Paris Hilton Sex-Tape Appears on the Web Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Paris Hilton, an heir to the Hilton Hotels fortune and actor and businessperson in her own right, became a celebrity for her famous name, beauty, and relentless partying in trendy clubs. Rick Salomon, the son of a film studio vice president, was most famous for a brief, tempestuous marriage to actor Shannon Doherty. When clips from an amateur sex tape of Salomon and Hilton appeared on the Web, it generated the first in a long line of scandals for Hilton.

Summary of Event

Paris Hilton began her career as a successful model for reputable agencies in New York, Los Angeles, and London, but the very features that led to this success—her famous name and good looks—inevitably made her a favorite of Paparazzi paparazzi and society columnists. Soon the pop-culture cliché “famous for being famous” began to recur in media references to her, as photos and film clips of her smiling coyly at nightclubs and parties became a staple of the tabloids and celebrity television shows from the late 1990’s onward. [kw]Hilton Sex-Tape Appears on the Web, Paris (Early Nov., 2003) [kw]Sex-Tape Appears on the Web, Paris Hilton (Early Nov., 2003) Salomon, Rick Pornography;and Paris Hilton[Hilton] Hilton, Paris Video evidence;and Paris Hilton[Hilton] Salomon, Rick Pornography;and Paris Hilton[Hilton] Hilton, Paris Video evidence;and Paris Hilton[Hilton] [g]United States;Early Nov., 2003: Paris Hilton Sex-Tape Appears on the Web[03350] [c]Sex;Early Nov., 2003: Paris Hilton Sex-Tape Appears on the Web[03350] [c]Communications and media;Early Nov., 2003: Paris Hilton Sex-Tape Appears on the Web[03350] [c]Film;Early Nov., 2003: Paris Hilton Sex-Tape Appears on the Web[03350] [c]Popular culture;Early Nov., 2003: Paris Hilton Sex-Tape Appears on the Web[03350] [c]Hollywood;Early Nov., 2003: Paris Hilton Sex-Tape Appears on the Web[03350]

In early November, 2003, Hilton’s image was redefined when clips from a crudely filmed sex tape featuring Hilton and love interest Rick Salomon appeared on a Web site owned by the adult-film company Marvad Corp., which is based in Seattle, Washington. No longer would Hilton be merely annoyingly ubiquitous; for the rest of the decade, she would be infamous, with the sex-tape controversy only the first of numerous scandals that helped to define the new Hilton.

A mutual friend of the former couple, Thrasher, Donald Donald Thrasher, who had once been Salomon’s roommate, was thought to have stolen the video from Salomon before selling it to Marvad without either Hilton’s or Salomon’s knowledge. The tape, filmed in Salomon’s Hollywood Hills home in 2001, begins with Hilton demurely primping in a bathroom mirror and beseeching Salomon not to use profanity while he entreats her to reveal herself and have sex with him. Key scenes include Hilton performing oral sex on Salomon and, near the tape’s conclusion, close-ups of Hilton’s breasts taken by Hilton herself with a camcorder. News of the tape generated headlines and numerous jokes by television comedians.

Hilton was distraught over her public humiliation. One news story showed her upbraiding a clerk at a newsstand for prominently displaying periodicals featuring the scandal and expressing concern about the effect the publicity would have on her young fans. Cynics, though, pointed out that the tape had been made public scarcely a week before the debut of Simple Life, The (television) The Simple Life, a reality-television show in which Hilton and best friend Richie, Nicole Nicole Richie, daughter of R&B singer Lionel Richie, traded their indulgent West coast lifestyles for work on a farm in rural Arkansas. The series became a huge hit for Fox Fox Television Television and ran for several seasons. Salomon also benefitted from the publicity stirred up by the video. He arranged for adult-film company Red Light District to market copies of the video in DVD format on the Web. Dubbed 1 Night in Paris (video)[One Night in Paris] 1 Night in Paris, the tape became a best seller and won a top award from the adult-film industry.

Despite the intense media blitz surrounding 1 Night in Paris, it is likely that the scandal would have been short-lived; neither Hilton nor Salomon had the sort of sober, conservative reputation that would render their filming of private sex acts surprising or shocking—and by the early twenty-first century, it was not uncommon for American couples to tape themselves having sex. However, just as the initial publicity began to abate, the tape provoked a heated public fight between Salomon and Hilton’s parents, Kathy and Richard, who had made a number of angry public statements insinuating that Salomon was exploiting their daughter for his own fame and fortune. These comments prompted Salomon to file a $10 million lawsuit accusing the Hiltons and their daughter’s personal assistant of defaming him. Paris Hilton countersued, seeking a share of the profits her former boyfriend was making from video sales.

