Bravo TV, Reality TV, Vanderpump Rules

#PumpRules: Interview with Sur Manager Peter Madrigal (plus his Buttered Pop podcast debut)

My colleagues at the Buttered Pop podcast conducted a fantastic interview with Peter Madrigal from Vanderpump Rules, a measured and commanding presence as compared to his raucous cast mates. As the manager of Sur, Madrigal made a resolution to stop dating coworkers after a turbulent romance with Stassi Schroeder and a hookup with Katie Maloney – all of which went down before there was even this godsend of a show. Iconic American writer, novelist, professor and commentator Roxane Gay has admitted to the show being a favorite of hers, and at age 44, I too enjoy this franchise more than the Real Housewives ones.

A few years ago, I predicted I would outgrow what I jokingly called “Vapid Rules.” I even shared that term with Tom Schwartz, Katie Maloney, Stassi Schroeder and Jax Taylor when I interviewed them for a series of articles in the Huffington Post. Stassi took it in stride and tweeted out “#VapidRules AF!” I recently shared my love of Vanderpump Rules with Alex Baskin of Evolution Media (“It’s the best show on TV now!”), who I was introduced to through Reality of Reality podcast host Aliza Rosen. Evolution is the company that produces all the vapid, wild and touching moments that make for the perfect reality TV ingredients. Commentators agree that Vanderpump Rules is the gift that keeps on giving, with sharp turns and surprises to keep viewers entertained and riveted. It is the small screen favorite of many and amasses new viewers seasonally. Evolution Media also produces E!’s Botched, Bravo’s Real Housewives of Orange County, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Sweet Home.

Being in the film production business his self, Peter Madrigal knew early on that it made sense to feature his fellow Survers. He saw the ingredients and the blueprints. He recognized that his coworkers antics and complex, interconnected social lives (particularly, hookups) made for great drama, that the men – or boys – had charm (or smarm) and the women, dynamic personalities.

I spoke with Madrigal this past Tuesday to get more insight about him, a man who seems to be the calmest of his crew, and who viewers don’t necessarily know so well. As the restaurant manager, he tries to “keep things professional,” which may be why some of his scenes don’t make the final cut. However, he is always at Sur when the cameras are rolling and in many ways, as he tells Buttered Pop, the crew has come to rely on him.

Following is our discussion:

I’m so excited to speak with you, Peter. I used to be a Contributor to Huffington Post and interviewed Jax, Stassi, Brittany, Katie and Schwartz. I know your style from listening to several interviews that you did, and I do realize that you WON’T give away things that happened on the show.

However, I wanted to start with how Guillermo Zapata approached you when you worked at Club Monaco and said to come work for him. You had a roommate working there who may have put in a good word and you were hired on the spot when you arrived at Sur. It seemed to me that he was scouting you, so I was wondering if there was any talk of a TV show at that time.

No, not at all. That was 10 years ago. I don’t think at the time Lisa was even on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  I think he just liked my look and wanted to hire me for me.

It seems like Sur is about the ‘right look’ and the headshot. Then again, the allure of the show is watching so much drama go down between beautiful people.  

In some ways it’s about image, but we’re a diverse group of people. It’s not just image but style and presence. There has to be something about you.  Everyone is really bringing something to the table. I have to keep myself in check as the manager, so despite me being there full time, I heard I was only on for one second of the Season 7 premiere last (Monday) night.

I heard you don’t watch the show and have made it a policy not to watch, since the beginning.

I don’t watch! Tell me what happened in the first episode.

Jax stormed in the room, he was angry about James’s rap and you looked like ‘what the hell is going on?!’

Oh, I remember. I was there for the whole thing and it’s about what they want to use. Despite only being on a little here and there, I’m amazed that I have a large following on social media or when people approach me and say they’re a big fan. I think we all have a presence about each of us.

We don’t really see you get into the chaotic drama, so they don’t focus on you as much as the others. Was that a purposeful decision by you because of your interest in film and directorial vision? Did you see yourself as someone who could help production? Or is it because you’re so cool, calm and collected that they don’t focus on you?

It’s a combination of both. I’m pretty cool until you tick me off – which actually happened to me this morning, by the way.

Oh, too bad they’re not filming next season already.

(Laughs) Someone commented that I remind them of Seinfeld because I don’t get pissed off. That could be a detriment in this medium, but it works for who I am and I’m very true to myself. As the current season progresses, I think you are going to see more of me. I know I’m going to be featured heavily, but let’s see what they decide to show. It’s a combination of deliberate choice on my part, but at the same time it is who I am.

It sounds like you have to take a stand about something in Sur and that will be important to the storyline this season.

You’ll just have to watch!

You seem like the most mature of the crew because you’re so responsible. I know that you’re 35 and that’s the same age as some of the other cast members.  You discussed on Buttered Pop how the producers will ask you to lower the music when there’s a conversation they want to catch. It seems like you are always on hand to make sure the conditions are right for filming.

I’m one of the crew’s favorites to work with. I arrive early and very rarely do I arrive late. I’ll often get there before the crew. I want to make sure I’m miked and ready to go. I am very OCD in case you didn’t hear that…so if I’m late, I’m beating myself up. I’ve never been late to work, but was suspended one time about 9 or 10 years ago for missing a shift. I like to be early.

