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We Do Not Stan

The Bravo universe doesn’t go to Vegas that often; however, we do have it to blame for some great moments: Taylor Armstrong eating cotton candy, Camille Grammer dancing like she’s still on Club MTV, Jax ripping off a chunky knit to fight Frank in a mini-mall parking lot. There’s going to be a whole lot of new Vegas memories made when BravoCon takes over Caesars Palace November 3-5. The first two editions were in New York City, a place with plenty to offer other than panels, waiting in line for selfies with Bravolebs, and snapping up all your favorite Bravo merch. (Bohemian Fire three-wick, anyone?) Now we’re all going to be stuck on the Strip with nothing to do with our off-hours other than drink, smoke (yes, it’s legal in Nevada), and watch the Bellagio fountain on a loop. Damn, this thing is gonna be messy. But I already reserved a room at Caesars with two queen beds, and I am actively seeking roommates. Please apply by sending shirtless pictures, your astrological sign, and your most recent tax return to the Real Housewives Institute.

Way before we head off to BravoCon, though, we have to get this here newsletter out of the way. This month we have the winner of our Worst Househusband of All Time bracket and an investigation into the Summer House boxes. But first, let’s talk about why Hashtag Teams are bad.

Side by Side

Let’s not let stan culture dominate the Bravo-verse.

Photo: Nicole Weingart/Bravo

In last week’s Vanderpump Rules recap, I came hard after Katie Maloney Schwartz Maloney, who I have long called the meanest woman on television, and the dues-paying members of the Housewives Institute were not very happy in the comments. Some said I was a misogynist and some said that I was being willfully ignorant of the fact that Katie went on the trip because production forced her to and she needed to make her money. After getting stroppy with a few of you, I thought, You know what? I’m going to write The Case Against Katie Maloney in the newsletter where there is no comments section, so hahahahaha.

But then I had a better idea, mostly due to the preponderance of comments like this one from the excellently named HighBabyGorgeous: “I love Brian’s recaps, but it is upsetting how he has missed the mark with this one. Schwartz is the awful one. SCHWARTZ.” Yes, Tom Schwartz is also awful. Remember when he told Katie that he hated the sound of her voice? Remember when he never stood up for her in any fight ever? Remember when he refused to ask her to marry him? Remember when he poured a beer on her head and tried to tell her it was for her own good? Remember when his dick wouldn’t work?

Okay, that last one was a Katie low blow, but these two have spent more time terrorizing each other than loving each other since the very first episode of this here program aired a decade ago. But the subtext of these comments — and others like them, which we’ll get to in a moment — is that if you hate Katie, you have to love Schwartz, and if you hate Schwartz, you have to love Katie. Well, I am here to remind you that two people can be awful at the same time.

I’ve been seeing this more and more in the online discourse about our favorite shows. Katie and Tom make up one example. Another is the feud between Melissa Gorga and Teresa Giudice, which takes up more of my brain cells than Teresa ever possessed. The battle lines on this one have been drawn for about as long as they have with Katie and Tom, but tensions are reaching a fever pitch now that the Giudice-Ruelases and the Gorgas are officially estranged. My allegiance is to hating Teresa, which makes many people assume that I support Melissa. (They are correct; I do.) But there are plenty of people out there who hate Melissa and feel that they then need to find justifications for Teresa’s behavior, which in my mind is indefensible. Everything has become sides, and if you’re not on one, you’re on the other. It seems like fans are making it impossible to love both Teresa and Melissa or hate both Teresa and Melissa.

This has been very pronounced for the past couple of seasons on RHOBH, particularly with last season’s feud between Kathy Hilton and Lisa Rinna. Did Rinna oversell Kathy’s rampage after a night out at the club? Most definitely. Did Kathy probably use a gay slur in a nightclub? I would bet money on it. As annoying as Rinna was, it doesn’t mean that we have to love kooky Aunt Kathy, who is admittedly pretty lovable for a woman who skipped the finale cast party so that she could attend Donald Trump’s Super Bowl party at Mar-a-Lago. The same goes for the squaring-off between Erika Jayne and Sutton Stracke. You can like one, you can like both, you can hate one, or you can hate both. These are all viable options, but the discourse seems intent on squeezing people toward one side or the other.

I don’t want to get all political (he says after dropping the T-bomb in the last paragraph), but I think this is a symptom of living in a society that is so ideologically segregated. We’re so used to digging into our side of the aisle and making fun of the other one that it has transferred to Housewifery. I think the other bad influence at play is stan culture, particularly on Twitter, which is where I consume most of my online Housewives content. We’re seeing more and more communities like Nicki Minaj’s Barbs, who are rabid for their favorite Housewife and will obliterate anyone who disagrees. (TreHuggers, am I right?) This makes it impossible to love anyone who is on the other side of an argument with such a person. I also feel like these online sides are leading the women to pick their sides as well, tuning into the fans that applaud them and doubling down with their backing. Once the shows turn into sides, well, then it’s just boring for all of us.

