ATLANTIC CITY — While the rest of the Philly media was busy eating the dust of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, Citizen Mom and Phawker headed down the Shore to party with the Queen of All Media, Perez Hilton! The celebrity uber-blogger — who was just named #2 on Forbes Magazine’s Web Celeb 25 — held court at the Borgata Saturday night and ONLY Team Phawker was there to get the celebrity juice, NOT from concentrate and straight from the mouth of Miss Perez herself.
BY AMY Z. QUINNThe scariest guy on the Internet plops down next to me on a banquette. He’s sporting a head of pink hair, a dark T-shirt-and-jacket combo, skinny jeans and moon boots — an ensemble that probably nobody else could pull off. He looks tired. I probably don’t have to ask, but I do anyway: “So is it Mario, or Perez?””Tonight, it’s definitely Perez,” he says, softly.By now anyone with an Internet connection and a celebrity jones knows the backstory: This baby-faced gangstar of gossip built his media empire the 21st century way — on his laptop, from a table in a Los Angeles coffee shop. Two years in, PerezHilton.com regularly counts more than 2 million hits a day, and Perez Hilton — born Mario Lavandeira to Cuban-American parents in Miami — is fast becoming one of the most recognizable “brands” in popular culture.Tonight — on the job, as it were — he’s Perez Hilton, celebrity blogger and now, celebrity. He’s about to descend into the nether regions of the Borgata, where people fill club Mur Mur, drawn by one short note dropped on his site early last week. The guest lists are full, the waitresses are mostly bare, all the paleface Jersey hoochies are bumpin’ boo-tay on the dancefloor, and the VIP area is roped off in velvet, bottles of Dom perspiring in immaculate silver ice buckets.They’ll have to wait, because right now, Hilton and I are sitting smack in the middle of the swanky Bobby Flay Steak restaurant, trying to hear each other over the crowd. Instead of being on the scene to capture the bold-faced names, Perez Hilton is clearly the biggest name in this room. It was his turn to have a girl approach during dinner, gushing about how big a fan she is. And it seems every gay boy in the place — and honey, my gaydar is registering four alarm flames — is watching his every move.He’s still getting used to being gawked at — in fact, he says, he’s still the only person producing PerezHilton.com. No, he says, he doesn’t have “people.” Not yet, anyway.”I just don’t have a life at this point,” he says. Then again, there’s life and there’s LIFE: Hilton spent much of last week seeing and being seen at Sundance. Then there was a quick trip back to L.A. and a weekend on the East Coast. Next week it’s Miami, then London, then Australia. “It may be getting to the point where I’m going to need some [people],” he says. Along the way, he meets and greets, knows all and tells all. The stories you’ll be reading this week in the gossip mags about Kirsten Dunst and Drew Barrymore‘s ex? Perez had it last week. The thing about Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel? Perez. The stories you’ll read next week about Clay Aiken cruising websites for male companionship? Perez had the exclusive — including webcam images — days ago. Most significantly, when you read the stories about how “the gay community” isn’t buying Gray’s Anatomy actor Isaiah Washington‘s apology-and-rehab atonement for calling a co-worker a “faggot,” you can bet Perez — out, proud and single — has been the loudest voice in the group.No, it’s not the war in Iraq, but it’s news people want, and PerezHilton.com gets it — far more quickly than the weekly gossip mags and often, far more accurately. “I like breaking stories,” he says, “But I also do things that I think would be fun, and that I think other people will be interested in.”Right now, what people are interested in is him. He’s taping TV appearances, doing stints on Howard Stern‘s satellite radio show, indulging reporters and churning out an unending stream of material onto his site. The guy’s a star, but still enough of a newbie to fame that he seems a little sheepish about all the fuss.”People are, for the most part, very responsive and supportive with what they say,” he says, but of course there are haters. Before she went to rehab Lindsay Lohan was known to reel off obscenity-laced tirades in the site’s comment section. He took heat from Nicole Richie for calling her anorexic, and caused an uproar among his own audience by suggesting Britney Spears‘ infant son looks “special.” And of course he’s being sued by a paparazzi agency, which alleges copyright infringement to the tune of $7.5 million.Brand Perez is a curious pedigree: he’s kind of a reporter, kind of an entertainer, definitely a celebrity, but ready and willing to shred to bits — teeny, tiny, bitchy little bits — nearly every aspect of celebrity culture, like some mutant spawn of a Walter Winchell–Cindy Adams–Truman Capote menage’. Even many of the stars whose red-carpet photos have been graffiti’d with giant penises and cocaine boogies are among his most ardent butt-kissers. I ask him about that — how does that work, now that he’s a part of the club?”I’ll never be part of it,” he says.I wonder. Neither of us know it during our interview, but later that night, Hilton would have one of those moments you hear famous people describe when someone asks the moment they knew they were famous: He’s going to run into a woman wearing a T-shirt with his face on it.He writes: “That was the first time we saw someone wearing one of our tees in public. We were as giddy as Clay Aiken trolling for sex.”