#politics, Cults, Psychology, public figures

#NXIVM: A #Trump Supporting Conspiracy Theorist’s Wet Dream

Frank Parlato, the man who is responsible for bringing NXIVM to your attention through his tenacious and brave blogging – the “whistleblower” who alerted The New York Times to the cult- is generous enough to share others’ wild stories on his blog. He’s also clever and cautious, prefacing those accounts with the disclaimer that they are alleged, rather than confirmed as absolute facts.

Months ago, Stormy Daniels denied, through her rep, that she had ever had anything to do with NXIVM and it’s sexual slavery sorority DOS. Nevertheless, one young man brought forth a rambling tale that sounds like a conspiracy theorist Trump supporter’s wet dream…or a hallucinogen-induced, mania-fueled rant.

Per Parlato’s The Frank Report, FrankReport.com:

The story claims that Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin, James Alefantis, Eric Schneiderman, and Stormy Daniels joined sex slaver and pedophile Keith Raniere, Allison Mack and the Bronfman heiresses, Clare and Sara, at a NXIVM party to recruit young women to be nannies for children.

Big League Politics’ Patrick Howley writes:

“Ben Szemkus details an experience he had at a 2007 NXIVM party in Hamden, Connecticut. Szemkus, an independent citizen, testifies that he saw porn star Stormy Daniels, and Clinton adviser Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner.

“NXIVM is a Satanist sex cult that sees its leaders Keith Raniere and Allison Mack standing trial for human trafficking and child sex trafficking.

“’I attended a NXIVM Recruitment Party/Mixer in February 2007 in Hamden, Connecticut in which I met Stormy Daniels as Well as some High Powered Political Figures and NXIVM Founders, Major Supporters and Members. Here is a written statement detailing My experience that night,” writes Ben Szemkus, detailing that Yale University female students were in attendance at this party.’

“Transcripts from Szemkus’ account are presented below. He describes the party as being “The Belly of the Beast.”

You can read more here: https://bigleaguepolitics.com/sex-cult-party-guest-stormy-daniels-schneiderman-huma-and-weiner-were-all-there/.

If it sounds too insane to be true, it probably isn’t…But, sadly, I do know people who will eat this story up voraciously without hesitation.

Bravo TV, public figures, Reality TV

#ShahsOfSunset: Asa Soltan Not Returning Full Time for Season 7

Today, Asa Soltan announced via Instagram that she will not be returning full time for Season 7 of the hit Bravo reality TV show Shahs of Sunset. You may occasionally see her visiting her cast mates, but she will not be a regular.

The reality TV personality/entrepreneur/girlfriend of a famous Jackson – yes, that family! – became a mother recently (She reminded us continually that she was pregnant last season, lest you forgot!) and motherhood is the reason she gives for her departure from the franchise as a cast member.

Asa was incredibly private about her romantic relationship and chose to keep that part of her life off camera in past seasons, a point of contention for many of her cast mates. In their defense, they probably do deserve an Emmy for baring their souls. I should add: baring their souls to the point of TMI..if you remember that cringeworthy and you over-the-top anal waxing scene.

I agree with Asa’s decision to keep her baby away from the cameras and protect her tot from media scrutiny. However, this is totally on brand with Asa’s old routine and therefore, (yawn) predicable. Many viewers complained last season that Asa shared so little of her life and presented too much of a happy-go-lucky, hippie demeanor to be believed. On Twitter, fans urged her to go deeper, open up more about her romantic partnership and discuss the challenges of being a woman with modern views from a traditional Persian household.

Fans are now saying they won’t miss the cast member who didn’t deliver enough of a storyline, especially as compared to Mercedes (“MJ”) Javid, Mike Shouhed, Reza Farahan, Golnessa (“GG”) Gharachedaghi and Shervin Roohparvar.

Oh!! I also don’t want to forget my personal FAVORITE cast member, the one I did an impression of on Sirius XM’s Reality Checked with Amy Phillips, Vida Javid. I’m OBSESSED….It goes without saying that Vida was way more exciting than Asa.

Are you looking forward to a new season of Shahs? Will you miss Asa, or do you agree with fans and her cast mates that she wasn’t “bringing enough to the table”? Well, let me rethink that particular expression: She certainly showed us lots of exquisite Persian foods to make our mouths water like crazy…but you know what I mean!

You can peruse my Huffington Post archive which features interview with MJ, Mike and Shervin from last season. Here’s the first of that series, a chat with MJ: https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_596179afe4b0cf3c8e8d593c/amp.

(Photo of Asa Soltan courtesy of Page Six)

Bravo TV, Psychology, public figures, Reality TV

#SouthernCharm: Bashing Ashley Isn’t My Thing

There’s something I’ve been wanting to address for a while about Southern Charm. Yes, Ashley Jacobs is the villain of the season and she’s done some godawful things that have been captured on camera, but when it comes to her dramatic weight loss, her past escapades, or the rumors about her being an escort, I’m not going overboard in the discussions.

