Scandalous Facts About The Hilton Family, America's Tabloid Royals

November 1, 2019 | Andrea Papillon

Scandalous Facts About The Hilton Family, America's Tabloid Royals

While Paris is perhaps the most famous of the Hilton family in this century, there are generations of Hiltons before her, who lived equally decadent lives, with bigger struggles, and accomplishments that remain hugely impressive to this day. Here are 40 hot facts about the Hilton family.

Hilton Family Facts

1. Old Man Hilton had a Farm...E-I-E-I-O

Conrad Hilton Sr.’s father, Gus, was born on the Hilton family farm in Kløfta, Norway. The Hiltons still have “salt of the earth” relatives in Norway, and Germany.

Grayscale Aerial photography of Kløfta town in NorwayNational Library of Norway, Wikimedia Commons

2. Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone

Gus Hilton emigrated from the family farm in Norway, settling into a true pioneer existence, in San Antonio, New Mexico, where supplies were brought in by mules.

Photography of a road from the Rio Grande toward San Antonio New MexicoLuke Jones, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

3. Hilton Child Labor for the General Store

Gus had seven kids, including Conrad, who became patriarch of the Hilton family as we know it today. All of them were expected to work in the family’s general store in San Antonio. Gus amassed a small fortune, but he lost it in the 1907 financial crisis.

Grayscale Portrait Photo of Conrad N. Hilton wearing a gray suit and a tie smilingHarry Pot, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

4. Conrad Hatches the Hotel Idea

After Gus went broke, Conrad suggested that they utilize part of their San Antonio property as a guesthouse, to bring in income. The idea worked, and the family regained solvency.

Painting of Conrad Hilton sitting on a chair wearing a white suitRandal Schwartz from Portland, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

5. The First Hilton Hotel Was Made of Mud

Gus Hilton used adobe (Spanish for mudbrick) to build a large, rustic structure in San Antonio, serving as his family home, a general store (called the Hilton Mercantile Company) and, eventually, the five-room guesthouse, that he called the Hilton Hotel.

Photo of Hilton hotel building with a blue sky backgroundClément Proust, Pexels

6. Happy 21st Birthday...Here are the Keys to the Place

Conrad Hilton took over running the Hilton Mercantile and Hilton Hotel in San Antonio when he was 21 years old. In addition to storekeeper, bellhop, check-in, maintenance, and housekeeping duties, Hilton somehow found time to serve two terms in the New Mexico State Legislature.

Grayscale Profile Photo of Conrad Hilton wearing a suitHarry Pot / Anefo, CC0, Wikimedia Commons

7. He Didn’t Bank on It

Conrad Hilton fought in World War I, returning home to San Antonio, then relocating to Texas for bigger financial opportunities. Hilton had his sights set on purchasing a bank, but that idea fell through when the absentee bank owner got greedy and upped the asking price. Hilton ended up staying across the street from the bank, and when he saw how bustling the Mobley Hotel, in Cisco, Texas was, he bought that hotel instead.

Front red brick wall of Mobley Hotel in Cisco TexasUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

8. Money on Mobley

Conrad Hilton’s beginnings as a hospitality magnate sound like a game of Monopoly. He wagered on the Mobley Hotel, in Cisco, Texas, in 1919—his very first hotel purchase. Hilton described the Mobley as a "cross between a flophouse and a gold mine."

Mobley Hotel in Cisco, Texas with a lawn in front and bright blue sky backgroundRenelibrary, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

9. Bad Timing for a Skyscraper

Conrad Hilton began construction of his first skyscraper hotel in El Paso, Texas, in 1929. Just under three weeks later, the worldwide stock market crashed.

El Paso, Texas, USA downtown city skyline at dusk with Juarez, Mexico in the distanceSean Pavone, Shutterstock

10. It Got Depressing

The Great Depression was a huge setback for Conrad Hilton, who nearly went bankrupt. He lost ownership of some of his properties, but he stayed on, as a hotel manager. Eventually, he bought all of his properties back.

Screenshot of Conrad Hilton from The Dick Cavett Show wearing a dark suit white shirt and a tieABC, The Dick Cavett Show (1968-1988)

11. Conrad: Another Hilton Family Casualty?

Paris Hilton’s little brother, Conrad, has unfortunately gained his own notoriety in recent years, with an arrest record that’s impressive for all the wrong reasons. He’s been in trouble with the law for—among other things—drug possession, attacking flight attendants, violating a restraining order against an ex-girlfriend, and even stealing a Bentley that’s owned by the father of the ex-girlfriend.

