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Jail bad? It’s just another way to get publicity

Prison will boost Paris Hilton’s street cred; there are five other celebrities who could use that kind of a notoriety bump. By Michael Ventre
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

Jail isn’t so bad, when you think about it. I’ve never been, so I can’t really speak from first-hand knowledge.

But I have watched a lot of TV over the years, and I believe real-life jail falls somewhere between “Oz” and the cell in “The Andy Griffith Show” where Otis the Mayberry town drunk used to sleep off benders.

There are three squares a day, especially in the latter example, where an inmate on a typical day might feast on Aunt Bee’s homemade fried chicken and blueberry pie. There is a bed, a bathroom area and usually a chatty roommate to keep you company. I don’t believe most jails in the United States have wireless Internet yet — especially the Supermax prison in Colorado, which is a little behind the times if you ask me — but you know it’s coming. You can’t stand in the way of technology.

Paris Hilton would be advised to remember all this, and more. She began her 3-week jail sentence on Monday for violating terms of her probation. She will be held in an 8-by-12 cell in the Los Angeles County’s detention center for women in Lynwood, Calif. That may sound bleak, but you give Paris a few swatches of fabric, a Restoration Hardware catalog and a little encouragement and that place is going to look really cute, mark my words.

Slideshow

Paris Hilton

The highs and lows of the life of the hotel heiress.

However, it isn’t the day-to-day routine of confinement that is the attraction here for Paris Hilton, it’s the aftermath. When she finally finishes her stretch, she will have street cred, which is the one thing on Earth she can’t buy, although don’t think one of her minions hasn’t contacted Sotheby’s to inquire.

Despite the efforts of her beleaguered publicists — the fact that Elliot “Mintz” rhymes with “prince” is not coincidental, in my opinion — Paris is played. She’s not yesterday’s news, or the day before’s news, but the day-before-that’s news.  The whole party girl thing wore thin a long time ago. She had another spat with Nicole Richie. She comforted Lindsey Lohan after a meltdown at Hyde. She made another sex video ... OK, I’ll look at it a few times, but then explain to me how it’s different than the others?

Jail may turn out to be the best thing to ever happen to Paris Hilton.

Everything old is news again

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After serving her time, she’ll have new stories to tell. She’ll have a whole new perspective on life.

She’ll be news again!

And that’s the most important aspect of being a celebrity. Although many complain about paparazzi snapping their photos as they emerge from restaurants and nightclubs, or about anecdotes on the Internet or in gossip rags about canoodling with this squeeze or that, the fact is they would become absolutely apoplectic if they received no attention at all.

This, I’m afraid, was happening to Paris Hilton. Although it’s no laughing matter that she has earned this jail time by getting behind the wheel of a car when she shouldn’t have been — remember, she was busted in September on a DUI after failing a field sobriety test — her star was fading quickly. Before the judge handed down her jail sentence recently, Corey Feldman and Corey Haim had more star wattage than Paris Hilton. Together, I mean, not separately. I tend to exaggerate, but I’m not out of my mind.

After jail, Paris will be asked to appear on talk shows, she’ll get invited to parties rather than having to crash them, she might even be asked to serve as a celebrity judge on “American Idol,” although let’s hope she and Paula Abdul don’t drive to the show together.

All in all, jail will be just the ticket for Paris. In Hollywood, jail is the new rehab.

With that in mind, here are five other celebrities who could use a visit to the slammer to polish their celebrity credentials:

Lindsay LohanAlthough she’s a bit frail for prison life, Lindsay’s star is so on the wane that she should probably risk it. A lot of people in Hollywood think she’s a very talented actress, but she’s not much of a box office draw; her “Georgia Rule” took in just over $5 million on opening weekend. Imagine how much more attention the picture might have gotten if the press junket had been held inside the visitors’ room at the L.A. county detention center for women. Of course, there’s always the chance that the warden could send her a scathing letter complaining that her wild and irresponsible behavior is jeopardizing her job at the prison laundry. But I’m betting that Lindsay would be humbled by her incarceration and tone down her act, especially if they throw her in solitary without a Blackberry. With a little luck, maybe she’ll make the cell block A-list.

Britney SpearsShe probably should be in jail right now for fraud after charging fans $125 per ticket, making them wait three hours at the House of Blues in San Diego and then lip-synching her way through a 15-minutes performance. Of course, there are those who might argue that she should be in the hoosegow for her entire body of work rather than one show, and their point has merit. But the bottom line is that Britney is a mess and she needs something to goose her career. One advantage of her going to jail now is that guards will look at her shaved head and assume that she already has been deloused. A note of caution: She went out on the town not long ago and some photos of her were taken that became very popular on the Internet because she went au naturel in a particular area. But this would be a women’s prison, they don’t have paparazzi there, and the attention she would receive after such a stunt might make her look back and appreciate the days when all she had to please was K-Fed.

Donald TrumpHe would need two cells, one for him and one for his hair. Ah, just kidding. Bunk beds would do. If anybody really needed to be brought down to Earth, it’s The Donald. At first glance, it might appear that Trump would have difficulty in a jailhouse environment, since he likes to give orders, and that might not sit well with the Aryan brotherhood and the ethnic gangs, not to mention the guards’ union. But something tells me that in no time at all Trump will have figured out a way to knock down the prison and have luxury condominiums built in its place. And when he got out of jail, he’d be in demand as a motivational speaker who explains how you can use your skills as a white-collar criminal to get ahead in the business world.

O.J. SimpsonPutting O.J. Simpson in jail. Hmmm. Now there’s an idea that just might catch on with the general public. Of course, it would take some convincing to get him to go, because he’s spent so much time and energy trying to stay out of there. But he keeps making news on the outside for all the wrong reasons. Recently he was thrown out of a steakhouse in Kentucky because the owner refused to serve him. And that’s just the incident you hear about; I bet it happens at the Wal-Mart, the local Ben & Jerry’s, even at Denny’s. If he were to go to jail, he’d be around guys like himself who would appreciate his accomplishments. He could be surrounded by men who agree with his contention that the police are corrupt and that evidence gathering is flawed. In fact, if he found himself in a nurturing environment of acceptance and understanding, he could remain there quite comfortably for years and years and years.

Jessica SimpsonDoes anybody know what she does? She seems to be in the news for dating John Mayer, which immediately makes it obvious that he could probably use a little contemplative time behind bars as well. And she is noticed for her hair, which used to be long and blond but now is long and brunette. Stop the freaking presses. Perhaps if Jessica spent a little time in the big house she’d be able to give reporters an answer to the question, “What have you done since ‘Dukes of Hazzard’?” In fact, there are plenty of folks who believe the law calls for a mandatory jail sentence for something like “Dukes of Hazzard.”