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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Books, Celebrities, Psychology, public figures, Uncategorized

“Stuttering John” Melendez Wrote a Memoir and True to Form, He Doesn’t Hold Back (An Interview)

I’ve always wondered how people roasting one another truly feel when they are the butt of the joke. So the Howard Stern Show was sort of an enigma to me while I was growing up. About 20 years ago, I briefly hung out with a guy who was one of the show’s writers and on-air personalities. In my limited time in his presence, he seemed as sweet as can be. As soon as he told me he was part of Stern’s crew, I was on high alert for some shrewd, blunt and embarrassingly brash observations. I’m sensitive, but somehow he really took it easy on me. The “persona” I later heard (and saw on the E! show) was far different from the one I had gotten to know.

This was during the 1990s and one of this man’s colleagues was “Stuttering John” Melendez. All I knew about him at the time was that he was one of Howard Stern’s whacky in-studio crew – not to be confused with “the whack pack.” I knew that he began as an intern, intent on working with the legendary Howard Stern and that he went on to acquire a minimum wage salary as an employee of The Howard Stern Show. Successively, yet meagerly, his salary increased and he remained there for 15 years, becoming notorious for his oddball interviews with celebrities. In those, he asked the most impertinent, rude and outrageous questions – sometimes with a stutter. I have to say that the questions he asked would make a non-stutterer stutter.

As a child, one of Melendez’s teacher noted that he had an inclination – and the chutzpah – to ask brazen questions and a tendency to stutter when excited. As Melendez explains in his new book Easy For You To Say, he never imagined that the teacher was somewhat of a clairvoyant. When he began working for Stern, he was determined to keep the OCD that greatly challenged him a secret. Little did he know that the “King of all Media” also struggled with OCD, and to some extent, so did his boss later on at The Tonight Show, Jay Leno.

Easy For You To Say is the story of a boy scarred by the abuse in his home at the hands of his father, how he developed a stutter as a result, but was determined to never acquiesce to the mindset of “I can’t.” From an intern at The Howard Stern Show overly eager to please, to a comedian doing field segments and writing hilarious and ballsy material for show segments, to an announcer and writer for The Tonight Show, John’s story proves that with the mindset to overcome hurdles, there are incredible things one can achieve…..

(Even getting through to the president of the United States by phone – while he’s on Air Force One!)

Following is my interview with the man widely known as “Stuttering John.” If you are a Howard Stern fan, bear in mind that the opinions expressed are John Melendez’s. The perspective shared reflects anecdotes in his new memoir. The answers to my questions are in his own words:

You start out by talking about your OCD. You discuss making Howard’s “potato sandwiches,” how it was a whole complicated ritual of preparing the potatoes from the early morning and later placing slices of turkey between the two potato halves. Then you discuss how certain tasks took a lot of effort and redoing because of your OCD. The origins of your OCD can be traced to when you were a child living with an abusive father. I was curious if your father lived to witness your success.

Oh Yeah! He just passed away two years ago. He would listen to every Howard show and later on, he would tape every Tonight Show. Every time I would wave, he said he would wave back. You see, that was the problem: He could be a really nice guy, but then unpredictably fly off the handle. As a kid, that gives you no security. You don’t know which dad you’re going to get. Coincidentally, I experienced the same with Howard.

When you’re at Howard’s show, you don’t get any accolades. I remember hooking (fellow Stern writer) Benjy Bronk up with my accountant and he was scared to ask for a raise because Howard would get pissed off at him. It was the exact opposite with Jay Leno. There are so many different things about Howard and Jay that indicate they’re almost complete opposites.

I know that you began as an intern, so at what point did Howard start paying you a salary?

In 1988, I was still in NYU and didn’t finish until 1989, so I didn’t get paid for over a year. I didn’t make a dime and I came to Howard and said that I’d have to leave. I just couldn’t afford to be there anymore.  That’s when he said that there was the channel 9 show coming up, so then I worked on that show making $750 a week. Shortly after that, I got my first paycheck from K-Rock that Tom Chiusano called a ‘stipend’ and it was 10k per year. The second season of the Channel 9 show, Don the douchebag Buchwald got me 15k. Then Mel Karmazin doubled my salary to 20k. From there, there were normal raise increments. I remember standing behind Gary Dell’Abate at a ‘Best Breast’ contest where there was an appearance fee. I was thinking ‘wow, this is the producer of the biggest radio show and he’s got to do this!’

In the book, you detail some negative experiences with Gary and refer to him (he was known as ‘Baba Booey’) as ‘Baba Backstabber.’ Is there any chance of a reconciliation for the two of you?

I say in the beginning of my book that I love all the guys there. I don’t hate the guy. I don’t hate anybody, but the problem with Gary is that he’s too stupid to understand that a lot of people there, even now, are disgruntled. People would tell me not to trust Gary, that he would be nice to my face, but then bad mouth me when I had my back turned. He was two-faced and God knows, with that face you only need one!

