Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

June 8th, 2007
Paris in the Spring: Sprung Right Out of Jail…and Back Again

A travesty of justice? A litmus test for the class hierarchy in America? Is this discussion only feeding the fires of faux celebrity? Paris Hilton’s jail sentence has been the judge’s gavel heard round the world. Diva Nation, what are your thoughts?

* A Little History 

What got her here in the first place? According to ABC News, Hilton got busted for a DUI, driving under the influence of alcohol, about a year ago. She pleaded not guilty, got a misdemeanor charge and a license suspension, which she had to sign acknowledging that she knew she wasn’t allowed to drive.

She got caught driving twice in the next two months (signed document in her glove compartment), speeding around in her new Bentley. The charges were stacking up like bundles of money in the Hilton coffers: violating probation and driving with a suspended license.

Now LA was in a pickle. They had to do something about this wayward heiress who viewed her charges with about as much respect as last season’s Prada. As you know, they sent her off to jail last Monday. 

For her protection, they stuck her in solitary confinement, a cell smaller than her sprawling closet, where she was stuck 23 hours a day for the next 23 days (those pesky other 22 days of her original sentence disappeared on the wind like furs in springtime).

* Paris Released! 

Suddenly, the next thing we knew, Paris was out of jail after only 3 days! She returned home under mansion-arrest with a fabulous little bauble on her ankle that the cops could monitor. Ouch! Forty days stuck on her Hollywood estate? Brutal! The get-out-of-jail-free card? A mysterious medical ailment, possibly psychiatric.

A media frenzy followed. Last night, on ABC World News, Charles Gibson considered this travesty of justice and told the harrowing tale of an African-American family torn apart by the same system. An anguished mother’s paraplegic son was sent to jail for smoking pot (don’t ask me how or why), and despite obvious medical concerns and the need for 24-hour care, was not allowed to return home under house arrest as a humane option. He died 5 days later.

Smarmy hot shot lawyer Mark Geragos of Scott Peterson successful defense fame objects. He, and others who may actually have souls, feels that celebutante Paris’ fame worked against her. It got her that harsh sentence in the first place. Forty-five days is unheard of for such a minor offense as driving around wasted in the killing machines we know as cars. He says, "Dont pick on Paris!" Most mortals would have been out of jail in hours, not days.

Jail is scary, and solitary confinement for a socialite is cruel and unusual. One hour a day to talk on the phone? As if!

* Er, Paris Sent Back to Jail? Huh? 

Today, however, mighty Justice tipped her scales again and poor Paris was sent back to jail for the full, original 45-day sentence. She was re-sentenced in a courtroom to which she originally believed she could just call in and have a sort of conference call until law enforcement cuffed her up and mussed her up and brought her to court. Paris was very emotional at the surprising outcome; the Internet is awash in videos of her tribulations. The raw footage is awful.

* Paris v Martha Stewart 

Remember another famous femme who tangled with the law and lost, Martha Stewart? At dinner last night after Mona Brooks’ fabulous gallery show reception, Bridget Cunningham from San Francisco magazine brilliantly began to compare Martha Stewart’s experiences to the Paris Hilton debacle. That got me thinking about the similarities and differences between these two attacks on Divas.

That ridiculous witch hunt in which the boys of Wall Street closed ranks and sacrificed Stewart revealed another side of the Dominatrix of Domesticity. Martha summoned every ounce of her innate grace and dignity and thus served out her unjust sentence, even befriending other women in the detention center.

Enter Paris, 26 years old, perhaps oblivious to the ways of the world? Sheltered and unversed in crime, punishment and consequences? While a scattered few reports of a dignified first night in confinement for Paris exist, is the world a better place for having played a high stakes hide-and-seek jailer’s game with Paris’ psyche until she broke? Is that what we wanted? Is justice now served?

And are courts at the mercy of the media? The court overturned its decision after a grand public outcry against privielege and a clearly delineated double justice system, one for the wealthy and another for everyone else. Yet who feels vindicated amidst the squalor of raw footage of hysterical Paris breaking down in public?

* Focusing on Paris, Forgetting the G8 Summit 

And a final note: is it just me, or does massive celebrity gossip only spring up when the government wants us to look the other way? Is it coincidence that this is all happening during the G8 summit in Germany? As the US, Russia, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Japan convene, our attention is forcibly wrenched away from the real world towards an inane, insane imaginary one.

Where justice is really a travesty is here. Putin and Bush clash over a post-Cold War arms race in Europe (dude, where can I park my anti-missile defense system?); Bush again habitually avoids environmental and climate change agreements thus crushing most global efforts.

There’s that movie, Paris is Burning. So is justice, our priorities, the environment, and global peace.

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