Former cast members of 'The Hills' complain of bad editing, sudden exits
By By Erin Weinger
Jun 01, 2008 | 12:00 AM
PEOPLE'S REVOLUTION has a reputation for being one of the toughest fashion public relations firms in the business. It's been called a madhouse -- a pressure cooker where 18-hour days are common and the mission is as uncompromising as the founder and chief executive, Kelly Cutrone: maximum exposure, whatever the cost.
So when its West Coast director, Jessica Trent, and a few underlings gathered to discuss the Pussycat Dolls lingerie show at L.A. Fashion Week in March, Cutrone put their feet to the fire. She wanted to know whether any celebrities had committed.
"Working on that," Trent said.
"It's a little late," Cutrone snapped.
"I know we were . . . "
"We . . . we . . . nothing."
"That was supposed to be your responsibility, Jessica," sniped Cutrone's partner.
Trent was nearly in tears, and then the camera cut -- to a sweeping panorama of Los Angeles.
It was just another painful day on "The Hills," the docudrama everyone loves to hate. Its stars -- Lauren Conrad, Heidi Montag, Audrina Patridge and Whitney Port -- relentlessly pursue the perfect blend of work and partying, largely in the confines of the L.A. fashion community, be it People's Revolution or the offices of Teen Vogue. Woe betide anyone outside their circle.
While Conrad and her cronies have happily morphed from SoCal teens to paparazzi-hunted celebrities with cosmetic contracts, clothing lines and movie deals, other minor players have become roadkill on the highway of public spectacle. Sure, the star foursome graced the cover of Rolling Stone last month, but a growing sorority of "Hills" outcasts was loudly grumbling.
Not long after Trent's humiliation -- in front of more than 3 million viewers -- she left People's Revolution and explained her befuddlement in her blog, LA Steel Magnolia. "Ah well," she wrote, "for some it probably gave them great pleasure to see me appear dimwitted or sad on the mocu-drama, and you know that's fine if it gives some folks some satisfaction. Honestly. For others with more developed minds, they'll see crafty editing turning a real person into some faux dolt persona for the entertainment sake of the televised machine."
Trent's is not the only attempt to resurrect a reputation tainted by "The Hills." Gavin Beasley spoke to bestweekever.tv about his portrayal in the third season. In one episode, the handsome, tousled-hair young fashion model took Conrad out for sushi after meeting her at a photo shoot. The conversation was not only strained and mundane, but Beasley looked like a lout as he reached across the table and tried -- to Conrad's horror -- to force a salmon roll down her throat.
"I guess people should just try to remember that this is all entertainment," he said, claiming the sushi incident was the result of selective editing. "I'm not the boring dork they made me out to be."
Faux dolt? Boring dork? File these complaints under "Be careful what you wish for" -- especially in Elodie Otto's case. There she was, working at Bolthouse Productions, the Hollywood party-planning powerhouse, when Montag -- and her entourage of cameras -- snagged a job answering phones and stuffing envelopes. Otto was quickly smitten.
"I was like 'God, I want to be on TV,' " she said. "So then I made friends with her. And then they started filming us, and we had really good chemistry."
Soon she couldn't stand in line at Starbucks without being recognized. Her presence on "The Hills" parted the velvet rope, where she posed at MTV red carpet events and chatted up Lindsay Lohan.
Hoping to capitalize on her 15 minutes, Otto quit Bolthouse and started a line of bath and body products, but nothing worked out according to plan. Her time on the show was cut back, and as she waited for a loan to clear on her fledgling company, she tried to find work elsewhere.
"It's just hard," she says. During job interviews, prospective employers ignore her resume and just want to know what it was like to work with Montag.
"Everybody thinks my whole life is great," she says, "that I have my own company and I live at the beach and have a boyfriend and I have my own line and I'm a gazillionaire. But no."
During one low moment in her post-"Hills" career, Otto claims she got a phone call from MTV asking her to return. They needed Otto to fill in a gap in the story line. (The show's creator, Adam Divello, didn't return calls to confirm.)
Otto immediately agreed, and when the cameras started to roll, Otto played out her part: She asked Montag whether she had heard about the opening for an events director; Montag feigned ignorance. And when we next see Montag, she's sitting behind the desk in her new office. Otto regrets agreeing to this scene and worries that she's marked for having lost the job to an inexperienced, younger colleague.
Meanwhile, the show chugs on, now filming its fourth season. For her part, Trent is still licking her wounds, trying to freelance her way toward her own People's Revolution. Not long after the last episode of the third season aired, she sat in her Beachwood Canyon home and organized her closets, while Conrad and friends danced at the packed West Hollywood hot spot Crown Bar. Next to Conrad sat Lindsay Lohan, who looked like she wanted someone to talk to.