In the book, I give an example of how we were going to do some plugs and we mutually agreed that we would email Howard together about it and say it came from both of us. Then Gary ended up saying that the email was just from me. That was wrong. I had to hear about it from KC…that they were talking about me in the studio.

In the book, it really sounds like an awfully hostile work environment over at The Howard Stern Show.

Comedian Tammy Pescatelli witnessed the dynamics between me and Artie Lange (Artie and I were together at Stern) when I did Artie’s podcast and she said it was like watching two survivors of Auschwitz. We lived through such a toxic environment that it’s like we both have PTSD. It seeps over to the rest of your life.

I’ve been enjoying your podcast (aptly titled The Stuttering John Podcast) since reading the book. I love how you had AJ Benza on because I remember that the two of you had really bad blood. He slapped you and was banned from the studio. How did you two overcome your negative history?

After that incident, he emailed me a long apology letter and I was OK with him. When I was out in LA, I thought it would be cool to have him on my podcast as a guest. He made me slap him back so we would be even.

I saw some of the cringe-worthy interviews that you did. Some made me laugh, but others made me want to hide even though I wasn’t the interview subject! I remember when you asked Raquel Welch about her sagging boobs and she punched you. You talk about that interview in the book and you discuss the interview with Liz Smith and feeling remorseful about that one. Were those questions that were written for you, or did you write those yourself?

Let me address the Liz Smith thing. I never felt so bad after conducting an interview than I did with that one. It was Andrew Dice Clay’s idea to ask “Why are you such a fat cow?” because she had given him a bad review. Howard was like ‘Yeah, ask her that.’ She played along, but I regretted it. The next time we were at an event and she was there, I asked Howard if I could apologize to her. I did and we recorded that. I look back at that and think: it wasn’t a joke, it was an insult. I don’t mind asking Chevy Chase how he picks movie scripts – Does he go ‘eenie meenie mieni moe?’ It’s clever. Or when I asked baseball great Ted Williams ‘Did you ever accidentally fart in the catcher’s face?’ That was crude, but there was a sense of humor to it, whereas the Liz Smith one was mean.

In the beginning, Jackie and Fred were writing the questions and Howard would contribute some too. Then, I started writing some and then it was a pool of a lot of people on the show – Benjy Bronk and everybody. In the beginning, it was Jackie and Fred and I really thank them because they had great questions! They wrote the question for Ringo Starr: ‘What did you do with the money?’ He responded: ‘What money?’ and I answered: ‘The money for singing lessons.’ He said ‘I bought fish and chips.’

I never had a problem asking people questions from a very young age, so this was the perfect job for me!

We learn in this book that you’re a sensitive guy at heart, so is there anyone that you would want to apologize to now for your questions?

I felt bad after asking someone how many times he had seen Haley’s Comet because that was picking on the fact that he was old. Let’s see…I went to an SNL thing that Charles Barkley was hosting. He was doing a Q and A and it was right after Michael Jordan’s dad died tragically in a car accident. There was a ‘joke’ written for me ‘Are you going to ask your dad to stay out of a car?’ I used my discretion and I did NOT ask that!  There were times when I would have to make that call.

Other than that, I didn’t ask anybody anything that I would feel bad about. To me, it was like an SNL skit. The celebrities I goofed on would suffer the same way at the hands of other comedians. I always felt it was a comedy bit.

Then after me, as you know, there was Ali G.

Yeah, I was actually thinking about how you were doing your bits before Sacha Baron Cohen came along. Did he ever acknowledge you as some sort of inspiration or talk to you? 

That actually pissed me off. He was on The Tonight Show and didn’t even acknowledge me. To be quite honest, he seemed very arrogant when he was on the show. I also feel like Triumph the insult dog is my whole gig with a puppet and I never got acknowledgement for that. I am not expecting a thank you, but it would have been nice with Sacha if he had come over to acknowledge me.

Some of the stories of what you endured at The Howard Stern Show were pretty shocking. One incident you detailed was about how coworkers brought in your bottle of Prozac from your house – Then you were grilled about it on air. The other story was about Howard saying you weren’t fit to be a father and that your (now ex) wife should abort the baby. Then later, he said it to her while she was very pregnant!

The Prozac one embarrassed the hell out of me. I was so caught off guard that I used the excuse that it helped me to play guitar better. I was too afraid to say that it was because I had OCD. Who knew Howard was also suffering from OCD at the time?!  I felt betrayed by the guys I was renting my place to, but that was the nature of the show.

Aborting the kid – That’s the definition of a bully and in any normal circumstance, I would have beaten the shit out of the person who said that. But it was Howard and he was my boss. I had to just take it unless I had another job lined up. It’s like when I was a kid – I couldn’t leave the house because of what my dad did. I was stuck there.

When I met my wife, I said ‘I have to get out of the show. I can’t relive these bad memories of my childhood.’ Who knew it would take another 10 years after that?

One of my biggest triumphs, when people ask me, is not the Crazy Cabbie fight they’re expecting me to tell, but walking into Tom Chiusano’s office and giving my 2 weeks’ notice. I told him I was going to be the announcer on The Tonight Show and with me being a stutterer, he looked at me, paused and said ‘no way.’

