The Hilton name, from Conrad to Paris

Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton launches her new collection of handbags at the Hilton Hotel in Bogota, Colombia.

Author J. Randy Taraborrelli

Image of The Hiltons: The True Story of an American Dynasty
Author: J. Randy Taraborrelli
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (2014)
Binding: Hardcover, 560 pages

In his new book “The Hiltons: The True Story of an American Dynasty,” author J. Randy Taraborrelli traces the path of the hotel empire from founder Conrad Hilton’s childhood home in San Antonio, New Mexico to the Beverly Hills mansion of Paris Hilton. Here are a few of the questions that didn’t make it into our radio interview:

Did ‘Mad Men’ get Conrad Hilton right?

“I thought that was very realistic. I thought they made him a little more shark-like than he actually was, but for the purposes of drama they needed to amp that up. But I loved it and I know that the Hilton family loved it too. In fact, the Hilton family, the Hilton Foundation and the Hilton Library assisted ‘Mad Men’ and gave them the photographs and the material they needed to be able to recreate Conrad’s suits and the Stetson hat, and they gave them speeches so they would understand how Conrad spoke. They were very involved.”

The more contemporary Hiltons are famous for maxing out credit cards (or at least they would max out the credit cards of most of us). But the Hilton family actually had a hand in ushering credit cards into American society in the first place.

“Conrad and Baron Hilton were responsible for Carte Blanche, which in the 50s, 60s and 70s was the credit card. I remember the ads when I was a kid and I remember my parents wanting one very badly. Back in those days before credit cards were a novelty, it wasn’t easy to apply for a credit card and get one. And the Hiltons were one of the first to popularize the idea of credit cards. (While Diner’s Club beat them to the punch, Carte Blanche built the first global credit network). I remember Baron Hilton saying in a speech that cash money is out, now credit is in.”

What would Conrad Hilton think about Paris?

“I tend to have a very positive opinion of Paris Hilton. And the reason that I feel that way is that Barron Hilton, her grandfather and Conrad’s son, inherited the enterprise. Paris Hilton didn’t inherit anything except the name Hilton. (When Barron Hilton dies, Paris is expected to inherit about $5 million). The family mandate is this: You can do anything you want with the family name except go into the hotel business. She built her own empire independent of the hotel business and made $50 million doing so just because of her ingenuity, her personality and her persona. There are many Hiltons, many cousins, nieces, nephews. I met probably 50 Hiltons, none of whom we’ve ever heard of. She took the name and turned it into something huge. Whatever you think about Paris Hilton, you have to admit you know who she is.”

Conrad Hilton

Conrad Hilton (1887 - 1979) the Chairman and President of the eponymous hotel chain, tips his hat in 1964.

 

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

Author J. Randy Taraborrelli

Image of The Hiltons: The True Story of an American Dynasty
Author: J. Randy Taraborrelli
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (2014)
Binding: Hardcover, 560 pages

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