One of my favorite things about Housewives fandom is that every woman in the franchise has fans who love her and fans who hate her, sometimes even for the same reason. One person’s “Ugh, Sonja Morgan is an annoying drunk” is another person’s, “Oooh, Sonja Morgan is such a fun drunk!” I love to talk to people who disagree with my stances to see where they’re coming from and try to explain where I’m coming from. But when everything is boiled down to sides, it becomes more like warfare, a kind of sniping that isn’t a fun argument but a vicious fight. What I really want is for us to be able to talk about these things with interest in and compassion for each other’s opinions. At the end of the day, no matter how you feel about the individual women, we all love the franchise, we all love the shows, we all love Bravo. Let’s keep that in mind while we’re chatting. Oh, and next time I go in on someone in the comments, remind me I wrote this.

Amazon Jungle

Why are there so many boxes on Summer House? An investigation.

Photo: Bravo

For the past couple of seasons, I have been obsessed with the Hooverville of boxes that await our favorite Hamptonites each time they roll up in their SUVs for another weekend in the Summer House. The stack can be absolutely insane. Sometimes it’s taller than Carl Radke, who is approximately 6-foot-90.

But what the hell is in all of those boxes? “Theme-party costumes and decorations, that’s the first culprit,” said my imaginary husband Kyle Cooke in a recent Zoom interview. (Yes, he still has the mullet. Yes, I mostly behaved myself.) He explained that, as many New Yorkers know, they can’t just go to Party City and load up on everything they might need for, say, a 40th-birthday party that is also a hoedown. Even ordering online is difficult if you live in a Manhattan building without a doorman. While many of the packages are from Amazon, Kyle said that they can be from anywhere that sells whatever esoteric supplies they might need for whatever esoteric theme.

“Factor in that a lot of what we’re doing is last minute,” he said. “We’ll finalize a theme Sunday at the house for the following weekend, you go back, you probably procrastinate a little bit or you’re busy working. I know this is me literally every party we ever throw.”

Kyle said the biggest contributors to the Great Box Mountain are Paige and Amanda, which tracks to me. He said that sometimes Amanda will order clothes and have them sent out east because she doesn’t want to miss the delivery. The other additions are some groceries and other FreshDirect supplies that they have shipped to the house pending their arrival.

Another issue, and you’ll be shocked that Kyle brought this up, is Loverboy. He said that unlike in season four, when they launched the brand and the cases took over the living room, now he has fresh boxes shipped from the warehouse directly to the Hamptons. Kyle estimates that last season the house went through a whopping 5,000 canned cocktails, spritzes, and hard iced teas.

The boxes have occasionally become a source of contention in the house, said my dear, darling Kyle. “If you’re first to arrive or second to arrive or third to arrive, and you walk right by all the boxes … you’re just basically saying, ‘Ah, I’m going to let the person that’s stuck in traffic deal with it.’ Which is unfair.” But even if someone brings the boxes into the foyer, they still don’t know which room to bring them to because this season everyone is changing rooms each weekend.

And what about when the boxes are emptied of their clothes, decorations, and Loverboy? “We do recycle,” said Kyle. “Out by the garage, which is to the left of the house, if you’re looking at the front door … we just basically try to do our best to bring them out of sight and just stack them up for pickup.” Wait, they’ve been in this house for three summers now and there is a garage we didn’t know about?

While it may seem like the boxes have multiplied over the years, Kyle said it’s about the same amount (except for the pandemmy summer when they lived there full time). It just looks like a lot more because at this house they get crowded by the door. I asked Kyle if he and the cast had any plans to address the box problem this upcoming season, but he said, “I think it’s a lost cause.”

Pack Your Bags

Just how does a Real Housewife think about packing for a trip?

Photo: Bravo

As obsessed as I am with the boxes on Summer House, I’m equally amazed at just how many suitcases a Housewife brings with her on even the shortest of trips. To find out a little something about suitcase strategy, I got some answers from Candiace Dillard-Bassett and Gizelle Bryant, currently costaring in Ultimate Girls Trip 3 about how they do it and where they wish their show would take them next.

On packing: My packing strategy is quite intricate. I work with my stylist for a few weeks before the trip and figure out what we want my looks to be. Then when I get everything in, I try on everything including accessories and shoes to make sure that the look is cohesive. Then I take a photo in the complete look, and I assemble everything in an album on my phone so that when we are being rushed to go from place to place on the trips, I don’t have to do anything but open my phone and get dressed. There’s no such thing as too many bags. I say that proudly as the one who has the most, but I also look the best!

On where she wants to go next: I would love a yacht do-over. I just want us to show up, eat, drink, and be free. Or I would love to go to Morocco. I wish Potomac could finally take a trip to the continent of Africa.

On packing: You can never pack enough, but don’t overpack. Have at least three outfits for everyday, but pick shoes that you can wear with multiple outfits. Anything over three suitcases is too many. Robyn packs everything … way too much stuff.

