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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 10:51 GMT
The most hated man in Hollywood?
By Caroline Briggs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton talks to the BBC News website about being Hollywood's most hated gossip monger.

At first it's hard to see why celebrity blogger Perez Hilton strikes fear into the heart of Hollywood.

In the flesh, the 28-year-old Cuban-American is infectiously upbeat with his shock of pink hair and lilting Los Angeles parlance.

Perez Hilton
Perez started his celebrity blog in 2004

But Perez - real name Mario Lavandeira - is the self-styled "queen of mean". A smiling assassin whose cutting comments on his internet blog are the bane of celebrities.

"I'm a polarizing figure," he laughs. "Some love it, some hate it."

"I've had everything from Nicole Richie coming up and telling me to call her anorexic to her face, and I've had Tara Reid threaten to throw me in a pool at a party.

"I had Jesse Metcalfe say that he has fantasised about killing me... then he repeated it. As if I didn't hear him the first time. I was like, 'OK!'"

But Perez - whose daily readership regularly tops four million - is unrepentant, admitting that he "loves" offending people.

"I don't regret anything I have ever written," he says with a dismissive shrug.

"My basic standard response is, like, don't read it. It's that simple.

"No one is forcing you to read my website and chances are that if I wrote something about you once that wasn't nice, it'll happen again."

I am seen as dangerous because it is hard for celebrities and their publicists to control me, to spin me
Perez Hilton

Anyone Perez takes a personal dislike to is fair game.

Britney Spears, Jennifer Aniston, Tara Reid, Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie are regular targets of the gossip he posts daily from his "desk" at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf cafe on the corner of Sunset Boulevard, in Los Angeles.

It is hardly a control hub of global dominance, but it's enough to have many a Hollywood publicist quaking in their designer boots.

"I am seen as dangerous because it is hard for celebrities and their publicists to control me, to spin me," he explains.

"Before it was easier for them to manipulate the truth in the news... some magazines are celebrity and publicist friendly and don't want to say anything that will upset the stars, or upset the publicists, because they need 'access'.

"I don't need access. I don't ask for access, I don't care. Access sometimes mucks things up because sometimes it is nice to have this distance."

Perez was brought up in Miami, then moved to New York to become an actor. He arrived in Los Angeles in 2002 where he initially worked as a publicist and journalist.

Sienna Miller and Perez Hilton
Actress Sienna Miller is one of Perez's regular targets

It's a combination, he explains, that makes him the perfect celebrity blogger.

"I was tired of editors telling me what I could or I could not write about," he says.

"I was always pop culture and celebrity obsessed so I started the website just for fun, but within six months it got me on television, and I was like 'Wow, my little blog got me on television!' And then I realised there was something to this.

"I'm absurdly normal, but celebrities aren't, which is what I love about them.

"They are, like, incredibly insane and they are so fun to talk about."

Perez's trademark is to digitally deface photo agency pictures of celebrities, usually at their most drunk or vulnerable.

He scrawls beards, alien ears, or cocaine dribbles on the famous faces, accompanied with comments like "fat" or "psycho". Most of it is catty, some downright cruel - arguably all childish.

But his blunt views, coupled with a bloody-minded determination to break big celebrity stories - such as the recent death of model Anna Nicole Smith - have built an army of fans.

Mika and Perez Hilton
Perez regularly promotes British music on his site, including Mika

His running commentary of events on the night she died - Anna Nicole Rushed To The Hospital!!!, Anna Nicole's Life In Jeopardy!, Anna Nicole Smith Likely Dead!!!, It's Official: Anna Nicole Smith Is Dead! - earned him a new record.

"My contacts were telling me a bunch of things as it was happening, before she was even dead," he says.

"That set a record for me, then I set a new record the following week with 4.25 million visitors in one day."

It is a record that has since been smashed again, with more than 4.75 million people flocking to his site after singer Britney Spears shaved off her hair in front of the gawping paparazzi.

He has followed every twist of her story since.

"People don't want to wait a week to get their celebrity news," he explains.

"I actively and aggressively try to break news stories that are true. I'm not just going to make up things. I never have and I never will.

"And it's not anything new. People have always been obsessed with celebrities... gossiped about the homecoming queen, or the head cheerleader, or the captain of the football team, or whatever."

Objectivity

While Perez is quick to deny a desire to be famous, his showbiz blog suggests a shameless desire to be seen with the stars on the celebrity circuit.

But his increasing closeness to certain celebrities - notably Paris Hilton - has led some readers to question his objectivity.

Last month a video of her allegedly making homophobic and racist comments was posted on the internet. Perez, who would usually revel in such things, was unusually quiet.

"It can make it difficult, without a doubt," he admits.

"I know [Paris] is not a racist and I know she's not a homophobe... but it is not my job to defend her."

The socialite and singer has previously denied being a racist.

Perez has also been criticised for "outing" gay celebrities who were happily in the closet - an accusation he rejects, claiming he simply "reports" - and for talking in the third person.

While he insists his larger-than-life Perez persona is "strategic", it also masks a disarming hint of vulnerability.

"Sure I hide behind Perez. It's a character, you know," he explains.

"Perez will say things that Mario Lavandeira would never say... at least not to anyone's face.

"The real me is boring... but Perez is fabulous."


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