Perez Hilton

Interview by
Alex Needham
Photography by
Dino Dinco


Perez Hilton (29) gleefully refers his celebrity gossip blog as ‘Hollywood’s Most Hated Website’. Bitchy and crude, it gets up to five million hits a day, an amazing result for something staffed and run by one person from a table at an LA café. Last year the site claimed two scalps: Lance Bass from *N Sync, and actor Neil Patrick Harris both came out after Perez’ endless jibes about their sexuality. Born in Miami to Cuban parents, Perez’ real name is Mario Armando Lavandeira, Jr. He changes his hair color every month or so.

Alex: How come there’s so much music on your site these days? As well as ripping into celebrities, you’re bigging up Beth Ditto and Amy Winehouse…
Perez: I’ve always been into music. It’s awesome to really help artists that I love get more mainstream recognition: like Beth Ditto who performed at my birthday party. Like Mika who I’ve kind of sponsored in America and helped to get attention, like Lily Allen, like Amy Winehouse who also came to my birthday party. I love music, that’s when the real me comes out.
Did celebrities come to your birthday party because they thought if they got on your good side you wouldn’t write nasty things about them?
I’d still write nasty things about them. I met Amy Winehouse and I still put those pictures of her with white powder up her nose and she still came to my party. She doesn’t care. That’s so refreshing! I love original creativity, people who are unapologetically themselves. If I’m into something I’m really into it. I’ll see artists a few nights in a row.
Who else do you like?
I was into Peaches well before the website happened. I made out with her once. She tasted like chocolate because I gave her chocolate earlier on in the concert. I’d read up and I knew that on that tour she’d do a song called Stuff You Up where she’d ask for food from the audience, so I brought along a shitload of candy. And I had these T-shirts custom-made for her LA shows. And one night I was at the front, I had my T-shirt on that said ‘Diddle My Skittle’ and she was like ‘Hey you, nice T-shirt! Do you want to do karaoke to this song?’ and it was Fuck The Pain Away. I started singing with her and then this girl comes up, unasked, unprompted by Peaches, and gets Peaches to make out with her. And I’m like, ‘Shit, this bitch is moving in on my turf.’ So then I grab Peaches and make out with her. Then this random dude comes onstage, grabs me and then starts making out with me, and all these people are onstage making out with each other, taking their shirts off — it was the best thing ever.
Are you essentially an indie kid?
No, I’m not cool enough. I’m like the ultimate interloper. I’ll go and I’ll sit in different little cliques in different parts of town, all over the world, never really belonging to any one group, maybe belonging to all of them. Like I went to BoomBox in London — like, oh my God, if I didn’t have crazy colored hair I’d be the most boring person in the world here.
Do you get your more extrovert side out in the blog then?
Oh yeah, like Perez will have blue hair and wear loud, crazy outfits. Mario will normally wear a really boring hoody. I guess I have fun with the character of Perez.
What’s your work outfit then, for when you’re blogging away at…
…at the Coffee Bean on Sunset and Fairfax? I have my hoody on, I have my headphones on, I’m always listening to music, in the same spot every day. I’m there all day and all night.
Wouldn’t you rather work from home?
My house is a mess. I’m barely there and then when I am there I just throw clothes all over the place, underwear and stuff. I live in West Hollywood. It’s just a bed. I don’t have a TV, I don’t have Internet access at home, I don’t have a landline. It’s just a place to crash, it’s not where I’m going to raise my kids. I think there’s something nice about leaving the house
every day and treating it like I’m going to a job and being accessible to people. It’s part of the Perez mythology — he’s always there. It’s like the modern day Schwab’s and I’m Truman Capote.
(laughs) Truman Capote! Do you think what you do is journalism?
Yeah, but I would never call myself a journalist first. I call myself an entertainer first. The site’s all about being succinct. I could be wordier and wittier if I had the time, but I’m trying to crank out as much product as possible, as fast as possible. That’s why I have tons of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors — I don’t give a fuck. I’m only one person too. But I might get an assistant to help with boring stuff.
Is that what you like about the Internet, the immediacy?
