Toronto’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.
What 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.
You 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.
But 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 perezhilton.com. Perez’s new television show is being produced by World of Wonder (Inside Deep Throat, Showdog Moms & Dads).