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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  December 8, 2020 12:30am-1:01am GMT

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our headlines. the british prime minister, borisjohnson, will travel to brussels this week, in a bid to salvage a post—brexit trade deal. he will hold talks with the european commission president, ursula von der leyen after the most recent negotiations on future trade with the eu failed to make progress. millions of people in the us state of california have been placed under a strict new coronavirus lockdown, as cases surge across the country. america's leading infectious diseases expert has issued a stark warning that christmas will be a greater challenge than thanksgiving. the first coronavirus vaccines are due to be administered, at hospitals around the uk within hours. military personnel have been drafted in to help set up special centres where mass coronavirus vaccinations will begin. the jab will be offered to the most vulnerable initially. now on bbc news, it's hardtalk.
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welcome to hardtalk. i'm stephen sackur. gossip, scurrilous rumour, a fascination with the flaws of the rich and famous — these human foibles are as old as the hills, but the age of the internet has amplified their power. my guest today can lay claim to be the godfather of online gossip and scandal—mongering. perez hilton — real name mario lavandeira — created his showbiz gossip blog 16 years ago. he made a lot of money trashing reputations and inflicting misery on the famous. now he says he's sorry, but should we believe him?
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perez hilton in los angeles, welcome to hardtalk. thank you, happy to be here. we're delighted to have you. i called you perez hilton. i wasn't sure, actually, whether to call you perez or mario, because, obviously, we need to start with that name, perez hilton. you, when you set up this showbiz blog site in 2004, you basically took the name of one of the most famous celebrities of the moment, paris hilton, and put a twist on it. was that your first example of outrageous exploitation? well, before that, my blog was called pagesixsixsix — a play on the new york post page six gossip column. and i know in the uk
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you have page three there. and it was that for a while. eventually, though, i ended up getting sued by the new york post and page six, but thankfully, i had already created the alter ego of perez hilton before that. and it came about by necessity because i realised at the beginning of my career, if i'm talking about people that have very strong fan bases, i can get very strong reactions. so, within six months, my phone number and address were leaked online, and i said, "wow, i should probably protect "myself in some way." and the name was just a way to protect myself. and it almost was too effective because, for years after that, i kind of lost my true self in this character that i created. and i would tell myself ridiculous things like, "i don't care if people like what i'm writing,
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"it's not me, it's this character," until there came a point where i had to really accept, no, it's not a character. it's you saying these things. but in the course of the interview, we're going to discuss your relationship with celebrities in some detail. i just want to get it out there at the very beginning. did you ever get the permission of paris hilton to use this dot—com site, perez hilton? because, clearly, it drove a lot of traffic your way because it was the clearest signal that you were going to be talking, dishing the dirt on celebrities just like her. did you get permission? no, i didn't get any permission. thankfully, she did not sue me. i'm very appreciative of that. unlike so many others! yes. we'll get to the lawsuits, but before we get there, why were you, a kid born to cuban—american immigrants to the united states — why were you from a young age so preoccupied, obsessed with
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fame, celebrities, and gossip? i think a lot of it is cultural. here in anglo america, the word "gossip" has negative connotations that are even worse here than in the uk, because i've spent a lot of time in england, and in england, gossiping is maybe not as commonplace, or even as celebrated as it is in latino culture, but it's not as frowned upon as it is in the united states by us americans. but latino americans, to be a "chismoso", to be involved in "el chisme", isjust to be informed, and i grew up with the biggest chismosa there was — my mom, who knew everything about everybody, from the neighbour down the street, to my cousins, to the parents at my school. and what's also an interesting little tidbit, as many
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of you brits might know, anglo—americans are fascinated by the british royalfamily. growing up, i would read my mother's hola! magazine and all of her celebrity spanish—language magazines, and latinos are fascinated by the spanish royal family. so just this fascination with royals and pop culture and celebrities that i grew up with. you make it sound so sort of anodyne there, but your particular take on gossip was to go negative, to dish the dirt and talk the trash. and ijust wonder why that particular style appealed to you so much. the pop psychologist in me thinks perhaps it's linked to the fact that, in your memoir, you're very open about the fact you were bullied at school. you were called the fat kid mercilessly by your peer group. you were a pretty unhappy kid. was it there that the seeds of wanting to get your own back in a way, to be mean to others,
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because so many people had been mean to you — is that something to do with it? possibly. it wasn't that calculated when i began, and, for a long time, i viewed what i was doing like being the director and writer of a soap opera. so it wasn'tjust negative. i wasn'tjust having it out for celebrities. i had my heroes and i had my villains. and i think also society and culture was that at the time — let me take you back to the early 2000s. brad pitt and jennifer aniston broke up, and i don't know why, but it became this thing — team jen versus team angelina. in fact, this very popular boutique in beverly hills, kitson on robertson, where all of the celebrities used to go to get photographed, they would sell t—shirts that said team ange, or teamjen. and for some reason, i chose
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team ange, and she was my hero, and jennifer aniston was my villain, and it was dumb and stupid. but to be honest, the only team you really cared for, it seems, was team perez, because you basically... absolutely! you began to make an awful lot of money out of suspending your compassion, your humanity, any filter you might have had, which allowed you to be, frankly, horribly mean to an awful lot of high—profile people. i fully accept that. and i know that that is the reason why, all these years later, you, and the majority of the world, are not willing to let me grow or evolve, and choose to only see me as the person that i used to be. for a long time, i was very sad about that. but now in 2020, i realise, you know what? i can't control people's perception of me.
