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Paris Hilton, a one-woman Las Vegas stimulus package

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Paris Hilton in that famous dress, at the Palms opening in November 2001.
Las Vegas Sun
Paris Hilton in November 2008.

Paris Hilton in November 2008.

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There was a time when I didn’t know Paris Hilton from former 49ers offensive lineman Bubba Paris, and that time was in the summer of 2001. I was the features editor of the LV Sun at the time, and we had been informed –- an exclusive! -- that Paris Hilton would be walking the red carpet at the opening of the Palms.

“Paris Hilton?” I said. “Is that a building or a person?” “Paris Hilton,” one of my colleagues said. “She’s the queen of Page Six.” Correct! It was in the NY Post’s famed gossip column, and other comparatively salacious celeb-news outlets, where we learned all about the vapidly alluring Ms. Hilton, famous first for being born into the Hilton Hotels hierarchy. Paris’s great-grandfather is Hilton founder Conrad Hilton, a fact often forgotten amid sex-tape distribution and farcical presidential campaign commercials (see attached YouTube video; Paris is quite good in this).

I saw Paris for the first time the night the Palms opened that night in November 2001, wearing a dress adorned with $1 million in Palms playing chips. I remember wondering why this Paris Hilton, who seemed not much older than a schoolgirl (she was 20 that night), merited such attention. She was friends with hotel owner George Maloof, yes, but he has a lot of friends who are infinitely more interesting than Paris Hilton. She’s cute, but this was the opening night of the Palms. Beauty abounded. I’m not sure anyone who observed Paris that night, during what turned out to be her Vegas coming-out party, would have expected she would still be red-carpet hot nearly eight years later.

Paris for prez - from YouTube.com

But she is back, Saturday night, this time at the Hard Rock Hotel’s Body English nightclub, celebrating her 28th birthday a few weeks late (her for-real natal date is Feb. 17, 1981). Paris is scheduled to prance the carpet at midnight, and in these instances she’s a hired gun –- hitting the carpet, heading inside, partying, preening and generally drawing attention to herself. And Paris is not a cheap date. She was reportedly offered $200,000 to celebrate her 24th birthday at Pure, but the Body English gig, in this economic climate, should be somewhat less lucrative. If not, maybe the nightclub industry really is recession-proof.

What’s amazing, and somewhat sad, is that Las Vegas has become financially dependent on these types of visits from Paris Hilton. It looks like a party, but it is all business with Paris. She draws a crowd, her name drives traffic, and people who might be willfully ignorant about the news of the day are sure to be informed that Paris Hilton is celebrating her birthday in Las Vegas. Paris says she doesn’t read any news about herself, which makes no difference in her world -- but she does scan the photos to make sure she looks good.

Eight years after cutting the tape at the Palms, Paris still looks good to us. Like a million bucks, even.

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