(June 12, 2012) – I think we learn about ourselves by paying attention to how we interact with others. I always find my own interactions fascinating though I rarely understand them as well as I do the relationships I see on the Real Housewives shows. Sure I am too close to my own experiences. That’s one very valid reason I have an easier time dissecting the lives of complete strangers better than the people I know very well, including myself.
Another reason is that nothing in my life is taped. Nothing I experience, nothing I say, nothing anyone says to me, none of my reactions to provocations, or any of the ways I provoke others can be reviewed with the help of a rerun or a rewind on the DVR. Still I wish all of those things were possible. I’d love to be able to see myself and the people in my life as clearly and as repeatedly as I see the ladies of Bravo.
I know that with time, I will be able to understand Aviva Drescher, Heather Thompson and Carole Radziwill, as clearly as I see LuAnn de Lesseps, Ramona Singer and Sonja Morgan. That kind of clarity takes years of devoted observations to develop. Until then, I will continue to stumble through this revamped cast, trying to figure out whom we’re dealing with and which of the more well-established ladies is willing to turn over a new leaf and show her more appealing side, as Camille Grammer did in Beverly Hills, after that scoundrel Kelsey tossed her out with the recycling.
It’s funny. As I wrote that last sentence, I assumed I’d be listing off a string of women who had redeemed themselves on these shows. The truth is, other than Camille, I cannot name another lady who initially looked like a dummkopf and then later proved to be a worthwhile person. That surprises me. I thought there was a constant flow of good girls who were later made to look bad; and I assumed there were naughty girls who were later repainted with white hats. It surprises me that I cannot think of another example of a woman who made this medium work in positively transforming her initial Bravo reputation. Still I am fascinated to see how all of these New York ladies define themselves in their associations with each other. Here is what I was thinking about during last night’s episode.
Aviva and Heather
Aviva Drescher and her husband Reid are having dinner with Heather Thompson and her husband Jonathon. She tells us he’s the son of a famous rabbi and that she hasn’t finished converting to Judaism. Until then, she’s just Jewish “by injection.” I am far from uptight. Still I think that’s a vulgar comment in any context, let alone one where you are presenting yourself to strangers on a television show that airs internationally. I don’t really care that she’s vulgar. I just find vulgarity boring. I far prefer naughty behavior, which always seems to have a playful “say it, but don’t really say it” quality that appeals to me.
For this reason, Heather is too much for me. In two episodes she has come to define Too Much Information. Too many medical problems. Too many gifts for her son Jax. Too much talk about Ramona behind her back. And personally I think it was way too much, or more accurately, incredibly insensitive to tell everyone that Aviva’s ex-husband bragged about sleeping with both Sonja and LuAnn.
Knowing how these reunions get heated, I think it is safe to say that at this very moment LuAnn is sharpening her tongue in advance of giving Heather a talking to, once Andy gathers them together for a review of this season.
I have no idea who Aviva is yet. Still I kind of like her. She sounds like she’s a bit clingy, desperately wanting to call her husband at work because she misses him. But she’s funny and she may have been joking when she said it. I thought it was surprising and amusing that she claimed she and her husband are wonderful freeloaders who would love an invitation to Heather’s Berkshires getaway house. I also admire her unwillingness to jump on Heather’s Trash Ramona campaign.
Neither of these women know the more well-established cast members very well yet, despite LuAnn’s belief that she and Aviva are friends, having met at a party years ago when they caught each other’s eye, “as attractive women do.” Aviva is smart enough to realize that it is LuAnn’s goal to turn them against Ramona. And she’s not quite ready to jump on that bus, though she did put gasoline in its tank when she reported to LuAnn what Ramona said at Sonja’s party last week.
Still I am impressed that Aviva is observant enough to notice and strong enough to acknowledge openly that LuAnn is trying to manipulate their opinions. Later in the episode, Carole echoed a similar sentiment, which makes me think there is real hope for this new cast. Fingers crossed…
LuAnn and Ramona
The long time frenemies dash off for a meeting on a bench in Central Park. They hug despite the fact that LuAnn is still pissed that Ramona insinuated she’s a bad mother. Ramona will not own the insult she lobbied at LuAnn last season when she reacted defensively and said that LuAnn’s children would have turned out better if they were parented well, like saintly Avery, who is universally admired by Housewives fans as the perfect child.
LuAnn is enraged about it and is once again trying to solicit an apology from Ramona, who she also claims attempted to “blackmail” her about the drunken girl who passed out in the bushes at her son, Noel’s 15th birthday party. Ramona calls her “crazy,” denying she ever threatened to ever make that story public or that she has spies in the Hamptons who report to her about all LuAnn’s children’s shenanigans.
Ramona denies she ever called attention to LuAnn’s children. She thinks everyone knows about LuAnn’s problems. She thinks LuAnn is hiding, lying and putting others down to make herself sound good. LuAnn is not pleased with this kind of talk. She wants to know about what other “dirty tricks” Ramona has up her sleeve. Feeling defensive, for very good reason, Ramona will not stop talking which doesn’t help her state her case clearly.