Totally. There is no such thing as too soon. I’m an Aries and Latino and really gay. I want it immediately and I think I’ve helped change mainstream celebrity news reporting in my own little way. People don’t want to wait a week to read gossip in Heat or Closer. People don’t want to wait eight or ten hours to watch it on the news. They want it as soon as humanly and mechanically possible, and the great thing about working online is that as soon as I see something I can write about it.
Do you make much money?
I make enough to do the website but I’m not motivated by money. I started it for fun, back in 2004. I’d worked at a couple gay magazines, but I liked blogging because it was easy — anyone can have their MySpace blog or their Friendster blog. I never wanted to do an online diary because I’m boring. I wanted to talk about celebrities because they’re crazy. I was driving, listening to Howard Stern on the radio and my very first post was just this thing in response to something he said that upset me. But then my second post was more a newsy thing. And then from then it’s blossomed. Like a pretty pink flower.
Do you think spreading damaging gossip is morally justifiable?
Of course, because I don’t lie or fabricate things.
You say that, but there’s a disclaimer on your website stating the opposite: ‘Postings may contain erroneous or inaccurate information.’
Yeah, I have to say that legally. I don’t really care, because I’ve earned my respect from my readers and I’ve established my credibility in the mainstream media. A week and a half ago I wrote that story about Jake Gyllenhaal and Reece Witherspoon dating. Eight days later US Weekly and People wrote about it. I aggressively try and break stories and have exclusive content.
Hang on, didn’t you say that Jake Gyllenhaal was gay?
I didn’t say he ‘was’ gay, I just joked that he ‘might’ be gay but I don’t really know. Like there’s a difference. I don’t know 100 per cent that he is.
Well he can’t be if he’s dating Penelope Cruz.
He could be! I’ve made out with a guy — I’ve never written about this because I can’t, no one will believe me and I’m saving it for my book — who’s engaged in a very high-profile relationship with a woman.
Where did you meet this person?
I can’t give you too many details. That’s just a little side note.
Isn’t celebrity culture completely worthless?
A lot of people say that, but I know that I get almost five million visitors to my website a day who enjoy it, so even in that simplest, basest way I know that gives what I do meaning. It gives people enjoyment. Then again, maybe crack cocaine gives people enjoyment too! But I don’t give a fuck, I’m happy! It allows me to travel the world and be my own boss and that’s fucking awesome and liberating.
Do you think you’ve ruined people’s lives, like Lance Bass’s?
I just talked to him the other day — he thanked me. He showed up at this party that I hosted for Mika. I was talking about his ex-boyfriend, who I fucking hate, and he shared the same sentiments, and he said that he was happy now that he is out. And I was like, good.
Obviously you’ve had this conversation a million times, but for me, while I think there’s a political justification for outing, on a personal level is it not just a really hideous thing to do to someone?
No, because I’m not outing anyone!
Oh, come on…
I’m not! Lance Bass, big old gay Lance Bass, could have continued to deny the story and/or ignore it. No one was forcing a gun to his head and saying, ‘Talk to People magazine and declare that you’re gay’.
Come on, innuendo builds up to such a level that people have no choice but to come out.
I did him a favor! He could have come out in The Advocate, which is read by a couple hundred thousand people. He came out on the cover of People magazine, which is read by a couple million people.
But isn’t that worse? You or I came out to our friends, then to our parents or whatever — not the entire world in one go.
I wish I felt bad about it, maybe I wouldn’t do it then. (laughs) I guess I’m cold and cruel! But I don’t think that being gay is bad. I genuinely don’t believe that being gay and out will hurt your career. I don’t believe in discrimination. I’m going to report on everyone equally. I’m not doing anything differently talking about Lance Bass’s secret relationship with his boyfriend Reichen than when People magazine was talking about Jessica Simpson’s secret relationship with John Maher.
But the way you talk about homosexuality is different, scrawling ‘bottom’ on pictures of guys…
It’s funny!
Would it have been as offensive to put ‘top’ over the Lance Bass pictures?
I don’t think he’s a top! I wasn’t calling him a bottom to be offensive, I just think he’s a bottom. I think Reichen’s a bottom too. I don’t think they’re 100 per cent bottoms from what I know, but most of the time. There’s nothing wrong with that!
Are you a bottom?
Sometimes! I would call myself a big fag. I’m not self-hating. I’m very proud of who I am. I get a lot of people saying, ‘Your site’s too gay.’ But I’m like, you know what, if you don’t like it, deal with it — don’t come back.

