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Tall Poppy Interview: Perez Hilton, Gossip King

perez_saint.jpgToronto’s Film Festival is notorious for being “the people’s festival,” where the general public can interact with actors and directors over their work, with celebrity taking only a secondary interest behind the art. Torontonians are likely to point and whisper when we see a famous face breezing through Holt’s instead of running-up for autographs. My favourite example of this was waiting for the light to change at Bloor and Bay when I overheard, “Hey, that’s Dustin Hoffman. Do you wanna get a hot dog?”
Mario Lavandeira is about to stir-up Toronto’s celebrity stoicism and ruffle a few feathers in the process. Better known as his alter-ego Perez Hilton, he’s outed Lance Bass, been sued by Collin Farrell and posted one of the first photos of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. He personally maintains his hugely popular site from a corner of a West Hollywood Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, where Perez has morning coffee with songwriter Diane Warren and unpleasant confrontations with Nicole Richie.
Most recently in Toronto for the MMVA’s, Perez landed at the Grand Hotel today with digital camera and Sidekick at the ready. With all this Film Festival talk, it’s feeling a little highbrow in here, so we pinned-down Perez Hilton to talk some trash.

What’s your attitude toward famous people?
I never believed in the concept of celebrity. I’m about deconstructing the notion. Celebrity is a conceit that we’ve all created which doesn’t really exist unless you buy into it. That’s what I try to do on the website; show them that celebrities are really “just like us,” as everyone says.
How often have you come to Toronto?
I’ve only been once, but it was a lovely, brief visit and I am looking forward to spending more time there than I did my first visit. I love Canadians! There’s a perception that I’m a hater, but I’m really a lover.
How are you planning to cover the Film Festival?
I just hope to be able to live up to my potential and go to all the events, parties, screenings that I can. There’s only one of me though. I’m definitely going to the Shortbus event on Monday. It’s some big concert and after-party at Queer Lounge.
perez_simpsons.jpgWhat happens when you find yourself in the same room as someone you’ve been slamming?
It depends. I don’t usually go up to people that I’ve been slamming, so whenever I see someone that I’m not the biggest fan of or I’ve been talking smack about on the website, I try to avoid them. But sometimes they’ll just go up to me like Jesse Metcalfe did over the weekend [Perez had been insinuating that Metcalfe's girlfriends are just for show].
I thought everything was cool after our first little conversation [that night], but he came back for more and that’s when he said, “do you know how many times I’ve fantasized about killing you?” And I can’t believe he actually said that. Get over yourself. It’s all in good fun.
I try to be biting but I don’t try to draw blood. It’s a fine line to walk and I don’t think I ever drew blood on him; I just made fun in a fun way and he obviously didn’t appreciate that.
Why do you think some of your targets get so upset about being called gay?
Some people have this stupid notion in their head that being gay is bad and being gay will hurt your career, and I don’t believe that. I look at other countries and it’s a lot more accepted. In the UK, for example, you can be out as an openly gay male celebrity. There’s Ian McKellan, Elton John, Rupert Everett, the guy who won the first season of Pop Idol, Will Young, there’s Stephen Gately.
Hollywood is usually seen as Sin Central, but the U.S. seems to have become more prudish over the last few years.
It’s frustrating. It makes me want to move to Canada.
You broke open the Lance Bass story by posting pictures of him sharing clothes with Reichen Lehmkul while he was still publicly closeted. Has he said anything directly to you about that?
I did run into him this past week in New York, but we barely exchanged more than a couple of sentences. I was with Jessica Simpson at her record release party and he and Reichen were coming over, and I’m like, “OH MY GOD, NO, DON’T COME OVER!” So, then I’m like, fine, the unavoidable is happening. I don’t think I was being mean to Lance or Reichen; I was just reporting on his relationship which he was engaging in very public activities with his boyfriend before he came out and he’s a public figure, and when you’re doing public things and you’re a public person, the public is gonna talk.
I said to him, “I hope you don’t hate me because I wish you only the best, genuinely.” And he’s like, “How could I hate you? We’re wearing the same wristband!” We had gone to the same swag suite earlier in the day and they’d given us the same one. I thought it was a cute little token or gesture. Thankfully for me, they were both really wasted.
You frequently post scathing content on Clay Aiken. Do you think that the Aiken camp is taking notes from Team Lance to prepare for a future announcement?
Hell to the no! Clay’s not even doing interviews; he’s just performing on the Good Morning America show. They’re trying to stay as away from that as possible. My Clay Aiken sources are fairly good. Come on, is there even doubt? There is no doubt! Clay Aiken is gayer than a Gay Pride parade. There’s nothing wrong with that, but he still thinks there’s something wrong with that. Clay has lied about it in the past. He’s denied it and said, “I like girls,” blah blah blah.
perez_paris.jpgYou seem very confident in your sources, but many people say it is made-up stuff.
