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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Britney Spears & Paris Hilton

Aired December 4, 2004 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: Coming up on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, from the moment we met her, she had our attention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRITNEY SPEARS, MUSICIAN: Hit me, baby, one more time.

SUCHIN PAK, CORRESPONDENT, MTV NEWS: "Hit me baby one more time," what does it mean?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A former Mouseketeer, she quickly became...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPEARS: Not that innocent.

PETER CASTRO, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Britney took cute and fused an enormous amount of sex appeal. And she did it in a really shrewd way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: After a walk down the aisle that lasted 55 hours, she's back with a new husband and maybe a baby.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think there's any doubt that Britney's trying to have a baby and hopes to do it very, very soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: With her greatest hits now in stores, are we ready for the pop star's new prerogative?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPEARS: That's my prerogative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From toxic temptress to stay-at-home mom, Britney Spears.

Then she's the hard partying socialite, the heiress turned model turned reality show star.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN MURRAY, CREATOR, "SIMPLE LIFE": She's clearly an it girl. I mean there's something about her that draws you in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Fortune and fame for the hotel granddaughter of hotel magnet, Conrad Hilton. Wealth and celebrity are a family tradition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEO BRAUDY, AUTHOR, "THE FRENZY OF RENOWN: FAME AND ITS HISTORY": She comes from a family that has traditionally had a kind of hankering for some larger sense of fame.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: But there's fame and then there's infamy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paris Hilton was just a dab on the red carpet until that video ended up on the Internet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: From sex scandals to simply hitting the red carpet. Is this what celebrity has come to?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, it's enough somehow just to have the camera pointed at you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Paris Hilton and our fascination with fame. Their stories now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, I'm Paula Zahn. Brittany Spears is just barely into her 20s and yet she is an international pop sensation with the fame, fortune and misfortunes of a superstar twice her age. Britney's latest is a greatest hits CD called "My Prerogative." And it comes on the heels of her second marriage and her decision to take two years off, away from the limelight. Here's Kyra Phillips.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SPEARS: Baby, can't you see. I'm calling...

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the ripe, old age of 23, she's the undisputed, precociously seductive princes of pop. SPEARS: I love what you do. Don't you know that you're driving me...

CASTRO: Britney Spears became a superstar because she hit on a brilliant formula and that was, I will be the modern-day Lolita. I will have a nation of screaming, preteen girls wanting to be me and I will have a nation of horny old men wanting to sleep with me.

PHILLIPS: With that toxic blueprint, Britney Spears has planted herself in the pantheon of pop. She's Madonna's mini-me and the world can't get enough.

JOE LEVY, ASST. MANAGING DIRECTOR, "ROLLING STONE": Where's she going? Is she there? Is she dancing? Is she drinking Pepsi or Coke because she's supposed to be drinking Coke? No, she's supposed to be drinking Pepsi. Which is it? What was she drinking? Was it Pepsi or Coke?

BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATOR: Easy, boy.

PHILLIPS: Four No. 1 albums, 12 top 10 singles, 50 million in record sales, with a net worth estimated at $100 million. She's a headline-breaking, scandal-making, lip-locking machine.

TOURE, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "ROLLING STONE" MAGAZINE: I was like, they did not just kiss! Yeah, baby! They kissed. It was good. It was good.

SPEARS: Baby, baby, how was I supposed to know?

PHILLIPS: We met Britney Spears a little more than five years ago and from the start, her twist on the Catholic schoolgirl was rocked with controversy.

PAK: She hit that button where it was like, whoa, you know, wait a minute, you know, hit me baby, one more time. What does it mean?

SPEARS: Hit me baby one more time.

PHILLIPS: She danced with a snake, had sex with Justin Timberlake and as the years passed, only the jaded tabloid reader would be bored. But in the fall of 2003, in the wake of her fourth album's release, Britney buzz took a turn.

SHAW: Well, before in the zone, the problem was we were seeing a lot of Britney, but it was a lot of Britney in bad light. It was a lot of Britney acting out. She was flipping off the press in Mexico. She was drinking. She was smoking. She was out all night clubbing.

MICHAEL MUSTO, ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER, "THE VILLAGE VOICE": There was a lot of concern for Britney. Is she melting down in public? Is she out of control?

PHILLIPS: Then in January 2004, the biggest news of the new year, out of the zone. She's walked down the aisle and oops, needs an annulment. PAK: The Britney wedding, for a while, I think we all forgot that we went to war.

PHILLIPS: But pop tart's 55-hour Vegas marriage was just the beginning of the buzz ahead.

