CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - About 200 Harvard University students waited more than an hour in bone-chilling rain on Wednesday for a speaker better known for hard partying than Ivy League appearances — socialite Paris Hilton.
The millionaire hotel heiress won the dubious honor of “woman of the year” from Harvard’s satirical Lampoon magazine, and she accepted the trophy in person with a quick speech.
“Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine standing here on the steps of the Harvard Lampoon receiving the woman of the year award,” she told the students gathered outside the castle-like, red-brick building that houses the Lampoon.
“You guys are so hot,” she added. “Harvard’s hot.”
The 26-year-old star of the television reality show “The Simple Life” kept the crowd waiting for so long that the head of the student-run magazine had to reassure the students that the event was not a prank.
“All of you can stab me if she doesn’t come,” Lampoon president Chris Schleicher said wryly. “She’s really coming.”
In many ways, Hilton’s hard-charging lifestyle, party-girl image and tabloid fame are the antithesis of the Harvard experience. And many past Lampoon honorees boast weightier resumes — from former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to actors Robin Williams, John Wayne and John Cleese.
Hilton is the first recipient of the Lampoon’s “woman of the year” award.
A separate Harvard institution, the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, has a “Woman of the Year Roast” — a tradition that dates to 1795. On Thursday it will honor Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron.
Some Harvard students embraced Hilton, who skyrocketed to fame in 2003 after an amateur sex video of her filmed in night vision hit the Internet.
“Someone just accosted me and said, ‘Why would you stand in the rain for Paris Hilton?”‘ said Matthew Sussman, 26, an English major. “But I think that she is an icon and we see her image multiplied numerous times and numerous ways.”
“It’s also a dubious distinction. We don’t know if she is in on the joke or not,” he added.
Before Hilton’s appearance, fliers for her new movie, “The Hottie & The Nottie,” were passed around to the students. She also won a plug for the movie as she was being introduced, along with plugs for her self-titled album in 2006 and products from perfume to shoes.
“She probably has a very sophisticated publicity team and has thought about this,” said Geraldine Prasuhn, 23, who is studying economics and East Asian studies. “I don’t think she’s totally unaware and is being taken advantage of.”
Editing by Xavier Briand