Thursday, June 07, 2007

Zi-WHAT?-anejo

I’ve been going back and forth all day on whether or not to post on this Paris Hilton jail thing. It’s not exactly on point for a personal parenting journal, we don’t really do topical content here, but at the end of the day I couldn’t resist. I found a little flimsy justification in the fact that if our girls were 14 and 16, instead of 4 and 6, they might actually have asked me tonight why this privileged blonde woman they've been seeing so much of was given a new ankle accessory and sent home from jail just 72 hours into a 45-day sentence – that’s about 6 percent of the total for those of you playing along at home.

Before getting too caught up in the obvious incongruity of Paris Hilton and jail – which seems clearly to have benefited her in this instance – it’s worth spending just a minute or two on how we got here.

Last September, Paris Hilton was pulled over by police in Los Angeles who observed her driving a car that was weaving all over the road. She was found to be drunk. She said she only had one margarita – the socialite’s equivalent of “just a couple beers” – but the facts are the facts, she was driving drunk. Ask these people whether or not that’s a significant thing. She pleaded guilty to reckless driving and was sentenced to three years probation. As part of her sentence, her driver’s license was suspended. Case closed.

Only it wasn't. In January, she was pulled over again. Driving. Without a license. After checking with her publicist, she claimed not to have known her license was suspended as a result of her previous conviction. She then signed a document acknowledging that she understood she was not permitted to drive. A month later, police pulled her over again. Driving. Why she didn’t at the very start of this submit to the inconvenience and hellish indignity of a 24-hour car and driver is beyond me. Clearly that option is easily within her means. Instead, she decided somewhere along the line that this wasn’t necessary because laws, rules, restrictions and consequences had nothing, really, to do with her. Those pesky things are for other people.

So, in the end, she winds up sentenced to spend 45 days in jail. I have to admit I get a chuckle every time I hear someone refer to it in this context as “prison.” Prison is a bunch of thugs in Pelican Bay who are never getting out tattooing each other with ink from a ballpoint pen and some metal pieces they pulled out of a radiator. Before she even reports, Hilton's "prison" sentence is trimmed to 23 days for “good behavior” - neat trick, that - and it looked like that was the way it was going to go. She was going to be segregated from other inmates and spend all but an hour a day in solitary confinement – for her own protection. I feel like I could do the first few days of a stint like that catching up on sleep, but maybe that’s just me.

She does the red carpet at the MTV Movie Awards Sunday night and, before the clock strikes midnight, turns herself in to begin her sentence. She says before she goes “inside” that she turned down an opportunity to buy her way into a private cushy jail because she wanted to pay her debt properly, make amends for her actions. I didn’t believe that line at the time because I didn’t think officials in California – knowing how closely this case was being watched – would give Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Extra! and Paris’ namesake Perez (Hilton) the opportunity to document such a high-end and “spa-like” incarceration. Seemed much more likely to have been something her “people” had raised as a possibility during a desperation brainstorm, along the lines of, “well, Paris, we could try to get you assigned to a pay-your-own-way work camp or something, which would be a nicer location, but it’s not very likely the state would go for it.” That exchange gets passed off to the grizzled and tough-as-nails press corps covering the red carpet at an MTV event as an offer extended and courageously rejected by Paris “I Did The Crime, I’ll Do The Time” Hilton, and reported as such.

So she wraps up with MTV and – craft service food still gurgling in her traumatized stomach – reports for her incarceration a couple of days ahead of her reservation. Showing up early is a smart move, a critical card her handlers and advisers must have pulled out repeatedly in the discussions that led to her early release: “look, she wanted to do this… she came in early, for Pete’s sake! She didn’t even have to be here until Tuesday, she came in Sunday, she understands the severity of this, she just wanted to get it behind her!”

There were limited reports on visitors coming and going this week and by Thursday morning she was out. OUT. Can you imagine? Sent home early. From jail. This prison guy in the press conference today was the best thing out there since “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” She wasn’t released, he said, just reassigned to her residence. Four Seasons Nevis was all full up, so they sent her home. The justification was an undisclosed medical condition. Here’s the condition – she was freaking out because she didn’t want to be locked up in jail!

It’s not hard to envision the behind-the-scenes dialogue that resulted in this. Some therapist, his credentials exceeded only by his compensation, appealing to authorities thusly: “Look, my patient is losing it, OK? LOSING IT! She’s not eating and she’s not going to eat. She was 95 pounds walking in here and she’s got 20 days left, you do the math. She’s about to have a nervous breakdown. Have you seen your linens? That bologna sandwich today was like something out of the Middle Ages! She wanted to do this, she came here EARLY remember, but this situation is really getting out of control, and this is going to be on your hands. Do you want this on your hands? You want to break this woman? Publicly. Over a TRAFFIC TICKET? She could hurt herself. She’s suffered enough, she’s truly, truly sorry. She’s learned her lesson. And even if she hasn’t, we got her a car and a driver. I promise you she won’t be arrested again. Put a bracelet on her ankle, confine her to home, take out the hair extensions, do whatever you need to do, just get her out of here. You don’t need this anymore. Help me, help you. Help ME, help YOU!”

I don’t know, Paris seemed pretty hearty and adaptable when she piled into a private jet and famously celebrated her 21st birthday at five different parties all around the world. The stress and uncertainty of new surroundings didn’t seem like much of an issue back then. And all those red carpets with disparate branded backgrounds featuring jarring corporate sponsorship logos, they never fazed her. Say what you will about Martha Stewart, at least she did the time - in general population. And she didn't drive her car through her stockbroker's office in a tequila haze.

There’s a reason Morgan Freeman and his buddies up at Shawshank took bets on which newbie was going to have the wheels come off on opening night. It’s JAIL. It’s traumatic, it’s the result of doing something bad. And how many times in your life have you ever heard of someone sentenced to time in jail being sent home early with a monitoring device because they found a doctor to vouch for the fact that they really didn’t care for it very much? Turns out Andy Dufresne played it all wrong. He didn’t have to spend 20 years tunneling through the wall with a rock hammer. All he had to do was call a therapist.

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