Chevy. She's pregnant and they're on their way to the altar.
It's actually Big Kathy who insists on the marriage. And you don't say no to Big Kathy? I definitely would not say no to Kathy. She scares me. Yeah, same.
Actually, eight months later, the baby is born a little girl. They name her Kathleen Elizabeth Evans, you know, but in her family, she's known as little Kathy. Is this Paris's mother now? She's just a baby, but eventually she will be OK. Kathy's thrilled and she tries to be a good mother, but she's just a kid herself. Plus, her new husband isn't exactly helping. Turns out O'Leary has a dark side.
He likes to drink a lot big. Kathy can handle the drinking. She likes a nip now and then herself. What she can't handle is his lack of ambition. He may be hot, but the only job he can get is at the gas station. But at least he's the manager. I mean, listen, a job is a job, right? You're right. You're right. She and Larry start to fight like crazy and I mean really fight.
According to one book, he busted her nose once after she threw a milk bottle at his head. This is nothing like big Kathy pictured her life.
She was supposed to be a famous singer or a movie star, and now she's stuck at home with a baby in a crap marriage while her friends are out partying and having the time of their lives.
But Big Kathy was blessed with big determination.
And even though her own dreams might be dissolving away, she's still got her daughter. And as luck would have it, little Kathy looks about as perfect as a baby can look. I mean, of course, all babies are cute. Sure, sure.
But also, are they or is this something we have to say? I mean, it's definitely something we have to say. So we're just going to keep saying it. But seriously, little Kathy is actually truly, really cute. Not bullshit, cute. She has light blonde hair and a face like a doll, all pudgy and rosy. People are always stopping Big Kathy on the street to tell her how. Beautiful, her baby is, which sets off a light bulb in Cathy's head, if she can't be a star, maybe her daughter can.
So she starts schlepping little Cathy from agent to agent in New York. She takes her to ad agencies to look.
Wouldn't my baby's face look cute on your Gerber label? Now, Larry doesn't like this at all. His wife is always gone. And when she's home, he's second fiddle.
But Cathy doesn't care if Larry doesn't like it. Larry can leave. So he does. And then Big Cathy catches a break. There's a famous baby photographer named Constance Bannister who has a studio near Big Cathy's home. Banister practically invented the cute baby photo. She's so famous. Her photos are known as Bannister Babies. Their little faces can be found in books and on calendars and inside magazines. Big Cathy takes a chance and shows up on her doorstep with little Cathy in tow and Banister signs her on the spot.
Pretty soon she's in a deal so bad, which leads to more pain gags. At last, Big Cathy's dream is coming true. Someone in the family is going to be famous.
Around the same time little Kathy's career starts to rise. Big Cathy meets a man as ambitious as she is.
His name is Ken Richards. Ken is a successful business guy. He markets women's clothes and he's good at it. He pretty much invented no iron cotton and the skort skorts the perfect attire to say, Hey, boys, want to see what's under here.
I still have my waiting for them to come back. But Ken is loaded. He's got a home on Long Island, an apartment in Manhattan and a farm in upstate New York. Basically, he's living a lifestyle Big Cathy always imagined for herself. Sure is twenty years older, but he's handsome and he seems interested. There's only one problem. He's already married and he has three kids to boot off.
Yeah, except that's not really a problem for Big Cathy. She leaps into a passionate affair, but she doesn't just want to play the mistress. She wants to be the wife to him. She has moxie. I'll give her that. But at the same time, I'm nervous. I mean, I sense a broken marriage coming. Yeah, you're right.
There's a story in the book House of Pelton's about how she shows up at Ken's hotel when he's out of town on business trips. And eventually Ken's wife figures out he's having an affair. And one day the wife shows up at a restaurant to confront Cathy about it. And this is where the story gets a little scary. Somehow the wife ends up stumbling back to her car and lands in the hospital with a mangled ankle. She tells her kids Big Cathy drugged her and chased her to her car and slammed her ankle in the door when she tried to get away.
