The Real Housewives of New York City
You know the opening scenes of a horror movie, the part where a group of teenagers descend on a house in the lake with kegs and bikinis and start to have their own rager outside the prying eyes of the adult world? You know the trope, a blonde girl sunning topless with her friends on a raft in the middle of a lake thinking that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the world just before a giant trash monster burbles up from the depth and swallows them all into its gelatinous maw. Well, that’s what tonight’s premiere of The Real Beanie Caps of the Blair Witch Project was like.
But before we get into that, I just want to say hello, my name is Brian Moylan, associate director of the Real Housewives Institute, and I will be your docent on this weekly tour through the sixth season of the New York wing of this great American franchise. Thank you for coming, and please feel free to purchase some Ramona Pinot Grigio in the DJ Soft Batch Memorial Gift Shop at the end of the tour.
As for the party atmosphere before the carnage, it starts with a photo shoot for Carole Radziwill’s author photo for her latest release, and Heather Thompson (holler) is there for moral support. It appears that Heather has quite a special talent. Like some people can macramé or once won a mah-jongg game at the Jewish Community Center, Heather is really good at being bossy at other people’s photo shoots. We’ve seen this before and I feel like we will see it again. Carole was doing fine on her own. She was there wearing the most fetching oxblood motorcycle jacket you’ve ever seen. Seriously, if Carole Radziwill has a spirit animal, it is an oxblood motorcycle jacket in a size 0.
Across town, Samonja – the curious dual-faced deity that has replaced Sonja Morgan and Ramona Singer – is having a little get-together where Ramona expresses her feels about her daughter Avery going to college (we’re getting old, y’all) and Sonja warns Ramona to never go to Palm Beach because apparently there are roaming packs of homosexuals there that will hold a blonde woman down and cut her hair against her will. It’s like The Rape of the Lock 2014 down there!
The topic in both of these gaggles is Aviva Drescher, whom no one wants to talk to because of her spectacularly hollow performance (that’s a fake leg joke) in the last season of the show. In her short time, she’s managed to piss off everyone, and now that the new season is rolling around, no one wants to talk to her. This is only an issue because there is a Meet Your New Cast-Member Party rapidly approaching and everyone knows that she is going to be there.
But I don’t want to talk about Aviva at the party. Do you know who I want to talk about? Ben Benalloul. Yes, he is Sonja Morgan’s 23- (a million exclamation marks) year-old “real-estate developer” boyfriend. He is incredibly hot. He is also 23 and dating Sonja Tremont Morgan, a woman who was legally eligible to vote for Walter Mondale. Now, I am not going to pick on Sonja Morgan for this. No no no no no no no no. I am going to thank her. I am going to thank her for all of us ever-aging man lovers, for keeping the hope alive that if we stay thin and drunk enough for long enough, we will one day be rewarded with our very own wealthy, attractive, possibly (hopefully) hung man-lover to keep us company in our dotage. If this is the life I have to look forward to, can we just skip to 47 – Sonja’s 47, right?
So this part wasn’t just about Sonja shoving her new head intern’s boxers under everyone’s noses and forcing them to sniff. No, this was also about meeting Kristen Taekman, the new girl. Okay, it was supposedly about Heather’s birthday, but we all know why we’re really here, to kick this season off with a party and to give pretense for why this Kristen lady is going to be kicking around our TV screens for the next 20 weeks. Supposedly it’s because her husband Josh is a friend and former co-worker of Heather’s. Okay. Whatever.
Let’s talk about Kristen, because that’s all any of us want to do. I’m going to get it out of the way and say that I like her. I like her in the way that you like really good pad Thai or any flavor of Ben and Jerry’s. It’s not like there is anything special or unique about her yet, but she’s safe and she’s normal and you’re kind of into her general flavor. Kristen is from Farmington, Connecticut, which is the town next to the town where I grew up (and the home of Miss Porter’s Academy for Wayward Rich Girls), and she is a “model.” Her husband Josh is an “entrepreneur.” You ever notice how everyone on all of these shows is always a “model” and an “entrepreneur” but you’ve never seen them in any magazines or ad campaigns and you’re never quite sure exactly what their business is? I have a whole shitload of selfies on my phone and I sold something on eBay once. Does that mean I’m a model and entrepreneur?
Kristen seems fun and wacky and just a little bit weird, but she does have a son named Cash and that makes me a little bit skeptical. Also she has a very odd relationship with her husband, whom she always seems to be hectoring about one thing or another. He’s trying to say something nice to her about being a great partner, and she dresses him down about sounding too cloying. Then he gives her a gift, and she complains that the price tag is still on her new diamond earrings. Can this guy catch a break?