I’m barely wrong. Less than a handful of times in two years have I had information of my own that’s been innacurate. That’s a damn good track record.
Is there anything you wouldn’t publish about a celebrity?
There’s been one instance that I haven’t revealed something about a celebrity. It’s a fine line to walk and I just follow my gut. I was given information that a certain teen celebrity was going to the same AA meeting as my friend, and I didn’t post that because I wanted to encourage that person to continue to go to AA and get their life together and I don’t want to draw attention to something that would make them not want to seek help if they feel they need to.
Who’s bad at handling what you write about them?
Tara Reid, who threatened me. We were at a party and there was a pool there and she threatened to throw me in the pool. She tried to get me kicked out of the party but they wouldn’t. Paris [Hilton] had to intervene. Two days later, her sister came to apologize, not on her behalf, but just on her own behalf for having a stupid sister.
She’s not doing herself any favours. She used to be such a pretty girl back in the day. One of my favourite quotes was actually from Carson Daly, who was engaged to her back in the day, and he was asked when he knew it wouldn’t work out with Tara Reid and he goes, “When I realized she could drink more than I could.”
Who had a good sense of humour?
Shannon Elizabeth had a good sense of humour about herself. Haylie Duff, surprisingly. I called Shannon “F-List Elizabeth” and I’d call Haylie “Haylien” and they were both kinda cool. Even Ashlee Simpson was cool; she said, “You can still call me ‘Asslee.’”
You often get attacked over your weight, past internet dating profiles, and your friendship with Paris Hilton. Did you expect such personal attacks when you started writing?
Yeah, sure. It’s par for the course. I’m a big boy and I’ve learned not to take things personally.
[At this point, Perez asks me to wait while he posts breaking news that Orlando Bloom and Kate Bosworth have split.]
It means I’m doing something right if I solicit that kind of reaction from people. I live my life honestly and openly; I don’t have secrets; I write about every bad thing I’ve ever done. I even put up pictures of myself taking mushrooms when I was in Amsterdam. That way I don’t have any skeletons in my closet and nothing can come back to haunt me. If you live your life honestly and openly and with a sense of humour, you won’t get easily hurt.
You’ve been sued for linking to Colin Farrell’s homemade sex video.
They didn’t have a case against me and they still sued me to make an example out of me. It’s their right — anyone can sue anyone for any reason in America. The biggest thing I hold myself to is not lying or making anything up. Thankfully, I’ve only been sued twice and hopefully it doesn’t happen again.
Look, I never want to get a legal letter. That’s not a badge of pride at all, but I’m never going to let anyone else say what I can or cannot write. That’s one of the reasons I do what I do. I don’t have to answer to an editor or a boss or anyone.
Since you edit the site yourself and attend events in the evening, does the site take up all of your time?
Day and night. I don’t get enough sleep. I probably get maybe five hours on a good night. I always make sure any hotel I’m staying at has internet access before I agree to stay there.
Is the job an impediment to a love life?
I don’t have one at the moment. I’m working on myself. I hired myself a trainer. Maybe when I get my six-pack, I’ll be a big ol’ man-’ho or something and make up for lost time.
Did being in front of cameras yourself influence that decision?
Not even that; it’s that I noticed I was getting heavier and heavier and heavier every month and I wanted to reverse that and stop that trend just for health because I’m sitting in front of a computer every day from morning ’til night. I have to force myself to get a trainer and be healthy or else I don’t see the pattern stopping anytime soon. Literally, I must have gained forty pounds in the last year. It’s ridiculous.
perez_frankenberry.jpgBut you’re not afraid to wear an embroidered pink suit.
I just like to have fun with fashion and I’m not afraid of being silly. I can wear an outfit like that to a big event because I know I’ll get my picture taken and people will talk about it. I’m the first to make fun of myself. I mean, I put up a comparison of me and Frankenberry on my own site. I would wear jeans and a t-shirt, but Perez needs to wear pink or something loud or fun or silly. It’s not on all occasions; I will put on a nice outfit. I thought I dressed nice on Oscar night, but it depends on the occasion.
You’re working all of this into your own upcoming reality TV show. What else is there left to see?
I live openly, but there’s only so much that my readers know about me. Perez is a character and there is more to me than the person that does the website. The TV show will be about everything.
How did your friendship with Paris Hilton come about? You didn’t know her at all and all of a sudden you’re hanging-out in her circle.
It happened organically. I just saw her out and about because it’s my job to be out and about. I go out six out of seven nights a week to one or two or three events a night, and it’s her job to go out too, so you basically see the same people out and about.
Do people have the wrong perception about Paris?
I don’t think she cares. Whatever it is, it’s making her millions of dollars a year, so damn, that’s an inspiration to me.
Photos of the Frankenberry comparison, the Simpson sisters, and Paris Hilton on the night she was detained by police for suspicion of DUI courtesy of Perez’s new television show is being produced by World of Wonder (Inside Deep Throat, Showdog Moms & Dads).


