By Dave Barton
By LP Hastings
By Sarah Bennett
By LP Hastings
By Jena Ardell
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
By Joel Beers
The approach fell right in line with the schizophrenic nature of the city, where ugly and beautiful, heaven and hell are next-door neighbors. Even toxic smog is gorgeous on The Hills. It makes the late-afternoon sky blaze in shades of orange, pink and purple.
If the days were delicious, the nights were even more so. “I like to say that we gave people an all-access VIP pass to LA nightlife,” DiVello says. “Viewers at home felt like they were getting dressed with these kids, going out with them. You had that feeling that you were in the car with them driving to the club with the excitement. Girls love to see what the kids are wearing. Boys like to see who else is in the club, what do girls in LA look like when they’re out clubbing.”
There are still locations that DiVello wants to get that he just can’t get, and it kills him. Simple things such as where the girls go shopping. Talking about that thwarted desire, DiVello sounds almost like a documentary filmmaker. “As odd as it sounds, it’s really hard to shoot at, like, Barneys on Wilshire or Neiman Marcus,” he says. “Those big department stores are incredible architecturally and would look great on camera. But it’s hard to get permission. Because they’re big corporations, there’s a lot more red tape.”
What about shooting it guerrilla-style?
“Oh, God, no. Everything has to be signed off on,” he says. “All the people in the background sign releases.”
As it is, reality must wait. When Justin Brescia and Patridge broke up, they had to delay their sadness for several days while the producers struggled to get permission to shoot on the pier. “We scouted and spent some time working on getting that location, and it played beautifully,” DiVello remembers.
Strangely, the place he’s most proud of filming is the one place everyone has access to: the airport. “We have shots of planes at LAX that most people don’t have,” he says. “To me, it makes the show feel so big.”
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If The Hills’ Los Angeles isn’t exactly the life that everyone in the city lives, it is a Los Angeles that most Angelenos recognize, even if only from a distance. It is a city with a pool at the heart of every apartment complex, a camera hidden behind every tree. DiVello hears often enough from people (who hear from people) about fans of the show who move to Los Angeles to live the Hills lifestyle. “The show has a lot of wish fulfillment to it,” he admits.
As for their disappointment at finding the place not what they wished it to be, that’s something you’ll never see on the series. There are things DiVello just won’t show.
“Traffic,” he says. “We don’t show a lot of traffic. But we have a lot of traffic.”
It’s true. Cars are always moving in The Hills, the ultimate Los Angeles fantasy. “We don’t want to show people waiting to go to work in the morning,” he continues. “We don’t want to show lines at Starbucks. That’s not fun. It all exists, but I don’t want to see it.”
So much of The Hills was a dream. “These kids, they do go where we would want them to go. They go to the newest places. They know exactly where to buy the best handbags, the best shoes, the best coffee. They tell us,” says DiVello, who’d then go out and get it on tape.
Conrad buys her coffee—organic, heirloom, low-acidity, fair-trade, Ugandan, gorilla-friendly—at Urth Caffé downtown. She comes in for salad, bagged coffee and the “secret” Spanish granita, says owner Shallom Berkman.
He apologizes that he has never watched The Hills, but he is aware that its stars frequent his restaurant. The waitstaff let him know whenever Conrad stops by. One of the servers comes over then and mumbles something in Berkman’s ear. Berkman nods solemnly. “I’ve been told that they also order boba drinks,” he says.
It’s a Saturday, and the paparazzi are camped outside the café’s entrance, waiting to see what celebrities the day will bring.
DiVello believes his larger-than-life cast could never be upstaged by the setting. Pick up any tabloid rag to see evidence of that. But when people look back on The Hills, when they miss it or hate it or miss hating it, they won’t remember exactly what Spencer said to Brody about Lauren, who mentioned it to Heidi, who told Audrina, or any of that crazy drama. They’ll remember where it happened.