I feel that Ashley has approached Kathryn Dennis all wrong and I feel indignant about her scathing commentary on Kathryn as a mom, but I’m not going to respond by dredging up every salaciously “slutty” (please note, I use quotation marks) photo from her college years, or mocking her boob transformation. I understand the notion of “people who put themselves on reality TV are fair game,” but I feel these tactics are not only somewhat ludicrous and overboard, but also…besides the point. I can drag Ashley for telling Kathryn she’s nothing but an egg donor, but I wouldn’t feel good about myself ragging on the appearance of her hair texture in response, or hopping on her Instagram page to suggest she eats a hamburger.

Some of the “Trashley” posts seem a bit too much to me, targeting someone who – in my opinion – appears to be suffering physically and psychologically from doing this stressful show (she wasn’t paid either). And look, I’ve certainly lambasted reality stars in the past (I didn’t even pause after one reality star called me a “pussy” three times in a phone call and felt anything was deserved after that) and I’m not telling YOU not to do it. You all have free will and are afforded free speech, but I personally am trying to keep my commentary about Ashley linked to what we see on television and will call her out for rantings about others when cameras aren’t rolling.

I feel terrible for Luzanne Otte, a private woman who got dragged into the Ashley and Thomas story and I wrote about that, but I tried not to go too much further in saying anything disparaging beyond what was exhibited. I also did write a post about how the cast suspects some random Twitter accounts belong to Ashley as that’s been a major topic of discussion on social media prompting the hashtag #HiAshley. I try to address things that are happening in real time, but without getting carried too far away.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, in a few episodes, Ashley will make the offhanded remark to Shep Rose “Would you date me?” (Meaning: because things are rocky with TRav, are there hypothetical scenarios and options so she won’t have to leave the Charleston area.) This is not something that is said in earnest necessarily, but it’s a comment that is sure to lead to tons of Ashley bashing on social media. There’s no way this is an incorrect prediction. I can see that the stress is already taking a toll on this woman. Is she desperate? Perhaps. Misguided? Possibly. Evil? I’m not so sure.

I think Ashley may one day have the hindsight to say she behaved badly on television. I think that we see her clinging to this relationship with Thomas Ravenel for one reason of another. Whether it’s money or fame, as people have concluded, I sense she is incredibly stressed out. Her alarming weight loss signals to me that she’s trying to maintain control over a situation that she feels, frustratingly, she has little control of.

I can’t help feeling some sympathy as I rage-watch her on TV and sometimes want to slap her for what she’s said to KD. This is the reason why I won’t tweet out the gifs and caricatures mocking her, or resort to name calling on Twitter. Something about it doesn’t sit right with me intuitively, but as a reality TV anthropologist, I’ll snark and weigh in on what’s said on the show.

I’ll feel a lot better about writing this post if/when we see a reflective Ashley, one who looks upon this past season and her time with TRav and realizes where she went wrong, when she spoke out of turn, and who she hurt while trying to protect herself.

Bravo TV, public figures, Reality TV

#SouthernCharm: Is It Ashley or Bot Number 999?

I’ve seen a few posts recently – from my usual trailblazing reality TV writers (Amy Feinstein of Inquistr and Tamara Tattles of her eponymous site) – about how Twitter troll accounts are taunting Kathryn Dennis.

Today, one tweeted out that next episode of SouthernCharm will show us why Ashley’s been right about Kathryn all along. In next week’s episode, as we gathered from previews, Kathryn goes MIA for a bit, but a deep dive through her social media (and that of Thomas Ravenel’s during that time period) attests to the fact that she doesn’t neglect any her essential responsibilities. So I’m not sure what this “troll” thinks it knows.

Kathryn suffers from some anxiety and depression (and after years of being gaslit by TRav, allegedly, is it any wonder?! Not to mention two televised postpartum periods back-to-back) and I’ve known a few women in that position to withdraw from humans for days or weeks. We all need breaks. With challenging moods and related struggles, those aren’t so rare.

The aforementioned troll accounts have been called out on Twitter by both Kathryn and Patricia as belonging to Ashley Jacobs, unpaid nemesis of the season who (love her or HATE her) has probably increased Southern Charm‘s ratings.

Sadly, the sexual assault allegations plaguing Thomas Ravenel probably have as well.

The good news is that Kathryn will become even more beloved by most viewers at the end of this season rather than the alternative. Stay tuned to let me know if this prediction is correct. Tamara Tattles reiterates this and has intel from an inside source. I feel it is well-deserved and about time for the visibly maturing, former underdog to thrive.