Of course, many fans wanted to know about the time period – oh so long ago that it’s ancient history for you – that you went out with Stassi. I know there was some overlap with when you hooked up with Katie. I’m curious how they became friends after that.  

It’s funny you mention that because the ‘overlap’ in this place is very predominant. In this group, Jax hooked up with Kristen and Stassi and now he’s with Brittany who is best friends with them. Kristen hooked up with Jax and now Jax and Carter are really good friends. Katie and I were hanging out during a period when Stassi and I weren’t exclusive. We were making out and then passed out on the couch together, head to head – it was an L shaped couch. That was it. I can’t remember when I had made out with Stassi – We became exclusive a short time after and Katie felt rejected. I regret how I handled that. I would never put myself in that type of situation again.

You were your own ‘cautionary tale’ pre Jax.

I was my own cautionary tale! I was and I told a bunch of new bartenders who hook up with each other ‘you’ve got to stop or it’s going to be bad around work.’ There was a situation recently and I said ‘you guys have got to be congenial to each other’ because they had ended it. I said ‘I’ve already been here, I know what this is. There are a lot of women that come through here. You don’t have to be hooking up with your coworkers, just be friends with them.’

Once you get to this environment, this is such a promiscuous place with everyone hooking up all the time.  I understand that it happens when you’re around a bunch of beautiful people. Right when I became a manager, after I dated Stassi, I just became this paragon of professionalism. I was the manager, the leader. I wouldn’t date any of my coworkers.

You talk about being a perpetual bachelor now. Some fans and I were curious: how do you date and what are your thoughts on settling down? I’m just a fan of finding happiness in whatever form, so know that I am specifically asking this question because of the show’s current focus on Jax’s proposal, and with your close friends Katie and Tom being married.

That’s the best question I’ve ever been asked. I think about it a lot because I say I want to live to 100 and then say to myself ‘why do I want to do that?’ I do see my mortality. I guess it’s morbid, but it’s the truth. My 30s are passing by quickly. I remember thinking back during season 2, I’m turning 30. Now, I’m 35 which is four years from 40. I saw this joke story on Instagram from my friend Jonathan. He was going through a book that said ‘sex after 50’ and it was all blank pages. If I can’t go out with the girls and have a relationship, who is going to want to hook up with the old guy Peter? I have to make sure I look good. I’m constantly working out. I’m working on my face, trying not to get wrinkles. I’ve seen guys younger than I am that already look 45. I want to look this way until my 60s.

So have you done ‘Brotox’, you know that term some people use for Botox for men?

I did some Botox just recently, it’s on the show. Not sure you’ll see it because again, I don’t know what they’ll include. I do put a lot of lotions on also. I use a lot of vitamin C and vitamin A. I took a 16 hour trip to Vegas to see a business partner and met Kevin Harrington from Shark Tank. I thought he was in his 40s and he’s like ‘no, I’m 61.’ At that point, I was all like ‘I need to look like you in 30 years.’ I’m very determined to keep myself looking like I’m perpetually 30.

That is a theme and focus on these shows. I’m in the midst of writing a separate piece called Body Image by Bravo.

I don’t want to look like a blow-up doll, but I don’t want to look too weathered. Will I be able to still date when I get to 50? At 40, I should probably start thinking about settling down – even at 36. I’m always looking at that. I think about if I’m going to have kids…and I want to make enough money to raise those kids!. I always thought when I was younger that if I was on a TV show, I could date whoever I wanted to date, but that’s not true. That’s not the way it works. So what if I own my own company? That’s still not the way it works. I don’t know what women want.

You developed a casino app called Casino Scouts, and you have the hair line Myhairo.com. You manage to make time to exercise twice daily and go to Sur pretty much full time. How many days do you actually have to be there? A viewer told me to ask if your shoulders are tired because you’re the only one she sees always working there.

I can’t stop people from giving away their shifts. I’m full time, so that’s typically 4 days a week. I’m full time on the show when we’re filming. I’m at Sur doing 7 hour shifts at a time, so that’s a pretty hefty workload. I have recently brought it down because of my other companies. I’m all about balancing my time and I do that very well. Just today, I decided not to get up at 6 which is my normal time and got up at 7. I got coffee and did my morning routine. I looked at a short film that I had to send to potential funders. At 10 (an hour before this call), I had an appointment, then got on the phone with you. Right after you, I have a 12:00 call. After that I have to hop on the computer and study because I’m going to get my real estate license. Yes, on top of everything. I’m studying for that!

Tomorrow I have a 10:00 appointment and I just got a message about the hair company, so will have to add that to the schedule. I am constantly working.

The viewers and I are curious to know what you think of new people who come to Sur and join the show.  What makes them work within the friend group?

It goes back to what we first started with in this conversation. You have to bring something to the table, have a personality. We’ve tried different people and a lot of people don’t work. Not just the dynamic of the group. ‘Are you charismatic enough?’ I’m not going to toot my own horn, but I have more charisma in my pinky than all of the Summer House crew combined.

