The Man Behind 'Hollywood's Most Hated Web Site'

Gossip blogger Perez Hilton has "no regrets" about his sometimes harsh content.

ByDavid Wright and Talesha Reynolds

July 20, 2007 — -- At the velvet rope line, he still has the look of a gate crasher, but he is very much an insider. He has buddied up with the likes of Paris Hilton, and he's even been asked to host a party for one of the summer's biggest concerts, the True Colors Tour, at Atlantic City's posh Borgata hotel.

Perez Hilton's controversial career as a celebrity blogger on his Web site has made him famous, just like the celebutante who inspired the site's name and later became it's founder's friend.

"I kind of love what the name is all about," he said. "It's satirizing. It's celebrating. And it's a clash of these two worlds, which is what I am. I'm gay, I'm Latino and I've infiltrated this pop culture vernacular world craziness."

"I try not to become friends with celebrities," Hilton said. "Sometimes it just happens."

More often than not he tends to make enemies of celebrities, because he is unafraid to trash them in his blog.

Perez Hilton is the nom de plume of Mario Lavandeira, a former actor and publicist who started blogging in 2004 and writes at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf outlet on Sunset Boulevard. He set up his "office" there when he started and didn't have Internet access from home. He's been there ever since.

"About six months into it," he said, "I got a call from a TV show, 'The Insider,' saying they were doing a piece on Hollywood's most hated Web sites, and they wanted to include me."

Although he didn't initially agree with the superlative, Hilton has now turned it into his slogan.

"It was like a little bubble went off," he said. "I'm like, wow, this little thing that I started as a hobby is getting me on television. There's something to this."

Hilton relies on a network of publicists, managers, assistants and celebrities themselves for news that he says is always true.

"The best source of information for me are my friends," he said, "because I know them, I trust them. They won't lie to me. They haven't lied to me."

Hilton was one of the first with the news that Britney Spears and Kevin Federline were divorcing. He drew fire for pushing former 'N Sync member Lance Bass out of the closet, and he says he's received death threats for reporting that "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken is gay, something Aiken denies.

"I treat everyone the same," said Hilton. "I don't discriminate. I talk about you whether you're gay or straight, out or not. I'm about normalizing."

"I treat the Web site like a soap opera," he continued. "You know, I think it's important to have heroes and villains and people you are rooting for and against. It's an ongoing story line and that keeps people coming back."

Among the saints: Angelina, Oprah, Madonna.

The sinners? That list goes on and on, and Hilton doesn't hold back.

Tom Cruise? "Crazy."

Lindsay Lohan? "Troubled."

William Shatner? "Canadian? Canadian icon?""

Hilton's Hollywood is a modern "Day of the Locust" -- celebrities stripped of their glamour. He not only shows their flaws, he magnifies them.

"Sometimes there are these flawed characters that can be both hero and villain," said Hilton. "Like Britney Spears. She is better than anything I could ever have written."

As for regrets, Hilton says he has none. "I don't regret a single thing I've written, and I've written some pretty harsh things."

Harsh might be an understatement.

He has made callous remarks about Britney Spears' children, and he also devotes a great deal of his site to outing celebrities he suspects of being gay.

"What he's done is taken tabloids on the net in a way that no one else has done it," Rosie O'Donnell said on "The View." "He has one of the most viewed blogs in the world!"

And she's right. Hilton receives approximately 4.5 million hits a day and 1.7 million unique visitors a month.

While Perez Hilton may not be a household name, he is sensational enough to rate a mention on an episode of "CSI." He has appeared on "The View" and even co-hosted MTV's New Year's Bash.

He started his Web site more as a fan than a Hollywood insider. As he puts it, he likes "to be biting," but he doesn't "intend to draw blood."

"When I first started the Web site, it was called And I loved that name because you kind of instantly knew it was all about devilish gossip. Then I got sued by the New York Post and their Page Six gossip column."

It was the first of several lawsuits.There are at least three separate cases pending against him now for infringement of copyright, for some of the paparazzi photos that appear on his site.

"Sometimes he publishes my client's photos before my client is able to sell those photos," said attorney John Tehranian. "So he undercuts the market because … those photos are available free on his site."

Tehranian's client, the photo agency X17, is suing Hilton for more than $13 million.

"He's really stood out as a notorious, open, willful and brazen infringer," said Tehranian.

Hilton insists he has done nothing wrong. But last month, legal pressure led his Internet host to drop him, taking his site temporarily offline and wiping out his extensive archive.

Enraged by the "technical difficulties" Hilton filed a countersuit against X17 for unfair competition.

"I've gotten a great education in the legal system," said Hilton. "It's kind of disheartening. You know, I think with any successful business when you reach that point of success, everybody starts suing you. If you ask Donald Trump … when you start making money people will come after you and try to get a piece of that money."

To be fair, Perez Hilton is not Donald Trump… just yet. But he's fast on his way to establishing himself as a brand name, complete with his own line of T-shirts and other merchandise.

"I'm working on a TV project, which I'm very excited about. I'm working on a book. I'm working on a music tour. I'm working hard to live up to my self-appointed title of Queen of All Media," he said.

The "Queen" says he was inspired by his friend, the "Princess," Paris Hilton.

"I think people don't give her enough credit for doing what she does," Hilton said. "She was able to turn her name and herself into a multimillion-dollar-a-year brand, and who wouldn't love that?"

And like Paris, Perez is hoping to turn his 15 minutes of fame … into millions.

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