Attorney Robert Shapiro and Conrad Hilton speak at Hilton's arraignmentFrederick M. Brown, Getty Images

12. Oh No…Not Him Again

Maybe not a “fun fact” …but when Conrad Hilton got arrested for stealing a car from the father of an ex-girlfriend, that father was none other than poker player Rick Salomon, Paris’s ex-boyfriend and ex-co-star.

Portrait photo of Conrad Hilton Hilton wearing a dark gray suitDavid Buchan, Getty Images

13. A Mind-blowing Fortune

Conrad Hilton made it out of the Depression, and he continued to amass wealth through hotel builds and purchases. His eventual properties included the legendary Waldorf-Astoria, in New York City. Adjusted to current inflation, Hilton’s fortune would be approximately $3.45 billion today.

Entrance of the Waldorf Astoria grand hotel in ManhattanFelix Lipov, Shutterstock

14. A Boy Named Connie

Sometimes you’ve got to loosen up and embrace a nickname. In Hilton’s case, Conrad got shortened to Connie by many of his family, and friends.

Portrait of Conrad Hilton sitting on chair near a globeBettmann, Gettyimages

15. He Starred on a TV Show

Not quite, but the Conrad Hilton mystique was so intriguing, a Conrad Hilton character was written into the TV show, Mad Men, dramatizing the lives of ad executives in the 60s and 70s.

Screenshot from the Mad Men TV Series profile of an actorAMC, Mad Men (2007-2015)

16. Did They Get It Right?

Mad Men viewers have questioned the accuracy of the Conrad Hilton (Connie) character, as depicted on the TV series. Connie displays quite a few eccentricities…and, apparently, Hilton did have quite a few.

Screenshot of the TV Series Mad Men People in an officeAMC, Mad Men (2007-2015)

17. He Could Have Served Airplane Takeout

After his first two marriages ended badly, Conrad Hilton really started to display some of those Mad Men-quality eccentricities. He purchased a gaudy estate in Bel Air with 65 rooms, five kitchens, a master bedroom literally drowning in gold silk…and the dining room in the place was as big as an airplane hangar.

Barron Hilton at the Annual Living Legends of AviationABC, The Dick Cavett Show (1968-1988)

18. An Expert on the Subject

Conrad Hilton wrote an autobiography, called Be My Guest, that was published in 1957. For many years, there was a copy of the book in every Hilton hotel room…right next to the Gideon bible.

Grayscale Photo Of Conrad Hilton wearing a suit and a tie in funny conversationHarry Pot / Anefo, CC0, Wikimedia Commons

19. A Little Action off the Football Field

Conrad Hilton had three sons with his first wife, Mary Adelaide Barron Hilton. She left him in 1934 for a local school football coach that she’d been having a raging affair with. Hilton had been a stern and reserved Catholic, but after his first wife’s infidelity, he got more involved in the Hollywood party scene of his day.

Screenshot of Conrad Hilton from The Dick Cavett Show wearing a dark suit white shirt and a tieABC, The Dick Cavett Show (1968-1988)

20. Real Housewife Relations

Hey, even Kathy Hilton has a closet skeleton or two. She is half-sister to Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast members Kim Richards and Kyle Richards.

Kathy Hilton attends the Temperly Shop Launch party at Henri Bendel's during the Olympus Fall Fashion WeekKaty Winn, Getty Images

21. Tick Tock on Another Doomed Marriage

Conrad Hilton wed actress Zsa Zsa Gabor in 1942, and fair to say, it was a marriage-made-to-detonate from the start. Hilton made Gabor sleep in a different bedroom, and he strictly controlled her spending habits.

Portrait picture of Zsa Zsa Gabor smiling and wearing pearl necklessUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

22. There’s Something About Georgia

Conrad Hilton’s second marriage to Zsa Zsa Gabor is like modern-day tabloid fodder. As Gabor scathingly wrote in her autobiography, he ended her freedom and her identity. Hilton renamed her Georgia because he apparently couldn’t pronounce her name. Gabor also claimed she had an affair with Hilton’s eldest son, Conrad “Nicky” Hilton.