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i can only control my words and actions, and my reactions, and how i do things. so yeah, i carry with me deep shame and regret, and, you know, i'm fully transparent. i knew at the time what i was doing was wrong. if i could claim ignorance, that would be one thing. but i wasn't ignorant. i'm a smart person. but let me — hang on, what you're saying is really interesting, and i am interested to talk to you about your notion of evolution, but i just want to know what was going on in your head, for example, when celebrities came up to you and said, "this is the damage "you are doing to me." khloe kardashian famously came up to you... i'm not sure she said this to you direct, but she wrote it. she said, "perez has become my personal bully," and, who, of course, had great success with black eyed peas, he felt that you disrespected him so badly he approached you at an awards ceremony to ask you why you were doing it, and you used
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a word i can't even use on air to refer to his sexuality. what was going on in your head during those kinds of encounters? the same thing that was going on with a lot of the celebrities. i was a full—blown addict and, while my drug of choice was not drugs or alcohol, i was fully and severely... you might not believe me, and you don't have to believe me, i was severely addicted to attention, especially because i went from having none, and having my dreams of being a failed — being an actor, to not come to fruition to now getting all this attention. so myself — and also a lot of these celebrities at the time, it was the birth of social media, they were doing things on purpose to be written about. and i was doing things on purpose to be loud, to be shocking, to get attention.
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and we were alljustjonesing for that next hit of attention. it wasn't until well into my 30s that i realised, you know, you shouldn't probably say everything you're thinking because that's what i would say to justify my behaviour. i would say... but with respect, if we're going to analyse this, itjust seems to me you were being a bully in a way that they were not. they were living their lives in public. they wanted positive publicity. they would play games with the media. i get all of that. you were part of the media that was playing games with them, but you went much further. you became that out—and—out bully. let's talk another specific example. britney spears, whom you hounded, ithink, in that period around 2006, 2007, where she was clearly deeply mentally unwell. you talked about her shameful behaviour. you accused her of being an embarrassment. you were savage on a woman who, frankly, was having a mental breakdown in public.
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i was, and i fully own that. i've also apologised many times, both publicly and privately. and i understand nobody has to forgive me, and most people won't. you know, i wish i could go back in time and do things differently, for many reasons. you may not believe me, but i now see — i did not see the damage i was causing. even if i heard it, or even if i did become aware of it, i chose not to. i was "drinking the kool—aid", as the expression goes. i was in my own bubble.
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i was so high off of all of this that i didn't care. it was reckless disregard, and dangerous, and it i was so high off of all of this that i didn't care. it was reckless disregard, and dangerous, and it became worse and worse because when i started it wasn't that — i did start from a place of, in 2004, being a fan of celebrities. but, like any addiction, or anything that's bad, you know, it doesn't start full blown right away. it got worse and worse as the years went on. and then eventually, around 2008, i began thisjourney to be a healthier person. and when i became healthier, i started to have different thoughts and i started to think, "is this "the right thing to do, how i'm doing things?" but for a period of two years, i was paralysed by fear because by 2008, i was already perez hilton and had been doing things a certain way for four years. i was afraid that everything i'd built would go away. let's be honest, partly the fear was probably that you would undermine your own business. you were making a lot of money. an awful lot of money. that's what i just said. i said everything that
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i built would go away, and that was scary for me. but eventually, two years after that, in 2010, there came a point where — i mean, i can go into details... well, i do want to talk a little bit about 2010 because it seems to me it raises interesting issues also about your self—identity as a gay man in the united states, because you've written honestly about the degree to which you had been a committed outer of celebrities, outing being the effort to expose their sexuality, their gay sexuality, even if they wanted to keep it secret. you'd gone after various showbiz celebrities, actors and the like in your blog, basically telling the world they were gay, even when they were denying it. then in 2010, something awful, tragic happened in the wider world where there was a particular case of a gay student who was secretly filmed kissing another man.
