Perez Hilton on Gawker Controversy: "I Used To Do Similar Things, Then I Grew Up"
With his just-debuted podcast, Perez wants people to know the real man behind the outrageous online personality.
Perez Hilton has come a long way. The man who curried Internet fame and fascination 11 years ago by posting viral news bits (augmented by dicks drawn over celebrities' faces) has grown into a pop culture figure in his own right who runs a legitimate news outlet. But he didn't get there without making a lot of changes along the way, both to his website and himself — and now he wants the world to see the real man behind the brand.
You can witness part of that transformation on his just-debuted Perez Hilton Podcast (PHP), a new weekly podcast that finds the pioneering blogger and former MTV VJ Chris Booker sharing their in-depth thoughts on the week's buzziest topics.
Perez got on the phone with Billboard to talk about the PHP, why he thinks it could turn into a TV show, and who he wants to get as guests (paging Amy Schumer and Taylor Swift). In the wake of Gawker's now-deleted post about a Conde Nast CFO and a gay porn star, Hilton also weighs in on the controversy over a subject he's gotten heat for in the past — outing someone. "I used to do similar things like that in the past, and then I grew up," Hilton bluntly tells Billboard. "I realized that was a really crappy thing I was doing, and that I had to be a human."
Below, check out Hilton's full thoughts on his foray into podcasting, One Direction's future and #GawkerGate. You can listen to the first episode of his podcast here.
So why a podcast, and why now?
Well, because I was asked! I had never really thought of it before. I gotta be honest ... how do I phrase this? I wasn't that excited about it until I started to do a few test episodes. Part of what's made me really excited was working with Chris Booker and our chemistry together. I feel like it's something really special. It could have been easy for me to have somebody on who would kiss my butt every week, but that's not a compelling listen. And Booker and I have very strong opinions, and we don't always agree. It's very dynamic and fun and I'm so looking forward to doing it weekly.
Is Chris Booker a longtime friend?
I know him. Part of my deal with CBS radio is that they syndicate this radio feature called Radio Perez, and I call in live to AMP Radio in L.A. with Carson Daly every morning. When Carson is on vacation, Booker fills in and I'll talk to him. So that's what made me think of him, but my segments are usually three to four minutes. I love that this lets us get more in depth and dig deeper and have the most compelling content. We have a longer podcast [that we record] and then we edit it down to the best bits. [The debut episode is 43 minutes.] Maybe not everyone does that, but that's what we're doing. I'm proud of the results.
So you said you did a few test episodes. Was he the original co-host?
It was him, then I had somebody else, a girl. It didn't quite work out with the girl. By the third one I realized what it was turning into — this gay dude and straight dude who share common interests, are pop culture obsessed, but come from very different points of view.
Are you into podcasts? Do you listen to the big ones, like Marc Maron?
I don't. [Laughs.] I mean, that's probably why I wasn't that excited. And also because I hadn't really thought of what was going to make this different and special. This is about the news and my take on it — plus personal stories and a lot of other stuff I have no outlet to express. You really get to know people on a podcast. This is a great opportunity for me. I've been around 11 years. I started blogging in September of 2004 and although I have a lot of awareness in the public, I feel a lot of people don't really know who I am. And who knows? If it goes well, maybe we can film it and it will become a web show. I think it has potential to be a TV show, a real produced TV show.
Would you imagine that on network or cable?
If we're gonna do TV, let's aim high. I'd love for syndication because that's where you can make the most money. [Laughs.] But it depends on the appetite for it — maybe there is no appetite. But I'm having fun. It's not like getting it on TV is the point — I'm just thinking of TV because I'm having so much fun with this.
Well, Maron's cable TV show wouldn't have happened without the success of his podcast. So you have Jenny McCarthy on the debut episode. Who are you hoping to get for future eps?
Well, in the music world and pop culture world, I love the ladies. And they're my main audiences. So I would love to speak to some fabulous females, and two of the ones I'm most excited to chat with are Taylor Swift — because she is everything right now and I'm a big fan — and Amy Schumer. I've never met her before but we're Twitter buddies. And I have so much to ask her.
