SORRY, FOLKS. She's nice.

Tattle knows many of you want to hate her - for her looks, her wealth, her fame, her occasional inappropriate behavior - but Paris Hilton, in town yesterday to promote her movie, "The Hottie and the Nottie" (opening Feb. 8) exhibited surprising savvy during both a one-on-one interview at the Four Seasons Hotel and a meet-and-greet last night at Franklin Mills.

The only bad thing we can say about Paris is that she's not punctual.

Her mall event started 45 minutes late, with the gang from Wired 96.5 forced to fill time with stupid human tricks, giveaways and bad-taste humor.

But once Paris arrived, everyone who made their way to the front of the line to meet her - some 350 of the 1,000 or so fans and gawkers - got a smile, a handshake, a hug or a few moments of conversation. She was especially good with young girls (and a micro-Chihuahua named Diamond in a pink sweater), who left her presence either slack-jawed or beaming as if they'd been blessed.

"You happy now?" a mom asked her preteen daughter after hours on line for a few seconds of face time. "Yes," the girl replied, starry-eyed.

One teenage girl, after her 10 blubbering seconds in the presence of Her Blondeness, ran through the mall shrieking into her cell phone, "I met Paris Hilton! I met Paris Hilton."

Even Philadelphia police - and there were many of them to go with added mall security - took pictures with their cell phones.

It's a phenomenon neither Tattle nor Paris herself can fully comprehend.

But when Paris, in blue jeans, white heels, a print sweater and a royal-blue jacket, made her mall entrance, surrounded by guards, her publicist, her manager (shooting video) and movie- studio people, a scream went up like Elvis had entered the building.

And after "Chio in the Morning" brought Paris to the stage (once he got through security, that is), people kept screaming. And they screamed some more when she greeted the crowd with "What's up, Philadelphia?"

It was like a pep rally led by the head cheerleader for the head cheerleader.

Even after hours of radio, TV and print interviews, Paris remained in unflagging good humor. One publicist said she didn't say one negative thing all day. The job of being Paris Hilton may look easy, but you need the stamina of a presidential candidate to pull it off.

(If three people in a line asked Tattle for a hug, we'd be reaching for a blunt instrument.)

One extraordinary thing about Paris is that although she loves being herself, she doesn't love talking about herself. It's as if she has created this larger-than- life "Paris Hilton" persona to mask her own personal shyness.

Asked yesterday to explain her appeal, Paris told Tattle, "I don't know, people have asked me that before and it's hard to answer."

After another few seconds, she added, "I think maybe it's because I'm real. People can relate to me. They see things that have happened in my life. And that I'm sweet. I feel that when you truly are a good person, it will shine through in your eyes - shine through from your heart to your eyes - and people will see that. Princess Diana, who I love, she had that."

What Paris also has is the drive to be a good businesswoman.

"I've built this empire," she said, "and I know it's going to last a long time so I'd like to be remembered for that.

"I love acting, I love singing, I love modeling - it's fun - but mostly I'm doing it just to push my other brands," she said.

Nice. Pretty. Rich. And she's not dumb, either. You want to hate her. But you can't.

Thankfully, she is not perfect. As she closed out her remarks to the Franklin Mills crowd last night, Paris yelled, "Philadelphia, you rock! And maybe I'll see you guys out clubbing tonight."

Uh, don't think so.

When the event ended, Paris' entourage got in one limo, which turned south on I-95 to return to the Four Seasons. Paris' limo went north. She decided at the last minute to go "clubbing" in New York. *

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