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that video went viral. the young man then killed himself. there was a spate of suicides afterward. a movement began which wanted to fight back on the rights of gay people, and you found that you were being pilloried in the gay community for the way in which you'd outed celebrities. that seems to have gotten through to you in a way that almost nothing else did. it wasn't even just the gay community. it felt like the whole world. i made this video called "it gets better", which was the campaign, and male and female, everybody that i saw in the comments section of my video was attacking me severely, saying, "you're a hypocrite, you're a bully. "how dare you make this video when you're "part of the problem?" and that's when i had to really stop and let it sink in,
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that no, it wasn't this character that i had created of perez that was saying these things, it was me. and i had to take the mask off and stop doing things how i was doing prior to that, even if i lost money, or things didn't continue to go as well as they had been for my website. it was bigger than me, it was bigger than money. it was the right thing to do for the world. well, that's interesting, because you have said, you know, at that time you were drowning in negativity and you realised you had to completely turn around your life. but it seems to me you haven't really turned around your life. you're still peddling in gossip. you're still living off celebrities in a fairly sort of parasitical relationship. and if one looks at today, you can still find streams of sort of weird and negative stories about celebrities.
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so who is this new perez hilton? i know that the way i give my opinion is different than i used to, so i'm fine with that. i know that by saying, "justin bieber released "a new song, i don't like it," that might hurt his feelings, but i didn't say it in a hurtful way. ican live... well, with respect, it's not just giving your opinion on a particular work of art or a particular artist, it's much more personal than that. even in a recent interview you gave — i'm thinking of you, the new perez hilton, who says he no longer wants to be negative, no longer the sort of "queen of mean", or whatever people have called you — you still go after celebrities, whether it be madonna or ellen degeneres or even meghan markle, because in a very recent interview, you were discussing the likelihood that her marriage to prince harry would fail in the next few years. if you really want to get away from negativity, why are you doing that? well, in that same interview,
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i said i liked her. i'm going to give my opinion. how do you think she'll feel when a very influential gossipmonger such as yourself says, "i don't give "her marriage more than a couple of years"? that is my opinion. i don't think that's hurtful. i said, if it is as it remains now, where they're isolated from all of prince harry's family in the uk, and his little bubble isjust her, i don't see their marriage lasting. in fact, the reports back that up, that he's already expressed to people that he is homesick. i fully disagree with you, and you know what? if you don't — why are you even having me on your show? that's interesting because you are almost co—signing me, even if you are out to expose me in any way. but, even by having me on, you're helping me sell books. you're part of the problem as well. that's a very fair response and it's a great question. and the reason we're having
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you on is because gossip, and particularly the dissemination of this kind of gossip online, has become such a cultural phenomenon. you started something back in 2004... you're contradicting yourself because you said it's not anything new. it's not anything new — gossip exists... i'll tell you what's new. what's new is the scale and the reach of the gossip platforms of which you were a pioneer. now, in a sense... but you know what, what's even worse than gossip are people like yourself, and those that are commenting viciously and potentially very dangerously about politics and politicians. that, especially in america, i've seen in 2020, glaringly so, is far more dangerous than anything i ever did because it affects so many more people. interesting... that is far more troubling.
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it is interesting, the way you compare with politics, do you think celebrities — if we can use that generic term — have to have the same expectation of being held to account, so to speak, as elected politicians? do you think there's a direct comparison to be made there? no, i think the bar should be higher for politicians. i don't think the public or i expect celebrities to be perfect people. i mean, we saw kim kardashian this week get a lot of criticism for being out of touch, and throwing a big birthday party for herself, for her 40th. i do think that when a person signs up to be a public figure, that they do need to understand that the public will be talking about their lives, so it always is a bit humorous
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to me that celebrities might complain about the media talking about whom they're dating, or this or that or the other — you're not a private citizen, just like politicians aren't. that's part of the job. having said that, i don't think that people should be body—shaming or being cruel, or nasty or hurtful. but back to meghan markle, she chose to be an actress. she chose to marry the king of england. it's absolutely valid to say, "i don't think that marriage "is going to last." right, i don't know if you're aware of this, but... hang on, just to finish. just to finish, because you're saying some powerful things and you say you never these days want to shame people for anything about the way they look. but are you aware that on your website today, there is a direct link to promoted content, which is all about, "you won't believe what meghan markle "looks like without make—up."