SPEARS: Are you ready for what's next?

LEVY: Well, we were ready.

PHILLIPS: With massive promotion, her Onyx Hotel tour kicked off in March. Four months later, a knee injury KOed the tour.

LEVY: The prospect of Britney doing the Onyx Hotel tour, you know what, let's scale it down. We'll do it acoustic. I'll sit in a chair and we'll do "Baby, Hit Me One More Time." I don't think that was really going to work.

PHILLIPS: But wait, we're not done yet. On September 18, another official announcement, yes folks, she did it again.

JESS CAGLE, SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: She shocked the world again.

LARRY HACKETT, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: The family didn't know. Her mother didn't know. Her sister was very upset at one point because she thought she was the only one who hadn't been told.

CHUCK KLOSTERMAN, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "ESQUIRE" MAGAZINE: If someone asked me, you know, what does Britney Spears do for a living, at this point I would say it's be Britney Spears.

PHILLIPS: She was born Britney Jean Spears on December 2nd, 1981, in the tiny southern zip code of 70444.

ALIX STRAUSS, BIOGRAPHER: Britney was born in Kentwood, Louisiana, which has a population of something like 2,400, the same amount of people that it takes to make Madonna happy. It's very all- American. It's blue collar. It's everybody knows everybody. You know, it was everything that it should be. It's back to "The Andy Griffith Show."

PHILLIPS: Britney's father worked construction. Her mother, Lynne, taught school. Money came and went, but one thing always remained.

DARLENE HUGHES, BRITNEY'S FORMER TEACHER: Britney's voice bloomed. She was so strong, and her voice was mature and developed and people would just stop and look with their jaw dropped.

PHILLIPS: She excelled in gymnastics, studied drama, studied tap and quickly developed a charm few could resist.

HUGHES: Britney was precious.

PHILLIPS: In the fall of 1989 eight-year-old Britney now a third grader took her homework on the road and headed to Atlanta for a Mickey Mouse Club audition. Casting agents found Britney too young. Lynn Spears left undeterred.

SHAW: She's not the kind of mom that says you know what, that let's stay home and bake cookies together and go out on the swing set. She wanted her kid to be a star.

PHILLIPS: Months after the Disney audition, she landed an agent. Britney's first shot of fame came in the summer of 1991.

MUSTO: So she and mom came to New York and Britney almost immediately got a job in "Ruthless," an off-Broadway musical which was about a little girl who will do anything to be famous. It was a real stretch.

PHILLIPS: The off-Broadway run lasted six months and following her return to Kentwood, in April, 1992, Britney nabbed a slot on the ultimate talent show.

CASTRO: She was on "Star Search" and then that was sort of like the first glimpse of like, you know, who is this precocious, little, talented kid?

PHILLIPS: Exactly one year later, the house of the mouse asked Britney to join their club.

SPEARS: Our final story is the shocker of the week...

MUSTO: Britney tried out for the "New Mickey Mouse Club" and this time she got on and actually she beat Jessica Simpson for the part. Jessica screwed up in a question and answer segment. It must have been about chicken of the sea.

PHILLIPS: Out of 15,000, seven had been chosen and in the end, the cast was a virtual who's who of future teen idols.

STRAUSS: You had Keri Russell. You had Christina Aguilera. You had J.C. and Justin from 'N Sync.

SHAW: It was a very talented little gene pool going on with those Mickey Mouse ears.

PHILLIPS: And, boy, did they click.

T.J. FANTINI, FORMER DISNEY MOUSKETEER: I was there for the first kiss. What happened was that we all decided to go over to my house and we were hanging -- it was actually the night of the O.J. Simpson chase and then we decided to play truth or dare, and one of the dares was for Justin to kiss Britney. And lo and behold, there was their first kiss.

PHILLIPS: Coming up, love in Louisiana, before Justin, before Colin, before Kevin, there was Reg.

REG JONES, HIGH SCHOOL BOYFRIEND: I was in love. I mean -- and it wasn't because she was Britney Spears. It was because she was Britney. (END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS (voice-over): By 1993, 12-year-old Britney Spears was living a tween queen fantasy. Cast as the youngest member of Disney's all-new Mickey Mouse Club, the Louisiana native had found fame, a flame, and a best friend in the form of future nemesis Christina Aguilera.

FANTINI: They were best friends on the show. That's what I don't get. When we were on the Mickey Mouse Club, they were the best friends. In fact, they used to get notes from the producers that said, "Look, you guys can't keep dancing next to each other. The only time we see you on camera is when you're with Christina."