Portrait of Zsa Zsa Gabor wearing a white dress and a coatkate gabrielle, Flickr

23. Heir to the Hilton Throne

Conrad Hilton died at 91 years old, leaving most of his wealth to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, a non-profit charity he established in 1944. His second son, William Barron Hilton, assumed control of the Hilton hotel business, expanding the Hilton fortune.

Barron Hilton portrait picture wearing white turtleneckDeveram, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

24. Poor Little Rich Boy

Conrad “Nicky” Hilton Jr. was Hilton’s eldest son. He died young, just 42 years old, from heart-related complications brought on by his lifelong alcoholism. Hilton Jr. is best known for his brief, turbulent marriage to a then barely 18-year-old, Elizabeth Taylor.

Conrad Hilton and Elizabeth Taylor Classic Film Scans in a wedding carkate gabrielle, Flickr

25. No Visible Panty Lines

Apparently, Conrad Hilton Jr. was quite experienced with the ladies—but young Elizabeth Taylor’s brazen coquettishness was otherworldly. He once confided that Taylor had mouthed to him at a glitzy party that she wasn’t wearing panties. I’m guessing he needed a black-tie cold shower after that.

Actress Elizabeth Taylor Poses In An Old Film StillHulton Archive, Getty Images

26. Mr. Elizabeth the First

Conrad Hilton Jr.’s marriage to Elizabeth Taylor lasted barely eight months. He was Taylor’s first husband, and he hugely resented being called Mr. Taylor, by the press.

American actress Elizabeth Taylor and hotelier Conrad HiltonKeystone, Getty Images

27. Hilton Honeymoon from Hell

The Conrad Hilton Jr. and Elizabeth Taylor honeymoon needs a descriptive “from hell” to be accurate. They cruised to Europe with a swarm of photographers as their constant companions. Taylor brought a maid onboard and a crew of about 12 friends and associates. Hilton practically lived at the bar and Taylor quickly accused him of verbal and physical abuse.

According to friends of the late Hilton Jr., Taylor could be equally physical, and the two went at each other like angry cats.

American film actress, Elizabeth Taylor with Nick Hilton meet to discuss a property settlementKeystone, Getty Images

28. The Second Son Dukes It Out in Court

Conrad Hilton Sr.’s second son, Barron, was counted on to succeed in the family hotel business, especially considering older brother Nicky’s marriage scandal and alcoholism. But Conrad was firm on his children making their own fortunes, and he intentionally left 97% of his wealth to a non-profit charity, he’d established in his name.

Barron challenged his father’s will after his father died. In 1998, following a successful court battle, Barron emerged an incredibly wealthy man.

Portrait Photo of Barron Hilton wearing a dark blue suit and a red tie smilingUH Photographs Collection, Wikimedia Commons

29. He Led the Chargers

William Barron Hilton, Conrad Sr.’s second son, took over the Hilton hotel business, and Barron’s business savvy made the Hilton Hotel Corporation even more profitable and successful. But Barron’s proudest professional achievements came from sports. He was a founding member of the American Football League. The AFL merged with the NFL in 1966, becoming professional football that we know today, and he also owned the original Los Angeles Chargers.

Shutterstock 99828569s_bukley, Shutterstock

30. Give That Boy Some Wings

Barron Hilton had a passion for flight. He got his pilot’s license at 17 years old, eventually getting licensed in not only single, and multi-engine aircraft, but also gliders, balloons, and helicopters.

Portrait Photo of Barron Hilton wearing red shirt smilingCaptndelta, CC BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

31. Daddy’s Boy After All

Barron Hilton famously contested his father’s will in the 80s but in a significant and very similar move, Barron actually followed in Conrad Sr.’s footsteps, leaving 97% of his own estate to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Barron died of natural causes at age 91—his father Conrad had died the same way and at the exact same age.

Screenshot of Barron Hilton fromThe Dick Cavett Show wearing a dark suit white shirt and a tieABC, The Dick Cavett Show (1968-1988)

32. Hiltons Are (Apparently) Real People Too

Before we get to the train-wreck behaviors of Paris Hilton and her brother, let’s give props to something quite unusual in their wacky world: two relatively normal—albeit filthy rich—and happily married Hiltons…Rick and Kathy. They also happen to be best friends and parents to four Hiltons: Paris, Conrad, daughter Nicky, and son Barron II.

Rick and Kathy met as teenagers, got married, and Kathy was barely 21 years old when her first Hilton babe was spawned.