I can’t watch it. I think it’s because I have to limit my television time and Vanderpump Rules fills whatever viewing void that Summer House might fill for others. I’m not sure…

I watched a clip when Stassi was introducing these people to the world. These guys got a TV show?! Tom Sandoval and Tom Schwarz have tons of charisma and of course, Jax and James….They are dynamic as are all the women on our show. Someone is going to get left in the back- me in this case – but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact on the show.

Since you don’t watch the show yourself, are you always aware of the drama going on, or are you constantly surprised by things?

Sometimes I have surprises. During Season 2 I tried to stay out of the drama and having to manage the restaurant is a lot of responsibility.  You don’t want to get caught up or start taking sides or having favorites. That’s a detriment to leadership. For so many years I was called ‘Switzerland,’ But things do change and sometimes, like I think maybe you’ll see this season, I will speak up a lot more – especially  when you start criticizing my leadership.

When I found out that Jax slept with Kristen, I was totally surprised and didn’t want to believe it. I found out from people watching the show. Like you said, I have made it a policy from the beginning not to watch. I do know – and I think this is when I’m seen more on the show – that when I want something done, I step up and make a stand. You’ll see that.

It’s weird that you don’t want to watch it, but maybe it’s like me not wanting to hear my annoying voice on the podcast episodes I do. Who from the cast are you closest to?

Schwartz and I are super close…

You mentioned being friendly with Lala’s fiancé Randall on Buttered Pop.

I am now friendly with Randall! I saw him at the premiere party and it was good to catch up.

One fan wanted to know, with all the ventures you have going on and your position at Sur, where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?

I’ll put it like this: I see myself still cranking away, working hard and doing very well for myself. I am not going to say where I’m going to be. I don’t want to give away my thought process…but I see myself doing well…within the next 2 years actually.

I’ve talked to numerous reality TV people and have seen how the experience can be humbling and also ego inflating. Seeing the negatives has made me realize I could never personally do reality TV! Writing about it can be dramatic or stressful enough! Do you think people have been humbled by this show or that their egos have blown up from it?  

A combination of both. From my experience, I have become more humble. I’m still astonished. I put pants on one leg at a time each morning and people still want to take pictures with me. People call me a ‘legend’ and I haven’t done anything yet! By the same token, there’s some arrogance in the sense that I’ve had to put people in their place.

About a year ago, I met someone at a magazine shoot and she said ‘you don’t know who I am?!’ I was like ‘please tell me who you are’ and she couldn’t believe it. ‘I’m this model who has done this and this…’ It came across as so pompous, so I said ‘that’s awesome. How many followers do you have on Instagram? I’m one of the cast members on a hit show on Bravo, don’t start talking arrogantly.’

My dad would run into you and have no idea who you are. My husband would run the other way because he thinks Bravo is my huge time suck when I could be doing other things, like reading before bed. So, it’s funny to me that people have egos. You have a huge fan base, but stay grounded!!

I had to bring my ego out just a little bit because I had to put someone in their place for stupidity. I try to stay as humble as possible.

You can see Peter Madrigal on Vanderpump Rules, which airs weekly on Monday nights at 9 PM EST on Bravo.

 

 

 

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

Body Image by Bravo

Joining a reality TV show means a lot of things, but a big part of it is toughening one’s skin and buckling up for public scrutiny.

The old adage goes “the camera adds ten pounds,” so a size 6 to 8 woman might appear to be a size 10 or 12 on your screen, according to that saying…if it still applies. With modern technological advances to television and high definition, I’m not sure if this assertion is 100 percent sound today, but I can attest to the fact that I’ve met TV personalities who look smaller in person than they do on my screen.

Emily Moore Simpson never really suffered from any body image related self consciousness, but suddenly she was on a national program, Real Housewives of Orange County, with viewers weighing in on multiple social media platforms. Alarmingly, some were following her in order to tauntingly type “oink” in the comments section of her Instagram photos and add pig snout emojis.

To see Emily in person (which I have) is to note excellent cheekbones, gorgeous green eyes and a well-proportioned figure with enviable curves. While some were excited to see a woman who, like themselves, wasn’t a size 0 or 2 join the crew, others decided to be less kind, going directly to her pages to seek her out and inform her that she was dwarfing her shorter husband Shane – as if that were some sort of a crime.

The real crime here? People weren’t doing the normal thing that viewers do, roasting personalities behind their backs rather than directly to them. In addition: seeking them out deliberately to do so. Emily would proceed to divulge that the nastiest types of emails were sent directly to her, with one woman named Yvett going to the link of an event she posted about in order to share these unsolicited opinions:

You could argue that people get what they signed up for with reality TV, that they scrawled their signatures on the release forms and are making money…but you could also learn from the Bitch Sesh podcast’s “no tagging” rule. The comedy duo Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider recap Housewives on their popular show and say as much smack and employ as much snark as they desire, but they don’t want the Bravolebrities they’ve discussed informed of the conversations. They perpetually ask audience members not to tag these personalities.

Along the same vein, I used to avoid reading the comments’ sections under my Huffington Post articles. I was fine with readers talking about me, I just didn’t want to focus on some of the highly irrelevant, nastier comments.

