"HiltonGate"? And the Winner is Barbara Walters

Let's face it: Al Gore was right about a great many
things. Specifically, the former Vice President of the
United States criticized America's overheated media
coverage of "celebutards" as a national distraction.
The fact that this criticism was coming from a man who
gave up the presidency and founded a start-up news
organization -- Current TV -- for The Attention Deficit
Generation was particularly galling to those of us who
can handle our panty-less Lindsay Lohan photos, thank
you very much. We can quit the celebri-smack anytime
we want to (cough, cough); we just don't want to right
now, okay?! How dare Gore. And so, we just dismissed
him as a cranky ex-Vice turned narc, harshing on our

How wrong we were, once again, about the prescience of
Albert Gore, Jr. The former Vice admittedly sounds
overly righteous and, to be sure, cloyingly pedantic
as he wags his well-manicured fingers at us from
behind the pages of The Assault On Reason. Gore,
tragically, has never quite managed to match the tone
with the political argument he seeks to purport. Even
in the NAFTA debate, it wasn't so much his superlative
argument as the overall bat-shit crazy of H. Ross
Perot and his bewildering overuse of the pejorative
"gorilla" -- which, we admit, still puzzles us after
all these years -- when referring to the Vice
President of the United States. Gore certainly won't
tear eyeballs away from crazy bald Britney or the
freakish, couch-jumping Tom Cruise; Gore certainly is,
however, essentially correct about the nature of our
addiction to celebri-smack.

Case in point: HiltonGate. The celebri-smack is
presently poisoning our news. One can almost imagine
Al Gore, newly-minted media castigator, gnashing his
teeth, throwing coiled fists against a boiling sky,
appalled -- appalled! -- at the notion that the
prestigious news divisions at ABC and NBC are
ensorcelled in Paris Hilton's rarely-used panties.
ABC's Barbara Walters was the first penetrate -- no
pun intended -- Paris Hilton's inner circle, proving,
magnificently, that she could grab the headlines as
well as Rosie or Star. Walters scored a legitimate
"get" in the course of her prison conversation with
the notorious Paris Hilton, which became the talk of a
million blogs and talk radio programs last week. There
was even some talk among the Chattering Classes that
the newly "Spiritualized (Averted Gaze)" Paris might --
might! -- take over the Rosie seat on The View.
Allow for the theoretical possibility that a
thoroughly vodka-and-lemonaded socialite like Paris
Hilton could possibly wake up in the early mornings,
on weekdays to boot. Stranger things have happened.

Anyhoo: Fast-forward a smidgeon. Those ever-classy
Hiltons (exaggerated cough suggesting feigned
detachment), Rick and Kathy, were -- are? -- serving as
Paris' network go-betweens, angling ABC News against
NBC News, holding out, rather skeevily we cannot fail
to note, for the best deal from the Fourth Estate. CBS
News -- the Elder Sister of the Big Three networks -- in
a fit of good taste, decided, wisely, not to stay at
that particular Hilton. Barbara, with the inside
track and the sterling reputation for asking heads of
state what kind of vegetation they most resemble
psychologically, didn't seem to be worried about
anything at all. In retrospect, perhaps she ought to
have been.

It must have given Paris' new "BFF" Barbra Walters an
unpleasant moment of white-hot cognitive vertigo to
say the least in hearing that The Hiltons™ went in
for NBC instead of ABC. Paris and The Hilton's were
dialoging with NBC News around their common religious
understanding pertaining to -- how does one say this? --
"Cash-Money (Ka-Ching)." Paris Hilton's dubious,
jejune "spirituality" involves an archaic and esoteric
concept known in remote antiquity to monks and sages
as "Production Materials Fees (Cue: to Bach's "Mass in
B-Minor")." Barbara Walters' own network, ABC, could
only pony up $100,000 worth of these holy and
spiritual cash-monies; Meredith Vieira's NBC, however,
was negotiating a sacred, karmically-positive fee for
"collateral material" that put the peacock network in
another "Cosmos," one no doubt adjacent to nirvana,
Barbara Walters' friendship notwithstanding.

Barbara, of course, don't play that. Barbara Walters,
who has been at the media game a lot longer than The
Hiltons, lashed back, expertly, not unlike a
modern-day Gilles de Ray, defending the integrity of
ABC News and their policy not to pay for interviews.
We simply won't entertain the possibility that ABC,
and allegedly Walters herself, conducted those
$100,000 collateral fees negotiations. Whatever the
case, the newly sacralized Paris looked surprisingly
like the old, skanky one; worse: while locked up in
the pokey, Hilton was now soiling America's
semi-pristine television news landscape not unlike an
untrained teacup chihuahua with a stomach full of


Of course Paris, in prison, trapped, vying to
re-invent herself in the eyes of the media, took quite
a tabloidal beating. And she had all the time in the
world to meditate on precisely what Barbara had done.
One can almost imagine Walters lisp, echoing off the
prison concrete, softly chuckling at what she's
wrought: "That isn't a prison, this is an operating
room, and I, Paris, am the head surgeon. From here on
in everything is going to be moving fast, as Barbara
probably anticipated it would. From Bill Carter in
Saturday's New York Times, this is how it went down:

"Thursday night after a spokesman for the Hilton's,
Michael Sitrick, released a statement saying that
Paris Hilton would not receive payment of any kind for
the interview or for what he called 'collateral
material,' like photos or videos. 'I don't think it
was playing tonally the way the Hilton's wanted it to
play.' Said one of the executives involved in the
negotiations. 'They decided it looked bad asking for
money, no they just pulled out of everything.' Mr.
Sitrick did not respond to requests for comment

And how does the story end? Rick Hilton, the
patriarch, and Paris Hilton, the unmoisturized
ingénue, clearly in Hilton Damage Control Mode, each
contacted Barbara Walters offering her first dibs --
sans the offensive cash-money -- on an exclusive Paris
post-jailhouse interview. ABC News turned the Hilton's
down, reputation -- and ratings -- stronger than ever
(Charlie Gibson is somewhere, smiling).

Now Hilton is out of jail, off to Larry King tomorrow night. But the real winner is Barbara Walters and ABC. Beyond that, a moral to the story: We should perhaps listen more closely to Al Gore.