PHILLIPS: But in 1995, two years into the show's run, the Mouseketeers found out they would no longer.

STRAUSS: My guess is that she was devastated. I mean who wouldn't be? She was going back to Kentwood, Louisiana, for what? I mean what do you go back there to?

HUGHES: Kentwood is a small town. There are a lot of dairy farms in the rural area. Downtown, it's very peaceful. Everyone knows everyone else. They look out for each other. It's just a very calm, serene town that anybody should be happy to live in.

PHILLIPS Staying true to her roots, pop's future princess quietly resumed her life as an everyday student, and in the halls of Parklane Academy, a boy quickly caught her eye. His name was Reg Jones.

JONES: And before basketball games, we would talk. She played junior high. I played high school and we would talk just as friends for a while and then when she was a ninth grader and I was a senior and I didn't have a date for homecoming, and I was like, why not? And I asked Britney to go to homecoming with me and that's what started it all.

PHILLIPS: A standout athlete from a prominent local family, the 18-year-old quickly became Britney's first boyfriend.

JONES: They liked the fact that I was a little older, because I would sort of protect her a little more than the younger guys would, if you know what I'm saying? I was in love. I mean and it wasn't because she was Britney Spears. It was because she was Britney, you know, she was my girlfriend. We would -- we had great times together. Three years, got a lot of memories, a lot of good memories.

PHILLIPS: But the home-town romance hardly suppressed Britney's itch for the spotlight and in the spring of 1997, the 15-year-old recorded a demo. STRAUSS: And it was like this makeshift demo that they made at the house with a tape recorder and they sent it to Jive Records. Jive Records really liked what they heard. They brought her in. She sang two songs for them and they were just bowled over.

PHILLIPS: Overnight, Britney landed a contract. And before the ink was dry, she said good-bye to Reg and Kentwood, Louisiana.

JONES: The only thing that sucks about when we broke up was it was -- the loss of it, it seemed like I lost my best friend, you know.

SHAW: The record label wanted the video to be this kind of space- age Power Rangers kind of thing and Britney was like, no way. We are not doing this. She actually came up with the idea of do the whole kind of bad Catholic school girl thing.

SPEARS: Oh, baby, baby...

PHILLIPS: In October 1998, the world got its first look at a brand-new pop star, part Pollyanna, part Lolita. Britney's debut unleashed a phenomenon.

CASTRO: "Baby One More Time" was a single that was being sung by nine-year-olds, 19-year-olds, 29-year-olds and 49-year-olds.

PHILLIPS: The single spawned Britney mania. And on January 12th, 1999, her first album debuted at No. 1. Within a month, it sold two million copies and became a global smash.

TOURE: And then it was like oh, here she is again, and again and again and again. New video, new awards show performance, new -- I mean it was like suddenly it was her world and you couldn't get away from her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're t-n-e-y, right?

SPEARS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

PHILLIPS: Soon Britney joined red-hot boy banders 'N Sync on their sold-out tour. It was here that she would reunite with her Mouseketeer crush, Justin Timberlake. And in the coming months, rumors of a relationship only added to the growing torrent of media coverage, a downpour which grew in intensity when she posed provocatively for "Rolling Stone" in April 1999.

SHAW: I think parents started getting a little concerned like, wait a second; this isn't the sweet little pop star we thought she was.

PHILLIPS: Twelve months and 10 million copies later, album No. 2.

CASTRO: People expected a sophomore slump, and that did not happen with her. If anything, the snowball got bigger. PHILLIPS: And the controversies intensified. In May 2000, Britney's sophomore disk rocketed to No. 1, but no sooner had the pop tart's red rubber suit hit MTV, double-D rumors began to circulate.

MUSTO: Overnight, she suddenly had gigantic bosoms and the press took note and everybody said, wait a minute, this doesn't look real. Britney's people insisted that she had simply hit puberty in a massively quick way and I believed it.

SPEARS: Everybody talking all this...

PHILLIPS: Coming up, everybody's buzzing about Britney's new prerogative, the wedding, the album, a baby. The latest on Mrs. Kevin Federline.

HACKETT: Britney Spears wants to have a baby very badly. And in fact, when asked point blank if she was pregnant, it had a certain pregnant pause in the conversation, you know, deciding how to answer the question.

SPEARS: That's my prerogative.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SPEARS: Early morning...