Realistically, some of these words will come to our attention and we have to harden ourselves. I remember writing about bullying and receiving an email from a man saying I knew nothing about real bullying and he could definitely show me what bullying was…

But back to the theme of body image…It’s something that comes up a lot with Bravo stars. The Vanderpump Rules cast has been candid about reducing their caloric intake in order to imbibe. Stassi Schroeder spoke about how Adderall worked as an aid for keeping her svelte. Sur manager Peter Madrigal spoke on several podcasts about seeing his stomach on social media and becoming motivated to stop drinking and work out twice daily. He said that rather than take negative comments from trolls and fight them, they inspire him and give him more of an impetus to prove body shamers wrong and get fit. As a result, he recently dropped 30 pounds.

Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s new cast addition Jacqueline Goldschneider opened up on the Oklahoma cast trip about her battle with anorexia and how she ultimately got healthy with the help of a nutritionist and psychologist. Several seasons ago on Real Housewives of New York, Jules Wainstein spoke openly about her own ongoing battle with anorexia. Fans spoke out then about how her frame was still disconcertingly skeletal, but she made no bones about it as she stressed that she was still in recovery – present tense.

For someone like Emily, an attorney who appears to have a tough exterior and seems ready for battle (in the courtroom) when called upon, a major lesson of the season was that people were going to focus on the things she couldn’t have predicted beforehand.

“I was fine with my body,” she said in interviews and on the RHOC reunion. Her cast mate Shannon Beador’s strategy with her own past weight gain was to point it out and poke fun at it. By laughing at or mocking ourselves (and in Shannon’s case, beating up on her self), we get to the punch before others do. It’s a recognizable type of defense mechanism. As for the newer RHOC cast member Emily, she was in tears when discussing her experience at the reunion. She has said that reality TV is not for the faint of heart.

That may be the case, but it would also be a shame to see reality TV become a place for the faint – from too much exercise, exertion, intense caloric restriction or fasting.

Emily is fighting back now by publicizing a new swimsuit partnership. Margaret Josephs of RHONJ amped up her workouts between seasons, but says she is fine and confident with having hips and enjoying splurge-worthy restaurant meals and desserts.

I find it really discouraging when fans, especially women, shame these people for not being the Saks Fifth Avenue mannequin sample size. Most of us cannot relate to gorgeous servers under 35 who blow their paychecks on Botox (Vanderpump Rules) or Housewives who live in opulent mansions in gated communities. It makes no sense to expend hatred, or spew venom directly at these personalities when presented with images that don’t make us feel guilty…

as we sink our teeth into a chocolate chip cookie and enjoy our shows.

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Bravo TV, public figures, Real Housewives, Reality TV, RHOC, RHONJ, Women

#RealHousewives: The Question of When (and Why) To Walk Away

Real Housewives of Orange County‘s Kelly Dodd took to her Instagram as news of the upcoming RHOC reunion rocked social media. In the previews and articles, veteran Housewife Vicki Gunvalson makes the outlandish accusation that Kelly, 43, a divorced mother of Jolie (12) who she shares with ex husband Michael, uses cocaine.

Kelly has taken to her Instagram to deny the allegations and say that they are damaging to her daughter who is aware of what transpired.

Kelly has declared that she can no longer be around Vicki and that if the OG Housewife – of the first of the Real Housewives Bravo franchises – stays, she will not be back.

Fans are expressing their doubts because Evolution Media, the production company behind RHOC, seems to have an unspoken lifetime commitment to Vicki Gunvalson, and Kelly, now a single mom, would be walking away from some stellar pay (not that she’s hurting for cash. Her ex husband is the retired CEO of Leapfrog, the teaching tech device company that helped my toddlers learn their ABCs).

Speaking of Housewives walking away, Danielle Staub of Real Housewives of New Jersey was once the most epically notorious Housewife with a temper of Trumpian proportions (not fab for the presidency, but pretty riveting for reality television). After Danielle’s below the belt and bellicose response to Margaret agreeing to attend Dolores Catania’s hatchet throwing event, it was evident to most viewers that the demoted Danielle most likely held resentments about being a “friend of” for the second season in a row, rather than a full time cast member known as “Housewife”, her previous title. While I do NOT think Danielle’s strong-willed cast mates would ask for her to go, and she has Teresa on her side and currently as a real (off camera) friend, she seems quite disgruntled with the majority of the cast to observant RHONJ viewers.

An article on the website TooFab features new RHONJ cast member Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Goldschneider stating that she wasn’t given the warmest reception by Danielle. Jackie is also particularly close to Margaret, she states in the article, so that may have something to do with any prejudices on Danielle’s part.

Unlike with Kelly Dodd, I don’t see producers trying very hard to reason with the volatile “friend of.” Evolution Media and Bravo may very likely go out on a limb to placate Kelly, who is ratings gold and intriguing to many fans in her “full time” secured spot on RHOC. Producers will likely encourage these ladies to make up or pick up their drama next season for a storyline, but monetary offers demanding apologies will have to be a part of their strategy. Kelly Dodd has been declaring that her tween daughter is more important than any TV show and she is not one to mince words or refrain from making necessary demands. Sirens, the production company behind RHONJ, made Danielle a “friend of” for a reason, and with the new cast mates already getting into the overall drama mix, I see Danielle being phased out in a similar fashion to Kim D. (the villain who held an annual Posche boutique fashion show. Both Kim and Posche will be completely absent from the current season according to multiple reports and sources.)

