The Real Housewives of New York City
Hi, everybody! It’s me again. Your old pal, Julie! I have a few things to get out of the way before we dive right in, so forgive this bit of business up top. First of all, I’m so sorry I was absent last week! I won’t blow you off again, even if Luann encourages me to. Second of all, I must disclose, in order to be on the up and up with you fine, Sonja’s-confessional-gown-feathery friends, that I recently interviewed Carole Radziwill for my podcast — which you can download this Friday the 6th — and I found her to be quite charming and bright. Will this affect my objectivity? Probably. However! I shall spare no criticism of Princess Cool Carole going forward in this column, and I still remain fair in my recaps, always, as it is my thing to be fair. And cute! Ain’t I a stinker? Okay, onto the show.
So. You know how everybody has a crazy close relative? Maybe it’s your mom or your aunt or your grandma, even? And you know she’s crazy and so does your sister or your brother or your dad, so it’s fine in a way, and in another way it’s not but it will never change so you sort of struggle with it having to be fine?
And then, one day, you bring home a friend. It’s a new friend and maybe she’s sort of cool. But maybe she’s also sort of a bully. And that friend, however much you want to impress her, is still on shaky ground because she’s new. And let’s say that one day New Friend sees your crazy mom acting crazy. Maybe she’s fixing you some after-school Oreos and talking to herself while she does, maybe she’s straight up drunk as shit and screaming at the TV — whatever it is. And that friend says something to you in the moment like “Hey, your mom is crazy.” So you FLIP YOUR SHIT? Because, sure — your mom is crazy — but she’s YOUR crazy mom. Well, that’s how I feel about Heather this season so far, and that, my friends, is why, reason be damned, I’m feeling more and more protective of Ramona.
Ramona is more than JUST our crazy mom. She’s the blood and guts of this show. Let me rephrase that: She is the MOTOR of this series. The producers of the RHONYC cannot do this show without Ramona Singer. I stand by this. Meanwhile, who the fuck is Heather? Somebody with terrible highlights who makes up nonsense words for her kids’ names and thinks a shopping trip counts as business? Sure. The spitting image of Drew Droege’s Chloë Sevigny impression, as pointed out by my gay gentleman friend Nate? Certainly. A new cast member? Fine, but so was Cindy Barshop. Does that make her worthy of my respect? It certainly does not, not yet. And does that give her the right to attack characters we know and love — albeit in a complicated way — with nothing firmer than quicksand-soft grounds? It doesn’t. Therefore, when Heather runs her mouth about how Ramona ticks her off and that she needs a makeover and that she’s difficult, not easy — maybe she’s right? But also? Fuck off. She’s our aunt, we’ve known her for longer, and at least her “Crazy” is telegenic. Oh — and she was right about your pointy shoes, bitch.
Let’s start from the top. We got another outdoors scene at the start of episode five, season five. Not sure if the producers are big fans of the song “Aqualung,” but I guess sitting on a park bench mixes up the scenes at cocktail parties and cabs you can’t film in the back of. Aviva and Heather sat down and wore sunglasses together, and Claudia Tom Schiffer Petty told Drew Chloë Droege Sevigny that maybe things would be easier — or at least, episodes consolidated — if Heather bit the bullet and just invited Ramona to London. Because, well, Ramona was the only cast member of the TV show she’s on that Heather didn’t invite. Which was glaring and mean. And Heather was just like, “No.” She also used a bunch of filthy language to assert this. Terrific. Then, smoothing over her nonexistent alliance with Aviva like it was flesh beneath a lycra shapewear panel, Heather called her friend some jibber jabber words and squinted her coin slot eyes from behind her aviator glasses. “Aviveezes, Abee-bee boo boo! Honey child Bubba Holla! Tummie Yummy Mummy, my favorite cereal,” she blabbled like a seizure victim with nary a spoon in sight, her Fruit Stripes hair flung into a floppy side pony.
And Aviva just nodded in that way you do when you pretend somebody somewhere might be watching you react to the circus show? She’s good at that, Aviva is. So good at reacting with comedic intention that I have a feeling she’s been practicing doing it years before there was actually a camera crew following her ass around and recording her. “Huh. Interesting you feel that way. Yikes, you are a wackadoo.” It’s on her face, even behind the filler. I’m impressed, actually. Is this self-awareness? Is it symptomatic of a life lived under the watchful eye of overprotective, indulgent parents? Is it paranoia? I don’t get paid enough to psychoanalyze Aviva, but I’ll tell you this: If I WERE her shrink, she’d be riding elevators without having to hold hands with monsters. And I respect her for bowing out of that trip, for whatever reason she needed to claim.
