With live performances by Macy Gray, Dita Von Teese, Prince Poppycock, and Greyson Chance to name a few and Debbie Gibson, recorded greetings by Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Justin Bieber, and an in person Happy Birthday serenade from the Bieb's galpal Selena Gomez, Perez Hilton's ” Blue Ball” Birthday Bash Saturday night at Siren Studios in Hollywood marked another music-infused extravaganza for the controversial gossip and pop culture blogger. We've been to his annual b-day bashes in LA many times over the years -beginning with Dita and The Gossip at the Roxy back in 2007 and ending last year at Paramount Studios with Liza Minelli, Leona Lewis and Katy Perry (on an elephant)– and Saturday's soiree ranked high on the rager scale alongside those.
Perez remains a polarizing figure, but after altering the tone of his site this past year (less trash talk and name calling, more “positivity” and straight forward reportage), maturing as a person, and redirecting his energies as a music taste maker, a lot has changed for him. In many ways, the party reflected these changes. Read on for our exclusive chat with the birthday boy about his charitable involvements, his take on South By Southwest a couple weeks ago, his new leaf and the makeup moments with certain superstars that followed, the mistakes he made when with his now-defunct music label and how he's incorporating what he learned into working with and promoting new artists such as Kat Graham and a new boy band (put together with Simon Fuller)– both of whom turned in impressive sets at the Blue Ball on Saturday.
Even people who don't like you have to admit you throw the best parties and music events. What was your first?
My birthday back in '07 wth Dita Von Teese, The Gossip and Donovan Leitch as Hedwig. Paris Hilton and Amy Winehouse were there, it was amazing. I also did a Vegas event after that and then started my “One Night” show in Austin.
Tell me about the charity aspect of your birthday this year. What gave you the idea?
I was really inspired Adam Lambert. I saw that he used the opportunity of his birthday to raise money for a charity that he believed in, charity: water. I knew that I wanted mine to be a GLBT organization in light all the teens committing suicide last year and the bullying that's still going on. Trevor Project is amazing and I've referred a lot of people there, but GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) hasn't had as much press so I knew they could use it more.
By asking people to donate for my birthday, I've raised $12,000, but even more important than the money, is the fact that I've been talking about it a lot, and making people more aware. If GLSEN is able to get in the schools and do their work, hopefully kids wont feel the need to call the Trevor Project because they're suicidal.
About the bullying epidemic that we've been seeing so much of… You changed the way do your site because of it. Has this hurt your traffic?
It's been going so well. My traffic hasn't gone down. It hasn't gone up either but I wasn't expecting it to. I was expecting the worst. The fact that it has remained consistent is so encouraging to me because it leads me to believe that people are not only receptive to this but wanting this more positive direction. Hopefully it's inspired others working online or in print media or TV to still be opinionated, sassy funny or critical, but in a way that isn't hurtful.
You didn't seem to care about being hurtful or being liked when I interviewed you back in 2007. What changed?
I care about what people think, but I don't care about being liked. It mattered to me that a lot of people thought I was a bully. I don't need to be liked so long that I'm not contributing to anybody possibly committing suicide or feeling that it's ok to be nasty. I don't want or need to be putting that kind of energy out there anymore.
Tying it all back into my birthday, when I started blogging I was 26 years old. People grow up a lot between 26-33. Even someone like one of my inspirations, Howard Stern. Howard himself has grown and evolved. I think if you just stay the same it's fuckin' boring. That's not real. It was important for my website to grow and evolve with me. I'd been thinking of going in a more positive direction even before, that's why I started my fashion website Coco Perez, and my health & wellness Fit Perez, and pet site, Teddy Hilton.
Let's talk about music. How was your South By Southwest experience this year?
