IT’S a story that, turned into a dramatic serial, would rate highly, but would defy credibility.
Yet it’s true.
On the way to building arguably the world’s greatest hotel dynasty, the Hilton family would rise to the highest level of society. Along the way, it is a family that has spawned allegations of rape and rivalry, socialites, starlets and a sex-tape.
The names involved are famous in their own right and include patriarch Conrad Hilton, Zsa Zsa Gabor, sons Nicky and Barron, Elizabeth Taylor, through to great-granddaughters Paris and Nicky Hilton.
It’s quite a story and while the family’s association with Hilton Worldwide has ended, the name lives on.
Booked.net‘s Jared Morgan profiles the family.
Hilton the beginnings
Conrad Hilton was 32 when he started on the road to becoming, as he would later call himself, “the innkeeper to the world”.
It was an unlikely start for an international hotel chain – the Mobley Hotel in Cisco, Texas.
It is a town that more than 90 years later still only boasts a population of less than 4000, yet the Mobley Hotel did a roaring trade and would earn Hilton enough to build hotels throughout Texas.
Six years after purchasing the Mobley he opened the Dallas Hilton – his first high-rise hotel, this was followed in 1927 by the Abilene Hilton, the Waco Hilton a year after that and, in 1930, the El Paso Hilton. The first high rise hotel he built was the Dallas Hilton, which opened in 1925. This was followed by the Abilene Hilton in 1927, Waco Hilton in 1928, and El Paso Hilton in 1930.
He would emerge from the Great Depression (barely) and growth continued when Hilton would expand beyond the Texas frontier in 1939, building a hotel in the New Mexico city of Albuquerque.
Hilton Hotels Corporation was formed in 1946 followed by Hilton International Company – the world’s first international chain – two years later.
By the ‘50s and ‘60s Hilton Hotels set the standard for hotel accommodation worldwide, owing 188 hotels in 38 cities across the US and 54 internationally under his management.
Drama and scandal
As active as his empire building was, Hilton’s private life was no less active, marrying three times having three sons with first wife Mary Adelaide Barron and a daughter with second wife Zsa Zsa Gabor.
The union with Gabor, from 1942 until their divorce in 1947, boosted Hilton’s profile immensely.
Gabor had been crowned Miss Hungary in 1936, she emigrated to the US five years later and would go on to act in movies, TV and on Broadway.
She later claimed Hilton raped her in the marriage and daughter Constance Francesca Hilton was the result.
Hilton would marry Mary Frances Kelly in 1976 and that marriage would last until his death in 1979.
The drama would continue after his death when his will was contested by his son Barron Hilton.
He had left $500,000 each to his three sons, while his daughter was bequeathed $10,000. The remainder of his fortune was left to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation he established in 1946. Barron, who succeeded his father as company president, was successful in contesting the will.
Another son, Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, not only allegedly had an affair with his step-mother Gabor, but would bring further fame to the family by becoming the first husband of Hollywood screen siren Elizabeth Taylor, although the marriage was brief, from May 1950 to January 1951, ending in divorce with Taylor blaming his “gambling, drinking, and abusive behavior”.
To again use the soap-opera analogy, the contemporary cast of this long-running saga is no less compelling.
One Night in Paris.
It’s the tongue-in-cheek title of the 2003 sex-tape that propelled Paris Hilton from starlet to notoriety. But she was already of firm fixture in entertainment and gossip pages.
With an estimated fortune of more than US$100 million everything she does is tabloid fodder.
And she does a lot…of…err…partying…
That partying has led to a slew of misdemeanors including being caught driving under the influence of alcohol and driving after her conviction and drivers’ license was revoked resulting in jail time. She has also since been convicted for possessing cocaine.
Despite these setbacks, with an estimated fortune of more than US$100 million Paris Hilton is also undeniably a powerful woman and perhaps the only member of the Hilton clan to ever come close to emulating the success of her great-grandfather.
With TV and movie stardom, modeling, fragrances, writing, jewelry and clothing designing already on her list of achievements, at age 31 there are bound to be many more chapters in Paris Hilton’s story.