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Nicky Hilton Tells His Side Of The Story . . .

Six mornings a week, at 8:30 on the dot, a restlessly energetic young man in a neat business suit settles his six-foot frame behind a desk in his office at Los Angeles’ Bel-Air Hotel where he is part owner and vice-president. On his desk rests a copper pen stand engraved “Conrad Nicholson Hilton, Jr.,” also stacks of paper work and two telephones which start clamoring the minute he sits down.

Nick Hilton juggles the receivers from ear to ear and wades into his work—checking receipts, scanning color schemes for decoration, jig-saw puzzling reservations, plotting parties, getting the engineer after the heater that’s gone out, soothing the fussy lady with the Pekingese. The hundred fascinating headaches of the hotel game he loves gang up on him and he’s happy.

Then comes a call, from a friend, like the other day.

“Hello, Nick? Did you see the morning paper?”

“No—what?” But already a frown is planted on Nick Hilton’s pleasant, boyish face.

“. . . Says last night you and Elizabeth had a row in a night club over an old boy friend and you huffed out of the place. That true?”

“Last night,” replies Nick wearily, “Elizabeth and I played canasta with my brother and his wife at their house. Nobody huffed out of anywhere. Look—how can people make up such things, how can they print them? Isn’t there some way to stop—?” Then he answers himself—“No—if you talk back, you only make things worse. We’ll just rise above this one, too.”

But already some of the steam is out of his morning. His brown eyes burn. He’s on the defensive and he’s sore. Who wouldn’t be?

Ever since he married Elizabeth Taylor last May, Nick Hilton has been a target for unjust, even slanderous barbs. From the day he said “I do” to this they have never stopped slamming away with outrageous rumor and gossip at his home, and consistently Nick himself has been made out the villain of the piece. Why, is pretty hard to figure—unless the fact that he captured America’s most sought after beauty made the whole world spitefully jealous. Whatever the reason, this good natured, ambitious and hard working guy Hilton has been persistently pictured as a fractious playboy, spendthrift young millionaire, gambler, tippler, glamor-struck husband—a sort of combination Errol Flynn, gay Tommy Manville and “Bet-a-Million” Gates.

In Paris, on his honeymoon, reporters kept his telephone at the Georges V. hotel jangling day and night until he had to have it shut off. Then they buttonholed him in the lobby: How many millions had he settled on his bride? What did his Cadillac cost? How much had he paid for her furs—how much for her jewels? How many hundreds of shoes had he bought her? Was it true he was ordering Elizabeth a custom made. evening gown from every expensive couturier in Paris? And so on, until—as Nick recalls disgustedly, “I wanted to poke them in the nose.”

London was worse. There Nick got even more absurd and some insulting reactions. Was he star struck? Was he after a movie career? Did he long to make a picture with Elizabeth? One paper printed a news shot of Nick and Elizabeth with the Caption, “Mister Taylor Is All Burned Up!” And Mister Hilton was all burned up when he saw that—for sure.

At Cannes, in the south of France, where the Hiltons spent long honeymoon days, most vacationers swim in the morning, nap in the afternoon, visit the Casino at night—that’s about all there is to do. But when Nick Hilton went there wild stories flew out—that he was drinking and gambling huge stakes nightly—and one Hollywood columnist even penned that Nick had angrily tossed a stack of chips at Elizabeth when she begged him to stop!

Even as the Queen Elizabeth, bearing them home, approached New York harbor, Nick had a shore-to-ship call before he even landed—for the unkindest cut of all. It was a New York reporter demanding, “Is it true that you knocked your wife down in a drunken brawl?” That left Nick Hilton speechless, as well it might anyone. He did manage to retort though, “What a fine way to be welcomed home this is!” And wasn’t it?

But since they’ve come back to Hollywood, where you’d. think people would know better and want to see them happily home, has the tune changed? Unfortunately, no. Nick can’t look sidewise at Elizabeth, or vice versa, without someone announcing a dreamed up domestic battle. No remote opportunity is missed to needle the man who married Elizabeth Taylor. Only the other day a gossip writer stated as fact, “People are wondering why Nicky Hilton isn’t in the service.” What people were wondering? And why? Former Seaman First Class Hilton owns an honorable Navy record in the last war and, like all veterans, he’s classified 4-A. If they want him they’ll reclassify and call him, like they will millions of other young men, and he’ll go gladly.