I think they’re both telling the truth. I think Ramona is overly fixated on LuAnn and her children. And I think Ramona is threatening to expose her questionable parenting. I think LuAnn is a pompous poseur, who talks down to others as a defense mechanism. I do not believe she and her ex-husband would have been guests at William & Kate’s royal wedding. I do not believe she was accepted into or socialized in the world of European aristocracy. I truly believe everything she imagines about high society, she conjured up as a child eating Cheerios, while watching Thurston & Lovie Howell on Gilligan’s Island. I worry that sounds unnecessarily harsh but it shouldn’t.
I don’t care if she grew up in a trailer park or a dangerous ghetto. I am not judging her based on where she came from. I am judging her harshly because she treats others poorly and is under the unattractive belief that the best way to hold her own head up high, is to push someone else down to the ground. I think she’s mistaken.
Still Ramona wants them to bury the past and put it all behind them. Clearly this is never going to happen. LuAnn didn’t have to say she feels like she made a “deal with the devil” to know that LuAnn enjoys pushing Ramona’s buttons and that Ramona jumps at the chance to react to LuAnn’s provocations, rather than just giggle at her cartoon impersonation of a rich person.
Aviva and Carole
The two get together for a little shopping. Carole likes Aviva because she’s a blond bombshell and “she’s my super fan.” Oh Carole that kind of comment doesn’t make you sound like a nice girl. To my ears, that sounds like a comment out of the mouth of Regina George, that queen bee character in Mean Girls. Aviva says she is upset about “that whole LuAnn thing.”
I wonder about this conversation. For starters I wonder why Aviva is bringing up LuAnn. Is she gunning for her to get people united against her? Is she genuinely puzzled by LuAnn’s behavior which would be understandable, if Aviva hadn’t been feeding LuAnn information at Sonja’s party. Is she a student of these shows (highly likely) who has learned that the best way to ensure camera time is to put yourself in the middle of everything, especially the squabbles?
I’m also curious about the chronology of this conversation. Did this take place before or after Aviva’s dinner with Heather? I ask because Carole seems to have jumped in and taken the role Aviva played with Heather, by taking note that they hadn’t yet heard Ramona’s side of the story.
Carole definitely seems to have a problem with LuAnn’s scheming manipulations and uses it in her video diary interview, as an opportunity to allude to her extraordinary professional experiences, by noting she would rather go to report about the war in Afghanistan than listen to LuAnn’s stories about Ramona’s threats.
Personally I find Carole calculating, thought not necessarily in a bad way. I say it because, like Kelly Bensimon, Carole seems determined to position herself as the mellow, free-spirited lady, who “doesn’t sweat the small stuff,” anymore than she keeps track of how long she’s been dating Russ Irwin, the concert musician, who she tells us, has toured with Aerosmith for years. (Oddly she doesn’t mention his work with Clay Aiken. I guess she forgot.)
She’s very easy breezy about all of it. She’s fine that their relationship is not conventional in the monogamous sense of the word. They see each other when they’re in the same town, and other people when they’re not. Theirs is an open, free love kind of relationship. They do whatever they want with whomever they want. Aviva tells her she thinks that’s “so cool.” Still she’s too jealous for that. Yet, like Kelly Bensimon, Carole needs us to know she doesn’t “put out,” unless the man is well on his way with being in love with her.
Carole tries to flirt with the cute guy in the shop but he has no interest. I just wonder why he’s in that boutique while Bravo is filming. With all the cameras, sound and lighting techs who were in there at the same time, I wonder if that random guy was a plant with whom the producers intended the women to interact.
Sonja and Hurricane Irene
Speaking of plants, I believe the entire story about Sonja’s house and Hurricane Irene is BS. Irene was a rain storm by the time it hit NYC. Nowhere was it anything more than that. I suspect it was just a means for Sonja to writhe around on a sofa or day bed with hopes of attracting the sexual interest of the help. I think she should go for it. She’s not hurting anyone and I bet Rich the contractor won’t kiss and tell like Harry Dubin, the tattler, who shows great promise as the East Coast Slade Smiley.
Carole and Russ The Rocker
Carole seems to be trapped in a prolonged adolescence. I say that because she tells us she likes driving through NYC with Russ and listening to the song he wrote about her. I remember doing something similar in the early 80s though the car wasn’t nearly as chic. Russ is very worldly in a 70s rocker kind of way. He’s going to Lima, Peru. He’s going to skype her. She wants to know what he does after the shows. Despite her schpiel to Aviva that she doesn’t get jealous, she wants to know when he meets up with groupies. He gives her a BS story and pretends he doesn’t know about that.
She just knows about yearning, teen angst and missing people. Trapped between the three emotions is where she is most comfortable. Or at least where she wants us to believe she is. It’s just about matter of time before she sparks up a bong and puts Joanie Mitchell vinyl on her turntable.
