housewives institute bulletin

All Fired Up

It looks like we have a new addition to the list of things that are banned from Real Housewives forever: Joining “renewing vows,” “1920s/Great Gatsby/flapper parties,” and the term “ride or die” is “dresses with the gloves built in.” Adriana de Moura has been ruining an otherwise perfect season of RHOM with her gloves that turn into sleeves. Candiace Dillard’s little red riding hood she’s been wearing in her confessional all season is cute — until she shows her hands and you realize that thing is baggier than prison Subway Jared in fat Subway Jared’s old jeans. But as usual when it comes to fashion, the worst culprit is Gizelle Bryant in her purple blinged-out disaster of a reunion dress. Make it stop, please. Hopefully, like so many other Housewives fashion fads — Sky Tops, the double-G Gucci belt, the CHA-NEL earrings, and Kyle’s awful felt fedoras — it will be gone faster than Diana Jenkins.

Speaking of Kyle Richards’s felt fedoras, we have a full review of her favorite store, Kemo Sabe, in this month’s brand-new, reimagined newsletter. (Watch your inbox on the second Friday of each month, which is when the Bulletin will be going out from now on.) We also have an interview with the creator of the RHONY musical, a silly little game about our favorite ladies’ middle names, and of course all the recap highlights you could possibly want. But first, I will attempt to unite the three big scandals of the past month, belonging to Jen Shah, Robyn Dixon, and Brandi Glanville (say her name three times and she will try to kiss you against your will).

—Dame Brian Moylan, president and founder

The Firing Squad

Bravo needs to be a little bit more clear about what will actually get a Housewife fired these days.

Photo: Bravo

We have seen plenty of Housewives behave horribly, but few so horribly that they lost their job over it. Brandi Glanville slapped Lisa Vanderpump on a boat. Teresa Giudice pleaded guilty to fraud. Ramona Singer took a crap on the floor more than once. All of these women continued to hold whatever fruit designates her city. These days, though, when there is as much crime on our shows as there is petty drama, determining when the line gets crossed has gotten much more complicated, and Bravo seems to have a different idea of where that line is depending on the woman.

When I was doing research for my book, a former Housewife told me the reason Aviva Drescher got fired after season six of RHONY wasn’t because fans hated her, or because she orchestrated the fake-leg throw heard around the world; it was because she got a doctor’s note to get out of the cast trip to Montana. For a while, skipping a trip seemed like the only surefire route to a pink slip. Then Lisa Vanderpump didn’t attend the season-nine reunion and subsequently quit the show, which some, including Kyle Richards, speculated was so that she didn’t get fired for skipping the reunion. Okay, so not going on a trip will get you fired, and so will not showing up to the reunion. Got it.

But not so fast. Mary Cosby quit RHOSLC after ditching the second-season reunion, something she probably would have gotten fired for anyway. But now she’s expected to return as a “friend of” next season. So apparently missing a reunion isn’t that big of a deal anymore. Seems bad to set a precedent that any woman facing an especially tough season can just not show up to a reunion without endangering her next contract, but what do I know, I am merely a New York Times best-selling author who happens to have founded an imaginary institution dedicated to the study of the reality television arts and sciences.

The firing gets even more complicated when you consider the case of Jen Shah, who pleaded guilty to telemarketing fraud and was recently sentenced to six and a half years in prison for it. At BravoCon, after the guilty plea but before the sentencing, our dark lord Andy Cohen said, “Once we wrapped [season three and] she pled guilty, I think that was kind of, unfortunately, the end of, you know, the engagement there.” Okay, so even though Teresa didn’t lose her job for her crimes, Jen Shah would.

But wait. Will she? In a recent roundtable of reality execs, Noah Samton, Bravo’s VP of current production (Andy’s old job), told The Hollywood Reporter, “We really have not made decisions [about Jen], and we’re discussing it all the time and trying to figure out what the best course of action is moving forward. We always reevaluate. There are people we stop filming with and then start filming with again. It’s not math — it’s not a simple equation.” That equation is only further complicated by Jen ditching the reunion, refusing to do a one-on-one sit-down with Andy, and then trying to get people to pay for her story on a subscription website. Let me get this straight: Aviva not going on a trip got her axed, but Jen terrorized her cast, told Andy straight to his face he couldn’t pay her enough for an interview and she can make more on her own, and robbed countless grandmas of their life savings, and Bravo still considers her employable?