It is my sense that Vicki will be doing some major backpedaling (we’ve seen her do it before), but that both she and Kelly will return next season and their terse interactions will be featured in the first few episodes.

I think Danielle is more likely to end up on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars next year. She has posted about suffering from arthritis, but being quite the determined ballroom dancer despite the aches and pains– and the petite former Housewife has some serious skills. I think she could make it far as one who inspires others dealing with chronic pain and has sashayed away from toxicity.

I predict she would make it much farther than Lisa Vanderpump did on DWTS and she’ll be happier than she would be feuding with the ladies.

Suggest it to ABC. I will too.

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Bravo TV, Psychology, Real Housewives, RHOC

#RHOC: Emily Simpson Triumphantly Claps Back at Tamra Judge on Social Media

“Where has THIS Emily been all season?!” one commenter in a Bravo-focused Facebook group wrote. His remark was in response to a social media argument that heated up between Real Housewives of Orange County cast mates Tamra Judge and Emily Simpson. The group consensus was that Emily had successfully told an aggressive Tamra off. “I’m wondering what transpired at the RHOC reunion,” another Facebook user replied, “Whatever it was had to be the catalyst for this angry back and forth.”

In many of our lines of work, we’ve learned it’s best not to address negativity. I witnessed a reporter from a top news magazine demonstrate that admirably the other day when a livid TV personality repeatedly lashed out at him on Twitter. It’s a lesson to note, but “restraint” rhymes with “saint” and many have deemed that non-coincidental. In addition, being on reality television negates many of those rules and restrictions. You’ve signed the contract and that entails speaking up for yourself.

In the interest of full disclosure, I socially met up with a small group that included Emily Simpson this past Sunday. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many other “Reality TV Personalities” over the years and I bristle at egos and get easily turned off by a lack of humility. Emily was down to earth, kind, sensitive and genuine. She was someone I clicked with, who I felt comfortable with despite badly needing a haircut and wearing my clunky glasses. She is someone to whom I wouldn’t hesitate to say: “Ok, you should really ignore your cast mates’ mean barbs.”

We sensitive folks (who the insensitive call “crazy” sometimes because of just how sensitive we can be. I’m not referring to Emily here as much as myself and others like me who are continually advised to “toughen your skin.”) consider that advice easier said than done. As an attorney, Emily has the right mix of sensitivity and no-nonsense toughness.

I think she handled Tamra properly and I hope she realizes that she effectively got the last word in their terse social media exchange (pictured above). I think she can spend today feeling content. From a production standpoint, and as one still rooting for the longevity of this franchise, Evolution Media can use the above exchanges in their opening footage sequence next season. As many viewers have opined on Twitter and Instagram, Emily has solidified that she’s earned the right to a spot as “Housewife” next season.

(Featured Photo Source: Reality Blurb)

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#RHONY, Bachelor Nation, Bravo TV, Real Housewives, Reality TV

#RHONY & #TheBachelor Crossover? The Countess Once Hit on Nick Viall

ABC’s former Bachelor Nick Viall revealed some tantalizing information on the podcast Juicy Scoop with Heather McDonald, released yesterday. Aside from tentatively dishing about some of the manipulative tactics by Bachelor production, he recounted a story of meeting Real Housewives of New York‘s Luann De Lesseps in Chicago. It was after his first stint on ABC’s The Bachelorette.

“I was out to dinner with friends…It was approximately 4 or 5 years ago. Someone in my entourage wanted to introduce me to…a duchess…or countess. I thought ‘Oh cool, a royal. I’ve never met a princess.’ She proceeded to enjoy the evening with some drinks. At some point, I had to get out of there. I had plans to go meet friends at a divey bar and I thought…for a moment…it would be really funny if I brought her. I don’t think she would have enjoyed that place. She leaned over and said ‘Where are you going? I do have a hotel and this hotel room.'”

Alas, there was no hookup because Viall went to meet his friends, and he hasn’t seen Luann De Lesseps since that evening. From the conversation with McDonald, it doesn’t sound like Viall follows any of Bravo’s Real Housewives franchises, but regarding the Countess, he added: “She was very nice, but it was before rehab and she was about 12 beers deep.”

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#politics, Bravo TV, Reality TV, Vanderpump Rules

#PumpRules: Yes, We Care About Politics

Exactly two years ago to this date, November 8th 2016, the site Jezebel posted an article titled Why Couldn’t We Interview the Cast of Vanderpump Rules About the Election? The author Ellie Shechet stated her desire to ask cast mates of the show their thoughts on the former reality star who would eventually go on to become president.

“I mean, don’t you want to know what Lala thinks?” she wrote.

She continued: “But when I reached out to Bravo to request interviews with the cast on the 2016 election, I was politely rebuffed. We were later told that Jezebel could only attend a ‘pub crawl’ event with the cast if we refrained from asking political questions.”

Bravo’s communications department may have the same stance today, keeping politics off the table in press interviews, but some cast members of various shows on the network are outspoken anyway.