BUTT - 2
Perez and Paris are best friends according to Perez.

Have you got a boyfriend?
Err, no. I’m never in LA is one issue, and if I’m in LA I’m working or I’m at bullshit industry events. My longest relationship’s been about a year. But I’d rather have three kids than three boyfriends if I had a choice over the next 20 years. That’s why I don’t spend money on anything, because having kids is expensive, especially if you’re going to do it on your own. I love children, I’m like a big kid myself and I’m going to be a great dad. I love kids and I love old people. I don’t fear anything in life except death. I really fear death. I’m morbidly afraid of death. I mean it’s inevitable, we’re all going to die, but I just don’t want it to come any time soon. I think about death almost daily, not for long periods of time, but at least once a day a thought will come and I’ll think, ‘Oh, I’ll die then.’ I’m acutely aware of mortality because I was surrounded by death at a younger age. All four of my grandparents died by the time I was 17.
That’s not that unusual.
I think it is. You’d think your grandparents would at least stick around until you were 30.
Is yours a close-knit family?
I’m more close to my mom than to my little sister — she’s 22. She works for a health organization — some boring office job. She studied business and computers in college. I studied acting. We’re like polar opposites.
Were you embarrassed when your adam4adam profile was made public?
I’m not embarrassed by anything! Also I looked good then I think! Those pictures were really old. I don’t go on there any more, I just watch a lot of porn.
Your profile said you were into group sex. How big’s the group?
Umm… not really anymore. In college maybe. Now I’m really self-conscious. I’d rather wake up with one person with the lights off. When I was in good shape I’d have a lot of sex with a lot of people. Now I just have sex with myself.
Your profile also said you were into ‘various fetishes’.
People say a lot of things on line they don’t necessarily mean. I’m fairly vanilla. I’ll be real honest — a lot of the time, people go on to gay hook-up sites not looking to hook up. They go on hoping to chat, and then that gets them off, and then they get off. That’s why you’ll say things that you wouldn’t necessarily follow through with — the thought is often more erotic than actually doing it. And honestly I don’t have the time to try to look for sex online, much less look for sex, then wait for sex, then have sex. It’s two or three hours of my time, oh my God! I could not give up that much! That’s why it’s so much easier for me to just masturbate, and come to think about it I don’t even masturbate that much. I’ll go through phases. I’ll masturbate like three times a day for a couple days, and then I probably won’t do it for two or three weeks.
Maybe you’re getting your sexual frustration out on the blog.
Maybe! I’m probably very sexually frustrated, that’s true.
Your profile also said ‘party to play’. Are you quite druggy?
No, I don’t even drink. I drink Red Bull. I used to drink — I used to do a lot of things, but my life is very different now than it was two, three years ago. But I don’t give a fuck if people are perpetuating false stories about me. I dish it, I can take it. I encourage it! I never take comments down on the site, which is difficult because people will say the most crazy, outlandish things in the comment section to try to hurt me, like even people from other blogs will purposely say racially motivated things to upset other readers, but I can’t be monitoring all my comments. It’s a free-for-all, good or bad, although I put a ban on the n-word.
Do you think you’re a rather hard person?
Hard? On the outside. I don’t really talk about myself on the website. I never say, ‘Oh I went on a date with this person’ or, ‘I cried yesterday because of this’ or, ‘My mom’s going through a difficult time at the moment because of that’. I give very limited bits of my reality on the website and it’s all very strategic and calculated.
Well it sounds like working from 5 am to 1 am you haven’t got time for a personal life to blog about.
There’s a limited amount of time, like lunch hours, Saturday night and sometimes Sunday. Weekends I don’t feel as much pressure. I’ll work ten hours as opposed to 18 or 19.
Why do you work so insanely hard?
It’s a Cuban work ethic. I’ve seen such amazing, tangible results in such a short amount of time. I started off last year in one place and I ended it in a completely different place. Like I’m going to Australia to be on the MTV Music Awards to co-host the red party and the aftershow. Like I tricked the world into thinking I’m worthy of putting on television or whatever when I’m just some fat loser with a website.
What was the idea of printing the picture of Anna Nicole Smith’s dead son?
It’s a great picture that will get people riled up! I want more page views, I want more comments, I want more people forwarding their links to their friends. It’s all about getting more traffic and getting people excited and riled up and feeling something because it makes for a more visceral experience. I’ve put up Princess Diana’s death pictures.
I’d say there was more justification for that because it was such a massive story. Anna Nicole Smith’s son — he wasn’t even famous.
He is now! No, he was already famous in America — he was on her reality TV show.
Is there anything you wouldn’t print?
Would I print a celebrity taking a shit? Umm… I probably would, ha ha ha!
Would you reveal someone’s HIV status?
No I wouldn’t. Unless someone’s being like…no, I don’t think there’s any reason why I would. That’s obviously such an invasion of privacy, although in America the mainstream media broke the story that Farah Fawcett has cancer. Like I said, it’s different. Having HIV or AIDS is not a death sentence anymore, so big deal, who cares — it’s not a story.
Going back to outing, why should we care whether people are gay or not?
I agree, but it’s a very British attitude, Alex. People in America are fucked up and backward in many ways. In the UK you have so many out and successful people, not just the old farts Rupert or Elton or Ian McKellen but young people like Will Young and Stephen Gately, Matt Lucas from Little Britain — all these people who still have all these girls throwing themselves at them and they don’t care they’re gay. That’s awesome! Why can’t America be like that?
Are you an Anglophile?
Yeah — I love everything about London. I’m from Miami, I grew up in a Cuban household, I went to an all-boy, very homo-genous, Jesuit school, 99 per cent Latino, and Miami’s very suburban. So what’s the opposite of that? This huge urban metropolis which is London, with all these Anglo folks. There are so many options. There must be 300 gay bars in London. In New York there’s maybe 80. In LA there’s maybe 40. Three hundred! That’s insane! I love that! And there are some really cool ones here — BoomBox, the George and Dragon, the Vauxhall Tavern. I love the G-A-Y bar because I love watching all the cheesy music videos.
So if you pulled a celebrity at G-A-Y would you write about it?
Probably not. Other people can write about it if they found out about it, but I don’t write on my own life, like, ‘I haven’t had a date in a really long time’. People don’t really know me. They think they know. But this is just the beginning. This is just the epilogue — I mean the prologue. I want to continue to have fun. That’s my motto: have fun. And if you’re not having fun, make it fun. I think you’re young ’til you’re 50, then after you’re 50 you’re old. Any day after you’re 50 you might have a heart attack or whatever, so there’s so much I want to do in the next 20 years.

Originally published in BUTT 20