On where she wants to go next: I want an exotic location with Housewives who are adventurous and want to have fun. Definitely a gorgeous beach with water activities, cultural experiences, and relaxation. I would love to go to Africa. Maybe Zanzibar, Tunisia.

And the Loser Is

Lenny Hochstein, but you knew that already.

Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Universal Pictures

Maybe it’s the way I set up the bracket, maybe it’s a little bit of recency bias, but of the Cheaters, Jerks, Actual Villains, and Good Guys from our tournament for the Worst Househusband of All Time, you voted for a cheater: Lenny Hochstein from Real Housewives of Miami.

While I knew he would make it to the finals, I didn’t think he would win, but it makes absolute sense to me. Imagine ever marrying a man who refers to himself as “Boob God”? I mean, just look at Lenny. He looks like everyone who just got cheap hair-transplant surgery on a Spirit Airlines flight out of Istanbul. He looks like a sentient Ed Hardy T-shirt that would Air Drop you a dick pic as you’re waiting next to him at a red light. He looks like a divorced dad who only has condiments in his refrigerator and a new side piece who thinks she made it but is going to get dumped in less than a year. Oh wait, that last one is true.

I don’t really remember anything about Lenny from seasons two and three of RHOM back in the day, other than him being friends with Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild fame and throwing trashy lingerie parties at his house so that he could grab the asses of girls with sense to know better but too much ambition to care. I also remember that Lisa was on a very difficult fertility journey, and it always seemed like Lenny was blaming her a little too much for their inability to get pregnant. It was not the worst behavior, but there were flags as red as Luis Ruelas’s face on RHONJ. But this most recent season, the second since RHOM’s criminally long eight-year hiatus, makes it obvious that of all the cheaters, losers, and crooks who have been on Real Housewives, he is one of the absolute worst.

If we’re talking about Lenny, we need to talk about his hot-mic moment. At a party for the girls at their house, Lenny, who is supposed to be watching the kids, takes his friend into the kitchen and tells him that he’s sick of his wife, ready to divorce her, and in love with the woman he is already shacking up with. This was just a week after he staged a romantic dinner by the pool just for the show. I mean, really, dude. Did you not know that the cameras were going up? Did you not know you’d get a whole lot less scrutiny if you did it away from the show? Not our Lenny. Even after the news leaked to the press during filming, he went to the press and told them it wasn’t happening before confirming that, oh yeah, actually it is happening. Here he is lying to all of America like he’d been lying to his wife, probably their entire marriage.

As bad as Lenny was in his marriage, he’s been even worse in the divorce. He texts Lisa to “fuck off,” and then 22 minutes later he’s texting again, asking her to pick up his groceries. I would have shown up and run that motherfucker over with a FreshDirect truck, but Lisa just bought his bananas. He refuses to move out of the home he shares with Lisa, offering to set up her and their two kids — who he doesn’t seem that interested in — in a much smaller domicile so he can move his new hooch into the mansion. When she confronts him in his bedroom, she warns him he is on-camera, but that doesn’t matter to him. He talks to her in a voice so derogatory, so condescending, it’s like the way everyone has talked to Ted Cruz his entire life. This man is a piece of shit, and the divorce just continues on and on and on. Why? Out of spite. Even his mother was initially against him, that’s how much of a dick he is.

It’s because of all this — trashing his wife, not caring about the kids, being a spoiled crybaby who just wants to grab at boobs — that Lenny is the Worst Househusband of All Time. Congratulations to him, and to us, because we probably won’t have to see him on the show ever again after this.

Recap Highlights

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

Real Housewives of New Jersey: “At lunch, the conversation turns to Jennifer’s tea-reading party last episode, which nine out of ten dentists agree was so fake that it would give you cavities.” (Season 13, Episode 11)

Real Housewives: Ultimate Girls Trip: “As they’re screaming, Pepsi is disassociating in the corner, trying to find a way to get his incandescent smile back.” (Season 3, Episode 5)

Vanderpump Rules: “Of all the stupid, annoying reality-television bullshit I have ever seen, I haven’t seen any bullshit that was stupider, annoying-er, or reality television-er than Katie Maloney Schwartz Maloney going to Scheana’s wedding in Mexico where absolutely no one wanted her.” (Season 10, Episode 9)

Summer House:  “This leads to Craig pulling Paige for a chat. I just said, “pull for a chat” because I watch Love Island. Know who else does? The Bed Sore Sisters, because they are talking about Sam putting in the “graft” on Kory, and you only say that if you spend about 80 hours a summer watching British girls with fake lips chase Instagram clout and boys with bad tattoos who are all named Ollie.” (Season 7, Episode 9)

Below Deck: “I love Rachel, but I don’t think Below Deck is doing her any favors. It’s obvious she’s over it, and it shows in her cooking. Maybe she and Captain Lee will hang up their hats — and isms — together? ” (Season 10 finale)

Below Deck Sailing Yacht: “Chase asks if anyone is missing someone from home, to which Daisy responds, ‘I haven’t missed someone since 1999.’” (Season 4 premiere)

We Do Not Stan