  • she

    wow, this site just keeps getting shittier and shittier

  • Jm

    “Do people have the wrong perception about Paris?”

  • Paree

    How about if one of the Torontoist homos have sex with Perez and then write about it? That would be good journalism…

  • brokenengine

    WWTDD? is better. Well, funnier anyway.

  • FUperez

    Jesse Metcalf is my new hero. I wish he’d do it.

  • Dickhole Richie

    I’ve found things in my shits more interesting than these no-life “celebrities”. And guess what, in ten seconds i thought up a funnier name than the fudge packer who made this shithole.

  • Oat Globe

    fuck it. i’m done. honestly. why?
    like 95% of all the staff are transplants not born, nor raised in the city.
    like 100% of the staff is a homogenous lump of predictably wishy-washy armchair liberalism.
    the southwest end bias is hidebound and sectarian (there are other areas of the city, you know) and completely flies in the face of what a site like this should be about.
    never are there any neighbourhood profiles or personal stories about the city or interviews with some of the more hardscrabble vets who’ve helped shape hogtown. but hey, there’re loads of frothy one-offs with whatever canlit scion happens to be the most recent rimmer to the collective ass of our stilted arts beadledom…so there’s that, i guess.
    your approach to sports of late has been just laughable (no offense to adrian; he’s one of the good ones. i’m referring to robontogate).
    and now this. perez hilton. i hate recycling jokes, but torontoist has officially become an electronic and even more innocuous version of steven cojocaru.
    i’ll stick with spacing, paved and old episdoes of “glenn gould’s toronto” until you guys become (further recycling here) exactly the metropolitan inlay you claim to be.

  • Oat Globe

    what kind of forum is this? i can’t believe you deleted site criticism.

  • Just Me

    Ask Perez who planted and uses a certain screen name and profile on certain sites pretending to be a certain cutesingerguy. He makes up most of his gossip and he uses big names to get hits on his blog. That’s how he makes a living because he’s too lazy to make a living where he’d have to use truth and integrity and half a brain.
    He’s a troublemaking 5 year old who is going down with his lies and vicious attacks… soon.

  • Marc Lostracco

    Y’all are playa hatin’ pretty bad, but People Magazine sells-out of their “Lance Bass is gay” and “Britney gave birth” issues for a reason. The National Enquirer’s best-selling issue each year is on celebrity beach bodies, and it’s not published in a vacuum. Like it or not, Perez is a perfect example of supply meeting demand, and he’s made a career out of it.
    The Toronto Film Festival itself is partially-fuelled by celebrity appearances, whether in gala Q&As or in media coverage, because no matter how amazing an art film from Zimbabwe is, the mass media consumer would rather hear about celebrities behaving badly. That’s obviously not to say that people aren’t more interested in other things, like stopping wars or curing epidemic diseases, but everyone reading this also knew when Shiloh was born.
    We all have our strange and wasteful diversions, and it’s ironic that many people who slam tabloid readers are the first ones to dress-up in a hockey jersey and scream for hours at a television set during a game. Chacun son goût, n’est-ce pas? I was in 7-11 today watching two guys drooling over a car magazine, so such hatred over the shallowness of trashy celebrity news is usually well-mired in hypocrisy.
    I see it as more of a sociology lesson, and the fact that we also love to see celebrities self-destruct indicates that it’s a deeper phenomenon that it seems on the surface. I mean, you know most of the haters still read the entire interview, even if just served to reinforce their hatred. I do it all the time. I get fascinated by how much someone pisses me off so much that I almost want to subject myself to them just so I can stew about it. Same goes for some people here.
    But, like Perez indicated in the interview, it keeps people talking about him and even negative publicity is still publicity. The most anticipated films at the Festival this year are almost all popular because of controversial publicity. Sook-Yin Lee having real solo sex on screen is art, yet put Tara Reid in the same scene and it’s trash. Switch it up with Angelina Jolie and y’all would be first in line. ;-)

  • Roro

    borin ….. so boring I fell asleep and couldn’t finish the word. Grrrrr.

  • Jake Jimenez

    Dude perez fucking rocks get over it
    like he said.. its all in good fun.
    None of you people would have read this fucking article if you werent somewhat interested in it… so stop denying it.
    and Perez is just gonna get bigger and bigger and be totally famous after his reality show hits the screen. I love it.

  • Nilina

    I really like how well rounded this interview was! You asked all the questions I wanted answered and the answers were complete too! Thanks! I heart Perez!