Rick and Kathy Hilton attend the Temperly Shop Launch party at Henri Bendel'sKaty Winn, Getty Images

33. These Two are Almost Too Normal

Apparently, the walking Hilton happily-ever-after story that is Rick and Kathy spend practically every waking minute together. In a truly shut-the-front-door fact, it’s rumored that Kathy Hilton loves a good trip to the discount malls.

Hotelier Rick Hilton and his wife Kathy arrive at the launch of MarcianoAmanda Edwards, Getty Images

34. Paris, Plain and Simple.

Plain and simple…as if. Paris Hilton’s mother Kathy nicknamed her “Star” when she was a kid. She’s modeled, acted, sang, and DJed in Ibiza, all to varying degrees of success. She’s also authored books that ended up as New York Times bestsellers. Paris is perhaps most successful for being one of this century’s most notorious “celebutantes” …and her biggest claim to fame occurred in just one night…

Paris Hilton attends a signing of her new albumBrad Barket, Getty Images

35. It All Began With 1

Not quite a “where were you?” moment in history, but for Paris Hilton, the fame seed was planted—no reproductive pun intended—from an amateurish smutty tape that she filmed with a man named Rick Salomon. Their leaked escapade, later titled 1 Night in Paris, won numerous racy film awards and catapulted her into stardom.

Paris Hilton and Salomon both sued each other over control of the tape. Hilton eventually won a $400,000 settlement that she apparently donated to charity.

Paris Hilton with long blonde hair is looking at side and smilingGlenn Francis, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

36. A Target of the Bling Ring

It’s become La-La legend, even spawning a Sofia Coppola movie. An aimless bunch of partying teenagers, coining themselves “The Bling Ring” gang, went on a crime spree robbing Hollywood celebrity mansions, including Paris Hilton’s. They bragged later that Hilton’s mansion was an easy break-in since she’d left a key under the front doormat.

Paris Hilton at the LACMA ART FILM GALA Presented By Gucci wearing a black dressTinseltown, Shutterstock

37. The Bling Ring Movie

Paris Hilton obviously got over being robbed, to some degree…when Coppola was filming The Bling Ring movie, Hilton agreed to let the director use her real home for scenes, and Hilton even cameoed in the movie.

Director Sofia Coppola attends NYFF Closing wearing blue clothinglev radin, Shutterstock

38. The Bellhop Tipped Him

During the Depression years, Conrad Hilton was forced to seek out financial assistance wherever he could. He even secured a $500 loan from one of his hotel bellhops, to cover his obligations.

People walk past Hilton hotel in New YorkTupungato, Shutterstock

39. It Pays to Pay Your Boss

That bellhop didn’t just get paid back—he became a high-ranking exec in the Hilton empire, receiving handsome stock dividends for the rest of his life!

Hilton hotels logo on the building of Hilton hoteljosefkubes, Shutterstock

40. Hilton and the Hungarian Hottie

Sári Gábor—better known as Zsa Zsa—a Hungarian immigrant, met Conrad Hilton on the Hollywood party circuit. Hilton was enamored of the voluptuous Gabor—who was 30 years his junior. Hilton did have suspicions about GaborHe thought that she was only interested in his fortune. Apparently, one night, Hilton presented Gabor with two jewelry boxes—and made her choose.

One box held a gaudy, massive ring, and the other, a smaller, more refined sparkler. Gabor knew it was a test…so she chose the less expensive ring.

Portrait of Zsa Zsa Gabor wearing a necklessNews release by Rogers & Cowan, Wikimedia Commons

41. Behind Closed Doors

In her autobiography, Zsa Zsa Gabor alleged that her husband Conrad Hilton, Sr. assaulted her during their marriage, resulting in her getting pregnant with her only child, Constance Francesca Hilton.

Hungarian actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor with her family at the Hotel SacherKeystone, Getty Images

42. The Forgotten Hilton

Francesca Hilton had the misfortune of being born after her father, the hotel tycoon Conrad Hilton, divorced her mother. As a result, she did not grow up close to the patriarch. When Hilton died, Francesca received a paltry $100,000, while her father held a fortune of $200 million. After failed legal attempts to get the will changed, Francesca survived on odd jobs until she died of a stroke in her car—where she had been living—in 2015.

American actress and photographer Francesca Hilton wearing white dressGeorge Stroud, Getty Images

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27

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