Oh, my God. I mean, who knows if it's true? You have to take these third hand stories with a grain of salt. But what is true is that Big Cathy gets her man. After she gets pregnant, Ken Divorcées, his wife may get married in that order. I'm seeing a pattern here. Yeah, when the baby is born, they name her Kimberly. And then a few years later, another comes along and they name her Kyle.
Wait, Ken Lay's name is Richard. So that would make them Kim and Kyle Richards from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Yep. And fun fact for you. Little Kathy is joining them next season. Oh, my God, I can't wait. Anyway, now Big Kathy has three beautiful daughters and three shots at fame. Now, let's fast forward a few years. The Richards moved to California or Bel Air, to be exact. And for those of you who don't know Bel Air, it's basically one of the richest neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
I mean, we're talking huge 20000 square foot mansions that cost on average three point eight million dollars. Lots of celebrities live there, Beyonce, Jennifer Aniston, Jaylo. And fun fact.
We used to park cars in Bel Air for the rich people, which is about as close to rich people as we got. Except that time I sent a letter to Brian Latrelle for the Backstreet Boys and he wrote back, OK, was that a restraining order he sent back? Irrelevant anyway for big Kathy Beller is the perfect home base to further her girls careers and she goes full speed ahead as a stage mom.
She enrolls her daughters in acting classes, dance classes, singing classes, guitar classes, horseback riding classes. That's literally more classes.
And I took my senior year of college, so and then in 1970, it pays off. Six year old Kim lands a starring role in the TV series Danny and the Professor. A few years later, she gets the lead in a Disney movie, which ends up being a huge box office hit that same year.
Kyle, who's now six, gets a regular role on Little House on the Prairie Dam.
This is like the stage mom jackpot.
Yeah, she's killing it. Meanwhile, little Kathy, who isn't so little anymore, isn't doing as well. She gets a role here and there, but nothing breakout or recurring. Those always go to someone else like her sisters, which obviously isn't easy for little Kathy.
She's a beautiful young woman. She's trained her heart out. Before she could even talk, she was in front of a camera. I mean, she was a Bannister baby, for God's sakes. It doesn't help that her mother doesn't let her forget how well Kathy's sisters are doing, as in better than her. But then little Kathy gets a break. She auditions as a backup singer for an episode of Happy Days.
The band is made up of girls from reform school fronted by Leather Tuscarora Fonzie's going to manage them.
And they have the coolest plotts band and they truly it's not a big role, but Happy Days is huge. Thirty million people watch each week. Maybe it could be her big break and Kathy can really sing and she nabs the role. I want to hear a clip of her performance. Yeah, of course.
So I want to bring you up to date.
She's not bad, so that's actually leather Tushka Thero, KAP's behind her.
You can't really hear her, but she looks great. Unfortunately, though, it doesn't lead to other parts. Not anything big anyway. As her acting career is fizzling out, little Cathy shifts her focus to her love life. Specifically marrying up Mary Rich and have lots of babies is the mantra Big Cathy drilled into her daughter's heads. That's according to Big Cathy's best friend, Jane Halloran, who will later say it's all big Kathy ever wanted out of life.
Little Cathy starts going on dates with rich and famous guys or famous Jason. Anyway, she dates Dean Paul, the son of Rat Pack icon Dean Martin. But he's in the middle of an ugly divorce and not ready to commit again. So that doesn't work out so little. Kathy moves on to another guy with famous parents, Desi Arnaz Jr., son of the legendary Lucille Ball. But Lucy makes a little Kathy for a gold digger and puts the kibosh on the whole thing.
But little Kathy bounces right back. She's young and pretty and men seem to like her. She starts hanging out at the Playboy Mansion. Back then, a lot of celebrities and rich guys party there and they're known for slamming all over hot girls. Oh, wow. I'm shocked. But also gross. So gross.
Little Kathy doesn't land a husband at the mansion, but she does land an offer to pose in the magazine once she tells her mom Big Kathy is over the moon.
