It wasn't so long ago -- last August, to be precise -- that Paris Hilton seemed like an unstoppable pop cultural force. The socialite-heiress was releasing her debut album, Paris, and announced she would be launching a line of boutique hotels. These were her latest efforts as a "businesswoman," expanding a brand that includes myriad Paris Hilton licensed products, paid endorsements for products and a $200,000 fee to "appear" at events like nightclub openings.
But the party ended for America's pre-eminent party girl at 11:38 Pacific time Sunday night, when Hilton, 26, remanded herself to sheriff's authorities at the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles to begin a 23-day sentence for violating terms of her probation on a drunken driving plea. Her crime: repeatedly driving her car while her license was suspended.
She was later moved to a women's facility where she was booked, fingerprinted, photographed, medically screened and issued an orange top and pants, sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
Hilton's booking photo (See Page 1C) shows her wearing what looks like a V-neck shirt, eye makeup and lip gloss highlighting a slight smile. Her hair is draped over one shoulder.
Hilton is being housed in the "special needs" unit of the 13-year-old jail, separate from most of its 2,200 inmates. The unit contains 12 two-person cells reserved for police officers, public officials, celebrities and other high-profile inmates. Hilton's cell has two bunks, a table, a sink, a toilet and a small window. She does not have a cellmate.
Like other inmates in that unit, Hilton will take her meals in her cell and will be allowed outside her cell for at least an hour each day to shower, watch TV in the day room, participate in outdoor recreation or talk on the telephone. No cell phones are permitted in the facility, even for visitors.
In keeping with her party-girl persona, Hilton fit in an appearance at the MTV Movie Awards right before turning herself in Sunday. But it seems that Hilton -- now living in a 12-by-8-foot space -- may have given up on trying to blame others for her predicament.
"This is an important point in my life and I need to take responsibility for my actions," Hilton said in a statement released through her lawyer. "In the future, I plan on taking more of an active role in the decisions I make. Although I am scared, I am ready to begin my jail sentence."
In court in May, Hilton famously passed the buck for her probation violations to her long-suffering publicist Elliot Mintz, claiming he had mistakenly assured her she could drive even though her license had been suspended. And in January, Hilton explained away the misunderstanding by saying, "I just sign what people tell me to sign. I'm a very busy person."
But that wasn't the case when a reporter sat down with Hilton for a conversation at her three-story West Hollywood home one morning last August. In fact, most of her recent characterizations of her behavior and motives directly contradict the version of herself she put forward then as a business-minded burgeoning captain of industry.
Back in August, Hilton was quick to take responsibility for her actions. "Nobody is telling me what to do. All of these people work for me. They're my employees. I call the shots. This is not some set-up."
In September, Hilton was arrested in Hollywood for driving her Mercedes McLaren SLR under the influence of alcohol. Hours after her release, speaking to Ryan Seacrest on his KIIS-FM (102.7) radio show, Hilton explained she had consumed one margarita at a party after not eating all day because she was shooting a music video.
But when this reporter asked how she manages not to let all the hard partying get in the way of her various ventures, Hilton denied that she consumes alcohol at all. "I don't like the taste of alcohol. It grosses me out."
In May, in what has become one of the defining moments of her circuitous path into the penal system, Hilton became part of a grass-roots campaign to keep herself out of jail, helping circulate a petition to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger via her MySpace page.
"I urge all fans and supporters and all that are outraged by injustice to sign this petition," Hilton wrote.
A gubernatorial pardon never materialized ("I've seen all her films. Obviously, we both do action movies," Schwarzenegger quipped in his rejection letter) and many celebrity observers took Hilton to task for her delusional hubris in asking for one.
In August, Hilton took pains to portray herself as a "humble" person, nothing like the diva portrayed in the press.
"I don't put myself on a higher level than anybody else," Hilton said.
Chris Lee writes for the Los Angeles Times. The Associated Press contributed to this article.