book reviews, celebrities

A review of Paris: The Memoir, by Paris Hilton…

Fifteen years ago, if you had told me that one day I’d read Paris Hilton’s life story and actually admire her for writing it, I would have said you were crazy. I distinctly remember Paris Hilton circa 2007 or so. She was in her mid 20s and seemed to be on a one way track to nowhere. She seemed to have a lot in common with Anna Nicole Smith, who sadly passed away that year. Both were bottle blonde models who had substance abuse issues… Both were portrayed as vapid, spoiled, and kind of low class. South Park famously did an episode about Paris Hilton, referring to her as a “stupid spoiled whore”.

2007 was also the year Paris went to jail for 23 days for driving under the influence and violating her probation. OMovies on YouTube made a rather entertaining parody of her song, “Stars are Blind”. They also made one about Lindsay Lohan, but I can’t find that one right now.

I must admit, I still enjoy this video, even though it’s kind of an unfair and inaccurate roasting of Paris Hilton.

I decided to read Paris Hilton’s 2023 book, Paris: The Memoir after I saw her YouTube documentary and read several articles about her ordeals at Provo Canyon School, a “troubled teen” facility in Provo, Utah. I determined, especially after watching her documentary, that there’s a lot more to Paris Hilton that meets the eye, and she’s gotten a really bum rap. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, reading Hilton’s book only confirms that notion to me.

The media unfairly portrayed Paris Hilton as an empty-headed, spoiled moron with low morals. But the reality is, she was suffering from untreated Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Like a lot of us who came of age before ADHD was commonly treated, Paris Hilton was forced to try to fend for herself as she struggled through childhood and adolescence. She did poorly in school, and had some pretty obvious impulse control problems. But she wasn’t a bad kid, and she certainly didn’t deserve to be sent off to high priced boarding schools where she was blatantly abused and learned absolutely NOTHING of value. On the contrary, she left those experiences with significant trauma. Fortunately, she’s got a head for business, so now she’s selling her story to the masses, but she’s also trying to make a real difference through lobbying efforts against these abusive facilities that charge obscene amounts of money to imprison, brainwash, and abuse children on behalf of their parents.

A good portion of Paris: The Memoir is about Paris’s experiences in several facilities of differing severities. However, she also writes a fair bit about her family, and repeatedly reiterates that she has forgiven her parents. She writes that she knows they were trying to help her, even though they had her hauled off in the middle of the night by abusive goons who handcuffed her and shuttled her off to unspeakably awful “schools”. I can’t help but wonder if that would have happened if Paris Hilton had been appropriately treated for ADHD instead of simply being regarded as a discipline case. She might have still gotten into trouble, but I doubt her parents would have felt the need to send her away.

These days, Paris Hilton makes her living as a D.J. and business person. She fully admits that she’s a very privileged person, who has a whole lot of benefits that most people don’t have. There are a few instances in her book when her frankness about her privilege took me aback. On one or two occasions, she even makes statements that seem obviously and blatantly arrogant to me. But then, the charm returns, and I realize that even the arrogant statements aren’t even particularly wrong. It’s just that in our culture, people tend to frown on folks who pat themselves on the back too much. When Paris brags, she’s just being truthful. The fact is, she is beautiful, wealthy, and quite charmed in her life.

While I’ve read better written books than Paris Hilton’s, I also give her credit for being able to write her story in a fairly clear and coherent way, in spite of her vapid image… and in spite of the fact that she spent two years in a teen gulag, and never went to college. It’s more than a lot of people can accomplish. I see from reviews that some readers were left unmoved by her story. Some continue to refer to her as spoiled and narcissistic. Whether or not she’s like that in person, I don’t know. She says she’s a “nice” person, and there are many times within the book at which I can believe that about her. She’s also a survivor.