The exhilaration I felt is unexplainable. As you see in the book, management thought that Howard had made me and that I wouldn’t be able to do anything outside of the show. Here I was, a known stutterer, going off to become the announcer at the most popular late night show.

The impression I got from the book is that Howard is stingy, petty and against his employees having outside work projects. Do you think there is any chance of him reading your book and extending an olive branch, wanting to bury the hatchet?  

He won’t read it! He’ll have Gary read it and he might have his lawyers read it. The problem is two tiered though when it comes to legal: Everything in there is the truth and there is not one lie. I have an incredible memory that is spot on, so there’s not a chance anything is made up. The other thing is that if he sues me, there’s not much to take! What is he going to get from me?

Quite honestly, if he did, it would only promote the book because…think of all the people who would then want to read it and see what he was mad about. He’s smart enough to know that too, which is why he ignored Artie’s book and Jackie’s book. KC’s book is out now and he won’t want to inadvertently promote that either.

With mine, I didn’t hold back and that’s the thing that Jay Leno wrote in his review. I’m unfiltered, much like the old Howard. I tell it like it is. The format of Howard’s show now is totally different – I know because of the many people I’m in touch with. There’s a red flag list of things and people they cannot mention.

I just wish Howard, like Jay, would look out for his employees more. There was an engineer whose wife had cancer and Howard really could have helped out there – Jay has helped out numerous employees with health or family health expenses – and Howard really did not treat this engineer who had been his loyal servant for 30 years well. I have so many sources that I feel like Carl Bernstein. I’ve spoken about this more in depth on my podcast.

I mention in the book that when Howard walks down the hallway, no staffer is allowed to talk to him and when this engineer did and it was about his wife’s health and the expense of treatments, Howard said ‘You know you’re not allowed to talk to me.’

You used to drive to work with Jackie Martling and you had great times with him, but you also describe him as moody. Then you talk about the intense mood swings of Artie Lange.  

It was wild. I could show you some of the texts from Artie. There would be one ‘I love you. You’re like a brother.’ Then 2 days later: ‘I’m a better comedian than you.’ He would suddenly go off on me and I’d be stunned and then a week later, it was ‘Hey man, I love you. Don’t listen to the last text.’ I’ll only pray for him because he’s got a big heart, but drugs were really a big problem.

You also describe how you and your ex-wife Suzanna used to hang out with Bruce Jenner and Kris, and that it was Suzanna who suggested the family do a reality show after witnessing how they all hung out. Has she ever been credited for what is now Keeping Up With the Kardashians?  

I have to apologize to everyone out there that we came up with the idea.

My wife would drive out there and write the treatments of the shows with Kris. Then Kris wouldn’t give her a producer credit or a salary. I mean, they’re living in mansions and I’m doing the Chuckle Hut in Indiana. Suzanna finally confronted Kris, but she responded that Kim had the same idea. It’s a load of horse shit!

Despicable people are despicable. She would put down Bruce and really be abusive to him. He wanted to come out as being transgender years prior, but Kris wouldn’t let him. She’s just a horrible person and that’s what you’ll get in this book. I call people out.

You do that with Chelsea Handler as well. You mention how you first met her on a plane ride and she saw you pop a Xanax. She asked you what it was and if she could have one and you gave it to her. Then when she became famous she acted like she didn’t know you.

She had met me and my wife and ignored us at a party. She also ignored a man who had kick-started her career. She turned her back and it was really despicable behavior. I call out Jimmy Kimmel in my book because Jay was so nice to him and promoted him despite them having competing time slots. Then Jimmy Kimmel went on to stab Jay in the back.

The original title of the Chelsea Handler chapter was going to be ‘Bitch from Beyond.’ I changed it to ‘Nice is a Four Letter Word.’

People frequently ask if you regret leaving Howard. In the book it’s pretty clear that you wanted to leave for a really long time and you were offered a major salary increase and promotion from Tonight. You couldn’t have envisioned what would happen to Jay’s show at that time. What is your best answer to that question that you keep getting?

I can only say that people who say that don’t know that most of us at Howard’s show couldn’t wait to get out. I also was making a very small amount of money and Tonight quadrupled that. I went to NYU for film and television because I wanted to produce and write. To write for the number one late night talk show in the world was an honor. Jay would tell me what a good job I was doing. I had so many great opportunities there and got a chance to make Barack Obama laugh.

On top of all that, what people don’t understand is that I have two pensions because of that career move. When you write for Howard, you’re not in the writer’s guild and you’re not getting any pensions.

I’m sure that taught you what type of boss you aspire to be. I know you do the podcast and you do standup comedy, but what other things put you in a ‘boss’ position? How does your work background affect how you are as a boss and a mentor?

