Justin Bobby From “The Hills” Is Still a Man Who Wears Boots to the Beach
All photos by Alexis Gross

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Justin Bobby From “The Hills” Is Still a Man Who Wears Boots to the Beach

The man so great he needed two first names sits down at the Roosevelt Hotel pool to explain why his life has changed but is exactly the same.
August 7, 2016, 7:55am

Former hairdresser and The Hills star Justin Bobby Brescia stands on stage with a guitar. He's performing at Genghis Cohen, a Los Angeles Chinese bar and restaurant that is known for egg rolls that Yelp reviewers have deemed "awesome."

The venue looks like a Satanic church at an airport. Guests walk through swinging doors and sit on church pews. The crowd consists of family, novelty fans, and one super fan who drove an hour from Huntington Beach, California, Brescia's hometown, to see the show. She danced alone throughout the show. After the show ended, she bent over a pew and screamed at Bobby, telling him to never change.

Read more: Heidi Montag Discusses 'The Hills' 10th Anniversary Special

She probably doesn't have to worry about that. Since The Hills ended, Brescia has continued to play music, keep an untamed beard, and wear leather boots to water-based locations. (Lauren Conrad famously mocked him for wearing boots at the beach.) He is wearing boots and a leather jacket when we meet for breakfast at the Tropicana Pool Café at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It's slightly run down; the hotel's website boasts, "In the most glamorous days of Hollywood lore, [the] Tropicana Pool played host to the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, and Clark Gable."

It's a peculiar time to be Justin Bobby Brescia. He's moved on with his life—he's in a band—but he still looks and dresses the same. The show ended six years ago, but the 2000s and The Hills have recaptured the public's interest. Lauren Conrad appeared in a special new episode on MTV, tabloids are covering Spencer Pratt's controversial statements, and billboards for Juicy Couture tracksuits line Los Angeles's streets.

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Brescia just wanted to cut hair when he moved to Los Angeles from Huntington Beach in Orange County, the Californian county made famous by The OC and its reality TV copycat, Laguna Beach. At age nine, he started surfing. He says he attended surf school from 5:30 to 10:30 AM. He then went to real school for an hour and a half, before returning to the ocean to ride the waves.

"It was mellow," Brescia says. "Surf team was the shit. It was what you did, how you live. It was who you were."

His parents divorced when he was in elementary school, and he chose to live with his mom. "I realized at a young age if your family splits, you stay with the person you can get most away with shit," he says. "All hell would break loose." At age ten, Brescia says, he tagged buildings and stole. "I stole a bike when I was a kid and the thing with that is that I've always had instant karma," he recalls. His older brother often took over the parenting roles and toughened him up.

"I went and saw a medium like maybe five years ago and she did some work on me," Brescia says. "She pulled out a lot of stuff. The first four years of your life, those are the most crucial, those are the ones you need to be coveted—you need to see Mom and Dad in your face and that tender loving care for the first few years and if you don't, it sets off some of the skeletons."

He went to middle school and high school in Orange County, but he never ran into the Laguna Beach crowd. He had joined a group of teens called KAK, which stood for "Krazy Ass Kids." "It was a mixture [of children], because where we lived it was all Hispanics, then there was an east wall that was all Asians," Brescia says. "We all congregated together so it was like 15 to 20 of us. They didn't know what I was or what I looked like. They thought I was Hispanic. I'm Italian and Indian." When Brescia was 14, he started cutting his friends' hair and shaving their faces. Along with surfing, hair became his passion, though he injured many of his friends.

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"I was using the back of those three ring razors—the back pops up like a sideburn trimmer," he explains. "I was skinning motherfuckers with that thing for months—all my friends and myself… I got complaints. I had parents show up to the house, saying like, 'What did you do to my kid?'"

All photos by Alexis Gross

After high school, Brescia attempted to surf professionally. He traveled and surfed in competitions. During his athletic attempts, he continued to cut hair. He returned to Huntington Beach after a few years, still not a professional surfer. "You gotta figure it out, buddy," he recalls his dad saying. Brescia decided to follow his other passion: hair.

"I was still cutting hair," Brescia says. "I really liked it."

Read more: The Undying Love of Spencer and Heidi Pratt

He attended Paul Mitchell the School—later, he also took classes at one of the many schools named after the hair stylist Vidal Sassoon—and then moved to LA in his early 20s. By 2008, he was Maroon 5's hair stylist and also working at the Quixote Studios in Culver City, where Audrina Patridge worked as a receptionist. "[She was] super sweet," Brescia says. "She asked to maybe get her hair done, and then we just exchanged information and stayed in contact. Then, eventually, both our schedules freed up, and I cut it."

The Hills producers saw Patridge's hair—and her hair stylist—and wanted Brescia to join the show. He was traveling with Maroon 5 at the time, but MTV offered to triple the amount of money he was currently earning. Brescia agreed to join the show, first appearing in "Big Girls Don't Cry," the second episode of season three. The program established Brescia as a bad boy when Conrad narrated, "A guy from Audrina's past was about to creep back into her life."

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"I went to Vegas with him and they were partying and then…" Patridge tells Conrad in the episode.

"Wait a minute—" Conrad says, petting her cat. "[Justin] abandoned you in Vegas?"

Patridge shrugs. "Yeah."

"So, who is this guy Justin?"

America would get to know him as the bad boy who would take Patridge on motorcycles. "You gotta ride it like you stole it," he says now. Paparazzi became a problem. "I was driving Audrina's brand new Mercedes Coupé and there were like eight to 12 paparazzi sitting out front of her spot," he recalls. "We were going to go to my place. I was like, 'There's no fucking way these guys are going to find out where I live—I'm driving.'" The cars followed him down the Interstate 10 freeway. Brescia sped up to 120 miles an hour.

At a light, a paparazzo pulled down his window. "[He] was like, 'Just roll your window down,'" Brescia recalls. He asked the photographer to leave him alone. The pap told him, "Your car's fucking chipped. You're not going anywhere, dude.'"

"I'm like, 'You win, we're gonna go to a coffee shop,'" Brescia says.

Other days, the paparazzi set off his anger and he would get into fights. "I've definitely walked around the corner with a couple of them," he says. "Fuck yeah. Now everybody's a paparazzi with their fucking cameras and shit." He credits his anger to his father. "My man's side of the family, for sure."

The Hills caused problems for numerous cast members. Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt manipulated their story lives, eventually losing sense of what was reality. "I really liked them a lot," Brescia says. "I liked that their love stayed true—I mean they had so much [ridicule] for doing what they're doing, and they're still together, and they're still saying, 'Fuck you.' That to me is like, 'You guys won all the way around.'"

Conrad gives Brescia more diva attitude. "She wasn't the most down-to-earth," he says. "You get a young girl like that, who has been on TV since she was 18, and her whole life's exposed—how do you get an actual normal person at that point? You don't get someone who's down-to-earth and someone who's loving and caring. You get someone who's fucking twisted."

The show took its toll. After the finale, Brescia fled the country. "I bailed," he says. He moved to Nicaragua for two and a half years. When he returned, Los Angeles was mostly the same. The Roosevelt Hotel pool haunts him in a personal way. "Actually [a shoot for The Hills] was the last fucking time I was here," Brescia says. It's the setting for both his final appearance on the show as well as the pilot, when Montag crashes a party Conrad was working at for her internship.

"Even now," Brescia says, "I'll drive around and memories will pop up."