I couldn’t help but cheer for Paris when she related the story about how she went to the ladies room and slammed her female goon in the face by kicking the stall door at her like a “kangaroo”. I don’t usually cheer for violence, but I truly hate the troubled teen boarding schools. So many of them are just cash cows for religions and make their money by drugging, abusing, and traumatizing young people, then sending them out into the world to recover. It’s absolutely appalling and despicable. Even people in prison get treated better than that, most of the time. I can’t stand to see people being brutalized, especially when they’re teenagers, as Paris was when she went through her ordeal. So yes, I do cheer when young people manage to get one over on oppressive, bullying, abusive people who are simply using them for money or labor. Fuck that.

I don’t think this is the best memoir I’ve ever read. Gven a choice, I’d probably read Jennette McCurdy’s book, I’m Glad My Mom Died over Paris Hilton’s memoir. But I do think that if this type of book interests you, and you have the time and means to get it, it’s worth the read. That is, only if you can get beyond the stereotypical image of Paris Hilton that the media projected on her, back when she was younger. One criticism I would offer is that Paris mentions her time on The Simple Life, which was a Fox reality show that she did with Nicole Richie. I never watched the show, so when she kept mentioning people from the show, I was a little bit lost. I sort of deduced some things, but it would have been clearer for me if she’d have explained a bit more. But that’s a minor quibble.

Paris Hilton seems to have cleaned up her act, and has done a lot to repair her reputation. I, for one, applaud her for her efforts. No, she’s not perfect, and I understand that many people have no sympathy for her. Personally, I’ve found myself softening toward Paris Hilton in the past couple of years. Even if she seems a bit vain and shallow to some people, she certainly doesn’t seem as “bad” as she did in 2007 or so. And even in 2007, I doubt she was as bad as the media portrayed her to be. Yes, she has the benefits of wealth, beauty, and coming from a powerful family, but those attributes aren’t everything. In fact, they can even be hindrances in life. But most people probably don’t want to spend more than a few minutes pondering that potential reality, do they? Unfortunately, a lot of folks prefer to think the worst of others and simply tear them down relentlessly. Then, when someone does the same thing to them, they’re the first to whine about it.

I think on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest rating, I’d give Paris Hilton’s memoir a four. Your mileage may vary.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

celebrities, family, mental health, poor judgment, psychology, teen help

Currently reading Paris Hilton’s book about her horrific adolescence…

A few days ago, I finished reading Don’t Think, Dear, which was about ballet. When I was finished reading, I went searching through my huge queue of books to be read, bumping quite a lot of them to the top of the list. Then, I remembered that Paris Hilton wrote a memoir that I downloaded some time ago.

I remembered being excited to download the book, Paris: The Memoir, when I first heard about it. It’s not because I’m a Paris Hilton fan… or, maybe I should say I wasn’t one before I started reading her story. I have to admit, though. She’s won me over somewhat. I’ll know for sure if she’s really turned me into a booster very soon, as I’m cruising through her book pretty speedily.

I’m not going to get into the specifics of the book yet, because I plan to review it. However, I do want to state that one of the reasons I admire Paris Hilton is that she’s speaking out against the “teen help/troubled teen” industry, which has been one of my “pet projects” for over twenty years. I also admire her because she’s managed to forgive her parents for signing her up for horrific and repeated abuse, for which they paid top dollar. If my parents had done that to me, I don’t think I would be interested in speaking to them ever again.

I’ve read a number of books about the so-called “teen help” experience. Many of the people who have written about being locked up in boarding schools/boot camps are just regular folks. However, famous people have also written books about being sent away for “help” when they were teenagers. I read Drew Barrymore’s book, Little Girl Lost, years ago, about her stay in a rehab in California. I read Long Way Home, Cameron Douglas’s book about his drug addiction and being sent away to Provo Canyon School, which is one of the places Paris Hilton was sent.

Some schools and hospitals truly are lifesaving. To be fair, Drew Barrymore and Cameron Douglas were both seriously addicted to dangerous drugs. I seem to remember Drew was completely out of control by the time she was thirteen years old. I recall seeing photos of her at age nine or so, completely bombed out of her mind at a party. And I know that Cameron Douglas has spent time in prison because of his issues with drugs.