I was in charge of writing the Kareem Abdul Jabbar roast and I’m still friends with all of the people I managed during that time. Any time I’m given the opportunity to be a boss, like when I was an EP on the Stephanie Miller Show, I’m always nice and I say ‘thank you.’ I let people know when they’re doing a good job. I always try to be more of a Jay Leno boss than a Howard Stern boss.

I have to ask you about the epic Donald Trump prank, when you were put through to the president while he was on Air Force One. You got through by pretending to be Senator Bob Menendez. Are you experiencing any current legal or other repercussions currently from that? You write in your book that you were visited by Secret Service agents the next day. Then you add that you ended up hiring Michael Avenatti as your attorney.  I know you mentioned you were slapped with a huge IRS tax bill right after that too.

Avenatti initially told me to stop doing my shows and said ‘You don’t want to poke the bear.’ That’s how I came up with this TV show I’m shopping around called Poke the Bear.  The idea is that if you have a problem with someone, say a politician, I’ll go and confront them and ask them those questions that you have. That’s what I was actually trying to do with Trump. It may have seemed like a goof and a prank but when I got on the phone with him, I asked questions that reflected real concerns I had and that was my goal. After that call, I laid low and then the Omarosa thing happened and the press shifted their focus from that.

My call to Trump is now long forgotten. It did point out how disorganized this administration is that this stuttering idiot gets on the phone and within minutes, he’s given the location of the president. I’m surprised they didn’t give me longitude and latitude coordinates. As part of their ‘security,’ they called me back to ask how I could be calling from an 818 area code and not the New Jersey number they had. I said I was on vacation and that totally cleared me!

Then Jared Kushner called within an hour to see what I wanted to discuss with Donald, and then I get the call from Donald. He’s giving me the date he’s going to release the Supreme Court Justice information. On that call, I don’t sound senatorial. I sound janitorial.

I’m pissed because I’ve had numerous conversations with Bob Menendez’s assistant. He could at least be a guest on my podcast and he hasn’t done it. The Trump phone call, with the exception of me getting in a ‘Babooey to you all’ at the end, is completely straight questions. I really wanted answers because I want there to be an end to putting children in cages. I wanted a more moderate Supreme Court Justice pick. From the start, my goal was to have a conversation with the president about issues that mattered to me.

In your book, you talk about how kids are off limits for goofs and I totally agree with that, especially considering how far certain radio personalities can go.

Anthony Cumia (of Opie and Anthony fame) – I did his show 10 times and each time, they told me that I was the best guest and got the best critique of any guest. As soon as he hired Artie though, it got bad. It got to this point that Anthony would post pictures of my kids and goof on my kids. My oldest is transgender and Anthony wrote something about how bad of a parent I must be that my kid needs attention by cutting off boobs. Then he posted a picture of my really sweet daughter Lily, said something about her having big teeth and that Bababooey must be her father.

His followers started tweeting pictures of my kids and then changing my daughter’s picture to make her look uglier. It got to this point that my kids were getting picked on and my ex-wife called me. We had to have an attorney send Anthony a Cease and Desist letter. Even the mob knows: You don’t go after kids.

When I listened to your podcast, you mentioned that people hate when you bash Trump, but since I’m on the same side as you politically, I am cool with it.

It’s so strange to see that it seems as if 90 percent of Howard’s old listeners are white supremacists! (Laughs) Whenever I tweet about Trump, I lose about 10 followers. It’s so weird to me that Howard has such a right wing base.

I loved the story about the boy Conroy who took your advice about stuttering and grew up to be so confident. Tell me about the work you do now to help kids who stutter.

I mentored several kids. I occasionally send out a tweet to all my followers and say ‘if you have a kid who stutters, I will gladly help.’ One time, these parents sent me a bottle of Dom after I helped their kid. I also was a keynote speaker at a national convention in Chicago. I will do anything I can. I tell kids who stutter that it’s not about who you are, but what you do. Getting to be the announcer at The Tonight Show is inspirational to stutterers everywhere. That’s why it really hurt when Howard was a judge on America’s Got Talent and he told a stuttering comic ‘You’re an inspiration.’  My oldest son called me and said ‘I can’t believe that Howard just said that.’ Then Artie Lange called and said the same thing.

Instead of telling me I was an inspiration when I became an announcer, he chose to bash me. I truly believe – and therapists would agree – that Howard got so mad when I was on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here not because I missed work, but because I got critical acclaim from all the media outlets. The response was ‘hey, John is actually a nice guy!’ Even Gary emailed me because I came across so well. I think that bothered Howard who always wanted that national acceptance. I think my theory was proven correct by him doing America’s Got Talent.

Now that Howard’s show is on Sirius and we’re in the ultra PC age of 2018, the show has changed a lot. Do you ever listen?

When it switched over to Sirius, I wasn’t going to pay to hear myself bashed. I do know that now he has a list of celebrities he can’t bash – There’s Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow. That’s part of the ‘red flag list’ I talk about in my book.

There are people who are banned from the show because they went on to do other things and that’s another complete hypocrisy. Howard would always talk about how it was ridiculous that Johnny Carson banned Joan Rivers because she wanted to do another show. Howard has done the same thing.