Being in Playboy in the 70s is a huge deal. Stars like Farrah Fawcett and Raquel Welch have been on the cover help. Marilyn Monroe was their first cover girl back in 1953. Plus, it's a lot of money, 25000 bucks, which today would be like a hundred grand. Her daughter's going to be a star. OK, that might be a stretch, but I guess you never know for a little copy.
I'm sure it would be nice to have her mother's approval and be the sister that her mother brags about. But the more she thinks about it, the more ambivalent she feels, the way she sees it. Rich guys might sleep with Miss October, but they won't marry her and she wants a husband. In the end, she turns the offer down. Wow. Going against Big Kathy. Bold move. Yep. Little Kathy may have disappointed her mom for now, but she'll be making up for it very soon.
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La, la, la, la, la. It's a sunny afternoon in December 1978 on Sorento Beach, the fanciest part of Santa Monica. It's Christmas break, but still warm enough for little Cathy to be turning herself in a bikini.
She stares out at the ocean, pina colada in hand.
At least this is how I picture it. Good choice with the pina colada. I mean, what's the beach without a pina? Exactly.
She's at another shishi party. Except this one is different because little Cathy has her eye on a guy. His name is Rick Hilton.
He's the twenty three year old grandson of Hilton Hotels founder Conrad. She knew Rick in high school, but not very well. Now he's all grown up with a mop of curly blond hair and a killer smile. He's finishing his last year at Denver University, where he's studying hotel and restaurant management, hoping to go into the family business. The Hilton Hotel empire is a billion dollar business and someday it'll be his. At least that's what I imagine Kathy thinks now.
She just has to get his attention.
He's talking to a couple other girls, but little Cathy Butts right in. Hey, you. She says Rick recognizes her and gives her a hug, and that's all it takes. The other girls disappear and Kathy doesn't leave his side for the rest of the party or for the next few weeks. It was the pina colada, wasn't it?
Probably pina coladas. Our hot little Kathy follows Rick back to Denver while he finishes his final semester. The two are in love and she's already planning the wedding in her head. There's only one problem. The Hiltons are royalty and Big Kathy isn't, especially now.
She divorced Ken Richards when his career started to flounder and now she's gotten remarried to husband number three. And let's just say he's a little questionable, not exactly the kind of guy I imagine the Hilton family would be thrilled to welcome it as an in-law.
His name is Jack Katine. He has a legit business front. But word on the street is he's a mobster, probably because he's facing federal racketeering charges. Big Kappy met Jack at a golf tournament in Palm Springs and fell hard.
He's sexy and has swagger. She's into his tough guy vibe when he gives her a huge rock, it's done big. Kathy really does love him, but she also loves her daughter and she's not going to let her marriage to a questionable guy get in the way of little Kathy marrying a Hilton. So she divorces him. Wow.
That escalated quickly. And it works on November 24th.
Nineteen seventy nine at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, Kathy puts on a white gown and says, I do to Rick Hilton. Wow.
She finally landed a bigger role than Kim and Kyle. I picture her looking over at her mother, sitting in the front row thinking, hell yeah, I finally got her approval. Helyar, wait, hold on.
Should I be happy? I mean, yeah, why not? OK, everyone's happy. Big Kathy is so happy.
She remarries Jack again a few months later. Oh, they live in separate mansions. A little over a year later, on February 17th, 1981, little Kathy gives birth to a baby girl. The couple name her after their favorite city in the world, Paris. Oh my gosh. A baby Hilton. Both Kathy's must be thrilled. Oh, they are both. KAP's may have missed their chance at stardom, but there's always the next generation.
Oh, wow. It's October nineteen eighty one. Paris is nine months old and her cute chubby rolls are tightly strapped into a car seat as her mom, Little Kathy, drives them through Beverly Hills. Kathy is all dressed up now that she's a Hilton. She's part of an elite social society. I picture her driving a Mercedes and a Chanel suit and pearls. I'm picturing a skirt because she has great legs. I'm picturing super teased early 80s hair. So much moves to knock on it.
