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A "Hilton" We Actually Like (michelle trachtenberg mention)

Jennifer McDonnell

Sunday 18 June 2006, by Webmaster

Perez Hilton can pinpoint the exact moment his celebrity blog went from being a fun diversion to an essential daily fix for gossip junkies everywhere.

"The pictures of Brangelina on the beach in Kenya, of Brad playing with Maddox? I was the first one to post those," Perez, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, says of his best scoop to date.

The photos, which provided the first definitive proof that the Mr. & Mrs. Smith duo were more than just costars, rocketed perezhilton.com into blogosphere history.

"It was crazy," Perez recalls. "It crashed my site."

perezhilton.com, which features a mix of gossip tidbits, snarky commentary and paparazzi photos, has exploded in popularity, averaging 700,000 hits a day, compared to 70,000 daily visitors less than a year ago.

The website isn’t the only thing gaining popularity - it’s turned its owner into a minor celebrity in his own right. Perez, who will be making a guest appearance at this weekend’s MuchMusic Video Awards, is frequently called upon to be a pop-culture commentator on TV shows and in celebrity weeklies. He’s even developing a reality television show based upon his adventures.

"It’s about my life, celebrities. It should be fun," he notes.

Even more impressive, he’s managed to make close, personal connections with many of the stars his blog targets.

"All of my friends are going to be there," says Perez when asked who he’s looking forward to seeing at the MMVAs. "Paris Hilton, Tori Spelling, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amanda Bynes - they’re my girls."

When he says "friends," he’s not talking about relationships he’s created in a fantasy world of puppies and rainbows. Nearly every week, Perez posts photos of himself partying with Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton and other young A-listers.

"It just sort of happened," Perez says, when asked how he befriended Hollywood’s elite. "It was mostly because we went to the same parties, hung out at the same places, knew the same people."

But getting close with the people you regularly post gossip stories about can get complicated. It’s not uncommon for him to get calls from irate pals, demanding to know why he spilled their secrets.

"It happens, yeah. It’s like a dance," he explains. "It’s like learning how to tango. Once you figure it out, it’s OK."

Controversy is nothing new for Perez. He’s been sued twice: once by the New York Post for allegedly infringing on their Page Six brand, and once by actor Colin Farrell for posting his infamous sex tape. Most recently, he made waves by being one of the blogs to publish People magazine’s leaked photos of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s newborn daughter.

"I can’t believe everyone’s still talking about that," marvels Perez. "The only reason People is mad is because they think they’re going to lose money off of it."

Still, the incident reaffirmed his belief that blogs are changing the way celebrity news is being covered.

"Nothing beats working in real time," he says. "That’s why all these magazines are expanding their websites. Like Us Weekly - now they’re breaking things on their site and just using the magazine to go deeper into the stories."

Despite the increasingly Wild West, rule-defying attitude of the general blogosphere, Perez still believes it’s important to adhere to a moral code.

"I know lots of stuff that I don’t write about," he says. “I won’t publish anything that I think invades someone’s privacy. I know a lot of celebs who are in AA because my friends go to the same meetings as them. But I’m not going to write about it. Then it wouldn’t be anonymous, you know?"