  • Angelina

    whoaa. i never knew jesse metcalfe was like that. but wtvr. i still love him. he’s os hot.
    wow. a lot of people who commented here seem to be bigg fans of perez….

  • jujuwan

    Great article. You have grown a lot since I began visiting your page about 8 months ago. And I must say, your lavender suit looks mah – velous. Since I have no need for it, I hereby bestow upon you my 15 minutes of fame entitlement. You may also have my mother’s. (I have a durable power of attorney.) Keep up the good work. Let the haters run their mouths -just keep us lovers posted with all the juicy juice.

  • Sarah

    Perez, you rock. All these haters don’t know how funny you are…here’s a personal story…my cousin had a major, life threatening operation a while back, and she goes on your website for relief and for a laugh, so keep it up Perez! P.S. Paris rocks, and you’re just jealous!

  • beth maher

    Man, I knew having Perez on our site would draw some of the same trolls that plague his, but I for one found this interesting.
    This is a good one, Marc.
    But for the record, I am a lifelong Torontonian (although I have lived elsewhere for a year here and there, my heart has always belonged to this city) and I usually do a WEEKLY neighborhood profile for my column Cheap Date here on Torontoist (although I didn’t this week because I’ve been too busy starting school).
    Hell, my grandmother even used to hang with Glen Gould.
    And we can’t help it if Parkdale is the neighborhood with the most going on right now (as well as the cheapest rent and easy access to TTC).
    I mean, I’ve lived in Scarberia, and Rexdale – but there just isn’t much to report other than crime stats.
    So, don’t be getting all huffy about it.
    Speak up (politely) next time, if there’s something you’d like to see here, tell us and we might just consider it.
    But this site is about diversity of voices, so you’re going to occasionally have to read something you don’t agree with.

  • Marc Lostracco

    Saying that transplants can’t accurately comment on the city they’ve lived-in for years is like saying someone can’t have an opinion on adulthood because they were raised as children. That’s also ignoring the fact that Toronto was built on immigration.
    As I’ve said above, escapist pop culture can easily co-exist with serious issues like bike lanes and homelessness. It’s called pop culture for a reason, and unless one is a militant social extremist, their everyday life includes it. And for this week, like it or not, Our Canada Includes Perez.

  • Jill

    In my decade in this city, I’ve crossed paths with fewer than ten lifelong Torontonians. (Scarborough, actually.) This city would be a ghost town without “transplants.”

  • rek

    I only have a vague understanding of who Perez Hilton is, thanks to a celebrity-concerned friend. So I didn’t read the article. I have zero interest in celebrity gossip or their personal lives and interrelationships, and I certainly don’t care about their opinions. I don’t know who Shiloh is and don’t know when he or she was born — and I like it that way.
    I don’t have to read every article Torontoist publishes, so no loss there for me. Unless this becomes a celebrity gossip blog, I’ll keep coming back.
    P.S. Isn’t at least half the city populated by ‘transplants’ now?

  • Miko Wilson

    WWTDD? is better. Well, funnier anyway.

  • Karen

    What, you expected me to stay in Whitby?

  • olivia

    I love perez
    and everyone who thinks this interview was pointless…
    you were the idiots who read the whole thing now werent u?
    AHH i love perez

  • katie

    i love perez. he is a genius. i dont know what i would do without him.

  • Timberfake

    Outing someone is crossing the line.

  • Paige

    Who cares about “transplants” to the city.. at least there here! If you’re going to get in a huff about geography, deal with all those people who live 905 but say they’re from Toronto.

  • FernLaPlante

    Perez is a bloated starf*cker. He use to rag on paris Hilton like no one’s business and then when he meets here they are all of a sudden best friends. Perez is as useless as the real Paris, celebrities for no reason other than they are media whores.

  • crissy

    perez is the best. if u dont like him, then why read the article about him? some people are ridiculously jealous. while you are sitting here crying over about how much you hate him, hes out making good money– so keep hating him. hes only going to get more popular. u tools

  • es

    Is there a reason why someone wrote such a kiss ass article about Perez?
    This was so boring, what a stinker!

  • LinZ

    Ahem I don’t really know what the people out there even have to say about Perez and insulting him…Personally I love Perez! He’s the only reason I use the internet at all! He’s hilarious and some people out there who are against him just have no beliefs in freedom of speech…it’s the new world people get out of the f****** past and move on! Jesse Metcalf may seem like a homophobe but yes guys who tend to do that turns out to be closet cases…I’ve met many people like Jesse Metcalf…I just consider their remarks as nothing! I live life to the fullest people should do that and not worry about who’s saying what about you, just MOVE ON!!! Perez just makes Hollywood a little more interesting…I so can’t wait for the reality show!!!

  • Michael

    I love transplants. Some of my best friends are transplants.
    But just because you are a Torontoist doesn’t make you a Torontonian.
    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.