The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Well, this is it, everybody. Are you sad? Are you relieved? Are you exhausted? Are you starving for literally anything besides salad? If so, congratulations! We’re on the same page of this last chapter.
Last night’s final installation of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion came with few record-scratch-scored revelations but plenty of notably quotable moments, particularly from two cast members who reappeared just in time to news-peg themselves to the return of The Walking Dead.
Zombie Kim and Zombie Dana-Pam were in full affect, and before we dive into exactly what’s still eating Kim and which bargain tub of eighties pharmacy cosmetics Dana managed to fall face-first into, we have to get Taylor’s preamble/ramble out of our way.
So, the show began with more bat-shit and tangent-rich exposition from Taylor about the sadistic and erratic tendencies of her late ex-husband. She expounded about how, this one time, Russell beat up a guy after a wedding shower planning session because he left, only to hide in the bushes and spy on everyone inside, and then Taylor ended up in the pool and so did a dog and the groom-to-be that Russell attacked, and he held Taylor’s head underwater as well (for an audience? That part was unclear to me), and the whole thing just sounded like a gory, wretched scene out of the worst movie you’d ever flip through on cable before you decided to just watch Legally Blonde again. For the billionth and hopefully last-ever time: I don’t mean to be glib — if even a fraction of what Taylor said about Russell was ever true, she wins for most nightmarish life not out of a novel by Sapphire. But Brandi’s comment that Taylor’s abuse doesn’t add up, smartly couched in an apology for her remark about how fast it took her to write a book, was astute. The difference between dislocating and breaking a jaw, for example, is not a good reason for Taylor to (still!) defend her accusing Camille of exaggerating her claim. And her story about the fight with the couple and the pool just seemed off-pattern from her others about Russell being privately controlling and abusive. She sort of took the detail brush and swapped it for a paint roller on his character, and I’m not entirely convinced her event timeline clicks. I’m also completely, utterly, and totally sick of playing the Taylor Game. At this point, I am slowly walking backwards, lazily looping a white flag into a voluptuous figure eight. I’m done. And that goes for her orbital floor and her half-realized wish that Russell and his business partner had been murdered, and pretty much everything else from this character ever, or until next season or something insane happens with her that I will read on the blogs.
But before we hang up on Taylor completely, I will mention the lie detector thing, because I think that it was interesting that Russell (allegedly) blamed her for passing a polygraph. Maybe it’s because I just watched the first season of Homeland, in which the (arguably sociopathic) lead character is able to do that very thing, and maybe it’s because I just finished Columbine (a fun beach read!) and have sociopaths on the brain. But I will mention, as my armchair psychology pertains to Taylor, that in addition to being able to pass stress tests for honesty, another interesting symptom of/tipoff to sociopathy is claiming one has remorse, which Taylor did. It’s a convincing way for a manipulative person to demonstrate what he or she perceives of as the appearance of empathy. I’m just saying, it’s food for thought. And whether or not that’s what ten pounds really looks like, she could still use some of that kind of food of the regular kind, now that the show is wrapped.
So, on to Dana Pam and her monstrous new Taylor Swiffer–looking extensions. To say nothing of her inappropriate laughter at/“with” herself and idiotic “Fuck You” shoes and boatneck sequined mini and Love’s Baby Soft bronzer face and the same princess necklace I used to play “dress-up” with, only mine was made out of plastic. The first of Dana’s transgressions on last night’s show was laughing at Kyle’s impression of her, which runs in tandem with her ENABLING Kyle’s impression of her. The second of her transgressions is everything else she ever did on this show, ever.
After we were all treated to a montage of footage in which Dana acted horribly, the Housewife also-ran launched into a maudlin, overwrought, Sally Field–in–Steel Magnolias, “I can jog all the way to Texas and back, but my daughter can’t!” monologue seconds out of her clip package, and it was so laborious and full of woe-is-me moments that, at one point, I wondered if she was actually auditioning for The Voice.
