Gossip hound Perez Hilton‘s first TV special, What Perez Sez (about Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards), premieres tonight on VH1. ”Even if you don’t like me, you’ll still be able to watch the show and enjoy it because it’s jam-packed with celebrities,” he assured EW.com Friday, phoning us from the Las Vegas airport, where he’d just touched down for the weekend’s festivities. A sampling of the stars you’ll see on the special: Simon Cowell, Michael Bublé, Pete Wentz, M.I.A., and Mandy Moore. (Two you won’t see: Avril Lavigne and Kelly Clarkson, who denied his interview requests.) While 70 percent of the special was shot before the VMAs — including a chat with Amy Winehouse taped three days before her August hospitalization for ”exhaustion”— he was looking forward to wrangling more stars on the red carpet. In the meantime, we turned the tables and had readers pose questions for Perez (né Mario Lavandeira) on our PopWatch blog. Here, his answers…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start easy. DONNER wants to know what you’d like to be doing in 5 or 10 years. What are your long-term plans?
PEREZ HILTON: Well, I’ll always do the website because I love it. I’m celebrating my third blog-iversary this month. But I think I need to really take it up a notch and get it to the point where I have a staff of people helping me with it. I think it’s gotten to the point where the website is bigger than just me. I get about 5,000 to 6,000 e-mails a day, and I’m kinda bummed, because up until about two months ago, I used to answer all my e-mails…. I just hired my sister two months ago to be my assistant, but she’s just coordinating this, arranging that, placing that order. I’m moving my mom out [from Miami], too. She’ll be my second assistant. She can do stuff like going to the bank, going to the post office, and driving me to meetings so that I can multitask and work while in the car…. I don’t get much sleep. Monday through Thursday, I average four hours a night. And then Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I try to get like seven hours. I’m totally dead, but I love what I do, and I feel really lucky to do it and be my own boss. It sounds really cliché, but I am living my own American dream. I’m at a point now where I’m able to help my family.
JANINE, a minivan-driving mom of three who says your website is her porn, wants to know a bit about your sources. Are they mostly anonymous? Do they contact you? Do you have regulars? How reliable do you feel they are?
My best sources are always my friends, people that I’ve known well for a while and that have given me accurate information in the past and are unbiased. Thankfully, I have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people in my address book and in my phone. They’re everyone from publicists, managers, agents, assistants, nannies, dog walkers, neighbors, people at clubs, people at bars, and drivers to celebrities themselves. Anything that I get from a reader whom I don’t know — I would say almost all of those I don’t post, unless I know someone who knows who they’re talking about. Like if it’s a post about Nicole Richie, I can call my sources that know her and see if that’s accurate or not. Or, if someone sends me an e-mail with pictures. [Laughs] Photographic evidence always helps, like that picture of Vanessa Hudgens, which I actually thought was fake and was a little stunned to find out was real. I feel horrible because not only did I think it was fake, I didn’t know that allegedly, the photo was taken about a year ago, when she was only 17. So technically, any website that runs that picture could be sued for kiddie porn. Serious stuff…. It doesn’t matter if you’re a star or regular folk, no one should be taking naked pictures of themselves or making a sex tape if they don’t ever want it getting out there. It will happen. So don’t do it, kids. I don’t know why people have not learned.
NEXT PAGE: ”I’m all about equalizing and normalizing: Why is it okay for US Weekly to write about John Mayer’s secret relationship with Cameron Diaz but it’s not okay for me to write about [one man’s secret relationship with another]? That’s homophobia.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: GUNTHER says you never explained on your site why you dislike Rumer Willis, and asks, ”What is it about this girl that ticks you off?”
PEREZ HILTON: Oh, I would ask Gunther what he likes about her. A lot of my feelings toward celebrities [like Willis] are just gut instincts, and my instincts are never wrong…. She put herself out there, so she was opening herself up to the criticism. I have no sympathy for her…. Obviously, there are celebrities that I like and that I don’t like. My website is not claiming to be objective. In fact, it’s one person’s point of view — it’s PerezHilton.com. I love Angelina Jolie, for example, and even though people may criticize her for this, that, and the other, I won’t, because I think she’s amazing.
Following up on that, have you ever written something, then regretted it?
I don’t regret a single thing I’ve ever written. If I did, I would be in the wrong business. [Laughs]
Is there anything that you debated whether or not to run — and then didn’t?
Yeah, of course. For example, a TV show was the first to reveal Lindsay Lohan’s location after she was arrested a second time. We all know now that she was in the Cirque Lodge in Utah. Well, I knew that before anyone else. Yet, I refused to disclose that information. Why was it necessary to reveal specifically where she was? That only led to paparazzi going there, to tainting the experience for her and other patients. In my own way, I do try to use my website as an opportunity to celebrate and shine the light on celebrities that get it right and those that get it wrong. And I do want to encourage Lindsay to get better and get well and stay healthy.
COACH’S MISTRESS, a regular reader of your blog, says she doesn’t want to sound like The View, but she would like a real answer to why you don’t play nice with celebrities’ children.
Why should I? I am controversial. I am shocking. I write under a character. Things that Perez says, Mario would never say. And a lot of times, I’m saying things just to push people’s buttons. It’s strategic. I want to piss people off. I want them to leave comments. And if you don’t like what I’m writing, then don’t read it. It’s really that simple.
That leads into STEPHEN’s question. He wants to know if it’s frustrating when people call you names and other things on your blog for writing the snarking comments about celebs that they’re reading. He finds that hypocritical.
No, I love it. I would say that most of the comments on my website are negative and attacking me. And that’s great, because it keeps me very grounded and level-headed. I would never get full of myself — I can’t. I constantly have people attacking me. I dish it, and I can take it. It would be hypocritical of me not to be able to, and I’m all about keeping it real.
GINGERCAT, who it’s safe to say is not a fan, is wondering why you take it upon yourself to ”out” people before they’re ready to be outed. She asks, ”Shouldn’t every gay person be allowed to make that decision for themselves?”
I agree with that. Every gay person should be allowed to make the decision for themselves — and they do. I have never forced anyone out of the closet. Forever now, I’ve been talking about Jodie Foster, and in your very magazine, they asked her to comment on reports of her being a lesbian, and she didn’t talk about it. No one has forced her out of the closet. I didn’t force Lance Bass out of the closet. I didn’t force Neil Patrick Harris out of the closet. They chose to come out. They saw an opportunity of me reporting the facts about their life to be honest and open with their fans and the public, and they’ve both gone on to see that it has not hurt their careers or their lives in any way. In fact, it’s helped…. A lot of the mainstream media, and a lot of the people in Hollywood, still think that being ”out” will hurt your career. It’s not true. There hasn’t been one single case of someone coming out in the last five years that’s hurt their careers. When Rupert Everett came out, maybe a different story. But the times have changed, and it’s not bad for business. I’m all about equalizing and normalizing: Why is it okay for US Weekly to write about John Mayer’s secret relationship with Cameron Diaz but it’s not okay for me to write about [one man’s secret relationship with another]? That’s homophobia. If you’re a celebrity or a politician, anything is fair game. You’re choosing to live your life in the public eye, so you need to be prepared for the public talking about you.