LuAnn and Jacques
LuAnn’s son is on the brink of failing French, not to mention math. Tossing their Cherokee heritage right out the door, LuAnn is angry. She doesn’t understand how, coming from a “French” family, he’d have any trouble with the language. Initially, Noel claims he gets spaced out and doesn’t do his French homework. Moments later he blames the teacher’s accent for his trouble in the class. Jacques is funny. He gets what a fibber Noel is and asks about the accent of the math teacher. I kind of like Jacques now. And I think he must really like LuAnn, too. With all the phoney Bravo love relationships, I like that.
And I must admit that as much as I do not like LuAnn, she’s right to be concerned about Noel. To borrow a turn-of-the-century expression from my mother, who is always good for a funny, antiquated word or two, Noel is a gold brick. Whether he’s lazy, stoned (highly likely), or developmentally disabled, someone has to motivate him to have higher expectations and to play a more active role in making something of himself.
I am not sure LuAnn is using the best technique to inspire him, but I get why she’s frustrated. I have a friend whose son is autistic. When it came time to have his bar mitzvah, his parents encouraged him to learn what he had to learn in the Torah. He didn’t get a pass. His father is my work friend. I am nearly positive the father is also autistic and through a set of strange luck and lovingly demanding parents, my friend earns well in excess of $375 an hour. Of course not everyone is capable of doing this, but neither he nor his family allowed him to sit on his duff and give up as Noel seems to be doing. (Though I must admit, I am currently sitting on my duff, wasting time sourcing pictures and pontificating about strangers. It all makes me wonder who is wasting more valuable time: middle aged me with a retirement to plan or teenaged Noel, whose every whim is being catered to by rich “aristocrats?” Please don’t answer that. I know the truth and it kinda embarrasses me.)
Ramona and Aviva
Aviva suspects that when it comes to Ramona, there may be smoke where there is fire. I guess this means that Aviva thinks there may be some possibility that Ramona did blackmail LuAnn, but she recognizes that Ramona is nice to her. So she’s going to be nice to Ramona. Still I cannot deny that Aviva loves to stir the drama. She mentions to Ramona how Heather has been talking about her. Aviva says she knows better than to get on Ramona’s mean side. I suspect truer words have never been spoken on any Housewives show.
Aviva definitely knows, to borrow Sonja’s words, “Ramona Singer is a star,” who clashed with Cindy Barshop and in the end Cindy received a pink slip. I cannot say that was Ramona’s doing, though I am sure Ramona is very skilled in keeping some cast members hired and employed, while others find themselves banned from the Bravo Clubhouse.
Aviva thinks LuAnn may be exaggerating everything. She tells Ramona that the whole situation is “high school.” The entire conversation begins to piss Ramona off. Whether either one of them knows it or not, Aviva is baiting Ramona. She says she fibbed that LuAnn didn’t mention to all of the new women that Ramona has been blackmailing her. Aviva says she omitted that fact to protect Ramona’s feelings. If Aviva really didn’t want to hurt her feelings why did she bring up that LuAnn told her?
Heather and her Cast Mates
Sonja is presenting something at a GLAAD dinner. She loves LGBT events. Ramona doesn’t know what LGBT stands for, but she says Sonja is her best friend. She’s there to support her. Heather wants to be on her best behavior, undoubtedly sensing that clashing with Ramona at Sonja’s event isn’t going to fly.
Ramona asks about Carole’s work on ABC. She says she was a producer. She worked with Peter Jennings and Diana Sawyer. Ramona thinks she is the most accomplished of the group, especially compared to LuAnn who doesn’t really, air quotes, “work.”
For whatever reason, when they call Sonja up to accept her award or make her presentation (I have no idea what she’s doing there), she takes a while to reach the stage. Oh well. She finally shows up. And all is right in Sonja-istan.
But not for Heather who is going to find herself out of a job if she continues to tangle with the most well-established cast members. First she makes fun of Sonja for being late for her cue. Then Heather makes faces at Ramona for not knowing what LGBT means. To be perfectly honest, Carole got it slightly wrong herself. But who cares? How can you make fun of someone who doesn’t know what something is and takes the time to ask? Isn’t that how we learn?
Still, despite my initial dislike for Heather, I am 100% positive I am being manipulated by Bravo’s wily editors. No human being on earth could be this annoyed by someone who asks them not to interrupt people so much. Sure no one wants to hear it, but days later, the quasi-insult shouldn’t be festering. I suspect adorable little Ramona is up to more than meets our DVRs.
The first photo is “courtesy” of Getty Images, where I lifted it without permission. The rest are from BravoTV.com
About the Author (Author Profile)
I am a New York City publicist who specializes in promoting luxury products and experiences and occasionally moonlight as a journalist.
Relatively new to the world of blogging, I have watched and enjoyed Bravo’s Housewives shows since the first season of the Real Housewives of Orange County. I created this blog over the 4th of July holiday of 2011 because I enjoy writing and love to figure out how to blend images and words to create something that is both visually compelling and interesting to read.