“I built my whole life and my college,” Dana asserted, her voice wavering with defensive emotion. Then, her sob story got confusing. Basically, Dana explained, her mother died in a car accident, which led Dana to move to New York City so she could attend Nightingale-Bamford, an excellent school, even though her mother was poor (and I guess not-dead at this point in her story) and her dad was rich, and also Brandi had been poking at Kyle all night during Game Night so she should have expected that the Richardses would strike back? I’m not really even paraphrasing here — I rewound this bit and watched it over and over again a few times to make sure I was getting it right, and to watch her herky-jerky, committed, and grotesque performance. It’s insane, and I strongly recommend that acting students turn off Smash for just one fucking minute, print out a transcript of whatever jabber Dana had to say about her modest beginnings, learn it as a monologue, and then go and book that Lean Cuisine VO spot! Come on! Do it for Katharine McPhee and her enormously wide shoulders!
Everything that I typed out above was said by Dana in order to justify her Gorgon-ish behavior throughout whatever part of the season the producers still permitted footage of her to be edited into, which included multiple instances of her bragging about how much her tacky accessories set her back and felching the Sisters Richards the moment they stepped their sulfuric hooves into her cavernous and underfurnished home for Game Night. So basically, it’s okay that she brags about money because she didn’t use to have it, and kissing ass is something she’s also proud of, because it’s important for her to be a good friend. Oh, and she also wants praise for inviting Brandi over to her place even though This Season’s Braless Winner/Wonder may or may not have said something off-camera about how Dana’s husband cheats on her. Finally, Dana decided to rest her case by siding with Kyle, or trying to, about how you and I didn’t see everything that happened at Game Night. As I mentioned after Part One, pleading the Bitch Edit or playing the “You didn’t see everything that happened” card on these reunion shows is a weak move, because (1) We don’t like being reminded that there are things that happened in these characters’ lives we didn’t see and (2) There’s plenty of time to make a good impression in the time the cameras ARE running. And you blew it, Dana-Pam! You blew it hard and loud, like you were going to bump it with a trumpet. You made alliances with despicable people and picked fights with likable women who are still standing at the end of a season with a body count. And yours are the worst clothes and shoes anybody’s ever wasted perfectly good snack money on. Stick a diamond lollipop in your phony bronze sin because you’re out of here, Ms. Wilkey. Who cares if you went out with a bang or a queef? It’s OVAH.
Finally, after a “Meet the Husbands” interlude during which I was briefly reminded how much I still love Paul, even though his wife decided to wear a sorcerer’s sleeve to this debacle and pick a dumb battle these last few weeks about several items of zero consequence (I remember a crystal dog goblet and Radar magazine?), we reached the main event. Andy Cohen met Kim Richards in an undetermined location and sat down with her for a post-rehab one-on-one. Until Kyle crashed it and made it a two-on-one. But hear her out: It’s only because she deserved a costume change and more attention.
Here is what we know empirically about Kim Richards from last night’s interview: Kim has gained weight and has broken up with Ken. Now she is dating a purse, or just prefers to keep one in her lap at all times. She is staying at a hotel until she moves again, which thankfully won’t be televised because I don’t have another three months to spare for the span of a typical televised “Kim Move.” She claims to now be sober, with the exception of the anxiety and anti-seizure and SSRI meds she says she was originally prescribed as part of her last stint in rehab. She’s been in treatment three times and identifies as an alcoholic. I personally think Kim has other issues besides booze and I don’t think she understands how the pills she takes affect her personality, but I also think that Kim has some deeper emotional damage that can’t be treated with a stint in detox or flipped to in a diagnostic manual. To be frank: If this is what Kim looks like sober, then hers is a broken essence. Which is not to say she is not capable of functioning — but she is creaky, and she is malformed and juvenile and frozen, and she will probably never be a seasoned or capable adult. It’s especially sad to talk about because everybody is still thinking about Whitney Houston, a blindingly big talent who is now gone before her time, whose addictions and darkness ravaged her until we all realized it was too late to stop laughing at her and start taking better care of each other. So I’ll try to be kind with this, my final conclusion of this season, and if I’m not completely and wholly kind, I’ll at least try to be brief.
Kim says she’s committed to staying sober, and I hope she does. I hope sobriety is her new gig, because we all need jobs, and she is no longer qualified to pursue her original vocation (child actor). Furthermore, if Kyle meant what she said last week — that Kim isn’t so into being on this show, then her sister really does need something that she’s fully committed to that keeps her from hating herself and being miserable.
Her sobriety is a step but not a conclusion. Kim has a huge problem with being alone, and part of that terror has to do with the inevitable march of time. Children grow up and leave the nest. Disney no longer needs your services. One day you realize your boyfriend looks like a character from The Neverending Story and he isn’t improving your life at all. But staying sober is a good challenge for Kim’s personal growth because it’s something she and she alone must attend to. She has to be her own mother with this. She cannot tie it into the noisy rabble of company — she has to do it for herself, alone. It is a full-time job and she is desperately in need of one.