When I asked Shep Rose his thoughts on Donald Trump several years ago, the PR rep interrupted and then Shep very assertively interrupted her: “No, I want to take this one.” As one can see from Shep’s recent tweets, he’s no fan of the president’s but on the phone, I got the sense he was Libertarian (and of course, there was no Trump love there as he explained an otherwise moderate position).

But back to Vanderpump Rules. In the past, we had gotten to know that Stassi Schroeder was the offspring of a gun-loving Republican dad and she would sometimes put her foot in her mouth, getting flack for criticizing some of the #MeToo stories. She was quickly schooled by her cast mates (in particular, Ariana Madix) and angry listeners of her podcast. She became terribly remorseful and some wondered if it was because advertisers had pulled out of her show, while others noted growth and maturation.

On the show, she showed her support for LGBTQ rights. Off air and in social media land (a place my 12 year old has vowed to never go and has deemed evil), Stassi incurred the wrath of many, including her very “woke” and liberal cast mate Ariana Madix, who was always outspoken about politics.

Ariana’s longtime boyfriend Tom Sandoval said in a very nonchalant way in 2016 that he would probably vote Democratic. This casualness reflected a collective mindset of these kids two years ago, who many viewers feel, have grown up on camera (never mind that they’re in their 30s. I do contend that political growth can spurt as part of one’s quarter life crisis).

Vanderpump cast member Kristen Doute now has a pinned tweet that reads “We voted. Did you? Get out and make your voice heard” and an earlier Twitter exchange she had with Ariana shows the latter teasing that she was an influence of this new outspokenness. Perhaps 2016’s Jezebel piece was making the rounds again before this year’s Election Day.

Another “Vapid Rules” (what I used to affectionately call the show) cast member, Tom Schwartz, who I had the occasion to interview multiple times for Huffington Post, tweeted out “I voted my balls off” on Election Day.

Today, his wife Katie Maloney, another integral member of the VPR clique, tweeted: “It’s fantastic that the Trump administration is standing up for a woman after she was ‘struck’ apparently being ‘grabbed by the pussy’ is AIGHT but Acosta trying to block the crazy chick grabbing at his mic is ASSAULT? I need a walk….This can’t be real life.”

Jax Taylor has made statements in the past that have reflected liberalism, not without his own share of faux pas, and the Grand Dame Lisa Vanderpump is a known LGBTQ advocate who has officiated gay weddings.

There are of course, numerous Bravo fans who are conservative and will hop on Instagram and Twitter to argue and defend President Trump to these Bravolebrities, or ask them to refrain from discussing politics. Katie was recently met with this response: “It’s cute when reality tv girls comment on politics.” To which another fan responded:

“It’s cute when tv personas become president too. Like super, SUPER cute. 🙄”

Touché.

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Bravo TV, Podcasts, Real Housewives, Reality TV, Uncategorized

Tony’s Tea Corner: A Platform For Real Housewives To Truly Open Up

Many great minds have weighed in on a cultural phenomenon of our time, The Real Housewives. A chief example of a commentator extraordinaire is the noted historian Brian Moylan of Vulture.com and of (his self-dubbed) Real Housewives Institute. There are many other astute observers and anthropologists who could be considered Moylan’s esteemed colleagues and fellow philosophers. Dave Quinn of People is the one to obtain exclusive interviews with current “Bravolebrities” and then wax philosophical on his @NineDaves Twitter account. Then there are the podcast hosts: The Bitch Sesh ladies Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider, Kate Casey of Reality Life, Juicy Scoop’s Heather McDonald, and (as fans affectionately refer to them) the boys: Ronnie Karam and Ben Mandelker of Watch What Crappens, Grant Rutter of Grant’s Rants, Troy Turner of Taste of Reality and last but certainly not least, there is “Uncle Tony” of Tony’s Tea Corner.

Born Anthony Lario, “Uncle Tony” is a moniker his friends granted him because he is the trusted confidant and the one to give you straight-up advice. That means he is also the perfect person to interview former Housewives, ladies who were once a part of a franchise and can now speak more freely in retrospect about their experiences. While comedian Amy Phillips refers to the “100th Housewife” Peggy Sulahian (a one and done from last season’s Real Housewives of Orange County) as “Peggy ‘No Talk’ Peggy”, Anthony was able to get Peggy to open up for over an hour.

During that time, she really spoke her mind and explained the scenes that left viewers perplexed.

Today, a new episode of Tony’s Tea Corner is out featuring another former RHOC Housewife, Meghan King Edmonds.

I spoke with Anthony Lario last week to get a sense of who he is, what Tony’s Tea Corner is all about, and specifically, why all Housewives historians, pop culture enthusiasts and knowledgeable fans should be tuning in weekly to his podcast:

Anthony Lario(Pictured: Anthony Lario, Photo Credit: Courtney Kehr & Mitch Marsico)

How long have you been hosting “Tony’s Tea Corner”? I initially became familiar with you through Instagram. Then, I heard you several times on the podcast Grant’s Rants before tuning into recent episodes of your podcast.

I started my podcast in August. I have always been a fan of pop culture and Housewives stuff. I feel like these are the topics we take in when trying to relax and unwind. These are water cooler topics and are brought up so often with my friends.

