Lunchtime Tourist

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February 7, 2005 // UPDATED 1:51 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

Hilton Minneapolis

1001 Marquette Ave.

Until recently, "Hilton" meant a nice hotel in an urban area or a luxurious seaside resort. But now that Paris Hilton is the celebrity du jour, the name has taken on new meaning. The face of the heiress-to-the-Hilton-fortune is seen on everything from tabloid papers to the New York Times to CNN. Her escapades are regular water cooler gossip and her television show "The Simple Life" is now in its third season.

So who is she? And who was her great grandfather Conrad Hilton? And when did Minneapolis get a Hilton hotel? Stay tuned as the drama unfolds.

Conrad Hilton was born in 1887 in New Mexico. He attended the New Mexico School of Mines before founding a bank and becoming a state legislator. In 1919, Hilton decided to seek his fortune in the great state of Texas and traveled through the dusty plains until he landed in the town of Cisco. A deal fell through for him to buy the town bank so he bought the Mobley Hotel. Soon he bought hotels in other Texas towns. In 1938 he bought his first outside the state - the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. New York's Waldorf Astoria was next, as well as a brief marriage to Zsa Zsa Gabor.

The Hilton empire continued to grow, but Conrad wasn't one to rest on his laurels. In fact he was known to have taken only one vacation in his life! He died at 91 in 1979 and his son Barron now oversees the company that owns or manages nearly 3,000 hotels and resorts around the world.

Paris Hilton was born Feb. 17, 1981. A model, actress, singer, author, jewelry designer, club owner, media darling and international jetsetter, Paris Hilton says anyone can be glamorous: "Just act like you're wearing an invisible crown." Growing up in the family home at the Waldorf Astoria, Paris had an all-pink bedroom that she shared with her teacup Chihuahua Tinkerbell.

Downtown's rather non-glamorous Hilton was built in the early 1990s as the Convention Center business boomed. Paris would probably prefer le Meridian for its ultra-hip style, but her grandfather Barron is running the place.

LUNCH TIP: Harmony's, a "European-style coffee shop" in the Hilton's lobby, serves lunch.

POP CULTURE BONUS: If you can convince me that "The Simple Life" is worthy of airtime, you'll win a pair of sterling silver and Swarovski crystal earrings from The Paris Hilton Collection. Send your e-mail to thelunchtimetourist@hotmail.com by Paris's 24th birthday, Feb. 17.