He spends his days poking fun at Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Brangelina, but despite all that celebrity glamour, the man behind the most popular blog in the country calls himself "boring."
Mario Lavandeira, better known as Perez Hilton, is the brains behind PerezHilton.com, the celebrity gossip Web site packed with photos and Lavandeira's remarks about its subjects. It has grown so popular in the past year that Time magazine named Hilton one of its 100 Most Influential People of 2007.
Hilton recently met with ABC News at a Coffee Been shop in West Hollywood, Calif., to talk about the business of blogging celebrity trials, trysts and, more often than not, trash.
Not everyone may like what he's doing, but he said his visitors know what they're in for when they go to his home page.
"When you visit the Web site, you know you're visiting PerezHilton.com; you're not visiting The New York Times or People," Hilton said. "Inherently, it's one person's point of view -- mine -- and if you don't like it, then don't come back."
The 29-year-old L.A. native started the site because it seemed "easy and fun," adding that that was important because he considers himself a "tech idiot."
But he was savvy enough to pinpoint a niche for himself as a celebrity gossip home on the Web.
"Before me, people used the online medium, blogs as personal diaries, but I never had any desire to talk about myself. I'm boring," Hilton said. "I was more interested in analyzing and making fun of crazy celebrities."
And many others apparently share that passion -- with an average of 5 million hits a day, Hilton's Web site is changing how the public consumes celebrity news.
"People no longer want to wait a week or even eight or 10 hours to see something on 'Access Hollywood' or 'Entertainment Tonight' or read about it in US Weekly or People. They want it now, as it happens, and that is one of the really amazing, incredible and rewarding things about working online -- it's so immediate," he said. "As soon as I see or hear about something I can write about it. There is no delay."
Doodling His Way to Fame
Hilton's fans are probably coming to his site for more than just images of stars in ordinary and compromising positions. He takes it a step further with his short quips doodled across the photographs.
It is a no holds barred, anything goes, free for all of celebrity hijinks with Hilton calling the shots. Plus, he's a virtual one man show -- not only does he write, produce and post his musings and photos, he also uses his Hollywood contacts to break celebrity news, which includes a rotating cast of subjects.
"The term 'celebrity' is so malleable. I love that," he said. "Anybody can be a celebrity these days. It's no longer your 15 minutes of celebrity; it's your 15 seconds of celebrity."
And the immediacy of the Internet has actually worked in his favor when it comes to dishing on celebrities, Hilton said, as publicists have less time to spin a story or set up damage control for their out-of-control clients.
But, Hilton also points out, the door swings both ways, as many of today's celebrities know exactly what they're doing when they frequent paparazzi hot spots such as the Ivy, Kitson Boutique, or Mr. Chow's in Los Angeles.
"A lot of the younger celebrities grew up consuming the media that they're now a part of. These young stars know very well what they're getting into when they sign up to be an actor. A lot of them know how to work it and manipulate the media," he said.
In particular, he considers his namesake, Paris Hilton, to be a master of media manipulation as she begins 23 days in a Los Angeles County jail for violating probation.
"I don't think it was a coincidence that she chose to go into prison early, before all the celebrity weekly [magazines] went to print," he said. "It's all very calculated. I don't think people give her enough credit for being media savvy."
But Hilton does not give these "celebutants" all the credit for how they use the media, as he's among those who pull together their photos to tell the story of their lives.
"I treat the Web site like an online soap opera," he said. "It's important to have heroes and villains and people that you're rooting for and people you're rooting against and to have this ongoing story line that keeps people coming back."
Despite his enormous popularity, not everyone agrees with Hilton's chosen line of work or the kind of values his Web site imbues. Dubbed the "Most Hated Web site in Hollywood," by The Insider, PerezHilton.com actually manages to thrive off the same principle that many of its celebrity subjects do -- "all publicity is good publicity."
While Hilton could care less if you like him, he said PerezHilton.com and its signature nicknames and crude doodles is "a reflection of who I am and what I love and what I'm interested in."
"I think some people look at this Web site as the most hated, but I think a lot of people see it as the most loved. It's polarizing.
"People might be afraid of it because they're afraid of the truth, and I speak what is on everyone's minds," Hilton said.