The Hiltons is a sweeping saga of the success - and excess - of an iconic American family. Demanding and enigmatic, patriarch Conrad Hilton's visionary ideas and unyielding will established the model for the modern luxury hotel industry. But outside the boardroom, Conrad struggled with emotional detachment, failed marriages, and conflicted Catholicism. Then there were his children: Playboy Nicky Hilton's tragic alcoholism and marriage to Elizabeth Taylor was the stuff of tabloid legend. Barron Hilton, on the other hand, deftly handled his father's legacy, carrying the Hilton brand triumphantly into the new millennium. Eric, raised apart from his older brothers, accepted his supporting role in the Hilton dynasty with calm and quiet - a stark contrast to the boys' much younger half-sister Francesca, whose battle for recognition led her into courtrooms and conflict. The cast of supporting players includes the inimitable Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was married to Conrad briefly and remained a thorn in his side for decades, and a host of other Hollywood and business luminaries with whom the Hiltons crossed paths and swords over the years.
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I didn’t know much of what I was getting into before I started reading this book. I often enjoy books centered around powerful families such as the Kennedy’s, so I thought I would give this one a go. Luckily for me, it was not centered on Paris Hilton, but predominantly the members of her family that have allowed her such a privileged lifestyle.
Conrad Hilton, Paris’s great grandfather, came from a family ethic where you were expected to work hard to earn your own path through life, without handouts or free rides of any kind. He believed in keeping the family name clean and even though he knew that he wasn’t the father of one of his children, he still called her one of his own and gave her his last name.
Naturally, I have always assumed that the Hilton’s lived off of the wealth of their family’s fortune, but was surprised to learn that this was not Conrad’s vision for his family and had there not been a loop hole in his will (that allowed his son, Barron Hilton, to contest against and win), our ear’s may have been spared the term “that’s hot” for so many years.
It was also quite interesting to learn that Conrad thought that women who spent a majority of their time hung up on doing things to make themselves look beautiful were frivolous and foolish. He couldn’t even endure watching a woman apply fingernail polish in his presence. So, of course, he wasn’t thinking very clearly when he married Zsa Zsa Gabor in the 40’s. As a result, they had two separate bedrooms.
I found it interesting how the author compared Zsa Zsa to Paris toward the end of the book, because the entire time that I was reading about Zsa Zsa, I couldn’t help but notice their uncanny similarities as well.
Although Paris claims that she has worked for everything that she has, one can’t help but wonder if she would be so independently wealthy had a sex tape of her and Rick Solomon not surfaced in 2004. I suppose it is possible with the success of her reality show “The Simple Life”, but with her arrests, possessions with marijuana and cocaine, “after going to seven different private/or parochial schools” and then “being expelled from the Canterbury boarding School” after breaking the rules and therefore later earning her GED, it’s just hard to believe that she could be as successful as she is without her last name’s influence along with her infamous sex tape.
Paris may be the most popular heiress since Conrad, but the first one she is not, by name at least. Conrad also had a daughter with Zsa Zsa Gabor although he claims that this is entirely impossible since he wasn’t having sex with Zsa Zsa. But because he wanted to keep the Hilton’s name in tact and for the sake of Zsa Zsa’s daughter, Francesca Hilton, he claimed her to be one of his own.
Francesca had no reason to believe that she wasn’t a Hilton, by blood, until an argument ensued with Conrad when she asked to live with him and for money and he regrettably blurted out this fact to her. Francesca assumed that he wasn’t feeling well and that he wasn’t serious until she sued for more money after his death and learned that he had been quite serious, as he left information regarding this belief should she later sue. This sounds horrible, but I gathered from all of the information given that he had a soft spot for her and therefore left her more money than he initially planned and he felt terrible about their quarrel.
I really felt horrible for Francesca as she had a mother who was so self-involved and a father that claimed that she wasn’t his. Then later in life, Zsa Zsa’s super creepy and attention-seeking husband, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt attempted to keep her mother isolated from her. Although she didn’t have it so easy in life, Francesca seems to have had a decent life and remarkably laughs about it in hindsight.
As a whole, I enjoyed this book. I found it to be very informative rather than biased which was quite refreshing. I particularly liked how in the end, the author did a comparison of Zsa Zsa and Paris because I can’t imagine many people reading this without doing so.
Although I have spoken mostly about Paris and Zsa Zsa as they are more identifiable, the book taps mostly into the lives of Conrad, his wives, and his children.
I definitely recommend this book although I have to add that if someone were looking for a Hilton-bashing book or for gossip that you won’t find it here. This reads more as a non-opinioned biography of the family and how they became so infamous.