They were the ones who said ‘You should do a podcast’. I’ve always been into theater and art and not commentating as much, but I sat down one day and jotted down all my thoughts.

Thanks to Margaret Josephs from Real Housewives of New Jersey, who I met for lunch, I had some great insight and the next thing I knew, my podcast was among the top 200 for TV and film.

I call it a ‘catharsis’. You get out all your negative energy from the week by talking about these topics in their purest form.

What is your background professionally?

Before I got into podcasting, I was active in social media influencing. My Instagram following rose while I was in college because of comedy I did, and I got into brand partnerships.

In college, I studied communications and PR and since then have become more of an expert in social media. I’m constantly trying to find something that joins the right and left sides of my brain, creativity and being more intellectual and factual. Right now, what I do professionally is talent management.

Which shows are you currently obsessed with? I know you’ve had some interesting guests on including Paul Calafiore, Heather McMahan, Perez Hilton, Peggy Sulahian, Troy Hendrickson, Amber Marchese, Lizzie Rovsek, Kelly Bensimon and Meghan King Edmonds.

Right now, Real Housewives of Orange County is airing and it’s been really easy to recap. I’m obsessed with Gina Kirschenheiter and Emily Simpson as new Housewives and think they’re fantastic new additions to the franchise.

They are a breath of fresh air on the show and are delivering some drama.

I’m also discussing Real Housewives of New Jersey a lot in preparation for the new season because many of my listeners are interested in that. I also sunk my teeth into Real Housewives of New York when I interviewed Kelly Bensimon.

What is it that you really love about interviewing former Housewives?

I love giving former Real Housewives a platform because you go back and watch those old episodes and what you really take note of…is the evolution of the show from a cast and a production standpoint.

Of course, they’re not contracted with Bravo as heavily, so they can open up more. They do sort of sign their lives away and there are some things they’ll remain quiet about, but they’re allowed to do podcasts without the stipulation of having to going through a PR person.

That is how I got Peggy and I realized something fascinating: These women are on our TV screens baring their entire lives and then afterwards, the only thing we have to go by (to keep up with their lives) is social media. They have no platform through which to speak, yet they can be spoken about on the show.

When Lizzie came on my show, Tamara couldn’t stop comparing her to Gretchen Rossi and Alexis Bellino. These ladies, like Lizzie, aren’t there on the show to defend themselves. So, I like to think of it as my being a sort of Andy Cohen for former Housewives in a way.

Although that’s going to change because I will be having Leeanne Locken on and I plan to have Margaret Josephs on when RHONJ is back.

What have been some surprising discoveries from interviewing these former Housewives?

Peggy Sulahian can really talk, which might be surprising to some people. I loved interviewing Lizzie and she has become a close friend. She is going to hook me up with Gretchen so I really am looking forward to having Gretchen on.

Do you watch my favorite Bravo franchises Below Deck and Below Deck Mediterranean?

I don’t watch Below Deck, but Captain Lee was the captain of my best friend’s yacht before the show was even on the map. So I would see Captain Lee when I was with my friend and the next thing you know, he pops up on TV.

I recommend it because I think it’s one of the best reality shows imaginable. There are numerous crew members who can’t be filmed and the boat is more cramped than you realize with a camera crew trying to film around those who cannot be filmed. They’re intent on only capturing interactions between the featured members. I think it is brilliantly done.  

I think it’s cool to think of how production is sleeping on the boat with them. I want to know how it all works behind the scenes.

It’s very cramped and they have to weave around the people who didn’t sign release forms.

You also discuss pop culture topics on your podcast. Can you discuss how you incorporate that into the format of the show?

What I do is this: At the start of the show, I discuss a general cornucopia of hot topics that pertain to that week. As I’m doing this, I pivot to related topics because that’s how conversations work in real life.

Even when I’m the only one talking, I want it to be like a conversation you would have with coworkers or friends over lunch. I’m not afraid to pivot. If I’m talking about Britney Spears, I might pivot to something that happened ten years ago. I think that’s an important thing for people who do podcasts – make it like conversation you’ll have with your friends every day and let the topics flow naturally.

Then before I play the interview, I’ll start recapping Housewives’ items from the week. Because of my tendency to pivot, I might bring up an iconic moment from 5 years ago and tie it in to something that happened recently and how the guest is still relevant today.

It seems that all of our mutual acquaintances are obsessed with 90 Day Fiance. Do you cover that at all on your show, or are you kind of out of it like I am?

Well… I probably need to cover 90 Day, but like you said… I just don’t know if I’ll be able to get myself into it. I do listen to lots of podcasts that talk about it, but I’ve got to be real. I am not going to force myself to watch something if I’m not interested in it.

I’m also not a huge fan of the Kardashians, but I am familiar with them. So instead of recapping that, I’ll talk about how my biggest pop culture fantasy would be to bring North West onto Dance Moms. That’s the crossover that we need! That’s how I pivot and get around talking about a show I don’t really watch but want to touch on because my listeners do watch.

Do you ever have guest co-hosts?

Yeah. A couple of times, I had on one of my good friends from where I went to school. She is an expert on pop culture, but is knowledgeable about a lot of things I don’t typically cover. So it was great when I had her on as a guest correspondent because it was like we were learning facts from one another.