PHILLIPS (voice-over): By the fall of 2000, pop's reigning princess was sitting on top of the world. Lucky in love, lucky in life, Britney's latest single seemed a fitting anthem for a 19-year- old whose two albums in two years had sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.

TOURE: At the time of "Oops," Britney was the lead character in the prime music genre of the day which was Christina Aguilera, Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync. I mean there was a glut of them and Britney was the most popular girl in school and she was raking in the dough.

PHILLIPS: But Britney's winning streak did not mean she was raking in the awards and in 2000, a stunning loss signaled the start of a royal catfight.

MUSTO: I think when Christina won the Grammy over Britney for Best New Artist that caused a little strain. There's an intense rivalry there and there's a lot of sniping back and forth.

SHAW: Christina has called Britney teeny bopper trash, and Britney called Christina scary.

PAK: I don't think they're friends.

PHILLIPS: Justin Timberlake, on the other hand, had become a very good friend.

CASTRO: Well, Britney Spears started professing that she was still a virgin after dating Justin Timberlake and no one knows really how long that lasted. But I think there was a point where she had, you know, not been a virgin anymore and she was still professing that. And it got to the point where it almost became a joke, like, who are you trying to kid?

PHILLIPS: Their red-hot romance would last three years, but by 2002, Britney and her boy toy were officially out of sync.

SHAW: Oh my God, it was huge when Justin and Britney broke up. It was like the entire earth was shaking. Instantly, why did they break up, who cheated, who got mad, who did the break up, what's going to happen now.

MUSTO: And Justin did a video, "Cry Me a River" about how Britney supposedly betrayed him and Britney responded and it all became more fodder for the gossip columns.

PHILLIPS: In August 2002, Britney announced a six-month hiatus.

SHAW: That's sort of when Britney's acting out began. The next thing you know, she's off boozing at clubs all night in Miami.

SPEARS: I made it through the wilderness...

PHILLIPS: On August 28th, 2003, in the wake of her fourth album's release, Britney Spears returned, once again stealing the show at the MTV Video Music Awards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had you ever kissed a woman before?

BRITNEY SPEARS: No, I've never kissed a woman before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you again?

SPEARS: Would I again? No, I would not do it, maybe with Madonna.

PHILLIPS: Album No. 4, "In the Zone," landed in the stores on November 18th. One toxic tune later, the 13 tracks had sold 2.3 million copies, making it the lowest-selling album of her career.

SHAW: She was topless in "Rolling Stone." She was bottomless on "Esquire" and it sold magazines, but people were also thinking, you know what, like, put on some underwear honey.

PHILLIPS: Instead, she put on a wedding ring. On January 3rd, 2004, Britney Jean Spears became Mrs. Jason Alexander. Fifty-five hours later, what goes on in Vegas...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we just received a decree of annulment. There is no marriage now.

PHILLIPS: ... stays in Vegas. CASTRO: I think one reason that she went through this wedding debacle is because it was some desperate way for her to reconnect to her roots. He was from Louisiana and you know let's do something crazy.

PHILLIPS: Speaking of doing something crazy, just six months after wedding No. 1, Britney Spears was doing it again, this time with 26-year-old Kevin Federline, a Los Angeles dancer who just happened to have two children with a not-so ex-girlfriend.

SPEARS: Everybody's talking all this stuff about me...

PHILLIPS: In typical Britney fashion, their top secret ring swap was not only mirrored in her latest video, but also mired in controversy. Overnight, a faux marriage document surfaced. Could it be? The nuptials, complete with classic jogging attire, had been not so innocent.

HACKETT: What Britney did with the September 18 wedding was move it up from October because she was concerned about paparazzi and all the attention. That meant though that their pre-nuptial agreement hadn't been finalized. But the idea that this was fake is simply not true. What they had to do because of the legal angling was sort of give themselves a little cover for all those days. Sure enough, a week later, Britney did indeed file the marriage license. She is Mrs. Federline.

PHILLIPS: And Mrs. Federline, who released her greatest hits last month, could be working on an even bigger production. Rumors are running ramped that a Baby Federline might be on the way.

CAGLE: She is head over heels in love. She says she kissed a lot of frogs, and she finally found a prince and she has found her happily ever after.

PHILLIPS: At 22-years-old, only time will tell if pop's princess has found her happily ever after. From teen titan to taboo temptress, the music, the marketing, the mania continues, and no doubt, for better or worse, so will Britney.

PAK: Are we going to be watching Britney 10 or 20 years from now? Absolutely. She's absolutely secured her place in pop history.

