Friday, July 13, 2007

Get a driver. If you party like Paris Hilton

On her blog last week, freed jailbird Paris Hilton urged her fans to "remember to be responsible and have a designated driver! Just looking out for you all."
Whether the ditzy driver is serious or just spinning some positive PR is yet to be seen, but the solution to the recent rash of celeb driving debacles seems clear: Get a driver! Rent a limo! Do whatever you have to to keep yourself and others safe!
"I can't see why anyone with that amount of money wouldn't just hire a personal driver to drive them around," says George C. Johnson, owner of Person to Person Limousine service on East Indian Trail.
Local folks who like to go out and party say they'd never take the same risks as the soused celebs.
Whitney Beisel, 25, a barista at Highland Coffee, says there are simple solutions to avoiding a dangerous driving situation.
"If we drink too much we call a cab or City Scoot," she says, adding that "It's not that hard to pin down a designated driver."
Aaron Dendekker, 30, who works at University of Louisville, has another suggestion for keeping the streets safe: Make it a slumber party and sleep it off. "If I was Paris Hilton and I was at one of those parties, I'd probably end up staying."
If "The Simple Life" stars and their ilk took this sound advice, Paris and the rest of the world would've been spared her whole incarceration drama.
Nicole "Wrong-Way" Richie wouldn't be facing possible jail time for driving the wrong direction on a Burbank freeway last December. Lindsay Lohan wouldn't have the chance to crash into everything in her path, and Mel Gibson may have never unleashed his tequila-soaked tirade.
Rapper/actress Eve's Maserati might still be in one piece. Instead, the intoxicated performer smashed it against a Hollywood Boulevard median in April. And Vivica A. Fox wouldn't have been arrested for DUI in March for doing 80 on an L.A. freeway and swerving out of her lane.
Like Paris, Fox has sworn she'll be safe in the future, saying, "I won't ever make that mistake again. Trust me, I'm going to hire a driver next time."
It may seem like a new epidemic, but bad celebrity driving goes way back. Still, until the 1960s, the big studios like MGM and Warner Bros. basically owned their talent, and they routinely paid off the police to keep their stars' indiscretions hush-hush.
"They were basically protecting their investments and the image the stars had," says Dr. Stuart Fischoff, a psychology professor at California State University Los Angeles and specialist in abnormal celebrity behavior, in a phone interview.
Those days are over, now that we can read about every driving "don't" on practically minutes after it happens.
As far as celebs' hiring someone sober to chauffeur them in times of intoxication, money obviously isn't the issue.
But local limo companies such as Person to Person and Ambassador-Capital Limousine offer services for prices even an everyday party girl could afford. That most conspicuous of vehicles, the 35-foot-long stretch Hummer, rents for $125 to $150 an hour (probably less than a pair of Paris' socks). L.A. and New York limo prices are probably a tad steeper, but still well within an heiress's price range.
The stretch Hummer at Ambassador-Capital fits 20 passengers and packs plenty of entertainment, including three television monitors, coolers, a CD player and wine glasses.
But that's not necessarily enough to entice Paris and her pals. According to psychologists, a star stumbling out of an after-hours party and sticking the key in the ignition is driven by entitlement and control.
"It's an impulsivity issue. In that moment, (they're thinking) I want to get in the car, I want to drive and nobody's going to tell me not to. There's a sense of entitlement, and the rules don't count for me. I'm not going to get caught, and if I do, it'll be OK because my handlers can fix things for me," says Dr. Jenn Berman in a phone interview.
Berman, Los Angeles-based therapist, specializes in celebrity issues, and her latest book is "The A to Z Guide for Raising Happy Confident Kids."
"It's a certain state of mind," says Berman, "and driving is a convenience, and most celebrities are in L.A., where you have to drive everywhere."
There's also the problem of playing by someone else's rules, namely the limo company's.
Person to Person and Ambassador-Capital say they strictly enforce their limo laws.
That means no illegal drugs, no smoking of any kind, no hanging out windows and sunroofs. The rules are basically the same as in a bus. No seatbelts are required.
Would any driver want to cart around a Hummer-load of slurring, self-absorbed starlets?
"Sure I would," says William Whitfield, a driver for Person to Person. "As long as they obey, everything will be all right."
The decision to drive despite drunkenness may just come down to the simple fact that young stars want to look cool and in control in their hot cars.
"You're more glamorous if you're driving around by yourself," Fischoff says. "You're more risk-taking. It has a whole kind of sexual celebrity aura."