After the convo alfresco scenario, we caught up with Luann. And even though it seems the producers are doing their damnedest to pair up LuLu and a partner with whom she can grab and thence do-si-do besides, I’m getting the feeling that, this season, Lu is the loneliest number that you ever knew. Despite her aggressively flirting with Sonja, despite her trying her best to make sure the new girls know she likes them, and despite trying hard to seem status quo in the “I love Jacques” department and the “I’m in control of my shit: teenage kids division,” there’s just something off and sad this season about Luann. Like she’s been left behind. She seems tired — like the weight of her façade has begun to take its toll on her muscular shoulders. But what would she do with her time if she dropped her pretenses? Would she retire? Remarry and lose her title? Would she let her hair grow? Her face fall? Would her posture lag? Her French falter? It’s a path too dusty and commonly traveled for Luann to ponder with any resolve, so instead, she gathered her most casually eclectic, erudite ensemble — a nautical boat-neck sweater under a suede, Mohegan Sun gift shop three-quarter-length jacket — and visited the fertility acupuncturist for a whimsical scene about what it’s like when ladies over 40 pretend on TV that they still want to have babies.
So about this homeopathic fertility scene with Luann — she’s got to be honest about what a lark this whole thing is, right? I mean, beyond her claiming her periods are still regular on-camera, just the notion of chirping, in baritone, “Well, Jacques and I want a baby, but we don’t really want one. So instead of going through the medical steps we’d need to make it actually happen, we’re doing it homeopathically. Ha-ha!” with that smile on her face like she was at Bliss day spa? Don’t you think that’s a little insensitive to, I don’t know, an entire Eastern culture’s idea about medicine? Don’t you at least think it’s sort of funny? Not toaster-oven funny, but Ramona-coming-out-with-a-red-wine funny?
The point is: Luann got needles in her tummy and it relaxed her, and that’s all that matters. Being calm, not lonely, for an hour or so is just what the fake doctor ordered! Chic C’est La Vie!
Meanwhile, across town, Heather the Shrill took her poor son, Jax, to a REAL, WESTERN, NOT FUCKING AROUND DOCTOR, with a way more Slavic accent. And it was there we learned that Jax has to wear hearing aids, and a special vibrating vest, and that he has to visit the doctor whenever he gets flu symptoms, and all kinds of things a little kid should never have to worry about, poor guy. But what is, in my opinion, fucked up is how Heather uses her kid’s story to make sure her audience knows what SHE is going through. I’m sure by having Jax participate on the show, Heather believes the good of her raising awareness for the disease her son has outdoes the fact that she is, at least subconsciously, using her child’s condition to make her bitchiness seem more sympathetic. I don’t think I agree with her, and if it were my kid, I’d want his privacy more guarded, but I don’t think Heather is necessarily a monster for making a different choice — I think she is a monster for at least ten other things I will get into at a later time. I do feel bad for her kid. And not just because his name is Jax and he’s on a reality show without really having the ability to consent to that decision. That said, I do agree with Heather about donating your organs. Donate away! Moving on.
Sonja and Aviva seduced each other over Italian Chardonnays in black lace something or others, and after Sonja had taken down her blousy act by three buttons and an unraveling bow, Aviva expressed concerns about being left behind with Ramona while “the Cool Girls” went to London. And I suppose Cool Carole is Cool. Maybe so is Sonja, sometimes? The others, not so much. Well, not Lou Reed cool. Though I saw him recently eating pancakes with a table of men over 70 in sweatpants at Cozy Soup and Burger at noon. That wasn’t so cool. I mean, I guess I should have seen the pancakes before judging. But Aviva had a point — for a woman scared of enclosed spaces, she was wise to be cognizant of the claustrophobia Ramona’s eyes can evoke across a table when she locks them on her prey. Sonja just giggled and played with her bow and licked her lips and basically had a great time, and that was the end of that scene, more or less, but we didn’t go to break until Aviva asked Sonja to cater an upcoming party for her with her signature toaster strudels. Bon appétit!
And soon after that we got a glimpse into how our Sonja sausage was made, following the lovely Morgan home to her five-story leaky brownstone wherein intern-loompas toil away at her chores, making sure poop pills are separated from non-poop pills and the dog’s food is seldom confused for the credit card bills. Sonja keeps three interns in her employ and claims they’re receiving college credit, but I’m certain she is instead running a hostel. It’s fine! I don’t care — foreign people in their twenties tend to be the most sexually adventurous, still fuckable human beings and have the most hassle-free access to hash bricks. If I could deal with anyone besides my cat before noon, I’d keep a harem of those critters in my abode as well. So Sonja puts on her robe and her Homer Simpson reading glasses and affably barks orders to some Europeans, and honestly, hey, look — I’ve done worse things in the comfort of my own home. Just the other day I ordered Mirror Mirror on Pay Per View! I lasted five minutes and wasted five dollars, but how long can YOU look at Phil Collins’s daughter’s eyebrows? No longer than you should have to.
