(August 15, 2012) -Back when I was very young and my brother and I were watching the Olympics, there were incessant rumors that the East German swimmers, who were competing in the women’s events, were actually men. Those suspicions caused a big kerfuffle with talks about chromosome tests to determine if those muscle-bound, deep-voiced ladies were actually born male.
I’ll never forget what my brother suggested. He told me that you didn’t really need sophisticated analysis to know with 100% certainty whether someone is a man or a woman. “Just put them in a room with a Three Stooges movie playing,” he told me. “If they stay and laugh, they’re men. If they walk away almost involuntarily, like they’re bored out of their minds, they’re women.”
This conversation, from thirty-six years ago, came to mind in the middle of watching the last episode of the Real Housewives of New York. There I was on my usual perch, sipping a Fresca, inexplicable excited to see what happened during the photo shoot for Sonja Morgan‘s toaster oven, and the next thing I knew, I was in another room, doing dishes and straightening the kitchen.
When I realized that I had unconsciously disengaged mentally and physically from one of my favorite shows, I expected I’d dash right back to the television and dive into more of the usual Housewives high jinx, but I didn’t. Instead, I scrubbed a few dishes, vacuumed the floor, refilled the ice cube trays and took out the trash.
Almost 48 hours later, my stern inner parent forced me to sit down, spark up the DVR and watch the last episode, scolding that “if you want to be a Housewives blogger, you’re going to have to watch the shows – even if some of the episodes are boring!”
I am wondering if the reverse of a Three Stooges movie is the last episode of the Real Housewives of New York. By that I mean, do you put it on and conclude that the people who leave the room are mentally male? And those who stay and find it all fascinating have female brains?
What got me thinking this is true was Julie Klausner’s New York Magazine recap of the episode. I often find her very funny. Sometimes she is too vulgar for me, but I must admit she can write. She’s certainly a woman. She thinks like one. She writes like one. She knows how to keep a blog recap interesting and readable, even when I do not agree with a word she says. And she began this week’s recap by gushing:
“Finally! These chickens are acting like the cuckoo birds we need them to be. And it’s a good thing that Ramona is officially off whatever anti-psychotic meds kept her renewed in seasons past, because suddenly, The Real Housewives of New York City is watchable again.”
I didn’t think that episode was watchable at all. All it did over here was to inspire a fairly lazy housekeeper to scrub her kitchen to a glistening shimmer. Maybe I just don’t get why this episode was so great because, at times, I couldn’t muster the energy to care who was doing and saying what, and most importantly why. And I wonder if maybe that is because I have a male mind that is incapable of listening to yet another word about Aviva Drescher‘s father, LuAnn de Lesseps‘ blind wine tasting and Sonja’s toaster oven.
Carole Wannabe Naughty Parlor Games
I just don’t care about Carole Radziwill‘s allegedly racy white elephant holiday party in Hotel Griffou. The scene, the conversation and the gag gifts all seemed so forced, so contrived and so unforgivably insincere. Carole tried to sell us the idea that this is the quintessential New York City watering hole. Puh-leeze.
Marylou’s, the space’s former tenant was legendary as a reputed mob spot where late at night dozens of chauffeured limousines and sedans waited outside. And for whom? Nobody ever seemed to know for sure. To make the claim that Griffou is quintessential anything, Carole must love the owners “more than cooked food,” as my friend Malcolm says, or she must enjoy a lucrative status on their payroll or in their promotional budget.
The place is merely three years old and was opened by lounge-loving hipsters. The White Horse Tavern, not too far away from there, actually is a quintessential waterhole. Still I don’t blame Carole for not being able to secure an authentic Manhattan bar. I suspect they would never let Bravo’s camera in to film there or in McSorley’s, another real deal, “only in New York” neighborhood spot.
What I blame Carole for is fibbing. Had she called that place “a fun subterranean lounge in my neighborhood” I wouldn’t be highlighting her false claims or her faux-fun dinner party. But combined with the unimaginatively “taboo” gifts and the conversation that was only able to stand on two legs thanks to a randy senior citizen, the entire scene was Reality TV junk food – all filler with no real substance.
Sonja’s Menstrual Blood-Soaked Photo Shoot
The story of the Toaster Oven That Will Never Be has gone on too long. Prior to seeing this, I already knew that Heather was upset that Sonja did not respect her and her graphic designer’s unquestionable expertise. I already knew they wanted a beefcake’s torso in one shot. I already knew Sonja wanted her own version with just herself and the toaster pictured.
Am I supposed to get worked up that Heather felt Sonja was an hour late and that she was delaying hair and make up with unnecessary chit chat with the food stylist and production assistants? I’m not into waiting for people. I’ve never been a fan of dilly dallying. Still Heather being annoyed with Sonja is boring after a while.