Today, he’s gone down in listeners by becoming someone he and the listeners once hated.

I’m wondering if they will try to dispute points in your book on Howard’s show or argue about it.

Howard is going to want this book to go away. He’s not going to talk about it because that would result in people buying it. All of the stories in the book have been corroborated and there are witnesses to almost everything.

I am in touch with people from there and I was told that every staff member was instructed to create 10 fake Twitter accounts to solicit guests. A photo of that slide was sent to me. It’s so sad and so not who the old Howard was!

I will say that when I first heard Howard was mad at me, I called him and he said ‘I’m not mad. I should have made you an offer to be in the studio in Jackie’s chair.’ Then I was bashed on the air again. However, if THAT Howard – the one who said those kind words on the phone – had been the Howard I worked with for all those years, maybe I wouldn’t have left.

 

 

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#RHONY, public figures, Reality TV, Television, Women

#RHONY: Does Bethenny Want to Be Here?!

Last year, there were numerous reports about Bethenny Frankel threatening to quit Real Housewives of New York during filming. Press outlets stated it was due to the fact that she and Carole Radziwill, her former on-camera comrade, were not getting along. Allegedly, Bethenny was at her wit’s end, devastated by the whole debacle.

Ultimately, we saw how the demise of that friendship played out. It went from tentatively terse to flat-out terrible. While Bethenny seemed to tantrum rather than ice out her friend (Carole was the one to act too cool for school), Carole is now speaking out bitterly via Twitter when there’s really no need to. Unlike Bethenny, she’s not coming back to RHONY next season.

Which brings us to the point of Bethenny returning. Several seasons ago, RHONY fans expressed frustrations with the Skinny Girl when she didn’t show up to filmed parties and other events captured by cameras.

“So, Bethenny can just dial it in this season?” one recapper lamented to me at the time.

Since Bethenny was considered the Queen Bee with the clever quips that kept the franchise feisty, she was still contributing to the storyline even as it seemed unfair that she could bow out of events at her choosing. That season and this past one – when she was a no-show at Ramona’s skincare line party – she telepathically conveyed to the audience: I’m too good for this. I’m a REAL businesswoman, not a “Real Housewife.”

One friend told me she completely understands Bethenny’s stance: “She’s the only one who really had to pull herself up by the bootstraps, work hard and acquire her wealth all on her own. There was no rich husband. She didn’t have a dime from her parents because they are estranged. Bethenny, therefore, cannot relate to all the other women on this show.”

Although at times it seems Bethenny really doesn’t want to be there at all, this show has given her a platform to promote her products and the visibility of her brand. Overall, she does have many hardcore fans who will defend her to the death (it’s reality TV, but this is only slight hyperbole). Her one-liners are always original and off-the-cuff, and when she’s in the wrong, she knows how to play her cards right, garnering sympathy and armed with defense tactics.

At this past reunion, host Andy Cohen hardly seemed the fair arbitrator with fans crying “Bethenny bias”, and Bethenny stans firmly on her side, deeming Carole Radziwill to be the devil.

Bethenny looked pained and severely constipated (in fact, she had talked about the latter in Colombia on the cast trip) throughout the season – again, a season during which she had reportedly threatened to quit the show altogether. However, she appeared confident at the reunion, vicious even and ready to tear Carole apart. She seemed to take a deep breath of fresh air in vindication and while Carole could have creamed her with a barrage of receipts, complaints and having other ladies on her side, Bethenny shouted the loudest, stood her ground and with Andy Cohen clearly in her corner, she appeared triumphant at the end.

Bethenny Frankel has a love-hate relationship with reality television, specifically with RHONY and with fame overall. What makes her most miserable is what she is inspired to confront…again and again. Walking away is not an option. The successful businesswoman didn’t make a name for herself by being a quitter.

When it comes to Bravo, she is either a glutton for punishment or a genius who feels that all risks – and all hassles, like business parties so “beneath her” that she’ll decline without hesitation- are worth the ultimate rewards. She is smart and shrewd enough to know what those rewards are, and furthermore, what they could be, and see that she gets them at the end of the RHONY journey.

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Bravo TV, public figures, Reality TV

#FlippingOut: Jenni Pulos is Staying Mum, Not Taking the “Radziwillian Route”

Last Friday, Jeff Lewis took to his eponymous SiriusXM radio show Jeff Lewis Live to address the People report about a rift between him and his Flipping Out costar and longtime pal Jenni Pulos. It turns out, the former besties haven’t had a simple “falling out”: This was a breakup and it looks like there will be no reconciliation any time soon…if ever.

Why? Because Pulos – according to Lewis – reported him for verbal abuse and harassment to the production company and network (Bravo, of course) behind Flipping Out.

In a follow up article in People, reporter Dave Quinn writes:

Lewis, 48, addressed PEOPLE’s report that he and Pulos had gone their separate ways Friday on an emotional episode of his SiriusXM radio show Jeff Lewis Live. “It’s true,” the house flipper and designer said. “Jenni and I did have a fight which then resulted in a rift. … I haven’t spoken to her in three months.”