On the other hand, there have been plenty of books written by people who weren’t addicted to drugs or doing dangerous things that put their health at risk. Saving Alex, which is about a “non-famous” person, is the story about a young lesbian woman who was raised Mormon. Her parents couldn’t abide her “same sex attraction”, so they sent her away to be “straightened out”. Troubled is a book written about several people who were sent away to teen boot camps to be rehabilitated.

In so many of these stories, including Paris Hilton’s, there are allegations of severe child abuse and, in some sad cases, even deaths. The teen help industry has been a cash cow for decades. It was a largely unregulated business, allowing the owners of the schools to collect big bucks to further screw up already troubled teenagers.

In Paris Hilton’s case, she alleges being tortured– beaten up, sexually abused, and verbally abused by so-called staff members and other “students”. When she tried to tell her parents, they refused to believe her, and signed her up for even worse “treatment”. It wasn’t until she threatened to go to the press the moment she turned 18 that her parents finally relented. What is very sad to me is that it only took the threat of Paris Hilton outing her parents to the press is what got them to stop paying people to abuse their daughter. It dawns on me now that Paris Hilton could have metaphorically clicked her heels three times to go home again… all she had to do is threaten to out her parents for abdicating their responsibilities and sending Paris away to literally be tortured by strangers!

One of the things Paris Hilton had to endure as part of her “troubled teen” experience was the dreaded “body cavity search”. Paris didn’t know what that was before it happened to her for the first time. I remember how I found out what they were… It was when I watched Police Academy II, back in the 1980s…

This scene is presented as comedy, but when it happens to you– as a teen, no less- it’s not funny at all.

Paris Hilton describes what it was like for her to have her most personal and private parts of her body explored by sadistic “nurses” at the “schools” she attended. She was a teenager and a virgin at the time. I remember what it was like for me when I had my first exam. It was extremely traumatizing for me, so much so, that I’ve only had it done on one other occasion in my lifetime. The doctor who did my first exam wasn’t actually trying to hurt me, although that is what happened. I think she just didn’t care if she hurt me– which isn’t the same as being sadistic. In Paris’s case, it sounds like the people who were looking for contraband through a humiliating body cavity search were actively trying to be cruel to her.

When I read about the multiple violations of Paris’s body and soul, it made my heart go out to her, and it made me ANGRY at the people who allowed this scenario to occur. When you think about it, this whole situation came down to money. Paris was “out of control”, so her parents sent her away to be “fixed”. She writes that they thought she was okay, because they were paying “top dollar”. The school was extorting huge sums of money for the privilege of abusing a minor. And when Paris finally whispered to her father that if they didn’t take her home, she’d go straight to the press when she turned 18, all of a sudden, they were ready to spring her from the joint! How disgusting!

Like I said… I do understand that parents who have teens who are out of control are in a tough situation. Sometimes it is appropriate for teenagers to be sent to facilities where they can get professional help. But those facilities should be licensed and regulated, and the people who use them should never be locked in filthy rooms, forced to eat disgusting food, physically abused and threatened, compelled to listen to religious or political dogma, or worked/exercised until they collapse! Paris Hilton spent time in Provo Canyon School which, she writes, was staffed mostly by Mormons who went to Brigham Young University. It wouldn’t surprise me if she wasn’t exposed to religious abuse, too, knowing what I know about the LDS church.

Back in the mid 2000s, Paris Hilton had a terrible reputation. A lot of it was based on her reality show with Nicole Richie, and the fact that there was a sex tape out there about her. She’s pretty and blonde, and people have assumed she’s just a bimbo with no heart or soul. Reading her book, and watching the movie about her life (“This is Paris”, available on YouTube) has shown me that there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. She’s doing important work, and she deserves massive respect for speaking out about her experiences.

The official documentary about Paris Hilton…

I should be done reading the book within the next day or so, and then I will be posting a review. Suffice to say that my opinion of Paris Hilton has completely changed in recent years. She may not be someone I’d ever be besties with, but she’s definitely no dummy. And no matter what, she shouldn’t have had two years of her life wasted in snakepit “teen rehab” schools that are almost entirely about incarcerating challenging teenagers until they turn 18 and are no longer their parents’ legal responsibilities. Those types of schools are not doing good work when they have their staffers abuse people whose brains are still developing. Once they get out into the world as “independent adults”, they become the rest of the world’s problems.

