Like many children of the rich and famous, Paris Hilton didn't always get to spend quality time with her parents, especially her mother. A socially ambitious young woman, Kathleen Elizabeth Avanzino Richards Hilton, who had married into the celebrated Hilton Hotel family, was often out and about. With little time on her hands for mothering, she was cavalier about leaving her firstborn with the hired help or with relatives.
This was made abundantly clear to Patricia Skipworth Hilton, the first wife of Conrad Hilton's third son, Eric. A Texas beauty who had married into the Hilton family in her late teens, Pat, a mother of four, had become quite close over the years to her sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Marilyn and Barron Hilton, parents of Kathy's husband, Rick. The second of Conrad's three sons, Barron had succeeded the Hilton patriarch as head of the international hotel empire. Pat adored Marilyn, a former cheerleader who herself was a gorgeous teenage bride when she became part of the Hilton family. (The Hilton men, from Conrad on down, were known for taking young'uns for their brides.)
Whenever Pat visited Los Angeles from her home in Houston, Marilyn insisted that she stay at their spectacular estate. It was during one of those occasions, when Pat was "in the throes" of one of her many divorce actions in what was a hellish marriage to Eric Hilton--hellish marriages not being an oddity in the Hilton dynasty--that she observed new mother Kathy Hilton in action.
"I was there talking with Marilyn when here comes Kathy with Paris, who was nine months old and a great big, fat, pretty baby," Pat Hilton says in her Lone Star State drawl. "Kathy said, 'Meet Star'--she called Paris 'Star' from day one--'Would you like to hold her for a minute?' That was the last I saw Kathy that day. She took off until that evening. I wanted to kill her! She didn't leave any instructions on what time Paris had to be fed. There weren't any diapers. She just left me in the lurch."
Furious, Pat vented to Marilyn, who listened sympathetically and knowingly, and rolled her eyes. "Marilyn said, laughing, 'Well, I guess you're it for the day. Kathy does this all the time. She just wants to go out. And she knew you'd take care of the kid.'"
When Kathy finally reappeared at day's end, Pat confronted her. "How dare you do this to me?" According to Pat, "Kathy's only reply was, 'Oh, I had to be somewhere. I didn't think you'd mind.' I warned her, 'Never, ever do this to me again!' But it didn't bother her at all. Kathy Hilton's very selfish and very spoiled and very self-centered, and that absolutely carries through to Paris."
When Rick and Kathy Hilton traveled and deigned to bring Paris along, they naturally stayed in Hilton hotels, where they demanded special services, including babysitting care for their daughter, despite the fact that Barron Hilton had a strict rule barring Hiltons from getting special treatment or favorable room rates.
"When they were in New York, and Paris was just an infant, Kathy and Rick would get one of the women from housekeeping at the New York Hilton to babysit for them," states a Hilton Hotels insider. "They would leave Paris on Friday and not come back for her until late Sunday. It was a known fact that Kathy and Rick liked to party, and when Kathy was a young mother she had no qualms about flaunting the Hilton name and taking advantage of it. She'd let it be known that Rick was going to be 'the next Mr. Hilton,' so hotel executives were afraid to argue with her. None of Barron's [eight] kids were getting a free ride. The only one who ever took advantage was Kathy."
Kathy and Rick were prone to show up out of the blue without reservations at a Hilton hotel on a busy weekend and demand the best suite in the house, fine wine and food, and babysitting for Paris. One of their targets was the Hilton in Parsippany, New Jersey, which had a four-star restaurant and a hip discotheque. The hotel also housed a number of lavishly furnished suites leased by big corporations.
When Paris was just a toddler, Rick and Kathy appeared on a busy Friday with her in tow along with their two small dogs (which weren't permitted in the hotel unless they were Seeing Eye dogs). Though the hotel was fully booked, they made it clear they were Hiltons and wanted VIP treatment--the best suite, complimentary food, and a babysitter because Paris's parents wanted to spend the night boogying in the disco. The manager, who didn't want to get in hot water with members of the ruling family, broke the ironclad no-special-treatment rule and put them in a suite, vacant for the weekend, that was leased by the pharmaceutical company Warner-Lambert.