STRAUSS: Twenty years from now, where will Britney Spears be? She will have done the Betty Ford thing I'm sure once. She'll have the Liza Minnelli room.

CASTRO: But I don't think anyone listens or looks at Britney Spears' career and says, oh, yes, you know, it was all about the music. It's sex appeal. It's magazine covers. It's the naughtiness. It's the whole thing into one. It was Marilyn Monroe as a pop star.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Britney Spears.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Britney and her new husband, Kevin Federline, recently returned from their honeymoon in Fiji. And Britney is now busy decorating the couple's new multi-dollar home in Malibu.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, the heiress that is Paris.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHAW: She wants to be famous. She's someone who loves the limelight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Outrageous, scandalous, and determined to be an international sensation. Paris Hilton and the quest for fame when PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield. More of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS straight ahead, but first here's what's happening now in the news. President Bush hosted Pakistan's leader at the White House this morning. Mr. Bush praised General Pervez Musharraf on the hunt for Osama bin Laden even though Pakistan's army recently scaled back the al Qaeda manhunt. The two leaders also discussed the Israeli/Palestinian ongoing struggles.

An accused drug king pin is in a Miami jail cell this morning after a flight from Columbia overnight. U.S. officials say Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela was at one time responsible for at least 50 percent of the cocaine shipped into the United States. Orejuela has his first court appearance on Monday.

And some unfinished election business in Louisiana today. Voters are choosing representatives to fill a pair of House seats. The runoffs are necessary because no candidate got 50 percent of the vote on Election Day.

More news coming up in 30 minutes with "CNN LIVE SATURDAY." Now back to more PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Paris Hilton is the definition of what it means to be a celebutante, rich, outrageous and famous often for just being famous. Sure, Paris has a legendary last name. Sure, she's the star of her own reality show, "The Simple Life." She's even become a "New York Times" best seller. But why are we so mesmerized by her? And how has our idea of fame changed over the years? Some answers now from Bruce Burkhardt, but first a warning -- some of the following is of an adult nature.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She's the New York City socialite who's become one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world. MURRAY: She's clearly an it girl. There's something about her that draws you in at the same time that she's sort of the outrageous party girl.

MICHELLE LEE, SENIOR EDITOR, "GLAMOUR" MAGAZINE: And the public looks at that and they say, "Oh, that's the most despicable thing, look at her posing for that camera." But at the same time, it's such eye candy and you can't help looking.

ANTHONY MORA, AUTHOR, "SPIN TO WIN": I see her as kind of like the expert of vapor fame. If Andy Warhol was still alive, he's going to be worshipping at her shrine. She's taken what he was doing to the extreme level where she's famous really for doing nothing.

BURKHARDT: She commands front row seats at top fashion shows and enjoys ample exposure on covers of popular magazines.

SHAW: She loves being photographed. She has pictures of herself in magazine covers that she keeps with her.

BURKHARDT: You'll find her at movie premiers, on the arms of actors and pop star boyfriends and in the VIP section of the trendiest night clubs.

LEE: We see her partying, dancing up on table tops. This is not a shrinking violet.

BURKHARDT: But last year, even more exposure on the Internet.

SHAW: I think there's not one human being in this country that did not get that sex tape forwarded to him or her on their computers.

BURKHARDT: And if you've missed her social misadventures or red carpet arrivals, you probably have seen her splashed on gossip pages. She's become a fixture on the "New York Post's" page six.

RICHARD JOHNSON, PAGE SIX EDITOR, "NEW YORK POST": We got a lot of complaints from readers, which are -- I don't know why you keep writing about this girl. She's never done anything. She hasn't accomplished anything. All she does is go to parties.

Well, it turns we were right. She's a character and she is interesting in her own right even though she hasn't won like a Nobel Prize or anything. People want to watch her.

BURKHARDT: The public may see a lot of Paris but they don't often hear from her. She does some press, appearing recently on "The Late Show with David Letterman."

DAVID LETTERMAN, THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: There was a time when you guys lived in New York City?

PARIS HILTON, SOCIALITE: We used to live at the Waldorf.

LETTERMAN: But it seemed like you would always be going to parties. Is that accurate? Is that a fair description? HILTON: Well, when we were younger, it was fun. Like, what other teenager is invited to all these parties wouldn't go?

LETTERMAN: Right.

HILTON: So we did.

BURKHARDT: But all in all, Paris seems to shy away from interviews. She's declined our request for one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paris Hilton.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paris Hilton.

MATTHEW FELLING, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Paris Hilton continues on the grand tradition that we love here in America, of celebrities who are famous because they're famous.