Speaking of reunions, Robyn Dixon showed up to the RHOP reunion that will start airing on Sunday, but she didn’t use that opportunity to talk about her husband’s emotional (and perhaps physical) infidelity. She waited to talk about it on her podcast, and, even worse, tried to hide it behind a Patreon paywall. The big problem is that she acknowledges that both she and Gizelle knew about this affair before season seven filmed, making it look like the two were colluding to kill a story line, save it for the podcast, and then use it to make more money even though Bravo is already paying for their lifestyles.

Of course, Robyn got called to the principal’s office and had to explain herself to Andy on WWHL. Even though most of the season was about who cheated on whose husband and with whom, Robyn claims that the subject never came up. I mean, Karen straight up accused Juan of hanging with a blonde lady in Georgetown and said Robyn knew about it, but Robyn claims she thought this was a different accusation so she didn’t bring it up. She had plenty of answers and, judging by the look on Andy’s face, he wasn’t buying any of them.

I’m sorry; I have always loved Robyn and think she’s a great Housewife, but this is a fireable offense. Whenever there were rumors that Michael Darby was cheating (oh, so many times), Ashley dutifully dragged him in front of the cameras each time and made him talk about it. Why can’t Robyn do the same? Fans are always theorizing that the women are hiding stories, accusing others so that they don’t have to talk about their own mess (like Gizelle and Robyn did with Chris Bassett this season), and otherwise conspiring over what they should and should not talk about on-camera. In my opinion, these things happen way less than fans think they do, but now that Robyn has been caught doing just that, everything is going to be looked at like it’s a new QAnon drop about JFK returning to Dallas. If Robyn doesn’t get fired for this, it could put the whole enterprise — and our belief in it — at risk.

At least there are still a few things that are cut-and-dried fireable offenses. It seems like racism is one of them, since Ramona Singer’s name hasn’t been floated for RHONY: Glue Factory after she came under investigation for making racist comments about Eboni K. Williams on the last season of the show. This is the same thing that got LeeAnne Locken fired and, in fact, all of RHOD canceled.

Then there is the case of our old friend Brandi Glanville. Thanks to Ultimate Girls Trip and a killer run on The Traitors, our favorite fighter was having a little bit of a renaissance. That is, until she got sent home early from a two-week stint filming UGT 4 in Morocco. According to press reports, the reason why is because she kept trying to kiss Caroline Manzo against her will; “Page Six” also alleges there was some groping. Brandi has denied these claims, but if the reports are true, the producers absolutely made the right decision. Slapping someone didn’t get her fired, but surely sexual assault (because that’s what we’re talking about here) should.

Here’s the thing to remember about Housewives: It has lasted way longer than anyone thought it would. Back in 2006, the public at large wasn’t nearly as attuned to conversations about sexual assault, racial equity, or corporate responsibility in general, but we’re now at a point where all of that matters more — at least a little bit, if not as much as it should. But it doesn’t seem like Bravo is keeping up. It keeps defaulting to what is best for it, what is going to make the most money, what is going to keep the cash cow going. I think it’s time that Bravo shows a bit more concern not just for the women in its care, but for the fans who care about how these women behave. Backstabbing is one thing, but some things need to have consequences.

Minding Your Business

A regular feature where we get all up into one of the Housewives’ favorite businesses.

Photo: Bravo

I have never been to Aspen and, based on what little I know about it from Housewives and Melanie Griffith’s Instagram, I don’t think I can afford it. Thank Hunky Dory that fellow mustached American and Housewives Institute Intern for Life Max Berlinger scored a free trip there so that he can give us all this review of Kemo Sabe, the scene of so many crimes in the most recent season of RHOBH.  