It's one of my favorite things about the eighties. Yes. Kathy's on her way to her in-laws house, Marilyn and Barron Hilton. Barron is the second son of his famous father, Conrad. He's the heir apparent to the Hilton Hotels empire. Kathy secretly hopes when Baron retires, he'll hand the torch to Rick and she'll be queen when Kathy arrives with the baby.
Her mother in law, Marilyn, walks her into the mansion today. Marilyn has a visitor from Texas, Pat Hilton, who's married to another of Conrad's sons. As soon as Cathy arrives, she hands Paris to Pat, who oohs and ahs. She says, Well, isn't she just the cutest little thing? Kathy nods proudly meets Star Pats. Confused, she thought the baby's name was Paris. It is, says Kathy, but stars what I've called her since the day she was born, because that's what she's going to be.
And then she excuses herself. Pat figures she went to the powder room or something. Except she did it. She left. She got in her car and drove away. Didn't even leave any extra diapers. We got where she going? Wherever she's got a life. It's like what in tarnation he or she is holding the baby with no idea what she eats or when she takes a nap and she has no idea when Kathy will be back, mother in law, Maryland, just laughs.
She says Kathy does this all the time. She wants to go out and she knew you'd take care of the kid. When Kathy comes back that night, Pat gives her an earful.
How could you just leave me with your baby? It's not the first or the last time Kathy leaves Paris with whoever will watch her. According to the House of Hilton book, whenever Kathy and Rick stayed at the New York Hilton, they'd get someone from housekeeping to watch her, sometimes for a whole weekend, OK. As a former housekeeper, I wouldn't love that. Again, though. This is third party info, so who really knows? But I could see it.
I mean, she and Rick are young, just like her mom was when she had Kathy. They both work hard and they like to party and they probably figure Paris will be fine. She's so cute. Who wouldn't want to take care of her? But it's hard to imagine what that might do to a kid. I mean, how do you think that would affect a little girl like Paris?
I mean, I don't know. She'd probably do whatever she could to get attention, I would assume. But also, I'm not a therapist, so.
Well, through the 80s, most of the attention she gets is from nannies since her parents are gone a lot. And one of her nannies was Bethenny Frankel. Oh, my God. Bethany from Real Housewives of New York. So the housewives in this story know the skinny girl mogul. She was friends with Kyle, Kathy's younger sister, and that's how they met.
When Paris gets older, Bethenny takes her Nicky to school, a fancy French place called Little Missy Fancy. Then she picks them up at the end of the day and they might go ice skating. Or she takes Paris to the pet store to look at ferret's. Paris loved ferrets. She had a couple she carried around in her Prada purse. Oh, my God. I think ferrets are so cute. They really are. Then they all go back to the Bel Air mansion where the Hiltons live.
It's a big white traditional house, more than 7000 square feet with a chef's kitchen and a wine room and a big lodge fireplace. There's even a pool and a spa and a separate house next to the pool just for the gym, which is good because the Hiltons are throwing huge lavish parties.
We're talking big catered events, fancy food, champagne, the works. Little Paris often comes downstairs to make an appearance where she runs into celebrity friends of Hiltons like Elizabeth Taylor, Ronald Reagan and her mom's pal from high school. You may have heard of him, Michael Jackson. Most of the time, though, Paris is home alone with the hired help while her parents are off working or on trips. But when they're home, oddly, they're kind of strict, stricter than most of the other rich kids parents.
She knows it's forever until they'll give her a cell phone. And they're always stressing the value of hard work. Oh, and they have a no makeup role, which Paris gets around by borrowing her friends and puts on at school and then washes off before she goes home.
Then she gets bolder and starts shortening her skirts just a little at first, then a little more until one day the headmistress notices and calls her parents.