And downtown, Cool Carole went on a research date with a Turk who makes his own clothes from silkworms he employs the way Sonja keeps interns. He was a reasonably good-looking Central Casting–swarthy sort with absolutely no sense of humor and a hard time settling into the pace of a date that wasn’t going well. As Carole ran circles around him conversationally, I thought about long-lost Bethenny and how she went out with that European hottie her hairdresser set her up with one billion years ago, before she married that Hoppy fella and got a daytime talk show. Carole’s date, like Bethenny’s of yore, was also a one-woman show to an un-prepped mark who, at least, didn’t step on her lines. And so Carole took the opportunity to plug her book on-camera some more and mentioned that she was doing research for the second one by flirting with this 31-year-old who reeked so hard of date paste and musk and sexual curiosity, I had to lie down on my couch for at least an hour after that scene.
And then we were back with our Crazy Mom at the Stevie Awards, because not all of us got to see Stevie Nicks last night at the Beacon, so we settled for Ramona, the blonde sorceress, instead. Singer did us the courtesy of explaining, in her confessional, that the Stevies were like the Oscars, for BUSINESS WOMEN. And therefore, she and her fellow housewives and women of biz-i-ness wore their strapless-lest gowns with the least amount of straps on them and soon enough, Ramona was making a speech about how you can have it all and it’s nice to help out young girls in Africa — and that last bit really tied the room together. Then, when somebody after her had the nerve to take the stage and say that she believed, in fact, that, contrary to what Ramona said, women could not have it all, Ramona went into that Chicken Lady Tourrette’s fit of tic-based behavior and said, “She probably hates men” about the woman at the podium, at first to herself, and then to her table, who didn’t even have any collars to loosen — only bony shoulders and fat-free arms. That was insane and seemingly provoked by nothing, but I enjoyed it.
And then, Ramona — our motor, our star, our batty matron bloodline — met Carole at the Cupping Room, an overpriced brunch spot on Broome street I had no idea was still open since Bret Easton Ellis set characters from American Psycho behind its cappuccinos. Ramona wore a black, tight miniskirt from Jennie Garth’s later 90210 wardrobe, paired with her own Tru Faith jewelry and a bang as fluffy as the monkey fur on her black shearling. Carole wore a baseball jacket, high-top sneakers over skinny jeans, and noise-canceling headphones around her slender Slim Jim of a neck, as though she knew MCA would die within the year and was bodily preparing a chalice with which to hold his spirit, All of Me–style. Together, they looked like niece and aunt, or two distant sisters, or just relatives that had nothing besides a blood relation or a television contract in common holding them close over coffee.
In efforts to shift the talk away from Heather, the subject of which was grating Cool Carole’s cool, C.C. changed the subject to her favorite ones — what she used to do for a living and how she used to be married to Anthony Radziwill. And that meant now was the time for her to disclose to Ramona that, officially, she was a princess. It’s true! A Princess with Kennedy ties, and somebody who’s on a first-name basis with Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer, not to mention a gal with a “Buy a size zero and take it in” body type. In other words, the Manhattan Motherlode. So, Ramona’s eyes went BO-II-III-NG and her whole body language changed into that of those horny old lady chickens that would flip out whenever Foghorn Leghorn was near the coop with his big old rooster cock, and soon enough, she was on her feet and curtsy’ing and talking about how Luann bought her title, and basically acting the way you want somebody to act when you get them a surprise gift and want the whole song and dance of appreciation. Carole did her best to enjoy the show and, to her credit, didn’t seem too fazed — I’m sure she enjoyed the attention from somebody who appreciated her pedigree — and then Carole and Ramona were off to a shopping trip at Heather’s favorite boutique, named after a chain of women’s fitness centers.
Curve, or Curves, as it’s known in some of the finer strip malls across this soon-to-be-birthday’ed nation, is a shop owned by one of Heather’s friends with a name that isn’t a real word. Vernon Reid or Hey Vern or Venetian Blindetta or something else that starts with a V. And Veruca Salt, Curve proprietress, has, based on her wares, a taste for clothes that closely resemble an Indian test pattern from black-and-white Honeymooners times. Which is to say that all of the clothing in Venn Diagram’s dumb store was black, white, gray, sheer, or fur, and the second she suggested that Aviva wear a sparkly, opened-toe shoe, Heather lept on the chance to tell everybody in earshot that her new friend had a fake leg. It was mildly forgivable — part of Heather, I’m sure, was proud to keep company with somebody as cool about her disability as Aviva — but it also seemed out of turn, and, in the grand scheme of the action and its intentions, it did really seem like Heather was trying to impress her boutique-owner friend more than she was being considerate of Aviva’s feelings. Oh, I do NOT like Heather. Not one bit.
