It wasn't too long ago when Mario Lavandeira was a powerless, average nobody with a college degree. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times last week, "it was only last year that this lower-middle-class, Jesuit-schooled kid from Miami was unemployed, $60,000 in debt, in bankruptcy and deeply depressed."
Today, Lavandeira reportedly earns six figures, and he earns it while depressing others — the people who've come to fear him.
"For a certain breed of celebrity, a new fear has come into being, one that can't easily be cured with a kind word or a cleansing chant," The United Kingdom's Guardian reported this month. "More than a disappointing weekend at the box office, more than being omitted from the guest list of the current hot spot, more than being punk'd or papped, young Hollywood fears Perez Hilton."
Yikes, even I'm shuddering — but not because I fear Hilton. I shudder to think that if there is a man steeped in good intentions behind the rancor of the gossip-boy who has learned to work a very, very large room, he's being suffocated.
It's hard to tell if Lavandeira created the fatuous Hilton from nothing, if his alter ego is a work of foul fiction, or if Hilton was cut from a huge chip on Mario's shoulder. They are, without a doubt, two distinct characters trying to exist as one.
In addition to writing "we" instead of "I" when posting to his blog, Hilton has revealed in at least one interview that he's at odds with his architect. When commenting on his somewhat garish attire at this year's MTV Movie Awards, he confessed to Radar that he was wearing "a very Perez outfit. Mario would never wear that."
So, did a decent, average gay Joe become a loathsome queen overnight, or has contempt always lived inside Lavandeira?
To some, especially those he insults, it hardly matters now. Hilton is on the loose, and his rewards obviously outweigh any compassion Lavandeira had or has. "I'm laughing all the way to the bank," Hilton told the Los Angeles Times.
But, I wonder, will all of Hilton's money ever account for what Lavandeira lost? And more importantly, is Hilton someone we in the gay and lesbian community should invest in?
The bitchy view from Hilton's high horse is suspect. I have to question the character of a man who attacks others on such deeply personal levels, without provocation and for self-benefit, monetary or otherwise. On some level, it's acceptable, I suppose; gossipers are notoriously bitchy, speculation is fair game, and trash talk is a tool of the trade. But Hilton's lack of boundaries exposes something closer to rage and reveals a rather unenlightened train wreck of a man.
Although Hilton talks a good game, saying that closeted Hollywood celebrities are hypocrites who, as public figures, deserve to be exposed, his delivery sucks. Why sabotage the validity of his argument by being mean and immature?
At 28, Hilton is too old to be throwing tantrums and behaving like a 10-year-old with a crayon who has only recently discovered the "c" word. He's reckless, unable or unwilling to handle the huge responsibility that's come with the power he's attained.
If he's emotionally incapable of exhibiting even the tiniest bit of compassion for closeted people, if he can't be sensitive to the fact that coming out is a very personal decision and that the process that be difficult for some — especially celebrities — I feel sorry for him. If his juvenile behavior is his shtick, I think it makes him a much more pathetic figure, and one the gay and lesbian community should not support.
Hilton's anger, despite his attempts to express it amusingly, not only reflects an afflicted soul, but — if we are to believe that he wants to change attitudes toward gays and lesbians from Alabama to Zimbabwe — it is also misplaced. To instigate real change on a level that the global gay community can benefit from, he should be targeting the hypocrites in state houses, not in movie houses.
But that wouldn't be much fun for him, would it?
It's just as well I don't take Hilton seriously. As I've written before in this column, I'd love for all the usual suspects in Hollywood to come out, but their coming-out wouldn't transform the world — not even if they all came out on the same day. It would only change Hollywood.
It's easy to get the world's attention momentarily — we see evidence of that every time a celebrity comes out. And there's no doubt that a bunch stars coming out all at once would get global attention for quite some time — a full month, maybe! But it takes a great deal of time and a lot of people making great efforts to truly effect change on a large scale.
In the past year alone, folks all around the world have been able to turn on a TV and either hear about or witness atrocities of war, devastating acts of nature, hunger and poverty on a grand scale, and even attempts to exterminate entire groups of people, but the only thing some of us change when we are reminded of these things is the channel. And Hilton thinks that by abusing Clay Aiken, the world will come to its senses?
It's not going to happen.
If gays and lesbians want to change the world, we need to start by changing the ways we act and react in it. If we support behavior like Hilton's, we applaud shallowness, arrogance, rage and invasion of privacy, and risk becoming what we despise. And if that happens, all of the semen splashed on all the faces of every closeted star in Hollywood won't distract the world from the egg on our faces.