Cathy and Rick are irritated. But let's face it, it's a minor offense. But by eighth grade, Paris goes even bigger. She starts sneaking out of the house and going to clubs in L.A. just a night out here and there. But pretty soon she's staying out later and going out more often. I mean, she probably learned it from her parents.
Yeah, her parents are both big partiers. But to be fair, they're adults old enough to vote and make mature life choices. I don't know about that.
Paris is having fun. She likes the music, the dancing and the attention she gets from older guys. She's living it up. Maybe her parents won't notice, but they do and they're pissed. Paris is like, I'm just doing what you're doing.
But it's a do as I say, not do as I do kind of situation. OK, all I can think about for some reason is that anti drugs ad from the eighties where the dad comes into the room and he's got a box of drugs.
It's like, where did you learn this? And the kid's like, I learned it from watching you. I love the idea of keeping drugs in a box. And that's just good sense. It's my drugs in a box.
Anyway, Rick and Cathy are worried her behavior will influence her younger siblings. There's Nicky in Paris now has two younger baby brothers. Plus, her parents are about to embark on a months long yachting trip so they won't be around to keep a close eye on her.
They need help. It's August nineteen ninety five and fourteen year old Paris is being driven out of L.A. for a little over two hours. She's stew's in the car furious with her parents, but there's nothing she can do. They pull up to a house in Palm Desert that's much smaller than her Bel Air mansion. She gets out of the car and slams a door and drags her luggage to the front steps. The door opens. It's her grandmother, Big Kathy.
Is that the best choice? I mean, Kathy is kind of a wild card. Yeah, but remember, Big Kathy is tough. If anyone can get Paris to behave, it's her. It turns out Big Kathy's not a drill sergeant. She's actually fine. She's adored baby Paris since day one, calling her my Marilyn Monroe. When Paris arrives, Grandma lets her meet up with her friends whenever she wants and she opens her doors to Paris's friends.
Everyone is welcome. Big Kathy tells a friend that her daughter didn't pay enough attention to Paris and that's why she acts out. But she still lets Paris go out partying in Palm Springs 12 miles away. Turns out Big Kathy didn't take her in so she could straighten her out. She wants to make things happen for her, help her to realize she can be a star in a few months. Paris's parents are back from their trip.
Paris rejoins them, but not in L.A. Rick is opening an office in New York City and moves the whole family there into a penthouse at the Waldorf, birthplace of the Waldorf salad.
I listen exactly.
Paris Hilton is going to take Manhattan.
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Her parents have strict rules, no dating, no makeup, early curfew, but they don't work for her.
She loves the city and it loves her back. So she sneaks out at night when her parents are off at charity events or fancy dinners.
I imagine her strutting through the lobby of the Waldorf, she's wearing a slinky leopard print skirt and a low cut black top. The doorman gives her a smile going out Miss Hilton. She puts a finger to her lips and gives him a wink.
He opens the door, hails her cab.
She heads downtown and gets dropped off outside a nightclub. Maybe it's the limelight that was big in the 90s.
I picture a huge line at the door and I'm guessing Paris Hilton doesn't do lines. Well, maybe she does. No way for us to know, but she definitely doesn't wait in them. Paris saunters to the front and confidently flashes her smile at the bouncer. She may only be 15, but Paris is tall, even taller. In her four inch stiletto heels, she easily passes for twenty one. He glances at her fake ID and lets her on the dance floor.
Pulsates men dancing with men. Women with men, women with women loving each other, loving the moment. Drag queens, artists, fashionistas. Everyone is accepted here. Paris feels alive. At the end of the night, she makes her way back uptown. I'm not sure how many times Paris got away with this before she got caught, but her mother has said it happened more than once. Paris would be out late and Kathy would come home to find her gone.
So she'd start calling every nightclub in Manhattan, going out of her mind, looking for her daughter. So imagine one night it's like 4:00 in the morning when Paris sneaks back home for the umpteenth time. But this time her parents are waiting, arms crossed, and they're mad. They get even matter when they see what she's wearing. A leopard print, and I'm picturing that necklace she had that says Hot Bitch should definitely wear that. Yeah, mine's with the jeweler's getting fixed eventually, Paris's parents have had enough.
