NEW YORK - He's chummy with Paris and the Simpson sisters. He goes to really cool parties at VIP hot spots around the world. He gets lots of free stuff. But Perez Hilton, whose Web site has become a go-to source for juicy celebrity dish, says he knows his place in the bold-faced world. It's outside looking in.
"I'm not a celebrity," Hilton - no relation to Paris, his is a nom de gossip - told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. "I don't take myself too seriously. I know where I stand in the food chain. And no matter how much of an insider I ever become or am, I'll still always be an outsider."
That attitude has made the openly gay Hilton - the self-proclaimed "Queen of All Media" - an increasingly addictive distraction to millions of celeb-hungry Web surfers, bored office workers and people just looking for a laugh.
His Los Angeles-based site, PerezHilton.com, has shaken and stirred the gossip crowd since its debut last year. Hilton, 28, posts tabloid photos of celebs and adds cheeky captions and rudimentary doodles. He coins nicknames for both A-listers (Kirsten Dunst is "Kiki Drunkst," Jake Gyllenhaal is "GyllenHO") and C-listers (Wilmer "Valdiarrhea," er, Valderramma). Among the recent posts: a snark-free, newsy item about Saddam Hussein.
"Even though what I'm doing can be harsh at times or biting or cynical ... in my own subservient way I am trying to make the world a better place," he said. "I will push the envelope. I'm not afraid to offend or be dangerous, whatever. Because I can. It's my Web site. I can do whatever I want."
Even Doogie Howser isn't safe. Neil Patrick Harris, who played the namesake doctor on the series "Doogie Howser, M.D.," publicly admitted he is gay weeks after Hilton posted an item pleading with the actor to come out. And `N Sync star Lance Bass, one of Hilton's favorite subjects, disclosed his sexuality in July. Hilton wrote, "This has been a monumental year in gay history!! ... Come out NOW! Come out in droves!!"
Is Hilton, who gets his scoops from a myriad of in-the-know sources, the most feared blogger in Hollywood?
"Some are (afraid of me), because some are afraid of the truth, and then some love me, because they have a sense of humor and they don't take themselves too seriously," he said of his celeb friends and foes. "It's 50-50."
Though he won't comment on his earnings, Hilton (real name: Mario Lavandeira) said he makes enough to work full-time on his site. He logs in 19-hour workdays during the week, he said, waking up early to update the site and staying up late to make the party rounds.
He says he has a reality TV show in the works and is trying to get a book deal and start up his own fashion line.
It's been quite a turnaround for Hilton, who said that before becoming a blogebrity he had been in a deep depression and last year filed for bankruptcy and was fired from a job at a celebrity weekly magazine. That turned out to be a good thing, he said, because he had time to get his "head in a healthy place."
He turned his attention back to his site, which he had started in 2004 under another name, PageSixSixSix. He moved out West. "It's not a job for me now," he said of his one-time side project. "It's who I am. It's how I express myself."
Hilton confessed that sometimes he finds his flashy alter ego in conflict with his Mario side.
"Perez is louder, crazier, will wear wackier things, will stay out till 3 or 4 in the morning," he said. "But Mario will just stay home and go to sleep and wear jogging pants and a hoodie."
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