THE HILTONS is a sweeping saga of the success-and excess-of an iconic American family. Demanding and enigmatic, patriarch Conrad Hilton's visionary ideas and unyielding will established the model for the modern luxury hotel industry. But outside the boardroom, Conrad struggled with emotional detachment, failed marriages, and conflicted Catholicism. Then there were his children: Playboy Nicky Hilton's tragic alcoholism and marriage to Elizabeth Taylor was the stuff of tabloid legend. Barron Hilton, on the other hand, deftly handled his father's legacy, carrying the Hilton brand triumphantly into the new millennium. Eric, raised apart from his older brothers, accepted his supporting role in the Hilton dynasty with calm and quiet-a stark contrast to the boys' much younger half-sister Francesca, whose battle for recognition led her into courtrooms and conflict. The cast of supporting players includes the inimitable Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was married to Conrad briefly and remained a thorn in his side for decades,and a host of other Hollywood and business luminaries with whom the Hiltons crossed paths and swords over the years.
While the many players and the long timeline of this family saga could potentially have been confusing, best-selling biographer Taraborrelli (After Camelot) has given the story clarity by focusing on a few key figures. Readers will appreciate the life story of hotel baron Conrad Hilton, with heavy emphasis on his relationship with glamorous Zsa Zsa Gabor and his son Nicky. Less attention is paid to his other two sons, Barron and Eric, and his daughter Francesca, and a final curtain call is given to Paris Hilton, which will satisfy those who may only recognize her name. Two things stand out in this rags-to-riches tale: the driven work ethic and astute business sense of the patriarch, and the glamour and opulence of a well-rewarded life. There is drama, surely court cases and break-ups abound but those that wonder how the Hilton hotel empire came to be will get their answer: hard work. The story is full of celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald Trump and it's a paean to a bygone era that also contains a few nuggets on how best to conduct oneself en route to the high life.