But her Brandi grudge, still, is etched evidence that we don’t grow beyond the age we are when addiction sets in. It’s truly sad that Kim will, by her own admission, never be able to forgive Brandi for joking — and she was joking via exaggeration (take note, Taylor! Words mean things) — about Kim doing crystal meth in the bathroom that night. When Andy prompted Kim with a question about whether she owed Brandi an apology for Game Night, and she said, in a reluctant baby rasp, “I guess I owe her an apology for hiding her crutches,” it was like watching a 10-year-old boy acknowledge that it was fucked up he got caught for cutting his sister’s hair while she slept — but in no way demonstrate any remorse. Kim didn’t even have the Taylor-ocity to mimic regret or pretend she was actually sorry or ever felt bad about it. At least she’s being honest about the limitations of her emotional sophistication. If you need any more evidence of who she truly is, Kim told us herself that she was sober during the ski trip — which just means that “regular Kim” is manic and infantile, the way she was in the limo. She is a child, and it’s sad and weird. Parents: Unless your daughter is Lea Michele, consider sending your children to Nightingale-Bamford, not auditions. And if your daughter is Lea Michele, consider offshore military school. Oh, I’m being mean. I’m sorry, I said I’d try not to be. Still, I heard they’re doing a Glee episode dedicated to Whitney Houston — hasn’t her family suffered enough?
At the end of the reunion, Kyle walked into this mysterious interview location wearing a metallic jacket and talked to Andy about how hard it’s been for Kyle to have had Kyle’s sister be difficult to Kyle and also Kyle Kyle. They talked about the limo incident from last season’s finale and Kim made a Funny about how Kyle has — uh-oh! — back-of-limo issues! And that was a nice effort. Finally, Andy made Kim watch footage of herself in the back of her and Ken’s own limo the night of the SUR opening, when she was maniacally rooting through trash with her bra strap askew, and Kim said she didn’t recognize herself. And it was then when I wondered whether Kim would be able to ever recognize herself — I mean, pick herself out of a lineup — if she were looking at a version of Kim Richards older than the Kim Richards from Witch Mountain times. In other words, maybe the key to explaining Kim’s personality is as simple as saying she just has a fundamental disconnect from her child-star self and her present-tense personhood? Maybe her treasured bonds with her kids are just a way to maintain her connection to her own youth, or to nascent motherhood — the only other job she loved? And maybe her relationships with her kids are still what she considers the closest thing in her life, still, to unconditional love from relatives who won’t go on to surpass your accomplishments only to rub your nose in them later. And steal your house.
Whether or not we can see it from sea level, we all will have peaked at some point in our lives. It’s fun to think, in a John Hughes–ish sense, that those who were popular in high school go on to live shitty, stupid lives and get fat in real time on Facebook. We can revel in the Schadenfreude of timing and be grateful that we got our suffering out of the way during our adolescence, so now it’s just a question of realizing that every day we are older, wrinkles and metabolisms be damned, we are happier and happier with who we are. But not all of us are like that.
There are those, like Kim, who are destined to have lived their best lives before 20, or 30, or 40. And, though there are not many, there are stars like Whitney Houston, who burned bright and then became unsavable, whether DNA was to blame or bad company, or because being a celebrity — a larger-than-life, better-than-you, chosen-by-God beauty with a voice like a beacon or expressive anime eyes, or long, shiny hair straight out of an O’Henry short story — makes it harder to bow your head and accept a higher power. To realize that it is our ordinariness, our fallibility, that makes us healable — from addiction, from pain, from loss, from darkness — from the bleakness of being alone all the time, knowing you hate your own company.
Speaking of company, I’ll conclude this hubris and Juvederm-speckled journey by saying how grateful I am to have spent the past few months with these fantastic, ludicrous, insane, wonderful, terrible, entertaining women — and with you. I’ll be back to recap The Real Housewives of New York City for Vulture, and in the meantime, I invite you to keep in touch with me on Twitter, by listening to my podcast, and with a visit to my blog at any hour of the day. Finally, in the words of either Bella Abzug or Jerry Springer: Please. Take care of yourselves, and each other.