None of this, I can report, is making Nick Hilton stay awake nights. He’s too busy to get insomnia from reckless rumors even about himself. He’s too goodnatured to fly into a rage of denials, too smart to lower his dignity to a cat fight of answering back. If there are too many phone calls with irritating gossip for his ears, there’s one regular one from Elizabeth every morning to say, “I love you,” making the others seem passing stuff and nonsense which, of course, they are. Besides, as Nick will tell you, “I knew when I married a star what I was in for, although I didn’t expect this much made of everything I do—or this kind of things said about me. It’s not very pleasant,” he grins wryly, “to be made out a louse.”

Maybe it’s time to have a good look at the real man Elizabeth Taylor married. Maybe it’s time to add Nick Hilton up right and see if he’s the hooper dooper all this hullabaloo has made him—or if he’s someone you might recognize—and like. Nick himself would be the last person to ask for any such break, but perhaps it’s time to tell his side of the story.

Nick Hilton is a young man on his way. He has his own career and a future every bit as big, maybe bigger, than his famous wife’s. Someday he might take over the multimillion dollar hotel empire which his dad, “Connie” Hilton runs. Right now he has his hands full with the Bel-Air, which Nick proudly calls “the most beautiful hotel in the world.” It may be; it certainly is to Conrad N. Hilton, Junior. Because he owns part of it, it’s his baby, his first sole business venture (the Bel-Air is not a part of the Hilton chain)—and Nick Hilton would rather be a successful hotel man than President of the United States. Or Clark Gable.

Just as some kids want to be a cop or a fireman when they grow up, young Nick wanted to run a hotel. “I never considered anything else,” he says. “And I still don’t. Why, it’s the most fascinating business in the world! There’s not one day like another or one problem like the one before. I’d rather be in a hotel than in a palace—or even a movie studio,” he laughs.

In Dallas, Texas, where he was born, the home he remembers fondly was a little hotel called—of all things—the Waldorf, which his dad bought. When he was ten he had his first hotel job—running errands around the lodge at Cloudcroft, New Mexico, a summer resort. He started working summers regularly at fourteen, first at the Hilton hotel in El Paso, where Nick hauled ice, helped the engineer, fixed lamps, and did odd jobs in the rooms.

After two summers at El Paso, Nick travelled on at sixteen for jobs at the Town House in Los Angeles and the Stevens in Chicago, clerking, working in the accounting office, commissary, repair shop. Los Angeles was officially Nick’s home, he’d gone to St. Paul the Apostle’s parochial school there and Loyola High, but actually he spent most of his teen years around hotels or away at another school, New Mexico Military Institute. He was hustling and self reliant early.

The Navy grabbed Nick after one year at Loyola University in Los Angeles where he’d started a Business Administration course. He was eighteen, six feet tall, weighing around 160. He played football, hunted and fished; there was nothing wrong with him. He was a boot in San Diego, studied radar at the Pearl Harbor Pacific Fleet School, was assigned to the U.S.S. North Carolina, and took part in the coastal bombardment of Japan. He came out a seaman first class after twenty months’ service. He tried one semester back at Loyola U, but it didn’t take. He told his dad, “I’m too restless to go back to school. I want to go to work.” “Connie” Hilton nodded approval and sent him off to the Stevens in Chicago, the biggest hotel in the world.

Nick was there a year helping streamline the food controls and set up a new system of housekeeping. Then he tore into a survey of the whole Hilton chain, from Los Angeles to New York, room by room. Nick Hilton has probably seen more hotel rooms than any man alive. He inspected and reported on 12,000 of them with diagrams. But he didn’t think he knew enough even then.

So in ’48 Nick took off for Europe, studied five months at the Ecole Hoteliere (Hotel School) in Lausanne, Switzerland. He got a job after that at the Hotel Scribe in Paris, compared European operations with the Hilton system, gave talks about it at manager’s meetings back in America. He went to the Southwest as assistant to the vice president of the Hilton Corporation, helped put in the new ideas he’d doped out at the Hilton Hotels in Albuquerque, El Paso and Lubbock, Texas. He had moved on to the Hilton office in Beverly Hills when he met Elizabeth and fell in love.

Was he in love with her movie star glamor as has been hinted? Does a go-getting record like that suggest that Nick Hilton wanted to bask in anybody’s reflected glory?