Quinn later adds:

According to Lewis, there’s more to their fallout. He said that Pulos allegedly reported him to Bravo and the show’s production company, Authentic Entertainment, for “abuse and victimization.”

Fans of Flipping Out can fully acknowledge that what makes Jeff Lewis fun to watch is how he balances work with his unpredictable temperament,and how, as hilarious and entertaining as he is to observe on TV, he probably “isn’t the easiest person to work with in real life.” Many would label that as an Understatement.

In past seasons, Pulos seemed to be the one to roll with the punches and cheer while riding the roller coaster of Lewis’s erratic moods. Her brand of humor struck many as ideally suited to his obsessive compulsions, idiosyncrasies and meltdowns…So now fans are wondering how things got this bad between them.

From the account Lewis provided on his Radio Andy show, one can surmise that Pulos was unhappy for quite some time, but did not effectively communicate her issues directly to Lewis. In turn, this resulted in Lewis feeling completely blindsided by the ensuing complaints.

Last year, I interviewed Lewis and Pulos within the same week. It was prior to the 2017 season premiere of Flipping Out. I found each of them to be quick-witted, charming, charismatic and surprisingly down to earth in our conversations. Since Lewis has now had the chance to share his side of the story about their breakup, I recently reached out to Pulos to see if she would share hers.

As I write this, I’ve received no response (and candidly, as well as humbly, given the extinction of Huffington Post’s Contributor Platform which afforded me the opportunity to interview her last year, I don’t expect to hear back). Another reason we should not expect to hear from her side right now: LAWYERS. This whole shebang is a developing story, but what makes it most interesting is that we’ll see the demise of the Jeff-Jenni friendship play out this season of Flipping Out — which has just begun airing.

Pulos has been active on social media posting about events like the recent deaths of John McCain and Burt Reynolds, as well as happy occasions, including time spent with children and extended family. There have been no instagram posts pertaining to Flipping Out in recent days, nor is Pulos going the Radziwillian Route of bashing her former cast mate on Twitter.

Interestingly, Pulos issued a benign promotional tweet for Flipping Out three days before Lewis revealed this bombshell: Pulos hasn’t been an employee of Jeff Lewis Designs in ages (Rather, she’s an employee of Bravo).

Lewis shared with listeners that it had bothered him for quite some time that this was the one insincere and not true-to-life aspect of their “reality show.”

Despite nasty missives hurled her way, Pulos has been staying mum, resisting the urge to reply to mean tweets from Lewis stans.

In time and as things calm down, we may hear her side of the story.

For now, silence is the smarter option. It is also likely to be the route advised by a legal team. Regardless, Pulos must sense that she’s taking the high road by resisting any urge to address reports.

We recently witnessed how Carole Radziwill struggled to get a word in edgewise next to her adversary Bethenny Frankel on the Real Housewives of New York reunion. If you check out Radziwill’s Twitter timeline, it seems she is carrying on an argument with Frankel post-show that Frankel has backed away from. After years of working with Jeff Lewis, Jenni Pulos knows that his powerful voice will drown hers out in a similar fashion to Frankel’s over Radziwill’s.

Independent of any legal protocol, Pulos appears more dignified by remaining mum, admirably swallowing her pride and letting Jeff Lewis have his say….for now.

(Photo Source: Us Weekly)

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Bachelor Nation, Bravo TV, public figures, Reality TV

#BachelorNation and #BravoTV Stars: Kim Biermann Said WHAT?!

I had this same reaction when Kathryn Dennis said something similar:

I’m familiar with #BachelorNation, the culture surrounding ABC’s The Bachelor franchise and many of its antiquated notions with regard to casting.

Weeks ago, Kathryn Dennis claimed to have been courted by production to be an upcoming Bachelorette (People Magazine article), and now, Kim Zolciak Biermann is saying she too was once considered for the title roll.

The Bachelorette may have finally welcomed its first black lead with Rachel Lindsay during its thirteenth season to help reject rumors related to racism, but CLASSISM still marks the franchise. I don’t envision that changing anytime soon.

Lindsay was an accomplished attorney with a stellar reputation overall. Single mom Emily Maynard (Season 8’s Bachelorette) was a gorgeous widow who had tragically lost her young husband. However, a trash talking, cussing, chain-smoking single mom (Biermann) wouldn’t have fit the franchise’s “brand”, particularly at the time she claims to have been approached. That brand is about having a wholesome as apple pie image (or one as close to it as possible for a show that concludes with a “Fantasy Suite” catering to the final three contenders and lead).

Dennis’s turbulent, televised and highly publicized history with the scandalous Thomas Ravenel could not feasibly have garnered such an invitation by ABC. Simply put, they are just not that open minded. It boils down to viewership demographics and ratings.

I have to wonder about WHO was actually talking to these women and scamming them into believing these were valid offers.