They take away her credit cards and flip phone. I remember flip phones. Such a simpler time. The good old days. You know, it's not just the clubbing that infuriates her parents. Her academic career, if you can call it that, is a disaster. Paris convinced her parents to send her to the professional children's school. It's this prep school for kids who are mainly in show business. Her classmates are Broadway performers, ballerinas and actors like Macaulay Culkin and Christina Ricci.
But once she got there, she had no interest in class or doing homework, given the number of races she's won. I can't say I'm too surprised. OK, I can't wait until Episode four when we get to talk about her starring role in the classic film The Hottie and the Nanny. It got a whole six percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Ouch. Yeah. Anyway, she's not doing well in school and she's breaking the rules at home. Rick and Kathy are at their wits end.
They know they need to do something drastic, get her away from the temptation of New York so they pull some strings and get Paris into Canterbury, a fancy boarding school a couple of hours away in Connecticut. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a nice donation that went along with that, nor would I. But it doesn't stop parents from sneaking off campus and catching the train back into the city. People are starting to pay attention when she's at their clubs and she doesn't want to stop now.
Sometimes she even brings her younger sister, Nicki.
Less than a semester later, Paris gets expelled from the boarding school for sneaking off campus to go to a party. That's when her parents realize the issue. It wasn't far enough away from New York City. They're desperate to get Paris out of the spotlight and clearly they can't send her back to grandmas. So they ship her off to the most remote school they can find in the San Bernardino National Forest of Southern California.
It's literally in the middle of a redwood forest. The closest nightclub is hundreds of miles away. But once she's there, Paris is completely isolated. The school is called Seydou. It's an emotional growth school like Outward Bound. But for rich, troubled teens, she lives in a cold, no frills cabin. She's lucky to have running water. She yearns for her 1000 thread count sheets. As she clings to a scratchy wool blanket, councillors wake her up at the crack of dawn to start chopping wood.
She's miserable. She's used to room service, not foraging for her own food. Yeah, that'll fuck up your manicure.
It's nineteen ninety seven and sixteen year old Paris is walking through the forest, gathering up firewood with a classmate. It's midday and already over 90 degrees. They're both drenched in sweat and fed up. Paris looks around and sees that none of the teachers are watching them. She suddenly drops her kindling and says, Let's get out of here.
She immediately takes off running through the woods, through cornfields of a mountain, though it's hot as hell and she's parched. Paris is determined to get out of there.
She can almost taste her freedom until she spots one of the teachers shit she's hauled back to school, which she knew would happen if she got caught.
But she didn't expect to be smacked across the face in front of her classmates. Paris holds her face in shock. They want to make an example to everyone else. This is what happens when you try to escape God. It's like The Handmaid's Tale. Yeah, it totally is. Paris calls her parents and tells them she hates the place. To their credit, they listen to her, except they transfer her to another wilderness therapy school, this time in Washington State.
It's an offshoot of the first place owned by the same person. So it's the same hell, just a different forest. And the counselors know she escaped.
So they're watching her once again. Paris is determined to escape, and she does. But this time they're ready.
The school shuts down local roads and even the nearest airport, Paris, is ultimately caught and sent home back to the Waldorf. Yeah, but that's what she wanted, right?
Yeah, she did. And she couldn't be happier to be back in her own bed. Fluffy pillows, expensive sheets. She wants to stay here forever. She promises her parents she'll behave.
She'll never sneak out again. But Rick and Kathy aren't stupid. They've been fooled one too many times.
It's midnight March of 1998, Paris is fast asleep when she opens her eyes to find two burly men standing over her Paris bolt upright. What the fuck is going on?
One of the guys says, you're coming with us. He dangles a pair of handcuffs and adds, we can do it the easy way or the hard way. Paris screams.