Greetings from Aspen, or, as members of the Housewives Institute know it, the location where we witnessed the Beginning of the End of Lisa Rinna™. I recently dropped in to take snowboarding lessons during Gay Ski Week, but I obviously had to use the opportunity for a quick check-in at the most important store in the entire Bravo universe, Kemo Sabe. You will, of course, know Kemo Sabe not only as the place that Kyle buys thousand-dollar cowboy hats so she can partake in some sick Yellowstone billionaire cosplay with Mauricio, but, most crucially, it is where Kathy Hilton began fuming that Lisa Rinna drank Kendall Jenner’s 818 tequila brand over her far superior one, Casa Del Sol, leading to an inexplicable but also iconic meltdown over a … conga line? In other words, Aspen is the most exciting place in all of the world!

The shopgirls at Kemo Sabe were lovely on the day I visited, showing me the silver-and-turquoise jewelry, vintage furs and Pendleton jackets, and dyed crocodile belts with frozen smiles and knowing winks (i.e., knowing that I was too poor to buy anything). I also spotted a very important ad featuring a busty woman in a tank top riding a horse, which read, “Kemo Sabe: Helping Soccer Moms Lead Double Lives Since 1990.” Take that, Nike.

I was told they were closing early that day to host a private event, and when I begged to know who was hosting it, they all said, “We’re very discreet” through clenched jaws. J’adore! I was also told NO PHOTOGRAPHY IS ALLOWED in the store, so as to protect the privacy of the well-appointed shoppers, which include not just celebrities but also the very wealthy from across the world. (When I arrived at Aspen airport, it should be noted, there were more private planes on the tarmac than commercial ones.) This is not strictly enforced, however, as I took about a thousand pictures of myself in various hats and, perhaps due to the thin air at such high elevations, momentarily thought I looked amazing.

Anyway! For Housewives superfans, we have a bit of a scoop: Kemo Sabe is expanding into Barlow/Marks territory, hosting a pop-up in Park City that will eventually become permanent. Does this mean that very soon we will be able to sport a jaunty cattleman topper with a Brooks Marks tracksuit, a Meredith Marks bauble, and the lingering scent of our Fresh Wolf bodywash? Yes! What a time to be alive.

Next time you are in Aspen, I very much suggest you go to soak up the residual tension of the Richards-Hilton-Rinna contretemps at Kemo Sabe. And if you’re feeling flush from the experience, I recommend perusing the real-estate listings at the local branch of the Agency before slipping over to the Hotel Jerome, where they will bring you a chilled shot of Casa Del Sol. Sadly, they do not carry 818.

The Name Game

Photo: Bravo

As regular readers know, there is nothing we enjoy more at the Institute than giving Real Housewives fake middle names. Just ask Victoria Denise Gunvalson Jr. What’s her real middle name? Dunno. I couldn’t find it on the internet, but it starts with an L. I did find a bunch of other middle names for Housewives, though. There’s a list of ten below. Guess who you think it belongs to, and then click on the name to be taken to the Instagram page of the woman who has that middle name on her driver’s license.

1. Monique

2. Egan

3. Jane

4. Annette

5. Thurmon

6. Alexandrovna

7. No Middle Name (same as her children)

8. Randolph

9. Lenice

10. Robyn

Institute Staff Spotlight

A conversation with a member of the Docent and Benevolent Society who is doing excellent work in the Housewives fan community.

Photo: Bravo

We’ve seen the Housewives release plenty of music (remember Danielle Staub’s lesbian love duo?,) but we’ve never had a proper Real Housewives musical until now. The brainchild of the brilliant (and handsome!) Dylan MarcAurele, RHONY: The Unauthorized Parody Musical had its NYC debut in November after gaining a big fat audience on Instagram and TikTok. It’s now back for an (almost entirely sold-out) encore on February 19 at the Green Room NYC. The good news for those not holding an apple in the Big Apple or those who couldn’t get tickets is that there’s going to be a livestream so you can watch the brilliance at home. Dylan graciously answered all our questions about the show and how he finds inspiration from our favorite ladies.

How did you start your Real Housewives journey, how many of the shows do you watch, and do you have a favorite city? 
In 2018, just a few months into dating, I caught my now-husband Mike watching the RHONY season-ten reunion on TV and I asked him what it was. I then started joining him in watching reruns, for academic purposes. It took me about six episodes to be able to tell Ramona from Tinsley (I think I might be face-blind?), but once I learned all their names, I was hooked. I now watch all cities … but still have a lot of catching up to do on old seasons. Favorite right now is Potomac!