So Heather and Aviva browsed the racks for gray, white, and black stuff, when Carole and Ramona finally traipsed in, ready to shop or at least act game for pretending to have a nice time.
And that’s when Heather told Violations, Traffic Division that Ramona needed a makeover, which wasn’t especially nice, considering those two have already established, over wine and an awkward BlackBerry perusal, that they aren’t friends because they piss each other off.
So while Vagasil draped Singer with leathers and linens in shades of cream, charcoal, and pencil lead, tension simmered, and finally, Heather and Ramona adjourned to the side of Curves Fitness, Nutrition, and Clothing Products Incorporated and did the “I thought YOU didn’t like ME” dance back and forth until a third party was implicated. In this case, Ramona told Heather that Aviva had confirmed that Droege Tummie was a shitty listener, and Aviva was pissed for being dragged into the shit — and rightfully so. This is a fight Ramona is more than capable fighting on her lonesome. But for some reason (I believe she was clouded by outrage, like it formed a rage cataract) Ramona didn’t stick to what I think is a very valid party line. “You invited all the other women to London besides me, after I took the effort to invite you to my home and bury the hatchet with you one on one. That’s shitty and it hurt my feelings.” She’s got a point! High School or Nigh School, Heather hasn’t got a fake or real leg to stand on when it comes to her default “Yeah, but … you bug me” shit. But the best Heather can come up with, when Ramona made her move, was “If this is how Ramona acts in a place of business, I don’t want her in London near my work.”
Her work. This, from a woman who says “Bubba” out loud apropos of nothing, is trailed constantly by TV cameras, and owns her own line of shapewear that she goes on HSN to shill? — and all of a sudden she’s embarrassed by one loudmouth who didn’t like the vest her friend, Vesty, draped on Ramona’s shoulders without her consent?
Soon after that, Heather said something like, “Curve is where the fashion players play,” which is by far the most absurd phrase ever uttered in the history of humans, on- or off-camera. “Where the fashion players play?” Is that deleted lyric from “Free to be … You and Me?” In a land / Where the fashion players play? Unnngh, forget you, Heather. And cute that you think you’re legit in the fashion world. I mean, easy, Zoolander — you’re actually in the underwear business. My grandparents peddled panties, too — they folded nightgowns and sold girdles and there’s no shame in it, until you start acting too big for the britches you peddle.
A beat later at Curve, where the ladies had been shopping for at least the duration Francis Ford Coppola spent in the Philippines shooting Apocalypse Now, Carole snuck out to take a show-business phone call, where she learned from her writing partner (I believe — this part was kept intentionally vague) that they’d found a producer interested in taking the TV pilot they wrote based on her book out to studios and networks in hopes of it becoming a television series. And then, Princess Radziwill, newly enthused by this Entertainment Information (Info-tain-tion?), came back into Vesty’s Shop of Horrors, threw an entire rack of fur vests and button-down sheer shirt dresses in slate on the floor, then announced with unbridled delight, “MY BOOK’S GONNA BE A TV SHOW!” And everybody screamed. But why not scream? Everybody likes Carole so far on this show — she’s fun and she wore that awesome bun and gown last week with those dope earrings. She’s inoffensive, which Ramona has taken to describing as being flower-powerful, as her references are a bit outdated or totally inaccurate. The point is, everyone’s fine with Carole and nobody isn’t happy for her.
But for some reason, Ramona couldn’t resist adding that extra dollop of Jill Zarin frozen topping, served fridge cold, atop Carole’s news. Was this editing? Or was Ramona just on her last nerve after the latest Heather showdown? Had her black and gray fur vest finally unraveled? Why else would she have piggybacked her lameballs news about her wine coming out at Target at that very moment? Is it truly in Ramona’s character to Penelope Carole like that? Or was she merely a victim of HTSD, The HT being “Heather Thomson” in that cute acronym I’ve just created?
Regardless of her hydralike actions, Ramona is still in fine form. I mean, she’s a mess — and if I were ACTUALLY related to her, I’d feel terrible about watching her fume and flail onscreen. But because I’m, in theory, a fan of the TV show she stars in, and know that shows need mill-grist if they are to move forward, sharklike, into the blood-clouds suspended in ocean water that act, for us, as dramatic check-in points — she is MVP of this show. She’s not winning it — not yet — but good God, is she fun to watch. And if that’s what’s defined, in makeover terms or otherwise, as a rut, well then, I guess we finally know, in the Rock Paper Scissors of Reality-TV tropes, that a rut still beats a dead shark. With Ramona at the helm of this beast, the show still sputters ahead. Keep shining onward, you crazy diamond.
What were your favorite moments from last night’s show? What did I miss? Please tell me below, and don’t be shy! Sing out, Louise!