She calls out for her parents, I'm being kidnapped. Help, but no one comes as she's being dragged out of the apartment. She sees Cathy and Rick just standing there watching. Turns out they're in on it. Plot twist. Yeah.
Paris wakes in some kind of dorm room wearing a tan jumpsuit. She's not sure where they've taken her. She tries the door, but it's locked. She looks out the only window in the room, which is also locked. And she's a beautiful Greenlawn, framed by purple mountains and a high chain link fence topped with razor wire. There's no way out. Now, this sounds like juvie.
Not exactly, but not far off. She finds a notebook on the little wooden desk and it says Provo Canyon School in Utah. It's another emotional growth school, part of what's known as the troubled teen industry. But those other schools were like summer camp compared to this place. Paris doesn't have classes. Most of the time she sits in a chair facing the wall. If she speaks or moves, she gets smacked with a ruler. Paris is terrified to even ask to go to the bathroom.
She watches as the staff hits her classmates, sometimes going as far as to strangle them. I'm pretty sure that's abuse. Yeah, but they claim it's to instill obedience. My God. More like fear. Paris has to tell her parents about this, right? She doesn't. In fact, it's going to be 20 years before she tells anyone. She and her classmates are convinced that no one will believe them. Paris watches as many of the kids break from the abuse and are put on suicide watch.
But she does her best to stay strong, which is really hard when you're numb from drugs. Proval forces all of the kids to take pills. Paris doesn't want to, but she has no choice. She has to open her mouth to prove she swallowed them. But our girl is smart.
She eventually figures out how to hide the pills in her mouth, and when they aren't watching, she spits them out and she gets away with it for a while. A few months into her stay at Provo paresis, keeping a low profile, staying under the radar and out of the way of the staffers until she's confronted with pills she spit out and secretly dropped in the trash. Are these yours? A staffer asked. She denies it, but one of the quiet girls points at her and says, I saw her do it.
Whoa. Snitches get stitches, my girl. Except it's like that at Provo. Everyone is broken and paranoid. Paris is shocked. The biggest guy in the staff grabs her by the arm and marches her down a hallway. He throws her into a small, windowless room. There's no bed, no desk, just a bucket and a roll of toilet paper. He orders Paris to take off her clothes.
She sits on the floor naked and shivering. It's Utah. In late fall, it's cold. All she can hear are the screams of a classmate in the next cell over. How long is she there?
Twenty hours of freezing, scared and alone, she says. Later, the one thing that keeps her from losing her mind is planning what she'll do when she gets out. She's going to be independent, she's going to be famous, and she's going to do everything in her power to be so successful that no one will ever control her again. This is episode one of our four part series, Paris Hilton, if you enjoyed it, please subscribe on Apple podcast, Spotify, Google, Wonder Dotcom or wherever you're listening.
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We use many sources when researching our stories like The Hiltons by J. Randy Taraborrelli. But we especially recommend House of Hilton by Jerry Oppenheimer and the documentary This Is Paris, directed by Alexandra Dean. I'm Erika Skidmore Williams.
And I'm Brooks friend. Adam Prince wrote this episode, editing by Alison Rimer. Our producer is Natalie Sheesha. Our associate producer is Young. Our audio engineer is Sergio Enriquez. Sound design is by James Morgan. Our executive producers are Stephanie Gen's marshmallowy and Hernan Lopez thundery. Hi, I'm Lindsey Graham, the host of one of these new series Business Movers, where we dive deep into the inner workings of some of the most successful companies of all time. Business movers is available early and ad free on one degree, plus from the origin stories of their famed leaders to the million dollar ideas that catapulted them to success.
How exactly did these companies grow from just a dream to multibillion dollar corporations here? The landmark decisions, the scandals and the stunning triumphs that propelled these companies to the top. First up, Disney World Business Movers premieres on January 14th on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts, you can listen to the first episodes now early and ad free by starting your free trial of one degree plus in the Wonder app with business movers. Feel the journey.
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