BURKHARDT: Why is Paris in the spotlight? How did she get there? What does her celebutante status say about America's fascination with fame?

MAUREEN ORTH, AUTHOR, "THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FAMOUS": I have found, increasingly, in our society today that fame and infamy are merging. People are getting recognized for not doing anything.

BURKHARDT: Last year, the camera-loving hotel heiress parlayed her social exploits into a hit reality show. Fox's "The Simple Life" transplanted Paris and her celebutante sidekick, Nicole Richie, from Manhattan's social scene to an Arkansas farm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you all want to help me pluck some chickens?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, vomit.

MURRAY: Some of the best television is when you put somebody in a fish out of water situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aah!

MURRAY: Because there's this fascination with celebrity in America today, we felt that it would be even a better concept if the two people we sent were celebrities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pigs feet.

BURKHARDT: The concept worked. The show was a ratings bonanza. And the celeb famous for party hoping nabbed another season on the hit TV series. In "The Simple Life 2," the spoiled socialites leave their lavish lifestyles behind again to take a 30-day cross-country road trip without cash, credit cards, cell phones or boyfriends.

MURRAY: So they go to see Paris and Nicole, two girls who have never traveled across America, who have never stayed in a RV park.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this a real trailer park?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes!

MURRAY: They sort of slummed their way across America.

HILTON: We don't have any money.

Sir, do you have 75 cents?

BURKHARDT: Slumming, a strange concept for the heiress with the very famous last name. As the great granddaughter of hotel czar, Conrad Hilton, Paris Hilton grew up in the lap of luxury, posh Beverly Hills estates and her great grandfather's Park Avenue Hotel.

SHAW: When she was a teenager, she lived in New York. She had this suite pad at the Waldorf Astoria and all of a sudden everyone became fascinated by her because who was this really cute girl living in one of the top hotels in the city going out every night, getting in trouble?

BURKHARDT: Paris barely made it through high school and finally, finished with a private tutor. The older daughter of real estate tycoon, Richard Hilton, and his wife, Cathy, and sister to fellow socialite and model, Nikki, she made her public debut in a graphic 2000 "Vanity Fair" spread.

LEE: I remember this one photo, very clearly, of Paris Hilton laying on the ground wearing a bikini top that was sort of gone askew. So she was essentially topless.

BURKHARDT: The explicit photos got tongues a wagging. Paris began modeling for famous designers and gave acting a shot. She took a bit part in the horror flick, "Nine Lives."

HILTON: I'm never at home unless I'm in London or New York or...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or Paris or...

BURKHARDT: Made cameos as herself in "Zoolander."

HILTON: You rule.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Paris. I appreciate that.

BURKHARDT: And later, "The Cat in The Hat." But Paris continued to gain most of her notoriety by cruising New York clubs, hob-knobbing with celebs and posing.

MUSTO: Paris sought out the glare of the paparazzi and they, in turn, have followed her down the red carpet. She comes alive in front of the cameras. Cameras come alive in front of her.

BURKHARDT: Coming up, Paris, overexposed. Party girl to Internet porn star. LEE: Here's an incident that could probably ruin another person, but yet for her, she sort of parlayed it into this uber fame.

BURKHARDT: And the drive for fame and fortune doesn't fall far from the family tree.

MORA: Zsa Zsa basically predates Paris. She would have been the Paris of her day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURKHARDT (voice-over): There she is on the carpet, on the runway, in the headlines, Paris Hilton. That look, that attitude, that main.

ORTH: I don't think anybody would have paid much attention to Paris Hilton if her name were Mildred Clump.

BURKHARDT: From cameos on shows like "Las Vegas"...

HILTON: Actually, I love Vegas.

BURKHARDT: ... to her very own reality TV series.

HILTON: My boobs look huge in this.

BURKHARDT: Paris, the heiress, has taken the Hilton name beyond hotels.

SHAW: She wants to be famous. She's someone who loves the limelight.

BURKHARDT: If Paris loves the limelight, she is only carrying on a long family tradition.

BRAUDY: One thing that's intriguing about Paris Hilton is that she comes from a rich family that traditionally had a kind of hankering for some larger sense of fame.

BURKHARDT: Conrad Hilton, Paris' great grandfather, family patriarch and founder of the Hilton hotel empire. Conrad built his empire from the ground up. His first purchase was nothing more than a flop house in Cisco, Texas, but its success led to Hilton's first major hotel in Dallas. From there, not even the Depression could stop him.