A brief note about Josh: He is an entrepreneur of something called eBoost, which is either a tech start-up or an Echinacea-based energy drink. He uses the phrase “ping me” unironically and wears one of those FitBit fitness-tracking bracelets. That is about all you need to know about Josh.
At the party everyone is nice to Aviva’s face, but they all talk about how they want to keep their distance. Eventually Aviva walks up to Ramona and says that she wants to be friends again. Did this woman just get off the ferry from Bonkers Island? Why does she have to be friends with Ramona, her bête (pinot) noir from last season? Why not say that she wants to work toward forgiveness or be able to be on the same reality show together? No. Aviva is an overachiever, and she tells Sonja they are going to be friends again, and friends again they will be. Ramona says something brilliant: “You’re trying to glib over everything.” Yes, that is exactly what Aviva is trying to do. Be like, “Your behavior and my behavior were meaningless. What we do is of no importance. I want to be buds now, and I can make that happen with smiles and good intentions.” Sorry, Aviva, darling, the acrimonious world of Real Housewives backbiting does not work that way.
The action moves on to Sonja’s house, which is decorated like the Disney version of a bordello, or maybe a school-play version of the steamboat in the movie Maverick starring Jodie Foster. It is also filled with interns. There are four of them. Four. Their names are Tyler, Rachel, Rachel, and Alyx, who seems like a wild animal with the tail of her y hanging out in public like that. They put their last names on the screen last night, but I am not writing them down. I will not ruin their Googles like that.
I don’t know if its affectation or a certain amount of craziness that is starting to seep out of her pores and into the outside world, but Sonja is becoming more and more eccentric, like an old English lady who lives in a church or, I don’t know, that crazy broad that likes to “make flowers” in the True Detective finale. She has a ratty old carpet with holes in it, her old stuffed dog is sitting on the buffet covered by an old scarf, a fleet of midwestern teenagers are doting on her every command while she shouts at them about not letting the air conditioning out. But the weirdest thing of all was her giant plate of breads and jams and jellies that she expected these women to sit down to. Do you think this is on any of their diets of green juice and flavored steam? Hell no!
Eventually Ramona arrives, and Sonja’s weird friend who is a minister shows up, and so does Kristen, wearing the fleshen shackles around her neck that were a hand-me-down from Alex McCord (R.I.P.) all those seasons ago. All that really happens at this garden party is that people convince Ramona to give Aviva another chance. Mostly everyone just sits there and listens to Samonja babble incoherently as if it is receiving visions from the Sybil. It doesn’t help that Sonja’s minister friend is a one-woman Greek chorus sitting nearby in a flower-pot hat, saying, “Relate to her soul, not her personality, Neti. Do not think negative thoughts, Neti. I am not my job, Neti. I am more than my being in the world, Neti. I can be released from my shoe closet to do good with my possessions, Neti.”
The last scene is, naturally, Ramona going to have very skeptical drinks with Aviva. When Ramona sits down, Aviva launches into the official Real Housewives greeting: “You look good.” But she keeps going on and on beaming about how wonderful she looks and how great her bangs are. This is the Housewives equivalent of prostrating yourself before someone and humiliating yourself to make them look superior. This is all part of Aviva’s plan.
Next she moves on to phase two, where she does shots with Ramona, because if there is anything Ramona loves more than hearing herself talk, it is booze. (Didn’t Aviva call her an alcoholic last year? I believe she did.) Aviva doesn’t usually indulge, but I have a feeling it would take a lot for her to get messed up (that was a hollow leg joke). Then she tells Ramona that she was wrong and Ramona is right. That is really the thing Ramona loves most. More than her daughter and Botox and religious-themed jewelry, Ramona just wants to be told that she is right.
Ramona is really a human mood ring, just vacillating between emotions like changing from deep blue to cobalt to a frosty mint. She sways this way and that; her feelings are as changeable as a cloud bank rolling across the heavens. But for now, Ramona is having fun. She and Aviva toss a few more back together and stare into each other’s eyes, thinking about the possibilities of the year, the uncertainty of their contractually obligated future. They toast and smile. Eventually they get up and totter out of the restaurant together to hail cabs. They stumble back and forth on the sidewalk before reaching out for their respective chariots. What Ramona doesn’t realize is that in the all the fun, she seems to have lost a shoe. She’s like Cinderella or just some careless sorority girl who doesn’t know better. But there it is, a pump, sitting in the gutter telling some indistinct story that will definitely confuse a middle-aged man when he picks it up and tosses it in the trash the next morning on his way into the office.