Published December 07, 2003
ALTUS, Ark. – It's a love story that could go down in Hollywood's history books: The socialite and the farm boy.
Two different worlds, two separate lives ... and at least one broken heart.
Paris Hilton (search), the airhead star of Fox's reality series "The Simple Life," fell hard for 18-year-old Arkansas kid Trae Lindley.
Their small-town affair -- to be aired nationally -- led to Lindley's split-up with his high-school sweetheart. While Paris has cooled on him, he's still carrying a torch for her. And in Altus (search) -- population 817 -- it's become the talk of the town.
When the celebrated hotel chain heiress came to Altus to film episodes of her TV show, she set her sights on Lindley.
While working at the Lakeside Food Mart, the blond bombshell in rhinestone heels picked him out of a crowd of high-schoolers and asked him to ditch his friends and hang out with her.
"She told me, 'Stay here and talk awhile,'" he said. "I was too nervous at the time to remember what I was talking about. I couldn't even remember what was said after I was done talking to her."
Hilton asked him for his phone number and soon called him up.
"We talked for two hours," said Lindley. "After that, it felt like we were really good friends. I was in shock for a little while, but after I got to know her, it felt really different. I didn't feel like she was so famous."
Lindley had read about Hilton being heiress to the hotel-chain fortune in People magazine, but knew little else about her. Her XXX-rated video romp hadn't yet been revealed.
"People knew she had the hots for me and I had the hots for her," he said.
For years, Lindley and his girlfriend Carolyn Cains had been the most popular high-school couple. They were named homecoming king and queen and the future seemed bright.
Then Paris Hilton came along.
Clearly bowled over, Lindley -- who grew up in a farming community -- took the heiress to the movies, to the mall, and to the bowling alley. He admits he was cheating on Cains.
"Most people get mad at me around here because they think I was in the wrong," he says. "But I've had enough. The tabloids keep calling me and making me real mad about it."
"It was a lot of fun," says Lindley, who is a freshman at the University of Arkansas after graduating third in his high-school class.
"Paris is a lot different than what people make her out to look like. Many people make her out to be a dumb blonde, but she's a lot different."
Lindley, who stars in several episodes of "The Simple Life," said the intrusive cameras got on his nerves.
"I got tired of them, and I know how she feels because they're all over the place," he says. "There were times when they left her alone, but they were there -- in our face -- most of the time. They'd hear every little whisper."
Expect to see a lot of Lindley and Hilton kissing, making out and flirting with one another.
"They were really smitten with each other and if you saw them together, it was really cute," says Shannon Burns, 39, a manager at Fat Tuesday.
"Seeing them out, it was more of an innocent, teenage-type relationship than what you see of her out-and-about."
Lindley's family even had Hilton and co-star Nicole Richie over for dinner a few times.
"They ate very little," says dad George Lindley, who owns a real-estate company in Ozark, Ark. "But they were very well-mannered. Paris was very nice, very sweet and not like she is portrayed in magazines."
"They were very normal when they came to dinner. They thanked us. They were very cordial," adds mom Tammy Lindley.
Hilton even showed up at Lindley's graduation, and a lot of people were really surprised. Especially Lindley's ex-girlfriend.
"Paris got in a fight with her [Cains] at graduation," said Katrina Beam, 23, a bartender at Alligator Ray's, a local bar.
"She was pretty upset and she had a couple of her friends ganging up on her. There were more than looks exchanged. I heard it got pretty ugly."
Hilton fell so hard for Lindley that she even tried to talk him into going back to California with her, promising to hook him up with modeling agencies.
But Lindley, who has a full scholarship to the University of Arkansas, turned her down.
Lindley says he's spoken to Hilton several times since the show stopped shooting. But since last month's media hoopla over a sex tape made by Hilton and a former boyfriend, it has become harder for the two to communicate.
"When I did speak to her, she was really stressed out and said she can't leave the house anymore, she can't have fun," he said.
"I feel embarrassed for her. I feel like she got a lot of crap from it and I feel sorry for a lot of what she's going through."
On campus, Lindley has become the topic of conversation.
"The worst rumor I heard was about my mom and Paris ... that something happened between them sexually," he said. "That's not true."
Lindley said that what matters most to him is making his parents happy and leading a stress-free and simple life.
"I'm proud of Trae for all the reasons other than Paris," said dad George Lindley. "I hope he keeps his grade-point average, and all this doesn't distract him much."