“That’s the funniest one,” Nick ponders. “I didn’t know a single Hollywood movie star. I wasn’t even a fan. I’d never seen Elizabeth in a picture before I saw her in person.” Somebody asked Nick once, “What attracted you to Elizabeth?” and he couldn’t believe his ears. “Migosh.” he exclaimed, “what attracts anyone to Elizabeth—I mean—what doesn’t?”

He thought she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen and he wanted a date, so he pulled some strings with his friend, “Pete” Freeman, whose father, Frank Freeman, is a Paramount bigshot. Elizabeth was over there making A Place in the Sun. What happened then everyone knows. They had lunch at the studio, their first date at Nick’s brother, Barron’s house, and a week-end at the Hilton’s Lake Arrowhead lodge along with Mr. and Mrs. Taylor, Elizabeth’s brother, Howard, and his girl. “It was a pretty romantic setting—moonlight, a mountain lake,” Nick recalls, “so I just popped the question. I wasn’t exactly discouraged.” But he was surprised when, even before he came down out of the mountains, the newspapers had him engaged to Elizabeth Taylor. She hadn’t said “Yes” then. Nick’s been surprised at almost everything he’s read about himself and Elizabeth since.

The first time Nick stepped out in public with Elizabeth was at a charity benefit at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. Elizabeth was a cigarette girl but she didn’t peddle many cigarettes. Mostly, she was trapped at Nick’s side while flash bulbs crackled. Nick asked his fiancée, “Is it always like this?” and she smiled, “You’ll get used to it.”

Well, he did. But he never enjoyed it. If he had, Nick wouldn’t have nixed interviews about Elizabeth or refused to pose for lovey-dovey pictures. Nick didn’t act up—but he didn’t get in on the act, either. He was just a nice young guy in love with a girl, not her glamor.

I asked Nick if he’d ever take that long a honeymoon tour if he had to do it over. He shook his head. “No, I wouldn’t. Elizabeth and I probably wouldn’t take that long a trip again on any occasion. Maybe when we’re older, when I’m more established in business. But three months is too long just to lie around. You feel like you’re not accomplishing anything—and it gets you jumpy. Elizabeth works very hard when she makes a picture,” he added, “but she feels the same way. If she’d been home she could have been fixing up things around the house.” Nick never forgot his business even on his honeymoon. He came back lugging hotel gadgets and ideas he collected wherever they had stopped. One, a trick ashtray he found in Switzerland, is already in Bel-Air rooms. It keeps a cigarette, left burning, from falling out and setting the place on fire.

But no gadget has yet been invented to keep people from starting fires and raising smoke about screen stars and the men they marry. Nobody knows that better than Nick.

Besides running a successful hotel, Nick Hilton’s one ambition in life right now is to make Elizabeth Taylor happy. “That’s the idea of marriage, isn’t it?” he asks. He’s crazy about fishing and golf. He took her out fishing—she fell asleep in the boat. He bought her a matched set of Patty Berg clubs—they still sit new and shiny in the garage. Few husbands indeed have worked a wife into their Sunday sports, but in the things that count Nick has changed more than one idea he owned to please his bride.

He wanted to live at the Bel-Air when they came ‘back home. Nick never stops being a militant hotel man for one minute, and he’s convinced that it’s cheaper, more comfortable, and handier to live in them than run a house. But the suite they’d picked out wasn’t ready, so they moved into the Pacific Palisades house that Barron and Marylin and their multiplying family outgrew. The night they moved in there weren’t any sheets or blankets, or much of anything else, so while Elizabeth unpacked, Nick raced around in his car to his dad’s house, to the hotel, to Barron and Marylin’s new place and came back with the bedding and enough pots and pans to cook breakfast.

Domesticity has seemed to take with Liz, so now the Hilton living plans are changed. Nick’s hunting a house to buy, and he has a deal on for one he thinks will fill the bill. “What changed your mind?” I asked him. “Nothing,” maintains Nick. “But Elizabeth wants a house—and she’s going to have one. She wants to try her hand at cooking and housekeeping for a while.” They’re going ahead and redecorating the Bel-Air suite just the same, and just in case Elizabeth discovers what Nick suspects she will—that making pictures and running a house are two full time jobs.

