At some point during the gavel to gavel TV coverage of Paris Hilton on Friday—between hour 17 and hour 18, if memory serves—the thought occurred:
Terrell Owens should be ashamed of himself. Tank Johnson, too.
Barry Bonds? He’s a bush leaguer by comparison. Mike Tyson? Puh-leeze.
We like our athletic demigods, no doubt about it. We especially like when they leave little clumps of dirt inside their socks. You know, from their feet of clay?
Michael Vick and his kennel club. Tom Brady and his wandering, um, eye. Pacman Jones and his, well, you name it. We love to titter and cluck at their misadventures. We listen to the thud they make when they take a great fall. We sermonize and moralize.
Then along comes a 115-pound, pouty-lipped heiress who makes them all look like altar boys. Not since O.J. Simpson’s extended Ford commercial has a pop culture icon stopped America in its tracks the way Hilton did Friday.
And we thought Jose Canseco had game.
Hilton, for those of you who have been wasting your time on Newsweek, NPR and “Masterpiece Theater” the past five years, is a long-legged, doe-eyed great-granddaughter of Hilton hotel patriarch Conrad Hilton. She has swirled into the public consciousness by virtue of her second-hand celebrity, her gold-plated lineage, our communal descent into diva worship and her stunning knack for ubiquity in a multi-media age.
How ubiquitous? This update brought to you by a Google search (and based on an idea by fellow Contra Costa Times columnist Gary Bogue):
“Paris Hilton”: 67.5 million pages; “Iraq war”: 11.8 million pages.
Hilton has been a leading figure (we hesitate to say “starred”) in a reality TV show. She is a frequent walker of red carpets. Mainly, her notoriety is inherent. It’s a kind of circular reference. You know—she’s famous for being famous.
Her fame spilled over into real life last Sept. 7 when she was arrested in Los Angeles for driving while under the influence. “It was nothing,” she said in a radio interview hours after the incident.
She received three years probation on the charge. Almost immediately, she was arrested twice for driving with a suspended license. The second came while she was at the wheel of a new Bentley—so you see, George, it really has been a wonderful life—driving 70 mph in a 35 mph zone, at night, without headlights.
This led to a court-ordered 23-day sentence in the county hoosegow, which began a week ago Sunday. It was at this point the woman’s true genius began to reveal itself.
On her way to incarceration, Hilton stopped off at the MTV Awards preshow, where she smiled for the cameras and spoke bravely of staying strong. Athletic demigod standard for Not Getting It in the Face of Legal Sanction: Allen Iverson, hosting an all-night party at his Philadelphia-area estate while awaiting his arrest on assault charges.
Doe-eyed heiress 1, Jocks 0.
Once in custody, the dolled-up Hilton posed for a coquettish mug shot worthy of a magazine cover. Athletic demigod standard for Looking Delicious Under Duress: yeah, right.
Doe-eyed heiress 2, Jocks 0.
Hilton reportedly cried herself to sleep in jail, and complained about being denied the means to wax and moisturize her skin. Athletic demigod standard for Roughing It on the Inside: Tank Johnson, who spent $700 on junk food during his recent 60-day incarceration for parole violation.
Doe-eyed heiress 3, Jocks 0.
After three days in custody, Hilton was judged to be suffering from a severe medical condition and released to home, er, mansion detention. Athletic demigod standard for Sense of Entitlement Based on Socioeconomic Standing: Barry Bonds (lifetime achievement). In Bonds’ defense, at least he worked for his money.
Doe-eyed heiress 4, Jocks 0.
Ordered back to court by an angry judge, Hilton missed her appointment, requesting to phone in her appearance instead. Athletic demigod standard for Really, Truly Not Getting It: John Rocker, apologizing “if” he offended anyone with his Andrew Dice Clay-style strafing of women and minorities.
Doe-eyed heiress 5, Jocks 0.
A few hours later, Hilton was handcuffed at her home and stuffed in the back of a police car, where she was photographed sobbing. Athletic demigod standard for Emoting En Route to the Big House: A grinning Mike Tyson holding up his cuffed hands after being sentenced on a rape charge.
Doe-eyed heiress 6, Jocks 0.
According to reports, Hilton literally shuddered through her hearing, screamed when a judge ordered her back to jail, and cried for her mother as she was led out of court.
Doe-eyed heiress wins in a rout. In fact, we’ll go so far as to say this: If she could play wide receiver at the NFL level, the world would have no need for Randy Moss.