In the interim, I am all for a Bravo show encouraging men to step up to the plate and vie for Kathryn Dennis’s affections. After all, Bravo gave her a platform and allowed fans to witness her maturations from season to season on Southern Charm.

Because of how Biermann was received on Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA), as well as unresolved havoc following the show’s reunion, I cannot imagine Bravo and its viewers would be on board for something similar with her as the lead.

Tamara Tattles brings us more information here about Zolciak Biermann’s recent remarks.

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#RHONY, Bravo TV, Psychology, public figures, Reality TV

#RHONY Psychology: Is the Bar Set Low for Your “Bethenny”? (Opinion)

Disclaimer: The following post may be deemed “psychobabble” as it reflects thoughts of a former psychology major, rather than psychologist or licensed mental health professional.

It is a residual learned helplessness from elementary school interactions with mean girls. When we come across someone brash, opinionated and intimidating, it’s somewhat instinctive how we set the bar lower, how we’ll lap up the love we do receive – between thorny barbs that prick us repetitively – like a little lost puppy dog.

As with an A-Plus student, someone like Bethenny Frankel has a podium to stand on so we are at a loss for words during debates. The little girls inside of us, upon recognizing approval from the harshest of critics, prize the praise of a “Bethenny” over the kind words of someone softer and more sensitive.

Because she is one who suffers fools lightly (so to speak), her moments of tenderness and vulnerability stand out more prominently than they would in an easygoing individual, and a fortress of respect surrounds her.

While I did not agree with certain actions of Carole Radziwill this season of Real Housewives of New York (RHONY), – her need to repeat atrocious things said to people behind their backs could perhaps be justified by the fact that cameras were capturing everything – I had compassion for her after witnessing her evisceration by cast mate and former buddy Bethenny Frankel.

No one on this show is without faults and the argument about “setting the bar lower” could be applied to other cast mates too. However, that would entail several other separate, lengthy articles. I’m going to stick to Bethenny in this particular one, while bearing in mind the argument about allowances made for Ramona Singer. We can save that Megillah (and ones devoted to Sonja, Luann, Dorinda…) for another time.

Think back to your days vying for the popular classmate’s attention and wishing you were in “the clique.” Remember laughing at the girl in the back brace who the cool kids were taunting? Would you put up with and participate in that sort of behavior now? I’m sure you are saying “no”, but if you think hard, you have probably made other mental adjustments for rude people.

You may know someone blunt who won’t back down and listen to you finish your points in a discussion – even when what they’re spewing is entirely wrong. It may be because they’re so often right and regarded as the “voice of reason” in other instances.

Despite some aggravation, you say to yourself, consciously or subconsciously, “She’s tough, but has chosen ME as her friend…ME!!!” So you listen and bite your tongue to keep from objecting.

This does reflect a collective self esteem and the desire we have to be appreciated by people we see as accomplished, authoritative and determined. As confident as one could argue that Manhattan socialite and bestselling author Carole Radziwill is, she is not above succumbing to another’s flattery and adoration of her.

Avid RHONY viewer and reality TV blogger Essence Capp observes: “When Carole met Bethenny at Luann’s during Season 7, she was almost ‘star struck.’ She really did seem in awe of her during the early period of their friendship.”

Bethenny called Carole the “cool girl” during that time and Carole (no doubt) loved it. I cannot blame her at all: I’ve been a a part of this type of dynamic in my own social life. Who doesn’t appreciate and value the praise of a highly discerning individual? Bethenny had already set herself apart as being that fussy, fault finding judge whose BS detector was extra fine-tuned.

My husband will say to me “Forget elementary school! That was 100 years ago!” However, it is the experience of playground and classroom interactions, including past swift assessments made by teachers and peers alike, that shaped who we are today. Whether we are willing to reflect and admit to it or not, the social and academic scrutiny in our formative years can affect us throughout young adulthood and beyond.

Knowing this allows us to ask ourselves “Why exactly do I need this person in my life? Why does their opinion of me matter so much?”

Unfortunately, as the Carole-Bethenny breakup attests, it can take a falling out for us to step back and decide what is worth fighting for…and what isn’t.

As I write this, Carole is still tweeting about the fights with her former friend. In doing so, she comes across to many as the Bitter Betty of the duo. Perhaps it’s because she feels that now that she won’t be returning to RHONY, she has nothing to lose and can totally go rogue.

It is best, when there’s no reality show in the picture, to be the better person. In the fashion of those beloved by Bravo who can look scornfully upon the Housewives and laugh at them, Carole could bow out gracefully and opt to “plead the fifth” instead.

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Celebrities, Cults, public figures, True Crime

#NXIVM and NYC Actors: “The Source”

The NXIVM cult is all over the news now, but it didn’t start out the way it has all ended…Or rather than “ended”, I should phrase it this way: When it all began, it wasn’t the group you now know about. I’m not sure what – if anything – is left of the disgraced group at present. There are a few known faithful adherents who possess varying takeaways regarding the main messages. However, they are staying very very quiet and out of the public eye.