Anyway, that’s my rant for today… time to practice my guitar and think about happier things.

celebrities, healthcare, lessons learned, mental health

I have new respect for Paris Hilton…

I owe Paris Hilton an apology. There’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. I’ll admit, I never paid a lot of attention to her, mainly because of her ditzy party girl image. I vividly remember back in May 2007, when she was 26 years old and sentenced to 45 days in jail for violating probation. She went to the slammer and became so distraught that she was illegally transferred to house arrest. Judge Michael Sauer ordered her back to jail and it was big Internet news for awhile. There was even a parody song done for her.

A parody about Paris done to the melody of her song, “Stars Are Blind”.

At the time, I will admit that she seemed like an overprivileged Hollywood brat. The media had portrayed her as a rich heiress who never had to work a day in her life. Well… having just watched her YouTube documentary, “This is Paris”, I now know that Paris is no dummy. In fact, as I watched the ending, I was both impressed and rather emotional. I couldn’t believe it, but I felt really sorry for Paris.

Worth viewing.

It’s been in the news lately that Paris Hilton was sent to Provo Canyon School (PCS) in Provo, Utah. I’ve mentioned PCS in this blog more than once. It’s a place where troubled teens are sent. Paris Hilton did get in trouble a lot. I’m sure her parents were at their wits’ end with her. She liked to party when she was a teenager and her parents were very strict. They didn’t want her to wear makeup or model or do any of the things she was drawn to as a young woman. So she rebelled, and they sent her to a variety of “teen help” programs meant to straighten her out. She ran away from several other programs before she finally landed at Provo Canyon School, where she stayed for eleven months. There was no escaping Provo Canyon School, and Paris got the full treatment. Now it makes total sense as to why she was on the verge of a nervous breakdown before she went to jail in 2007. But back then, no one other than her fellow inmates at PCS knew what she’d been through at the school.

I’ve written a lot about so-called “teen help” programs over the years. In fact, I recently reviewed Cameron Douglas’s book Long Way Home. In his book, Cameron Douglas mentions PCS, describing it as a place no one wants to be. It was a notoriously abusive, hard-core facility for troubled kids. In fairness, Cameron Douglas actually was a troubled kid and did end up doing time in prison. But Paris really seemed to be more misunderstood than ultimately headed for the big house.

In her documentary, “This is Paris”, Hilton explains that she has recurrent nightmares. They begin with her being kidnapped out of her bed in the middle of the night. That actually happened to her. She was “kidnapped” by paid actors, escorts hired by her parents to take her to PCS. I have read a number of articles and researched a lot of organizations that charge big bucks to “abduct” troubled teens from their homes and send them to pseudo-psychiatric boarding schools. Parents pay a lot of money for their children to be “treated” by poorly trained “counselors” who employ abusive and sometimes violent methods of getting their charges to comply. I also know from prior research that some programs, such as those run by the now defunct World Wide Association of Special Programs and Schools (WWASPS), actually gave parents discounts on tuition if they recruited other parents to sign up their kids. Teen help is a big business, especially in Utah.

It’s worth mentioning that Provo Canyon School was owned by a different organization when Paris Hilton went there in the late 1990s. Hilton spent eleven months in the facility when it was owned by Charter Behavioral Health Programs; it is now owned by Universal Health Services, Inc. Charter was a big corporation in the 80s and 90s and constantly aired ads advertising its services for troubled teens. We even had a facility near where I grew up. It was called Charter Colonial Institute and I knew a couple of people who were sent there. Charter got a lot of bad press about some of its “treatment” methods, which included physical restraints, use of psychiatric drugs, solitary confinement, and boredom– staring at a wall.

