Exclusive: Saturday night, under the carport of the Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s 1:30 a.m., and a white luxury SUV pulls up. The passenger-side back door slides open, and a long leg, finished with a white high heel shoe, reaches down to the ground. Pan up: It belongs to Paris Hilton, in a white mini-dress, with a white fur stole around her shoulders and large pearls around her neck. She is blonde on blonde, dazzling, Marilyn Monroe reincarnated.
“Wait!” she announces as she steps on the pavement. “I forgot my CD!”
It’s her own CD, in fact, that she shows me, one she’s made with a variety of producers including Scott Storch and Dr. Dre.
Don’t be fooled: This CD is coming out whether you like it or not. “It’s scheduled for June,” she says, “on Warner Bros. Tom Whalley is really excited about it.”
That’s the same Warner Music oft-criticized in this column for not breaking new artists. I take it all back now. The company that once boasted a fabled roster of James Taylor, Neil Young, and Bonnie Raitt will release Paris’ debut in June. The track listing, on the CD she showed me, is as follows:
1.) Turn it Up 2.) Turn You On 3.) Stars Are Blind 4.) Jealousy 5.) Heartbeat 6.) Fightin’ Over Me featuring Fat Joe and Jadakiss 7.) Are You With It? 9.) Do You Think I’m Sexy? 9.) Screwed 10.) Not Leaving Without You
You will notice that Paris, always cognizant of history, includes a cover of a No. 1 hit by Rod Stewart, a longtime Warner artist, with “Do You Think I’m Sexy?” She will not win a Grammy or be nominated for one. Believe me, that is all beside the point.
Now here’s the thing about Paris: She is not the ditz you hope her to be. For one thing, she spoke to me in a very distinct, clear adult voice. There was nothing silly about her. “I talk in that baby talk voice when I’m on TV,” she said. “It’s a put on."
Indeed, the whole Paris mystique is a put on — and one that’s earning her millions of dollars. She actually has kind of an ironic sense of humor. When I asked her what happened to fiancé Paris Latsis, she replied: “He wasn’t hot enough.” She concluded that the latest boyfriend, Stavros Niarchos, “is very hot.”
Me: “But really you’re not getting married or anything, are you?”
Her: “Are you crazy? I’m 25. No way.”
Me: “In fact, you don’t need these boyfriends do you? They’re just ornaments.”
Her: “That’s right.”
She has not-so-nice things to say about her ex-pal Nicole Richie. They’re probably printable, but hey — this isn’t the Star.
Suddenly, I am fascinated by Paris Hilton. She is living the American dream. She is P.T. Barnum, Marilyn Monroe and Donald Trump all rolled into one, thriving on every gossip item like they’re hits of oxygen.
I have nothing bad to say about Paris Hilton at all. We are underestimating this kid.
What a scene on Saturday night at the Beverly Hills Hotel. That’s where Dreamworks' Jeffrey Katzenberg hosted his annual party called "The Night Before."
Corporations paid thousands and thousands of dollars in donations to the Motion Picture TV Fund — which in turn gives money to two nursing homes for actors — so that big stars could come and get gifts.
There is nothing better of course than watching people who make millions every year lugging shopping bags from Target. But, of course, that’s what they did, everyone from Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes to Paramount chief Tom Freston and various and sundry other well-known names.
The gift bags — really just canvas bags — were each filled with a set of designer dishes and glasses from Target, some kind of blanket and a Hewlett Packard printer for photos that retails for about $200.
Alas, this year there were no iPods in the gift bags. And the sneaker “store” — where the stars were previously fitted for custom running shoes — was also gone.
But running the Motion Picture Home is a good career move, apparently. The director, David Tillman, makes about $450,000 a year according to the group’s federal tax filing — it comes from salaries running the home and the group’s foundation.
Another exec, Frank Guerrara, makes about $320,000 from the combo. Execs Ken Scherer and Seth Ellis make about $250,000 and $235,000 respectively.
Five other staffers are listed at $100,000 or more per year, and altogether, the Home claimed nearly $30 million in salaries last year — a third of their total expenses.
In past years, The Night Before was easy to mock because the stars had to pick up and drop off their cars under the same carport as hotel guests. But this year, special vans ferried the stars from the parking lot to the entrance on the hotel’s side, so the celebs could eat, shop and dance in peace.
Nevertheless, the highlight of the night for one of our spies was when Cruise accompanied Holmes to the ladies room in a remote part of the hotel. Fire doors were closed and a partition went up so that Holmes could be unimpeded in her toilette.
Meanwhile, Jamie Foxx took the microphone and called out the bold-faced names while the few who cared danced around the pool. You can only imagine he’ll be doing the same thing in about 45 years — when all of them get to the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills.
And here’s a weird little footnote about the Motion Picture TV Fund Foundation’s annual tax filing: every year they claim expenses exactly equal to direct public contributions — about $3 million.
The only exception was in 2003, when the number was $13 million for each with no explanation. And there is no accounting anywhere for the annual Night Before event, and no other specifics about fundraising.
Here’s some good news: Art Garfunkel, the sweet voiced half of Simon & himself, is in the studio for the first time in 31 years with producer Richard Perry.
Perry — famed for work with Carly Simon, The Pointer Sisters and others — produced Garfunkel’s classic album "Breakway" in 1975.
Of course, he also produced Rod Stewart’s first best-selling album of standards, "The Great American Songbook," and Carly’s Grammy-nominated "Moonlight Serenade."
Yesterday, I got to hear a few of the tracks that Perry and Garfunkel are working on. They’re no Paris Hilton, but they are absolutely spectacular.
Perry may be doing for Garfunkel what he did for Stewart: a total revival and resuscitation. Among the songs I heard: totally reimagined, very innovative and beautiful versions of “Some Enchanted Evening” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.”
My guess is that once Perry and Garfunkel’s recording schedule takes them to New York next week, the wiser types in the music business — maybe even Tom Whalley, on a break from Paris Hilton’s project — will be trying to get a listen.
Garfunkel’s voice is more gorgeous than ever, a real musical instrument. And Perry — renowned for his sumptuous and unusual arrangements — is doing his best work maybe ever.
And guess what? Not one sample! Talk about groundbreaking!