Paris Hilton and America’s Celebrity Driven Culture by Gregory Hilton

Surrounded by the paparazzi, as usual, Paris Hilton arrives for lunch in Beverly Hills. She is driving one of her two Bentley Continental GT's with "PH" hood ornaments. The list price is $242,000, and she also has a $450,000 Lamborghini Murcielago. Her three bodyguards were in a separate vehicle. The socialite says "I always wanted a bubblegum pink car. I think when you’re a little girl and you have the Barbie corvette you’re like, ‘I wish I had a car like this one.’ I selected this car because I have been a fan of Barbie for so long.”


When historians look back on the summer of 2010 they will be able to note the number one Yahoo “trending now” search term was Paris Hilton. She is famous for being famous. In 2007, the Associated Press editors conducted a test to see if it was possible to not report about her activities for a week. At the end of the year they had failed to accomplish that goal.

Miss Hilton rarely misses a celebrity event, and similar to Cher and Madonna, Paris is instantly recognized by her first name. The 29 year old socialite has not done anything significant in recent years, but her fame has not declined. It is also hard to describe her profession, but she is successful at it.

She has just launched “Tease,” which is her 10th fragrance line and it was “inspired by Marilyn Monroe.” Madeline Levine is fascinated by the Paris phenomenon. Levine is the author of The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids. She says “You can tell a culture by its heroes, and today we have a string of people who are celebrities simply because we live in a celebrity-driven culture.”

The Hilton Hotel heiress never attended college and barely graduated from high school, but she could teach us something about capitalism. She has earned an average of $10 million/year for the past three years. Her appearance fee to show up at a party is never less than $250,000. She does not perform, but does pose for photos. Marketing professionals say her name can pack any Generation Y nightclub. She typically makes a three hour appearance.

George W. Bush’s appearance fee is $100,000 inside the state of Texas and $150,000 outside. The largest fee Bill Clinton received was $350,000 from a bank in Kuwait. In 1979, Gerald Ford’s fee was $12,000. None of them come close to Miss Hilton, and she never has to give a speech.

Paris Hilton’s appearances are aimed at Generation Y or Millennials (18 to 30 year olds). She typically arrives at a nightclub at 11 pm and departs at 2 am with $250,000. She has been paid for four appearances at the LAX club. Club owners can get Kim Kardashian for just $50,000 and they have done joint appearances. Miss Hilton always receives $500,000 for New Year’s Eve. The LAX nightclub knows Paris is an instant draw and they can promote her upcoming appearance months in advance. She guarantees media coverage for an event, and she promotes the clubs with her own fan base.

As long as she draws huge crowds, she will continue to be paid. The rise of Paris Hilton is described in Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America’s Favorite Addiction by Jake Halpern. His poll of of Tweens (10 to 14 years olds) indicated that 50% said their favorite career choice was to be the personal assistant to a celebrity. They selected that category over university president, corporate CEO, Navy Seal or U.S. Senator. The results for 18 to 25 year olds were not much better. They list their top desire as fame and fortune. Only a small minority of respondents selected goals such as helping others or becoming leaders in the community.

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