Provo Canyon School is located in Provo, Utah, which is at the heart of Mormonism, as it’s also the location of Brigham Young University, the church’s most prestigious institution of higher learning. PCS is staffed by a lot of BYU students with varying levels of qualifications for working with troubled youths. Many LDS church members are involved in the “teen help industry”, and as it’s mentioned in Paris’s documentary, a lot of the people who work at the many teen help facilities in Utah go on to open their own businesses, straightening out teens. I’ve written a lot about the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS), which operated some of the worst of the teen help programs around the world, but there were other programs out there that have since closed. Thayer Learning Center in Kidder, Missouri was one such facility that operated a military style program. It closed after someone died. Baptists are also well-known for running programs for troubled teens, especially in Missouri and Mississippi.

Paris Hilton happened to be a teenager when these programs were really thriving. I’m sure her parents thought they were helping her by sending her to “boarding school”, not to mention restoring some sense of normalcy in their home. But they had no idea what Paris went through at Provo Canyon School. She couldn’t tell them, and in fact, didn’t tell them until just recently. Paris’s mother, Kathy, is in the documentary, as is her sister, Nicky, but her dad, Richard Hilton, who was one of the youngest of the famous Hilton siblings, was not shown in the film.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t really that interested in most of the documentary. I mostly wanted to hear what Paris had to say about her time at Provo Canyon School. However, I must admit that she comes across as very intelligent and compassionate in her documentary. I was especially impressed by the women she had over to her house who had known her when they were at PCS. They all suffer the aftereffects of having been sent to that place. It’s obvious that a lot of damage was done to them, not just because they say it, but because of the way they say it. My heart kind of broke for them.

And now that I’ve seen the documentary, I no longer think Paris Hilton is a vapid, spoiled, filthy rich asshole. There’s a real person behind that party girl image. She’s smart and talented and deserves more respect. And she did not deserve to be beaten up, drugged, stripped naked, and put in solitary confinement. I’m sure her parents are horrified. Her mom was shown on camera as Paris told her about it and she did, in fact, look really shocked.

The Salt Lake Tribune recently ran an article about PCS. Unfortunately, I can’t easily access it in Germany, but it may be worth a read for those who are interested. It’s easily found if you Google Provo Canyon School. I really think these types of “teen help” programs should either be outlawed or much better monitored. A lot of young people have been irreparably harmed by them, and some have even died.

The deaths aren’t a new phenomenon, either. In 1995, 16 year old Aaron Bacon died in a wilderness program in Utah, having developed a bleeding ulcer that turned into peritonitis. In 1996, Anthony Rutherford, then a teen at Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy in Missouri, murdered another teen, William Andrew Futrelle II while they were gathering firewood. And in 2007, fifteen year old Roberto Reyes, who was at Thayer Learning Center in Kidder, Missouri, died after being forced to exercise when he was sick. Fortunately, these programs have since closed, but others still exist and are not given the state oversight that they should have.

What Paris Hilton endured at Provo Canyon School is definitely abuse. It would not have been tolerated if it was reported as going on at her home. Why so-called “boarding schools” are allowed to get away with this shit is beyond me. I’m sure it has a lot to do with money, though.

Drew Barrymore also did time in “teen help”. She was a notorious drug abuser when she was a teenager. I read her book, Little Girl Lost, in the early 90s.

In the above clip, Paris says she hadn’t meant to talk about her experience at PCS. She just wanted to talk about her business ventures, which are quite impressive. Paris apparently inherited and developed a head for business. But I am so glad she talked about this experience. She’s going to help a lot of people. And from now on, when I read a fluffy article about what an “airhead” she is, I’ll know it’s bullshit. Paris Hilton is no fool, and she’s laughing all the way to the bank. And she deserves happiness and more respect than she gets from people who have bought into her rich girl persona.

Now Drew Barrymore, on the other hand, was genuinely a very troubled child who did need some real help and, by her account, she ultimately got it. And fortunately, where Drew went was not as bad as PCS was. Drew has straightened out nicely, too, although I think I like her more as an actress than a talk show host.

Drew must have been ordered to make this special with Corey Feldman.

Here’s a treasure trove of information about these programs from people who have been there. I used to read it a lot in the early 00s, when I was researching this topic a lot.

Here’s a link to Breaking Code Silence, an online place for testimonials and videos from survivors of teen help programs.