Well, one of the criticisms of my show that irked me this year, was people tweeting me that they were upset that there wasn't a “surprise A-list performer.” Yes they're nice and great and I've had them before, but it wasn't about that. I loved my lineup this year. There were established acts, some very under the radar acts, some in the middle. Liz Phair is an icon, Taylor Momsen and her band Pretty Reckless who're doing very well; Dirty Vegas, Oh Land, FrankMusik. Younger, more fledginly acts like my favorite new band (and the act that got the most buzz at my party), the New Zealand duo called Kids of 88. They're amazing, I'm beyond obsessed with them. I sort of view them like MGMT but less pretentious. They're fun, but still cool. They are hipsters and speak to that community, but I think they have potential to go mainstream and reach the masses.
Do you think it's good or bad that SXSW is such a commercial scene these days?
You know, some people were upset that there wasn't open bar & there was general admission at my party. How presumptuous. I'm actually kind of happy those people were unhappy. Hopefully the people upset that there wasn't open bar, or a surprise guest won't go next year and there'll be more room for the music lovers. I always have a great time and I always discover somebody new. I'm not going to be deterred to going to South By Southwest because it's sort of become like Sundance, that's ok. It's still a great opportunity for new artists and music lovers.
Your events are one thing, but your site has proven to be a huge platform for exposing music artists. You must have a ton gold and platinum records to show for it. Who from?
Gaga, Adelle, Taylor Swift, The Ting Tings, Amy Winehouse, The Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber…They are my most cherished possessions. It makes me almost want to start crying talking about it… It makes me happy for them and also appreciative that they acknowledge the role that I might have played in their success.
What really happened with your Warner Bros. imprint label?
I left there. I'm a little bummed that I left just before Tom Whalley left, because he was one of the reasons I decided not to renew my deal there. I've talked about this before… It just wasn't the easiest relationship. So I left, then a few months later, he left.
I don't have any desire to do that again, I learned so much from that experience. What I learned is more important than having any kind of deal with a record label is actually breaking an act. Having an artist that you're responsible for. That's what I'm working on right now.
Tell me about it.
Seeing how people react to certain things has made me change the way I operate. For example, I'm a music lover and I'm in it for the right reasons, and even though I am being more positive and some people's perception of me has changed, a lot of people still think I'm a big ol' douchebag. Rightfully so… It's very well deserved. I don't shy away from my past, I don't try to pretend it never happened, I'm extremely apologetic for any hurt I caused people. I've reached out to people. People have actually reached out to me. Like Fergie sent me some flowers, saying “it's a wonderful thing you're doing, and I'm happy for you.”
Will.i.am and I made up and we had a nice chat at the Grammys. It really feels healthy to not have ill will with people. It might take me years to really change the public's perception about me. And that's ok.
How does this relate to your music endeavors?
Knowing what I know, with the artists I'm working with now: it's all about them, it's not about me. You're not going to see me promoting my artist, and saying hey, 'this is my artist, this is my artist!'
I'm not trying to put anything over on anyone, like if anyone asks me, hey are you working with so and so? I'm not gonna lie and deny, I'll say yeah. But I'm not gonna say in my posts, 'this is my artist,' because that might turn a lot of people off on the artist.
You're in a tricky position, for sure. But don't you think if you're posting a lot about someone you're working with, you should disclose it in the post? Like Kat Graham, for example. You're working with her, right?
Yes I am. But I don't want to repeat the same mistakes. Kat is too important for me to fuck up. I got burned before. When I got behind with Sliimy, it was the opposite. I was saying 'oh my artist, my artist, Sliimy.' It hurt him. I got behind Travis Garland and I got him on Amercian Idol. I loved that song. But people hated on the song just because he was working with me. That sucks.
I'm in a different place now. Maybe in a few years if I've really been able to change my public perception. And people are liking me a lot more, it will be a more favorable thing for me to say 'this 'is my artist.' I don't think it's there yet.
So can you name some other acts/projects you've got happening?
I've got the boy band with [American Idol's] Simon Fuller. Not ready to reveal anything else yet. The company, Perezcious Music, does management, producers and song writers, in house content, videos… It's exciting having the freedom and control. And when one of my artists breaks in a big way, it will let me help the other artists more and also give me leverage with the labels.
Right now I'm excited because people have to be so good. It's about more than just the music, it's about the brand, the personality, the total package.
More photos from Hllton's Blue Ball in our Nightranger slideshow this week.