The legal wrangling kept the controversy alive well into 2004. The pertinent legal matters were settled when Hilton was awarded a cash settlement of $400,000 and a share of the future earnings from sales of the DVD. As soon as these lawsuits were settled, Hilton garnered fresh attention after rumors began to circulate about the existence of a second tape, one alleged to feature Hilton and another model experimenting with sex toys.

Salomon continued to sell and promote 1 Night in Paris, but just as his relationships with Hilton and actor and former girlfriend Shannon Doherty had been his original source of fame, it was his next relationship that kept him in the public eye. In 2007, he embarked on a tumultuous off-and-on-again affair with television actor Anderson, Pamela Pamela Anderson. After much publicity on talk shows and in gossip columns, Anderson and Salomon married in Las Vegas in October of that year. Anderson left Salomon, however, after less than three months of married life, and their union was annulled in March of 2008.

For Hilton, the tape scandal was only the beginning of years of public humiliation and embarrassment. Although she continued to work as a celebrity “spokesmodel” for numerous companies and launched her own successful lines of clothing, jewelry, perfume, and handbags, a series of further misadventures maintained her public image as an indulgent, irresponsible scofflaw. Her license to drive was suspended after a drunk-driving conviction in 2006, and she was sentenced to forty-five days in jail after police stopped her in early 2007 for driving without a proper license and speeding. Television cameras recorded every minute of the resulting debacle: Hilton reporting for her jail term, leaving jail after only a few days for medical reasons, and returning to jail after being ordered there by an angry judge upset about not having been consulted about her early release. The media also captured her crying and screaming in court, returning to jail, leaving jail, claiming to have found religion during incarceration, and claiming interest in helping starving people in the developing world.

Hilton’s later attempt to launch a singing career fizzled when her debut album Paris was released in 2006 to poor reviews and sales. Her acting career consisted of cameos in major films and larger roles in B movies and straight-to-video releases. Her only sizeable role in a major film remained that of the character Paige in the 2005 remake of the horror classic House of Wax.


The Hilton-Salomon sex-tape scandal illustrates how celebrities are still defined—scornfully—by a pop-culture audience thought to be open-minded and nonjudgmental. Whatever one thinks about Hilton’s and Salomon’s lifestyles and choices, they both—especially Hilton—have demonstrated remarkable savvy as business people. Nevertheless, the public images of both Hilton and Salomon continued to be those shaped by this scandal: Hilton as a pampered beauty and “dumb blond” sex object and Salomon as a Lothario and pornographer.

Furthermore, the sex-tape scandal revealed the power of the media, especially the speed and power of the Web. Film celebrities have been subjected to the rumor mill at least since the invention of motion pictures, but these early stories were circulated only by word of mouth, by print, and occasionally by radio and television. However, the Hilton-Salomon scandal was immediate. Because of the Web, millions were able to view clips of the sex-tape on demand. Soon thereafter, anyone could buy the video on the Web as well. Salomon, Rick Pornography;and Paris Hilton[Hilton] Hilton, Paris Video evidence;and Paris Hilton[Hilton]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Angelo, Marty. One Life Matters. Cottesloe, Wash.: Impact, 2006. Inspirational book by the prison minister who counseled Hilton during her brief time in jail. Speculates on what Hilton might have been thinking as she waited for her release.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Fahy, Thomas. “One Night in Paris (Hilton): Wealth, Celebrity, and the Politics of Humiliation.” In Pop-porn: Pornography in American Culture, edited by Ann C. Hall and Mardia J. Bishop. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2007. Fahy explores the intersection of celebrity status and wealth and how its plays out in a culture of soft porn. The book itself starts with the premise that “Americans are addicted to porn, but are forced to disguise it as fashion, hygiene, class commentary, or other forms of entertainment.” Hilton’s life is defined, in part, by these disguises.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hilton, Paris, with Merle Ginsberg. Confessions of an Heiress: A Tongue-in-Chic Peek Behind the Pose. New York: Fireside, 2004. A combination autobiography and self-help book offering much insight into Hilton’s perception of herself. Made The New York Times best-seller list.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Newkey-Burden, Chas. Paris Hilton: Life on the Edge—The Biography. London: John Blake, 2007. A biographical portrait of the infamous former model and tabloid celebrity. Explores the 2003 sex-tape scandal and her time in jail in 2007.

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