CATHLEEN BAIRD, HILTON ARCHIVIST: Business travelers were one of his primary clientele. He charged a minimum price for maximum service and had low rates, from $1.50 to $3 a night. BURKHARDT: By 1941, Conrad had been married and divorced. He had three sons, Nick, Eric and Paris' grandfather, Baron. The budding hotel magnet had also expanded to the West Coast. With his acquisition of the Townhouse in Los Angeles, Conrad entered the world of Hollywood celebrity and he set out to enjoy life, a life with beautiful women and lots of dancing.

BAIRD: He loved to dance. He liked to keep a very busy schedule. And, that schedule could very much include going out to dinner with a young lady and dancing in one of the nightclubs.

BURKHARDT: At one particular nightclub, Conrad met and fell in love with a young Hungarian beauty queen, her name, Zsa Zsa Gabor. A few months after they first danced, Conrad proposed. His friends were shocked. They said Zsa Zsa was a gold digger but Hilton ignored their advice.

SHAW: Conrad definitely set the tone for the family. He was loaded. He created this huge chain and he married Zsa Zsa Gabor. From then on, the Hiltons have pretty much been sort of coexisting between the world of the wealthy and the world of the Hollywood celebrity.

BURKHARDT: Conrad would soon come to regret his marriage to Zsa Zsa. It was a rocky union from the start.

BAIRD: He was very much into business. He operated with budgets. He felt the budget should apply to the home as well whereas Zsa Zsa's ideas were very different.

BURKHARDT: Conrad and Zsa Zsa divorced in 1946. Single again, Hilton set his sights on some of America's greatest hotels, landmarks in San Francisco, Chicago, and ultimately New York. He bought The Plaza and later, the hotel of his dreams, the Waldorf Astoria, the Park Avenue address that great granddaughter, Paris, would one day call home.

BAIRD: And that was his proudest moment. And, it was his favorite hotel.

BURKHARDT: By the 1950s and '60s, Hilton hotels had gone international and Conrad had become one of the world's richest men. But it was Conrad's eldest son, Nick, who was making a name for himself now. Like his father, Nick was a man about town. He had an eye for the ladies. And in the Hilton tradition, he has a passion for celebrity. In 1950, Nick briefly married 18-year-old Elizabeth Taylor.

BRAUDY: Conrad Hilton married Zsa Zsa Gabor for several years in the 1940's. Nicky Hilton married Elizabeth Taylor. So it's almost like a family tradition to not only be rich but also to strive for some other status in the public eye, that status of fame.

BURKHARDT: From Conrad to Nick to Paris. The Hiltons have always been in the public eye, their successes, their failures, their loves and their losses, all the stuff of headlines and gossip columns. More than wealthy, they are the celebrity rich. The toast of what was once called Cafe Society. BRAUDY: Cafe society was a world that grew out of the speakeasies of prohibition. And when prohibition was over, it continued into the nightclubs of a new era. And what Cafe Society was, was a coming together of three groups. One was show business. One was the rich and the other was gangsters. And this was the '20s and '30s and '40s when the gossip column becomes a major part of the media.

BURKHARDT: Profits and parties, the Hiltons have often been as much about fame as fortune, one no less important, no less desired than the other.

SHAW: These two worlds very often intersect, so Paris being in the spotlight and sort of crossing the line between rich and Hollywood is not really a surprise.

BURKHARDT: Coming up on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, how much is too much?

FELLING: We have really set a record pace in building and manufacturing celebrities from reality TV to the Paris Hiltons of the world.

BURKHARDT: Celebrities, the media and our obsession with the famous and the infamous when we return.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURKHARDT (voice-over): "Green Acres," two wealthy socialites head to the sticks in search of the country life, the simple life. Sound familiar?

AVA GABOR, ACTRESS: Darling, I love you, but give me Park Avenue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my God.

BURKHARDT: Forty years later, Paris Hilton and pal, Nicole Richie are two fish out of water in a reality series takeoff of the famous 60's sitcom. Coincidence? Perhaps. But the parallels don't stop there. "Green Acres'" star, Ava Gabor is the sister of Zsa Zsa Gabor, the second wife of Conrad Hilton, Paris' great grandfather.

MORA: The interesting thing is that Zsa Zsa is really the precursor of Paris and her sister. So in a sense, maybe there's some kind of psychic, genetic thing that was passed on.

BURKHARDT: Zsa Zsa and Paris, generational twins of a sort, poor, little rich girls famous mostly for simply being famous.