Right now the Hiltons live in Pacific Palisades with a maid, a gardener, and “Gi-Gi,” the French poodle which Nick bought Elizabeth to replace her beloved “Butch” who died while they were away. They’re home most nights when they aren’t carrying on a canasta feud with Barron and Marylin, and sometimes Elizabeth cooks dinner. Lamb chops, potatoes and peas were her first bridal effort, which suited Nick fine because he’s strictly a meat and potato boy. Outside of the ballet, a few concerts and a preview or two, they haven’t made any kind of a stir socially—and that’s perfectly all right with Nick.

“We’re too busy—and too tired,” explains Nick. “We’re both working and if we have time to unpack a few wedding presents we’re lucky. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do getting settled.”

Both Nick and Elizabeth roll out of bed at 6:30 when she’s working. It’s a ten-minute drive to his hotel, fifteen to MGM for Elizabeth. But when they kiss good-by in the morning they enter separate worlds. Nick has been to MGM just once, for lunch with his wife. He hasn’t been on the set of Father’s Little Dividend and he isn’t planning to go just to rubberneck around. “How would I find the time?” he asks. “Besides, I’d just be in the way. I don’t know anything about movies or acting. I know what I like to see Elizabeth in—I liked Father of the Brideand, of course, National Velvet. But I’m no critic.”

Sometimes Elizabeth comes by the hotel for dinner, but she feels the same way about Nick’s hotel. That’s his job. He’s busy right now redecorating all the rooms and the other day he asked her advice about colors. It was pretty good until she added, “And of course, light carpets.” Nick shook his head. “Honey,” he said, “you may know colors, but you don’t know hotels.” Light carpets, he explained, would show every footstep.

The way Nick Hilton feels about Elizabeth’s career is exactly as he says, “I think it’s fine and I’m all for it—as long as it doesn’t interfere with our having a family.” Because Nick Hilton is a family boy himself and he’s crazy about kids.

“Three will be enough,” thinks Nick, “but more if we’re lucky. I want some boys to take hunting. Elizabeth wants some girls to dress up.” Nick’s only twenty-three and Elizabeth’s pushing nineteen, but he still thinks he’s way behind. Barron, two years younger, has three. Maybe Elizabeth will have something to say about how many and when—a family’s something no mere rumor in a column can start—although there have been those rumors, too. But they didn’t make Nick sore. He kind of hoped they were true.

Nick Hilton is not really mad at anybody. He’s too happily married and too wrapped up in every detail of his job and business interests. He’s chasing success and the solid things of life, but he’s no character out of Horatio Alger. He’s no plaster saint and he doesn’t pretend to be.

“I like fun, sure,” he’ll tell you—although you don’t have to ask that after a look at his restless eyes and quick grin—“but not the kind of fun sometimes they say I like—if that’s fun, I wouldn’t know.”

Nick will risk a buck or two on a wager, like any normal Jo. He likes to eaten the horses run, see football games, play poker and canasta. He smokes, takes a drink or sometimes two. He’s a chip off his life-loving dad, “Connie,” and his bringing up around hotels, where there’s always something buzzing, has made him a regular guy, but he wasn’t born yesterday. Smarties are always approaching Nick with “deals,” “tips” or “sure things,” but he can spot a racket a mile off. Although Nick has even broken up plenty of them right in his hotel jobs, the idea hangs around that he’s a young sucker. And he knows he can expect to be baited and badgered for sensational headlines no matter what he and Elizabeth do, or don’t do, although he admits that after a while the wallops make him wary and subconsciously on the defensive.

A while back, Nick took his sister-in-law, Marylin, out to the airport to meet Barron, flying in from Mexico. Elizabeth was busy and couldn’t make it, so the two of them stood at the gate sweating the plane in. Nick found himself looking nervously around the crowd expecting something, he didn’t know what.

Finally it struck him and he had to laugh. A few weeks before a demented husband got caught planting a bomb on an airliner, along with his pregnant wife and kids, to blow them all to glory.

“Marylin,” whispered Nick, “maybe Id better stand a little farther away from you. Somebody might see us and say that I was out at the airport getting rid of a pregnant woman!”

It hasn’t gotten as fantastic as that, of course, not yet, and if it does Nick Hilton’s sense of humor can save him. But it would be awfully welcome, just for a change, he thinks, and maybe high time too, for someone to say that Nick and Elizabeth Hilton were two nice and normal young married people starting out in life happy, ambitious, in love, and hoping to stay that way.




Click for “But Here Are The Facts He Has To Face—Elizabeth Taylor and Nicky Hilton



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