I also had a contest and the winner came on. I had comedian Heather McMahan as a guest correspondent too and that was a lot of fun.

It’s definitely a different dynamic doing it with a co-host than doing it by yourself.

Right now, I’m really looking forward to picking LeeAnne Locken’s brain because I thought she and D’Andra Simmons were two peas in a pod. I didn’t foresee the really bad fallout they’ve had.

Whose side are you on in these arguments? I’ll start with the most buzzed about one: Bethenny Frankel versus Carole Radziwill.

This one is interesting to me. I took a personality test in college and it shows you public figures whose personalities are close to your own. Bethenny came up as my personality type. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but I find myself in her shoes a lot of times.

I think with this specific argument that we saw on RHONY, I’m team Bethenny. I would, however, like to talk to Carole and see her side of the story. Bethenny kind of brought Carole up to her level and then brought her down…which corresponds somewhat to the storyline in Mean Girls.

OK…Margaret versus Danielle – Reportedly they’re not friends anymore – if you watched Danielle’s Wendy Williams interview, but we’ll have to see how that plays out in Season 9.  

When I was at lunch with Margaret before filming began for Season 9, she and Danielle were super-close, so this is kind of shocking. As I mentioned earlier, I know within 20 minutes if someone is ‘my kind of people’ and with Marge, I knew in 5. I was on her side with the feud with Siggy during Season 8 and I think that with Danielle, I’m going to be on Marge’s side. She’s a good mix of fun and natural. She can be outspoken, but at her core is rationality and logic. She reminds me of myself and the people I surround myself with. As much as Danielle is an iconic reality TV personality, I’m going to have to side with Margaret.

The vibe that I’m getting is that when you reach out for help, Margaret cares and will tell it to you straight and that may include cutting the bullshit out and saying it in a way you don’t want to hear…but I appreciate when someone tells it to me straight. Maybe Danielle didn’t like that. But we’ll see in the season ahead.

What’s your hope for the future of your podcast and things you want to change about the format?

I think that my followers look forward to former Housewives each week, but it might be nice to sprinkle other guests in with them, and to have both a former and a current Housewife on at the same time.

There are always challenges getting people on, but often when they have new ventures to promote, they are more enthusiastic about doing an interview, or if they really want to express their side of the story finally – like with Peggy.

What has been most rewarding for you and most notable about your podcast?

Having on guests like Lizzie, Kelly and Peggy. Each of them, in their own ways, dropped bombs. Peggy revealed on my show that Kelly Dodd allegedly called her ISIS!  And that didn’t make it into the actual cut of the show.

Lizzie didn’t mention Tamara once in her interview, but I mentioned Tamara and then all this press comes out about Lizzie mentioning Tamara. It was crazy!

Then Kelly drops her own bombshell when she casually says “I love Carole. She and I use the same ghost writer!” She kept on talking and I was like ‘back up for a second. You’re telling me Carole did actually use a ghost writer?!’

Amber Marchese is really awesome in real life and I’d love to see her on a screen again soon.

I feel like I got really lucky with Peggy. She hadn’t done press in forever, so this was an exclusive tell-all.

I ran out of time on my call recorder app and had to record it the old fashioned way because she had so much to say and I wasn’t prepared for that!

Who is your dream guest?

This is a tough one. Should it be Real Housewives related? If not, I would say Britney Jean Spears. She does NOT do in-depth interviews anymore, but I would invite her over to have a cup of tea and just chat.

She’s an enigma in its truest form. She’s elusive and I’m a huge fan who wants to see what really is going on. Her PR people keep her from talking about 2007, and sometimes, the best place to reveal things is to podcasts with emerging talent. The interviews are less obtainable (than, say, material in a People article), but if you really want to listen, you can listen.

Lizzie was my most authentic and real guest because she was so genuine. She opened up and it became emotional – we both cried. Now she’s a good friend in real life.

Do you have a more realistic dream “get” than Britney?

Andy Cohen. We have a lot of similarities to each other and we both have similarities to Bethenny. We are strong-minded yet creative. It’s a balancing act between logic and creativity. I’d love to pick his brain and go back to before Bravo. I’d love to discuss his hanging out with Sarah Jessica Parker in NYC.

Andy Cohen may be a harder “get” than Britney Spears. OK, not harder, but as his popularity has risen, he’s definitely become more elusive in my opinion!

A few days after the above discussion, Anthony wrote me to say he had just conducted his latest interviews with Meghan King Edmonds and LeeAnne Locken:

“It’s crazy how you can perceive someone differently while watching them on TV and then speaking to them one on one. While talking to both Meghan King Edmonds and Leeanne Locken on my show, I felt like I found an immediate friend in both of them. They are both pretty notable yet controversial in the Housewives universe, which is always something that obviously is going to be at the forefront of your mind — before speaking to someone. Something that both of them had in common is that they made me forget I was speaking to ‘Housewives.’ It was like talking to old friends.

Listen to Anthony Lario’s interview with Meghan King Edmonds and then peruse the rest of the Tony’s Tea Corner archive. His interview with LeeAnne Locken will be out tomorrow.

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