"I thought, 'What the hell, they're going to leave on Sunday so it will work out,'" he says. "But no sooner do I get back to my office, I get a call from Rick Hilton who says, 'It's customary that we get a welcoming amenity.' I told him, 'Oh, absolutely.' Then he says, 'We like a nice California red wine and something white, and my wife likes seafood.' And then he demanded a babysitter. I had to convince the hotel's elderly German seamstress to do the sitting."
The manager felt relieved when the Hiltons checked out Sunday night, because Warner-Lambert people were coming in the next morning. But then he got a call to return to the hotel posthaste because there was a major crisis.
"I go up to the suite the Hiltons were using, and there's dog sh**and dog piss all over the place--I mean everywhere. They didn't walk their dogs for the entire weekend. It was a real nightmare. We ended up having housekeeping do a detailed, deep cleaning. After all that, I never heard a word from Rick or Kathy Hilton--never got a thank-you, nothing. But that's where their mind-set is. They act like the imperial court."
Kathy and Rick also threw their weight around at the Las Vegas Hilton, another place where they liked to party, and where Paris was spotted as a little girl wearing mascara and eyeliner painted on by her mother. (By then, Kathy was booking Paris into charity event fashion shows.) The Hiltons, including Paris and her sister, Nicky, quickly earned a reputation at the Sin City Hilton for "arrogance, threats, and intimidation," according to a number of present and former employees, such as Margaret Mary (Peggy) Cusack Yakovlev, who also served as a personal assistant to Eric Hilton and his second wife, Bibi.
"Kathy and Rick and the girls looked down their noses at the help and were very judgmental," states Yakovlev. "Paris and Nicky were running loose in the hotel, were always trouble, and the mother always seemed to be coaching them." She notes that the Hilton sisters usually were accompanied by hired help who looked like they were treated despicably.
When Paris and Nicky informed hotel employees who they were, the workers ran the other way. The philosophy was--if you run into Rick and Kathy or their daughters, just keep your head down and your mouth shut. "Kathy was absolutely pushy, arrogant, condescending, and presumptuous, and Paris picked that up from her," observes Yakovlev. "The spotlight always had to be on Kathy. It was always, 'Do you know who we are?' 'Do you know who I am?' Rick was usually like a bump on a log. He had a look on his face like he was taking a bowel movement."
However, Yakovlev remembers an incident in which Paris's father was shockingly outspoken. It happened some weeks after Kathy Hilton gave birth to one of their two sons, Conrad and Barron. Rick Hilton was smoking a celebratory cigar outside the main entrance of the Las Vegas Hilton's crowded celebrity showroom. Yakovlev, who was standing nearby, overheard another Hilton employee congratulating the proud father on having such a large and handsome brood. "She asked him what he attributed it to," says Yakovlev, "and he said, loud enough for anyone to hear, 'I like to f***' Guests were passing by and heard it and looked at him. I couldn't believe it." (Some detractors felt that Rick and Kathy did not measure up to the proud Hilton name. One, who personally knew the family, even put his feelings into print. Taki Theodoracopoulos, a controversial figure who wrote the "High Life" column for Britain's respected Spectator magazine, declared in a column that Kathy and Rick "are straight out of The Beverly Hillbillies." He claimed, "They eat hamburgers covered with ketchup washed down with Chateau Latour." He called Rick "a hick . . . as thick as they come," and proclaimed that neither Rick nor Kathy would ever "win the Parenting of the Year award.")
When Paris was about twelve and still on the innocent side, she had pet ferrets that she carried in her Prada purse. The cute little rodents accompanied her everywhere she went in the hotel, which caused headaches for the Hilton managers, who were afraid to challenge her for fear of her mother's wrath.
On one occasion, Yakovlev recalls, Paris and her sister showed up at the glitzy hotel showroom where the big acts entertained audiences of thirteen hundred at each performance. "The girls brought the ferrets in with them and Rick and Kathy didn't care. They could not see any further ahead than what their children wanted, while we were responsible for the safety of the guests. We did not want those little rodents escaping and rubbing up against customers' ankles."
One of the managers with gumption decided to confront the Hiltons. "You need to get your girls and your rodents out of here," he told the Hiltons. "They're not coming in. I am not allowing them."
