My essay Reading the Real Housewives of New Jersey, Seasons 1-8 has been published by Litro!
Among the many strings in the bow of businessman, author, and reality star–cum president Donald J. Trump is that he can claim the acquaintance of fifteen cast-members of the heroic poem of our age. During the intermediary period between Trump’s first and second wives he dated Kim Richards, a solid member of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills seasons 1 through 5 (the Cain to her sister Kyle’s Abel). The story of their courtship in Jerry Oppenheimer’s House of Hilton has echoes of Kim’s Season 1 set-up with Martin Genis, (who was later a bystander to her explosive limousine row with Kyle and identified in a title as “Kim’s Onetime Date,” a new potential nickname for 45.).
“After the Davis’ divorced, big and little Katy set up Kim with other big shots with money… Kathy Hilton sought out wealthy men who ran in her Manhattan social circles. One was a Revlon cosmetics honcho. Another was Donald Trump, who once viciously declared that Kathy’s father-in-law Barron Hilton was ‘a member of the lucky sperm club’– a snarky dig that Conrad, not Barron, started the Hilton fortune. (But in March 2006, when Trump’s model wife Melania gave birth to a boy, The Donald named him William Barron in honor of the Hilton bossman). Rick and Kathy socialized with Trump, and Kathy figured he and Kim might be a match made in heaven.
‘Kathy couldn’t run around anymore because she was married, so she lived vicariously through Kim, just like big Kathy lived vicariously through little Kathy, observes Sylvia Richards. ‘Kim told me that Kathy kept setting her up with Trump, and Trump would call–I was there when he telephoned–and wanted her to come to New York. He would give her the money and she would go. But I don’t think Kim was really too keen on him.'”
House of Hilton: From Conrad to Paris: A Drama of Wealth, Power, and Privilege, Jerry Oppenheimer, Crown Publishers, 2006.
“Casting for new reality show that’s more entertaining than ‘The O.C.’, ‘Laguna Beach’ and ‘Desperate Housewives.’ Searching for great characters with fascinating lives who want to become the hottest new reality stars. Producers are seeking both families and individuals. Email or fax personal details/ stories/ photos with contact info by January 14 to….”
Flyers distributed in the guard-gated master-planned private community of Coto de Caza in early 2005. The show Real Housewives of Orange County would premier in March 2006.
On Season 6 of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York City, the cast vacationed* at the Berkshires home of Heather Thomson. Over the course of the weekend, cast member Ramona Singer pretended that she thought her hostesses’ house was the garage, ordered an air conditioner to be delivered and installed, and–most famously–whipped a wineglass at Kristen Taekman’s face to retaliate for being splashed when she was sitting in a canoe.
“I reacted,” Ramona would explain ad infinitum.”I reacted. I grew up in a family of craziness and she got me wet and I just threw what I had in my hand. I didn’t have water in my hand so I threw the glass.”
“It’s just a little blood!” Ramona yelled, unrepentant. “You’ve never had a bloody lip? It’s like a bloody nose!”
The First Apology
Ramona appeared at dinner that evening with freshly blow dried hair, determined to clear the air. Her apology began: “So I reacted to what you did. I reacted, you threw water on me.”
In the course of her apology, Ramona ended up screaming at Kristen again.
“So why did you throw water at me?” she demanded. “I told you, DON’T THROW WATER AT ME!”
“I didn’t want my hair wet,” Ramona concluded.
Back in New York, a contrite Ramona invited Kristen to tea and presented her with a bouquet of yellow roses.
“It was a fluke thing,” Ramona explained, without even once mentioning that Kristen had fired the first salvo by splashing her.
“But seriously, I am really sorry. It was the wrong thing to do, it was an impulsive reaction.”
* “No one vacations in the Berkshires,” Ramona later clarified. “No one I know. No celebrities. No one famous. Everyone goes to the Hamptons.”
Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise is renowned for its cutaway shots; lizards scurrying across a pristine white dock in Miami; the cotton candy sunset over the Pacific Ocean; Sarah Ferguson’s erstwhile financial adviser cavorting in a polka-dot scarf.
In 1992, the separated Duchess of York vacationed in St. Tropez with her “financial adviser” and boyfriend John Bryan, a man she would later refer to as “the binge that cost me most dear.” The poolside photographs of their vacation caused a worldwide sensation and led to Fergie’s banishment from the royal family. “Can’t you just see it?” Bryan later asked the writer Elizabeth Kaye. “Can you imagine, being with your mother-in-law over breakfast of kippers and kedegree and those picture come out and she’s the Queen of Fucking England?”
Bryan reveled in his notoriety, attending The Best awards in Paris and participating in a profile in Esquire magazine. Those halcyon days ended in 1995, when Bryan’s international construction and development corporation Oceonics Group PLC collapsed owing £10 million.
A creature of the pre-Internet era, Bryan re-invented himself in his native land. Now based in Los Angeles, Bryan is the CEO of The Watley Group, which specializes in corporate restructuring and turnaround services. He is married to a Belgian violinist named Astrid, whose 2009 rock/violin album Astrid Taking Over was released by Watley Recordings.
In 2011, Bryan and his wife attended Pandora Vanderpump’s engagement party. Pandora is the daughter of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member Lisa Vanderpump–guests signed release forms and the party was featured on Season 2. As fellow housewife Kyle Richards showed off at her reality-TV-friend’s daughter’s Arabian nights-themed engagement party, a beaming Bryan carefully positioned himself in every shot.
Elsa Patton was the most unforgettable cast member of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Miami. The mother of Marysol Patton, “Elsa the Witch” was often shown casting spells and issuing bon mots like, “I didn’t marry a gringo to have paper flowers,” and “There’s nothing better looking than a macho man dressed like a girl.”
In 2008, Madonna’s brother Christopher Ciccone published his memoir, Life with My Sister Madonna, which revealed the relationship between his sibling and Elsa the Witch.
“Often, a New Age priestess Elsa Patton–a tall, heavily made-up blond who drives a late-model Rolls Royce–comes to the house with her daughter, Marisol, and sprinkles blessed water around all the doors. Now and again, she takes Madonna and Ingrid [Casares] out on Madonna’s small speedboat, Lola Lola, and gives them a ritual baptism in the ocean.
Once Elsa conducts one of her iconoclastic rituals on me– a treatment that Madonna has regularly, which Madonna explains to me is designed to cleanse the soul. I lie on the bed, wearing all white, and Elsa rubs hot oil with rosemary and other herbs and spices into my body. Then she goes into a trance and starts talking to me in a strange language. This takes precisely thirty-five minutes. When she’s done, she says I have to keep the oils on for the next twenty-four hours. I think I smell like roasted chicken and shower the oil off immediately.
But Madonna believes implicitly in Elsa and her treatments. When it comes to religion and rituals, Madonna’s policy–to be on the safe side– is to cover all bases… Elsa and Marisol are frequent visitors, and Madonna’s soul is repeatedly cleansed.”
Life with My Sister Madonna, Christopher Ciccone, with Wendy Leigh, Simon & Schuster, 2008.
Vrai Housewives is a French installment of Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise. The reality series is shot in Beverly Hills with a cast of francophone Angelenos. It’s a rite of passage for cast members to get their Botox shots or have plastic surgery on camera. Botox costs are determined on a per-unit or per-area basis– and hugs are free.