...Leads to Paris Hilton Citing (AKA Who Breaks a Butterfly Upon a Wheel, or Vice Rewarded?)
I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I’ve intentionally watched Larry King conduct an interview. Only the one with Marlon Brando, complete with kisses, springs to mind. (And a moment where Donald Trump told Larry that his breath was bad, but maybe that was something I saw in a clip.) Perhaps there was a time when he was good at his job, or anyway better than he is now. The meager pleasure I’ve taken in seeing him at work has been in marveling at how frequently his follow-up questions betray that he didn’t understand his interviewee’s initial response – or, more probably, that Larry just wasn’t listening to it.
I TiVoed his show on Monday night, in fact, because Larry wasn’t going to be there. The show was going to feature Harvey Levin, the editor of TMZ.com, and I thought that as a former print jourmalist and a lawyer Mr. Levin might have some interesting things to say about the new media landscape and how TMZ fits into it. By happenstance –- my sadly overheated TiVo was busy at the initial feed of 6 p.m. and the repeat at 9 –- I recorded the midnight repeat.
Within a very few seconds of starting to watch the show, it was clear that Levin wasn’t going to talk about TMZ.com and its role, but report on one of the saddest stories out there: the alleged murder of Jessie Davis and her unborn daughter by her boyfriend, police officer Bobby Cutts Jr. Almost before I had a conscious realization that I didn’t want to watch this –- not even a full minute of the show had elapsed -- the midnight repeat, by accident of its time zone, was cut into by a English guy from CNN’s Business International, going live with an urgent announcement: Paris Hilton was about to be released from jail.
Again, nothing I would have chosen to watch on purpose, but there it was. After 3 minutes of nothing happening, CNN went back to Larry King (not so) Live, but at minute 15, there she was, in a chic greige jacket trimmed in white, giggling and giddy, walking through the mad crowd towards the black SUV in which her parents waited. An inadvertent sighting: it had a little of the feeling, more than a decade ago, of arriving in a Salt Lake City motel room after a day of driving from San Francisco, turning on the TV, and seeing nothing on every channel but footage of a slow-moving white SUV followed by police cars on Southern California freeways.
I haven’t had a whole lot of Deep Thoughts about Paris Hilton, but it’s impossible not to have a few, the most salient “insight” about the jail time that it seemed excessive: 45 days? For (twice) being stopped while driving with a suspended license after a DUI? Who breaks a butterfly upon the wheel, as the London Times once quoted Alexander Pope in an editorial about Mick Jagger being busted for a minor drug charge. Her whole seemingly endless, multi-chaptered story cries out for a title from English literature, in fact, on the order of Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, or The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling: The History of Paris, an Heiress, or Vice Rewarded.
The TiVo and the hapless Mr. King came into play one more time, for Her! First! Interview! Out! Of! Jail!: Paris was going to read excerpts from notes she’d taken in jail. English lit again: I thought of Oscar Wilde spinning gold from dross with The Ballad of Reading Gaol. He’d spent two years in jail, plus he had the advantage of being a genius, but I was willing to listen to Paris’ deep thoughts. And this is what I heard:
They say when we reach a crossroads or turning point in life that it really doesn’t matter how we get there but what we do next after we get there. Usually we arrive there by adversity, and it is then and only then that we find out who we truly are and what we’re truly made of. It’s a process, a gift, and a journey, [pause for deep sigh and possible minor teariness] and if we can travel it alone, although the road may be rough at the beginning we find the ability to walk it, a way to start fresh again. It’s neither a downfall nor a failure but a new beginning.
Not quite “each man kills the thing he loves.” (See Bobby Cutts Jr. and O.J. Simpson.) But it made more sense, anyway, than her answer to Larry’s penetrating “What don’t you like about Paris Hilton? What personality trait?”: “When I get nervous or shy, my voice gets high.” Or saying that the strip-search was “the most humiliating experience of my life…doing that in front of someone you don’t even know…it’s pretty gross taking your clothes off in front of someone…”. Supply your own punchline here.
But Paris supplied her own punchline when Larry showed the glamorous booking photo, sideswept curled hair and tasteful makeup fresh from the MTV Movie Awards, and asked what she’d been thinking. “I felt like I was in a bad movie, a scary movie.” Consult the filmography. It’s a feeling she’s had before. --Meredith Brody