Kathy Hilton put her hands on her hips and got in his face and said, "Well, their grandfather [Barron] will certainly hear about this! Their grandfather is going to know from me how you are treating his granddaughters." The manager's businesslike but emphatic response was, "You go right ahead and tell him. This is a publicly traded company and I am doing my job. I have a multitude of guests to worry about. You have to take the rodents elsewhere."
(There was considerable chatter that as Paris got older she made use of facilities at other hotels in Las Vegas where she demanded and received VIP treatment, just like her parents did. According to an insider, Paris and her pals "used the saunas in one hotel to go to the bathroom in because they were too lazy to get out of the sauna to use the actual bathroom facilities." Paris's purported urination problems became public in 2005 when a blogger, and then the New York Post, reported that "cleaning crews had to be brought in" at the opening of a Las Vegas club because Paris was "not able to wait in line for the bathroom." In early 2006, a Hawaiian taxi driver claimed she was inebriated and had urinated in his cab. He threatened to use her DNA in a court suit.)
BEFORE RICK AND KATHY MOVED their brood to New York City in the '90s, the Hiltons lived in exclusive Bel-Air, in Los Angeles, where Paris and Nicky attended a strict coeducational Roman Catholic school, St. Paul the Apostle, which went up to the eighth grade. The Hilton girls were required to wear uniforms and were given a Catholic education in addition to the reading, writing, and arithmetic. "It was more strict than a lot of schools," says a parent of a student who went there. "The principal was against having boy-girl parties until the graduation party."
Paris graduated from St. Paul's in June 1995, the only school from which she is believed to have ever received a formal diploma. But because of her increasingly wild behavior she was not seen at the eighth-grade parent-sponsored graduation party. She then went to Marymount High School in Bel-Air, but she didn't finish with her class.
Nicky, two years younger than Paris, was friends with another St. Paul's student, Diana Tangalakis, the daughter of an attorney. By an odd coincidence Diana's mother, Gini Tangalakis, had worked years earlier as a secretary in Conrad Hilton's offices and had experienced some amusing episodes with the old flirt who came on to her when she was twenty-one and engaged to be married and he was in his eighties.
On a number of occasions Diana Tangalakis was invited by Nicky to sleep over at the Hiltons', and that caused concern for her mother. "Back then Nicky was a very quiet girl, very polite and sweet, but it was hard for her to be accepted by the kids--kids that age can be tough," says Gini Tangalakis. "Nicky wasn't included in a lot because she was rich, because she had the Hilton name--you know, she was the first kid to bring a cell phone to school, so all of that made it difficult, and Paris already had a reputation at the school. She was off-the-wall even back then. I always thought that Nicky seemed to be a little more on the ball.
"When I would take my daughter up to Rick and Kathy's house to spend the night with Nicky, I always had to wonder--who's in charge here? Kathy and Rick were never around. There would be the housekeeper, who spoke very little English. That didn't ride well with me. I'd tell my daughter, 'If you feel uncomfortable, just call and we'll come get you if something doesn't seem right.' I'd drive away thinking, is this stupid of me or what?"
As Tangalakis observes, "It didn't appear to me that there was much parental involvement."
When the Hiltons decided to move to New York, there was much talk among the parents of St. Paul's alumni. "The scuttlebutt was that Kathy wanted to expose her girls to the social and nightlife world in Manhattan," says Tangalakis. "She wanted her girls to be in the limelight, and she certainly accomplished that."
BY THE TIME PARIS was in her midteens and becoming the reigning princess of the gossip firmament, she suddenly vanished from New York where her family was ensconced in a thirtieth-floor penthouse at the exclusive Waldorf Towers. The Towers is the residential arm of the Waldorf-Astoria, one of the world's grande dames of hotels. Conrad Hilton had bought the place with much hoopla in the late 1940s. Now, several generations later, Paris Hilton was making all the headlines.
Not since the 1950s, when Paris's Hollywood playboy great-uncle, Nick Hilton--Conrad's firstborn, Elizabeth Taylor's first husband--was a constant boldface name in the columns for his narcissistic nights of broads, boozing, and brawling, had there been a Hilton so publicly outrageous and wicked.
At the time of her disappearance, Paris, who bounced from school to school because of her grades, her behavior, or both, was attending a hoity-toity private academy on Central Park West.