So, Paris Hilton was on Larry King last night — perhaps you've heard? You certainly would have heard if you had tuned in to CNN at any point yesterday, as the network not only ran a news story on Paris arriving at CNN studios, but they had a ticker counting down to the interview during Paula Zahn. Then they had the actual interview — Paris! Speaking! Larry! Asking innocuous questions! — and THEN they had the hard-hitting post-game analysis, courtesy of a mortified-looking Anderson Cooper, who hosted one full hour of Paris-mongering on his show. Here's his reluctant intro:
ANDERSON: Well, here we go. There is plenty of news today. And, as always, we will be bringing it to you. But we can't be above the news of the moment either. So, thanks, Larry. And good evening, everyone.
We have all been watching TV around here tonight. Probably, you have, too. I think we have heard a couple of you screaming at the screens. But our panel has also been assembled, people who follow these kind of media occasions...all to answer the questions that we have all got: What do we think of what she said tonight? Does she sound like she really has changed? Has she taken any responsibility at all for drunk driving, using the N-word, and generally giving wealth and celebrity a bad name, as if it didn't already have a bad name enough?
Yes, the defining questions of our age! Actually, maybe the defining questions of our age. But either way, he convened Court TV's Lisa Bloom, PR maven Ken Sunshine, the always-principled and thoughtful Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill, and People's Paris-exclusive-interviewer Jess Cagle to deconstruct the last hour and get to the bottom of whether Paris really had changed.In truth, the highlight-reel-and-discussion-by-smarter-people-than-Paris was actually much more interesting than the interview itself, though they were careful not to criticize Larry for not asking harder-hitting questions and teasing out something meatier from her.* If it hadn't been such a nakedly exploitive move on the part of CNN to run the show — for a full hour! — it would have been almost a smart idea to have a panel deconstructing that moment and examining why the frenzy all came to this. To his credit, Anderson brought up the NBC million-dollar scandale and asked Cagle to clarify whether People had paid in any way for the Paris interview, including follow-up question asking if "money had changed hands" — which Cagle said it had not. Otherwise, Sunshine's PR take was interesting and Hill provided a necessary counterpart in allowing Paris the benefit of the doubt for her sentiments, no matter how awkwardly expressed (on the diary she ostensibly kept while in jail, from which she read aloud on Larry King, Cooper zinged: "Letter from a Birmingham Jail it is not"). That said, even if Paris came across as bland, she didn't come across as all that stupid, frankly; ETP was surprised to hear her use words like "mainstay" and "pandemonium" and "commisary" but then again, perhaps we're just snobby elitists about book-learnin'. She also got off a pretty good line here:
HILTON: The food was horrible.
HILTON: Well, it's jail food. It's not supposed to be good.
This, by the way, is a pretty good indicator of Larry's questioning technique. So the blandness may not be wholly attributable to Hilton.
She did say one revealing thing in the interview: "I hate to be alone." That might have been worth exploring, given that the paparazzi has been her constant companion since she was 16 and "started modeling" (read: Dancing on tables in NYC nightspots for Page Six). Larry neglected to ask her about that, either.
Oh, and in case you had been under a rock and missed all the hoopla yesterday, CNN was there for you this morning on CNN's "American Morning," when Kiran Chetney reported on it, we think at the top of the broadcast, though to be honest we were too sleepy to confirm at the time. Right now, Soledad O'Brien must be grateful for that reassignment.
Update, 11:10 am, CNN: "And still ahead, Paris Hilton! The CNN interview with our Larry King! First, Paris Hilton, the tease!" [cut to Hilton and her glossy bee-stung lips — who thinks collagen injections? ETP does, verily.]
*The big "gotcha" moment that everyone is kvelling over — where Paris can't name her favorite Bible passage — is a bust, because Larry, spooked by actually nailing her on something, quickly changed the subject. Which is a shame because it actually leaves us in doubt about whether or not Paris actually read the Bible — if she was reading it without guidance, who knows how she did it? Starting at the beginning and going straight through? Flipping idly through, skipping the boring parts about who begat who until she found something interesting, like when Moses went nuts and smashed the Ten Commandments at the foot of Mt. Sinai? We know she went to Catholic school but we don't know what that means she knows, and it's entirely possible that being put on the spot for a particular passage made her panic; a gentle follow-up from Larry about which story she liked or whether she read to Old or New Testament etc. would have provided more certainty here. If she did read the Bible, he should have been able help her prove that, and if she didn't, then Mike Sitrick and/or Elliot Mintz are really, really bad at their jobs.