And again, this is one of those parts that makes me wonder if I have a male brain. Listening to Heather harp about how she isn’t being given proper credit for her hard work; how she isn’t being paid; how Sonja isn’t loving her dress selections; and how Sonja simply is not giving her enough advanced direction about how she wants to approach the second, “no beefcake” shot, reminds me of a Chris Rock bit he told about his wife.
The gist of it is that men never know what to say to women when we “share” our complaints about other women we work with. Men try to give advice. That doesn’t work. They try to figure out a way to make the problem go away. That doesn’t work. What he recommends is that men just listen (or not) and that at the right time they say, “I told you that bitch was crazy.”
That is exactly what I want to say to Heather. Sonja is bonkers. Usually she’s far more delightful than she was the other day, proudly sharing details about her “youthful” uterus and about the bathroom left bloody after a tampon malfunction. While it may be true that “a little Sonja will spice up any party,” Sonja in a bathroom with another person and a microphone, as we’ve learned in seasons past, is TMS, too much Sonja.
As much as I really like her, I know and accept that she’s flip city – in a 100% harmless way. Heather simply has to accept Sonja’s unconventional attitudes and antics. To continue to be shocked and baffled that she doesn’t behave precisely as Heather wants her to, will get as tedious as Cindy Barshop‘s permanently befuddled reaction to Ramona. I also suspect it will earn her a pink slip because being positively and permanently annoyed is not a storyline. It’s an unattractive state of mind that does not have Reality TV legs.
Cool Carole wants the Girls to Chill St. Barths
As critical as I am of Princess Radziwill, I commend her for inviting the gang to her apartment. Other than to announce that she was “hosting” a group trip to an exotic island, I am not sure what Carole’s purpose was in letting a cast of kooks into her personal space. Unlike New Jersey, Beverly Hills and Orange County, in Manhattan, entertaining at home is not that common. In fact, I’ve know some people for close to 20 years and I have never entered their buildings and they have never visited mine. It has literally never come up. Still I liked seeing Carole in her natural habitat while she tried to entertain her colleagues.
What I am not so sure about is her technique. Ramona entered on her best behavior. Now keep in mind, there is a curve here, to allow for Mrs. Singer’s peculiarities. But still, she arrived with bright yellow roses to “brighten up” Carole’s apartment. And she came armed with a full supply of pinot grigio, rather than calling in advance, as she has in the past, to alert her hostess that, like a rock star with a back stage rider, she does have certain, very specific appearance-related requirements. And boom! What does Ramona get in exchange? A dumb comment that questioned why Ramona needed wine early the day. That’s not hospitality. Accept the gift, offer a warm thanks and put the flowers in water. It’s not that complicated.
Now of course, Ramona made an odd comment about how Carole’s petite apartment works for petite Carole. I’m not deaf or too pro-Ramona to get that was a dig that suggested that Mrs. Singer lives in a Manhattan palace, while poor pauper Carole is making due with a closet-sized apartment (huh! I somehow doubt that apartment is even remotely tiny). Still, in the grand scheme of the Ramona scene, that comment was nothing. As a result, I am glad that, to my knowledge, Carole hasn’t reacted to that one…yet.
What I was not impressed with, because I am obsessed with hospitality, is Carole’s food planning. I’m 100% with Ramona on this one. I do not get AT ALL why Carole didn’t have something for her colleagues to eat when they arrived. A brick of generic cheddar and a box of saltines would have been better than a trough of M&Ms – regardless of whether she had that candy personalized to promote each woman’s brand. And as much as I love pizza, I really don’t want to eat it at a gathering of colleagues. But still, part of loving hospitality is knowing how to be a good guest. Ramona definitely should have accepted the pizza, tried to eat it and claimed it was delicious, regardless of whether it actually was.
The real news in this scene is that, once again, Aviva was asked to face one of her phobias and take an airplane to a foreign locale with women who are virtual strangers. While the rest of her new colleagues are gung ho to hop on a puddle jumper to St. Barths, she doesn’t want to go without Reid, her husband and best friend.
Sonja doesn’t think this is “very sexy.” LuAnn believes you have leave a man missing you. Ramona thinks Aviva highlights her phobias and disabilities. She wants to “help (her) turn the corner on this.” LuAnn thinks the best way to get over fears and phobias is to face them. Aviva knows all of her fears are irrational, and she doesn’t sound that interested in working them out with her new “friends.” As nutty as this is to say, I really related when Aviva said she was less afraid when she didn’t have kids. I was relatively fearless when I was younger. Now, at times, I am fraught with anxieties that wouldn’t have made me bat an eyelash decades ago.