How did you come up with the idea for the RHONY musical? It played once before; what was the response? 
I’ve written the music for a bunch of musicals, but after finishing college, I wanted to try my hand at writing the book and lyrics, too. When I caught Mike watching that reunion episode, I immediately thought, Wow, what an ideal format for a musical: a group of hilarious, complicated, unusual women locked in a room with Andy Cohen, each vying for their side of the story to be heard. I started writing a script and some demos in the background of other projects for a while, then sent the materials to a few producers to no avail. When the pandemic hit, I said, you know what, I’ll try one more thing before giving up — I’ll write original songs about the brand-new episodes as they are airing. That took off, and then, finally, thanks to the following I gained on Instagram, I was able to put up my live show last November. It was an oversold house, and from the first punch line, the crowd response was unbelievable. I was smiling behind the piano from start to finish. Felt like a rock star. (Sorry to actual rock stars.)

Do you have a favorite song from the show? Also, you have lots of Housewives original songs on your Instagram. Do you have a favorite one of those? 
Gotta be “Through Ramona’s Eyes.” It’s just very dark and still makes me laugh. Out of the Instagram shorts, I’d have to go with “Dorinda’s Goodbye” because it was so bittersweet — an iconic Housewife leaving the show — and it was also the first time my friends and I were able to get out of the city during the pandemic and spend time with each other as a “pod.” I wrote it in the bedroom over a couple hours, made a demo, and asked if they’d be down to record and they all said yes. And it meant a lot to me that Dorinda shared it after.

What makes the Housewives perfect for a musical adaptation? And if you were doing a dream cast of actresses to play the roles, who would you cast as who?
There’s just so many years of material to play with, and a huge range of emotions in each episode, from the most ridiculous comedic moments to legitimate tear-jerkers. I have to say that my friends — the actors and singers you see in the videos and in the stage show — are my dream cast, but if I could ever convince a celebrity to step in or do a song … oh my gosh. I’m thinking Matt Rogers as Andy; Stephanie Hsu as Bethenny; Reneé Rapp as Carole; Kristin Chenoweth as Sonja; Andrea Martin as Dorinda; Candiace Dillard Basset as Luann?! The possibilities are endless.

Finally, who is your favorite Housewife and why? 
The one and only Sonja Morgan. I mean, come on.

Recap Highlights

A selection of the best Vulture’s Bravo Recaps Industrial Complex had to offer this month.

Photo: Bravo

Real Housewives of New Jersey: “Supermarkets should ask Teresa her secret and apply it to their produce because nothing ever expires in Teresa’s mind. She’s like a grudge hoarder, taking each one out of its individual wrapper, examining it, and deciding that all need to survive.” (Season 13 premiere)

Real Housewives of Miami: “When they show flashbacks of Larsa from season one with her original face, it’s shocking to me. Sure, we’ve seen Kyle Richards cycle through more noses than M. Night Shyamalan has plot twists, but this is something else.” (Season 5, Episode 12)

Real Housewives of Salt Lake City: “Heather’s chorus performs ‘Amazing Grace.’ The tune is quickly becoming the most important song in the Bravo canon (after ‘Good As Gold’ by Scheana Shay) — lest we forget Porsha Williams standing up to sing it at the RHOA reunion or Melissa Gorga’s bedroom rendition of it where she said ‘wench’ instead of ‘wretch.’” (Season 3 finale)

Vanderpump Rules: “What is even going on? Who is this dog with Lisa that is not Giggy? Where is Ken? Has he finally been caught by the Ghostbusters and sent off to his eternal reward? And why is no one spilling anything? There is not one martini entirely on the floor. There is not a hankie dress in sight. There is no group photo at the end where they trot out Peter, Max, Charli, and Lala’s and Ariana’s gays. Honey, we haven’t just updated — we have upgraded!” (Season 10 premiere)

Below Deck: “I am not surprised that Tony has a past as a fire dancer. In fact, Tony could claim anything, and I’d believe him.” (Season 10, Episode 11)

Below Deck Adventure: “This whole final-lunch-in-a-cave thing is totally sus, like more sus than an email from a Nigerian prince telling you that you just won a free iPod and a 30 percent off coupon to MedMen.” (Season 1 finale)

All Fired Up