Inside the Capitol

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Paris Hilton's New Mexico Connection


Syndicated Columnist


      SANTA FE -- Free Paris. Paris is liberated. Those were phrases heard often in the early '40s. Now it is more likely to hear "Keep Paris in the clink."

      What would a newspaper column be these days without a reference to Paris Hilton? Don't answer that. I've actually had requests to write about Hilton's New Mexico connections.

      None of those requests have come from residents of San Antonio, NM. Yes, there is a San Antonio, NM. Look just south of Socorro. My cousin Margene Harris lives there and she says she doesn't hear any talk about the area's most famous great granddaughter. It seems obvious Paris isn't their favorite great granddaughter.

      You see, Paris Hilton's great grandfather was hotelier Conrad Hilton who was born in San Antonio. His father owned a large mercantile company, part of which is now the Owl Bar.

   He also turned his large adobe house at the corner of Sixth and Main into a hotel. Conrad and his brother met the trains coming into town and carried their baggage to the Hilton Hotel.

   Besides attending school in San Antonio, Conrad was educated at the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, St. Michaels College in Santa Fe and the New Mexico School of Mines in Socorro.

   When New Mexico was admitted to the union in 1912, Conrad Hilton was elected to the 1st New Mexico Legislature. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Hilton enlisted in the Army and saw action in France.

   Following his discharge in 1919, Hilton returned to San Antonio to take over the family business. His father had been killed in a car accident the previous year. But it wasn't long before Hilton moved to Texas to pursue greater business opportunities.

   He bought a hotel in Cisco, Texas in 1919. The first one he built was the El Paso Hilton in 1930. Albuquerque's Hilton came not long after. From there, he quickly moved into setting up an empire such as the hotel world had never seen.

   So how did the genius of the hotel world evolve into a spoiled, untalented brat? Paris Hilton may be smarter than she acts. It isn't easy to be famous simply for being famous. Most rich heiresses aren't famous even though they'd like to be.

   But there's also another reason. This bad apple didn't fall to far from the tree. Conrad Hilton was a devout Catholic and a great philanthropist. He left most of his money to charities. A son sued and got much of it back. Otherwise Paris might have had to work for a living -- which may have been what Hilton wanted his offspring to do.

   But Hilton also was a philanderer. His life's details are not all included in that book next to the Gideon Bible in every one of his hotel rooms. Don't forget, one of his three wives was Zsa Zsa Gabor. And Paris isn't the only Hilton to be a problem child.

   Another New Mexico connection to this saga is that Gov. Bill Richardson found Paris Hilton newsworthy enough to write a letter to Judge Michael Sauer promoting the use of mandatory ignition interlock devices for everyone convicted of drunken driving.

   Maybe the good people of San Antonio, NM aren't particularly interested in promoting their community. But they are missing a great opportunity to cash in on the Hilton family publicity.

   The old Hilton Hotel is in ruins, but there are scores of well-visited historic sites in the state that are in ruins. And there is the previously-mentioned Owl Bar, famous for its building and its role in the world's first atomic test at Trinity Site, just down the road.

   If you Google "San Antonio, NM historic sites" you are sent to, which tells you San Antonio has no historic sites.

   By the way, the Owl Bar also is known far and wide for the best green chile cheeseburgers in the world. But next time, go across the street to Manny's Buckhorn Bar. That's where the locals eat.

WED, 6-20-07


JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505

(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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