BRAUDY: I think the whole celebutante phenomenon is just the most recent version of something that's been going on for, you know, almost a hundred years. BURKHARDT: Our fascination with the rich and famous is obviously ingrained in our culture, from the flappers who roared with the band in the 1920s to the party hopping socialites of today. But the phenomenon of celebrity is ever evolving, ever shifting. Where we once hailed accomplishment, we now seem more focused on the trials and tribulations of our celebrities.

MORA: I think that there's a real shift in media now. I take it back actually to the O.J. trial where O.J. was a celebrity but then he became really known for the notorious aspect of his life. Then you had people who had became known strictly for notoriety and that's when you had the Heidi Fleiss' and the Monica Lewinsky's and the Bobbitts'.

BURKHARDT: Fame hasn't only become more scandalous, it's also become more salacious.

BRAUDY: If anything has changed in the idea of the poor, little, rich girl right now, and if Paris Hilton exemplifies anything, it's really the injection of more sexuality.

BURKHARDT: Paris Hilton perhaps became forever linked with sex and scandal last year when an x-rated video she made with her former boyfriend, Rick Solomon, surfaced on the Internet. Later, Solomon released and personally hosted a bold DVD of the couple's steamy romp entitled, "One Night in Paris." The video was certainly revealing, certainly embarrassing but it was in no way career ending.

SHAW: I actually think she sort of put that behind her and has come out on top. I mean, Rick Solomon was the one that looks really sleazy now.

RICK SOLOMON, FORMER BOYFRIEND: Paris. How'd I get to be so lucky?

BURKHARDT: With the Internet and the explosion of other outlets, with so many avenues to peek at the celebrities' lives, media of the 21st century has made nearly all of us voyeurs to some extent.

ORTH: With the advent of 24 hour cable TV and the 24/7 news cycle, combined with the wired world of the Internet, it has really speeded things up and celebrities are increasingly sought after. They have a shorter shelf life.

BURKHARDT: For her part, Paris seems to have moved on from the scandal surrounding her much-viewed video. She even joked about it on "Saturday Night Live."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the Paris Hilton roomy?

HILTON: It might be for you, but most will find it very comfortable.

BURKHARDT: But why are we often so willing to forgive our celebrities when they get into trouble?

MORA: The public loves its celebrities. They love to build them up and they love to knock them down, and then they love to bring them back up again because it's basically like a soap opera being run in real lie.

CHARLIE SHEEN, ACTOR: We made the ticker?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the hell are you all doing?

HILTON: Making sausages.

BURKHARDT: And the soap opera that is Paris Hilton's life is back, playing out on national TV.

NICOLE RICHIE, FRIEND: Just squish it.

HILTON: Cover it.

RICHIE: Like a cat box.

BURKHARDT: Paris has reteamed with Nicole Richie for "The Simple Life 2."

RICHIE: Is there one bed?

HILTON: Both of us have to sleep there?

RICHIE: Yes.

HILTON: With the dog?

BURKHARDT: And this time, Paris and Nicole will hit the road, taking in America, and letting America take them in one trailer park at a time.

MURRAY: I think they're a natural comedic team. Often Paris is the straight person and Nicole is the one with the sort of outrageous lines. And Paris is laughing at it. They're sort of like a modern day Lucy and Ethel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone needs to pull over!

BURKHARDT: Paris and Nicole, a modern day Lucy and Ethel? Reality TV stars for sure, but do it girls like Paris Hilton ever really last?

LEE: Paris Hilton's celebrity can probably last a really long time. It's just going to be a matter of somebody else outrageous and beautiful and whatever coming and eclipsing her.

HILTON: Hi, how are you?

BURKHARDT: For now, Paris is just being Paris. She's still hitting the red carpet, still vamping for the cameras and she's still shocking. Yes, for now, the world's most famous celebutante is doing what she does best.

JOHNSON: Paris is great because she's not ashamed of the fact that she doesn't have to work and she actually enjoys the fact that she can go to parties and do nothing but have fun.

FELLING: There are stars out there who have lasting appeal. Then you have the flavors of the month and that just kind of gets recycled and recycled and recycled. And I think that Paris Hilton and the people love her fit into that strata of recyclable celebrity.

ORTH: Paris has accomplished that goal to be famous at age 21. Let's see where Paris is when she's 31.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie are packing their bags again, hitting the road for another installment of "The Simple Life." The reality hit's third season is due out in the first half of next year.

That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us, hope you'll be back with us again next week.

ANNOUNCER: For more celebrity news, pick up a copy of "People" magazine this week.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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