She's the funniest person right now.
Yeah. She went from 0 to 179. No one was talking about her in January and now everyone is talking about her. And I also want to talk to this other girl, Ronda Rousey [a mixed martial artist]. I feel she's starting to pop and that she could explode next year in a mainstream way. I think she's getting into acting, and I feel there's more to her than being a fighter. So I'm predicting that.
Your podcast takes on a variety of the big topics going around online. Today the Gawker thing is everywhere — they're getting heat for outing a Conde Nast CFO and made the rare move of taking down the post. What do you think of it?
I'm glad they took the article down and posted a mea culpa. I used to do similar things like that in the past, and then I grew up. I realized that was a really crappy thing I was doing, and that I had to be a human and a person who was connected to other people in the universe. Not live in this insular bubble where all I cared about was getting clicks on my website. I have a responsibility to the world with what I'm putting out there. And that's why in 2010 I made a bunch of changes on my website, one of which was to stop outing people.
It was also weird because the guy isn't exactly a public figure.
And it was clearly so gross and they were, I think, contributing to blackmail. It was definitely a misstep. They've been around a year longer than I have. I would have hoped they reached this place sooner, but better to reach it eventually than not at all. The statement that Nick Denton [Gawker's founder] published was very carefully worded. While he acknowledged wrongdoing in this instance, he's still defending similar instances like when they published the Hulk Hogan sex tape. And I guess I understand why he'd do that because there's a lawsuit going on right now, so he couldn't say anything contrary. Because he doesn't want to lose tens of millions of dollars.
So you stopped outing people in 2010. Was that when you did your growing up, or was it long gestating?
I started to privately, but I was definitely afraid to reflect that publicly. At that point, I had been blogging for six years and people had come to expect certain things from me and what my brand was. But it took a big shake up for me to change. And that for me was in September 2010 when there was a rash of gay teenagers who committed suicide and Dan Savage created the It Gets Better campaign. I was one of the first public figures to make an It Gets Better video, and the response that I got shook me to the core. I saw that most people viewed what I was doing as something negative. They were like, "How dare you make an It Gets Better video, you're part of the problem. You're a big hypocrite, you're a bully." And I knew in my heart that's not who I was or am, and I knew I needed to make changes and stop hiding behind this character of Perez Hilton I had created. I drank the Kool-Aid and completely lost touch with reality and with right and wrong. And now it's scarier, because if I make mistakes — and I do, I'm human — it's me making a mistake and not Perez Hilton the character making a mistake. Before I would say, "Oh, it's Perez they don't like, they don't know me," but now I'm trying to show the world who I really am.
I'm a father now, I have two children; I'm close to 40. Some people refuse to grow up. Some people have Peter Pan syndrome, like maybe Nick Denton or Charlie Sheen [Laughs.]. But I embrace getting older and what I've learned along the way and trying not to repeat same mistakes.
One more question before you go. What do you think about Louis Tomlinson being a father. Is this the end of the band?
I don't think it's the end of the band, but I think after they're done with this tour, contractually they have another album, but it's tricky. The cycle of their popularity is beginning to end. I feel like they should go away for three years, try solo stuff — I know Harry desperately wants to do that. Get that out of their system, succeed or fail, and then do another One Direction album. But don't rush it out next year.
Also, they need to reinvent. It's a smart thing that Justin Bieber is doing. He's taking his time with the new album, he's grown up, gone on this tour of contrition. And now he's re-entered the marketplace quite successfully with Skrillex and Diplo. Radio is very receptive to him.
The Perez Hilton Podcast comes out every Thursday on Play.it. You can listen to the first episode, which dropped yesterday, here. Hilton's podcast is part of a multi-platform content partnership with CBS that expands the aforementioned Radio Perez segment to 20 CBS radio stations.
This article originally appeared on Billboard.com.