Remember: NXIVM didn’t start out with a sexual slavery division called DOS! It began as a multilevel marketing company. Keith Raniere (the group’s now-imprisoned, manipulative hypnotist of a leader, worshipfully referred to by members as “The Vanguard”) had learned his tips and tricks about MLMs from being in Amway. Yes, it’s true. Scott Johnson is one of the people to enlighten me to that fact. Before I go any further, I should say that my own dad was in Amway for a blip in time and left when he realized it wasn’t ultimately profitable – certainly not for the immense dedication and time required. He and my mom did meet their very best friends through the group though. So “cults” can have benefits and are not always all bad (if you want to think of Amway as being one).

Johnson maintains informative websites about Amway’s scam-way tactics. He frequently writes about the parallels between NXIVM’s methods (the NXIVM that dealt with business and offered courses under its Executive Success Program, rather than the NXIVM you know of as a “sex trafficking cult.” Again, that whole sex thing came to light later…) and Amway’s.

NXIVM has had many evolutions since it began as Consumers Buyline, as well as many offshoots. The most notorious of the offshoots is DOS because of the attention that sex trafficking garners.

Another more benign-seeming offshoot of NXIVM was “The Source”. If you are an actor based in NYC or Brooklyn, you may have attended a meeting for this group. The idea was to get through to actors about opening themselves up more, kineticising that potential energy (AKA “self actualization”) and identifying the tools and tricks to be one’s best. All the lingo that they used was perfectly designed to appeal to a struggling actor.

One Canadian television personality had been so captivated by “The Source” (which was also big in Vancouver at one point) that she was swept up into the group which ended up feeding her to NXIVM. Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, the insides were dark and deep until she was finally able to pry the mouth open, expelling herself from the mammal. But she did so only after being inducted into DOS and having her pubic region painfully branded with the initials of Keith Raniere and actor-turned-NXIVM slave recruiter Allison Mack.

In NYC just a few short years ago, Allison Mack was out with another actor named Mark Hildreth, scouting for new recruits to “The Source”.

The hope was that the recruits would see the beauty in Keith Raniere’s teachings. Upon attending a meeting with other actors in Brooklyn, the actors would hear about getting the tools to thoroughly introspect, identify what they were doing wrong and figure out how to do it all effectively.

What would sound like a bunch of hocus pocus, BS mumbo jumbo to some were words that would bring a young and impressionable actor like Mack to tears. One young woman met the duo and found Hildreth to be both attractive and captivating, but also thought to herself: This is creepy AF, weird and culty.

Hildreth would never hear back from this young actor who he saw as a potential new recruit. However, there are accounts of other NYC-based actors approached about “The Source” who met Hildreth and Mack at meetings and had different takeaways.

Had the young woman (referenced above) connected well with Mack, she may have ended up depleting her savings on courses and even possibly moving to Rochester to become a DOS sex slave devoted to Keith Raniere. She may also have ultimately followed him to Mexico as Mack did, being under his potent hypnotic spell and believing in the greatness of The Vanguard.

But this young woman – despite finding Hildreth to be somewhat cute, dynamic and intoxicating (Hildreth had reportedly learned his skills from the very best of the best, The Vanguard himself) – realized she was being fed a bunch of gobbledygook.

She went back to her acting and trying to make it in NYC the ole fashioned way, shying away from all sketchy Brooklyn-based meetings.

So where is Mark Hildreth today and what does he have to say about all of this?

Understandably, it seems he is ashamed, and perhaps any brainwashing he himself had been subjected to, has worn off. He’s doing his acting thing and his social media reflects a devotion to those projects.

From all of the reports I’ve combed through, it seems that Hildreth had little to no knowledge of DOS and looked at “The Source” as a way for people to actualize potential and grow professionally. The only “crime” Hildreth should probably be ashamed of having a more direct connection to? Encouraging people to become part of a group that charged ridiculously overpriced fees for self-improvement courses (Richard Branson took some NXIVM courses. However, I wouldn’t worry about his wallet having taken a hit).

Hildreth allegedly split from the whole NXIVM/”The Source” crew in 2016 after discovering that Raniere was hitting on his girlfriend. I don’t get what the allure was of this hairy, overgrown Harry Potter lookalike, but Raniere was known to have quite the harem to satiate his polyamorous desires.

It seems that now, Hildreth wants all of this to be behind him. He wishes the public would stop associating him with NXIVM. I cannot blame the guy for these desires, but I do have a lot of questions:

What exactly did Mark Hildreth know about NXIVM as a group when he severed ties to Raniere?

Did he keep in touch with Allison Mack?

How many DOS slaves were originally recruits of “The Source”?

And here are some questions for you, the readers:

Did you know of anyone who was approached by Mark Hildreth and Allison Mack about “The Source”?

Did you ever attend one of those Brooklyn-based meetings yourself?

Feel free to respond in the comments section, or email me directly by going to the “contact” portion of this website.

There are indeed so many unanswered questions about NXIVM. Fortunately for Mark Hildreth, it appears he got out just in time.

(Pictured: actor Mark Hildreth)

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