To add her own little Ramona frosting to the cake, Ramona ended the visit by declaring, “Carole this is a nice LITTLE lunch.” This reminded me of working in my 20s for a man who stood 5’2″ tall on his best day. We, the other women in the office, were constantly and subconsciously ALWAYS referring to his things as “little.” His “little stapler,” his “little chair,” his “little scissors,” etc. The moment we realized we were diminutizing him by claiming his full-sized possession were smaller than the rest of ours, we stopped. I truly hope Ramona does the same. As much as Cool Carole can bug me, she’s done nothing so far to earn the wrath of Ramona. For her sake, I hope Carole keeps it that way.
Ramona is Seeing Red
They’re all in the Pierre Hotel. I’m not sure if they’re there to celebrate that Ramona is on the cover of two magazines, J’Adore and another magazine I’ve never heard of. This also could be the launch of her first red wine. And I must say this is part of what lead me, during this episode’s first airing, to the dishes I’d been ignoring all day.
The New York cast is always celebrating a cover shoot for an obscure magazine. They’re always in a small conference room of a hotel, left to mingle among themselves as they discuss their latest antics with an over-sized, easeled copy of the magazine’s cover in the background. At this point it’s bow-ring! And it leaves me longing for the days when Ramona and Mario competed with Jill and Simon in a heated, comical grudge match at the Yorkville Tennis Club.
Instead of fretting over tennis balls, here Ramona was left to throw a tizzy about being “blackballed” from Sonja’s toaster oven photo shoot. Oh dear God! Not that effin’ toaster again!!!! I’ve had it up to here with all discussions of that divisive appliance. I curse the day it ever entered our lives. And at this point, I hope I fast forward through any scene when that crumb tray-bearing nightmare rears its ugly little head – even if it ends up packaged in a box that features the darling picture of Avery Singer that Ramona wants me to believe is her, smiling youthfully from the cover of J’Adore.
I just want the madness to stop. I don’t want to watch Ramona and Heather confront each other in yet another party. In her video diary, Heather said she cannot believe she let Ramona “flap her jaw” about the shoot. I cannot believe Bravo let either of them. At this point does anyone on earth care about Heather’s issues with Ramona and Sonja, Sonja’s dislike of Heather’s marketing ideas and/or Ramona’s compulsion to confront Heather about being excluded from Housewife-y events?
Yes, in fact they do. Many people seem to care about this. Julie Klausner said all of this rocking and Ramoaning makes this show finally! “watchable.” The Baltimore Sun wrote in a caption, “Heather and the rest of the Housewives are so real right now.” Even Alex McCord noted on her RumerFix.com video blog, Ramona “blows up, she explodes, she splatters herself all over the ceiling and that is Reality TV gold. I’m not defending that,” Alex continued, “but that is why she makes such interesting TV.” I suspect I’m just not woman enough to get this so I’ll move on…very quickly so we can check out some of the fringe characters who are actually interesting to cranky people like me. :D
Back from the USSR
Once I rewound the DVR and really took a look at that episode-ending party, my interest was piqued. What leaped off the screen was the appearance of two interesting Manhattan personalities: the always controversial Russian socialite, Jenna Bullock and publicist/society columnist R. Couri Hay.
My, my, my did Bravo score two big ones in that scene that was muffled with Heather and Sonja inexplicably calling each other “baby girl,” Jacques spontaneously tickling the ivories to avoid Aviva, and Heather scolding Mario about his “crazy wife.” At this point, all of that is white noise for me.
What was far more interesting was the appearance of Janna Bullock, the 44 year old USSR-born blond, who married well, became a real estate mogul, and sat on the board of the Guggenheim before taking a leave of absence in a swirl of disapproving whispers.
To quote the New York Times, “everything about Ms. Bullock, a former baby sitter who built a real estate business and rose to become a wealthy Upper East Side boldface name, often seems cloaked in the intrigue and intricacy of a 19th-century Russian novel.”
I beg to differ slightly. I think everything about Janna Bullock is ripe for a contract offer from Bravo. I would LOVE it if Andy & Company offered her a role on season 6. I truly believe this woman offers the kind of fascinating, gossip-inspiring rags-to-riches New York City drama that none of the current cast could ever hope to offer.
If they are in fact friends, and I suspect they are on some level, R. Couri Hay would be a fantastic person for Janna to socialize with on camera. He knows lots of people. He represents lots of upscale brands and name brand personalities, including, I suspect, Janna, too. He’s a man about town. He goes out. He knows what’s happening in the city. He’s either helping to host attention-worthy events or covering them for Gotham magazine, he’s attending them as a valued, invited guest. I think he’d be a fantastic “plus one” for any Bravo lady – particularly one with a colorful past like Janna Bullock.
Getting to know her, her life and her motivations would interest me far more than incessant yammering about toaster ovens, peacocking about magazine covers and squabbling about who ostracized whom and why. But that’s just me: a woman whose mind may be too butch for Bravo’s usual shenanigans.
Images Credits: The illustration is from 123rf.com; all but one photo is courtesy of BravoTV.com. The shot of Janna Bullock and R. Couri Hay is from AnnWatts.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.