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i mean, i don't know... that's advertisements. i don't control that. i don't approve every ad on my site. no, but i... this particular content, that's a ridiculous question! is it so ridiculous? you're still in this world, that you say after 2010 and your epiphany, you wanted to walk away from, but this is your world today. you're not listening to me. i didn't say i wanted to walk away from the world. i said i wanted to put new rims on the car, do things differently, and i do. you clearly don't believe me, and that's fine. i am a happy father of three, thriving. and i'm thankful that i get to talk to the bbc. and, you know, i'm getting these katie hopkins vibes from you, and i think i'm handling you quite well. the old me might have attacked you for this or that. the new me, just... i appreciate you giving me this platform and the time, and i thank you for promoting my book. a final thought on this evolution. again, i want you to regard this as a serious question, because i think it is really
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interesting. it's about your own personal evolution and your sexuality because you came out as a gay man i think in your student days, you've been out and gay for an awful long time. and yet, interestingly, as you've raised three kids of your own, you've said of your son that you would actually prefer it if he were heterosexual because that would make for an easier life. yes. i think people will find that very interesting. why do you feel strongly in that way? i mean, you're not a very good psychologist, one would imagine, because if you were, then you would see everybody‘s world view is informed by their past. my past was growing up gay and closeted, and experiencing a lot of pain because i was gay, and never felt accepted, not just by my family, but by the entire larger community in miami. the latino community, while celebrating gossip and this, that and the other, still to this day is not
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as embracing as their anglo peers in america. a lot of that has to do with the machismo. a lot of that has to do with religion. you see that with very religious communities, with minority communities, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans family members are cast aside. and even in anglo america, i look at somebody like ryan seacrest, the tv presenter, who's hounded by people saying he's gay, even though ryan seacrest is not, and does not identify as gay. even people who are metrosexual, or display a feminine energy, are discriminated against, and it's awful. it sucks. i wish that society wasn't that still today, but it is. i think any good parent just wants to protect their children.
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am i being overprotective? quite possibly. but i would rather be overprotective of my children than not protect them enough. fascinating stuff. perez hilton, i thank you very much indeed for being on hardtalk. thank you. hello there. tuesday is set to bring a real mix of weather across the uk and for some, the day will start off with some pretty dense fog, particularly across parts of southern and eastern england and up into the midlands. but further north, it's a different story. this area of low pressure swinging its way in from the east making it too windy for fog. instead, we've got cloud,
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we've got outbreaks of rain, a little bit of snow over high ground. but that's where we'll have the mildest start to the day, certainly relative to the pretty chilly conditions down towards the south. some spots 2—3 degrees below freezing, so that means we could have some freezing fog patches across parts of the west country, into the midlands, east anglia, up into lincolnshire. a few showers grazing the far south east, a bit of wintriness mixing in with those, and that could give some icy stretches. a bit of sunshine through the south west of england, parts of south wales but for north wales, northern england, northern ireland, and scotland, well here, we've got a lot of cloud. we've got some outbreaks of rain. some snow over high ground in northern scotland and some brisk winds with gusts of 50 mph or more for coasts of western scotland. so, as we go on through the day, this area of cloud with outbreaks of rain willjust continue to pivot around across scotland, northern ireland, northern england, parts of wales. further south and east, some of the fog can be quite slow to clear particularly through east anglia and lincolnshire. most places should brighten up
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with a little bit of sunshine. chilly, though, in eastern parts, 2—3 celsius. further west, we could see highs of 8—9. and then as we go through tuesday night into the early hours of wednesday, we see this cloud with outbreaks of showery rain gradually working south—eastwards. a little bit chilly for a time across parts of eastern england, and we could see a frost late in the night across northern ireland as the skies clear. but as we go on into wednesday, we see our cloud and showery rain tending to push eastwards. then, a slice of sunshine and then we see rain returning to northern ireland, wales, and the south west of england. but those temperatures just showing signs of creeping upwards a little bit, 5—9 celsius. now that area of rain in the west will tend to dive away southwards. so, a lot of dry weather around on thursday, but then there is another frontal system waiting in the wings. so, thursday, dry for many, but there's the increasing chance of rain for the end of the week, but it will be turning a little bit milder.
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this is bbc news — i'm aaron safir with the latest headlines for viewers in the uk and around the world. with time running out, the british pm will travel to brussels this week to try and secure a post—brexit trade deal with the eu. two of the biggest states in the us have warned of a worsening public health crisis, and dr fauci says christmas will be a greater challenge than thanksgiving. we don't listen to the public health measures that we need to follow. and we could start to see things really get bad in the middle ofjanuary. after a 2—year—long power struggle, nicolas maduro emerges triumphant in the venezuela election, but what next for the self—proclaimed interim


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