Cults, public figures, Television

Men in Bad Sweaters

Just when I thought the Bill Cosby verdict was a no-brainer, I’ve discovered people across the country who feel he was unjustly crucified.

Due to the outstanding number of accusers, the consistencies between accounts and Cosby’s own admissions, I find their complaints baffling. The argument one woman gave me was regarding statutes of limitations, as well as recollections of what occurred many years ago. I couldn’t even get my head around her logic truthfully, particularly in light of how Cosby incriminated his own self, admitting to drugging women before having sex.

Another person who I find inarguably guilty of the crimes that have been alleged is cult leader Keith Raniere of NXIVM. If you read the Frank Report by Frank Parlato (FrankReport.com), you’ll get a sense of just how evil Keith is and how far it goes. It is beyond the sex slavery and trafficking you hear about in the news. But if you look at Keith in the YouTube video he made with actress Allison Mack, he seems soft spoken and innocuous looking. His ex girlfriend Toni Natalie compares his appearance to that of Harry Potter’s. It is hard for those who’ve met Keith only a handful of times to fathom that this “schlub” (Elizabeth Vargas of 20/20’s word for him) could hold so much sway…yet Keith is a hypnotist and excels at mind control.

Cosby epitomized the fun-loving, comedic, wholesome dad on his hit television show for many years. People of my generation idealized the family dynamics of the Huxtables, sometimes even forgetting that family was fictional. Those with dysfunctional home lives resented Bill, Claire and crew while fantasizing about a way to be like them. As it turned out, the married Cosby was meeting women under the guise of mentorship or career counsel during that time, then drugging and raping them.

These two men in bad sweaters seem unlikely perpetrators to the untrained eye. Keith looks like the young cutey-pie Rabbi who may have taught me in seminary, inviting students from my all girls school to Shabbat lunch, singing songs while bouncing his child on his knee. His esoteric speak would be about Torah in this imagined scenario. Yes, Keith really does appear at first glance like someone I might have known as a depressed teen searching for spiritual meaning….trying to fill my undernourished soul….someone whose words would seem meaningful at a time when I was vulnerable.

Both men seemed to offer kindness, guidance, advice and answers to those they initially captivated. Their ugly sweaters swathing portly mid-sections hardly made them look intimidating. But perhaps the exteriors are what allowed these men to escape the law for as long as they did. The old, very trite adage of “you can’t judge a book by its cover” applies here. Both men seemed sage and safe on the surface level, which disguised a host of evil manipulations.

#RHONY, Psychology, public figures, Reality TV

#RHONY: “Third Wife Syndrome”

I cannot take credit for the above title, but it was explained to me regarding some dynamics on Real Housewives of New York.

Third Wife Syndrome is not necessarily about literally being a third wife. However, it’s about one who glamorizes a past marriage, putting a sheen on it that was lacking during the actual relationship…and during the subsequent muddy divorce.

The “syndrome” may also include clinging to a title — i.e. Sonja’s obsession with the Morgan name and Luann De Lesseps calling herself “The Countess” despite being long-divorced from the Count (and having survived “It’s Not About Tom” D’Agastino following other post-divorce relationships).

In the cases of Sonja and Luann, by all appearances their famous ex husbands have thoroughly moved on. However, these ladies seem to live in and lust for the glory days of their prior unions (Luann desiring the royalty attached to the “Countess” moniker rather than the Count himself, who reportedly ran off with an Ethiopian princess). These relationships appear far grander in the rearview mirror than they actually were.

Sonja’s marital demise was allegedly more sordid and salacious than she lets on. She claims it was a beautiful marriage, but if you’ve read RHONY cast mate Carole Radziwill’s most recent blog posts on BravoTV.com, or googled Ms. Tremont Morgan (Do so!), you’ll get some insight into the real story.

Housewife Dorinda Medley has tweeted, without mincing snark, that the current Mrs. Morgan (who is allegedly Sonja’s former bestie!) might not be so thrilled with Sonja’s recent statements idealizing her marriage with Mr. M…

Or the fact that Sonja talks about carrying on the family name through her business ventures (rather than focusing on having her daughter, a Morgan by blood, carry it on). I only regret that I never got to purchase a Morgan Toaster Oven to see how it stacks up to the old gadget in my kitchen. You know, the one that I abandon for the more high tech microwave. We all have our greater loves in life…But I digress.

Average folks like me have no problem saying we are publicists or writers, lawyers, doctors, gardeners, stay-at-home mothers, bloggers, job seekers, what have you….but when you are a hostess or a nurse and you’ve struck gold and married more in a minute than you would have made in a lifetime, it’s difficult letting a trumped up title go.

In fact, it’s easy to understand why one might glorify a union that irreparably shattered. I feel bad for Sonja because I get the sense that she is constantly plagued by What Ifs. I think she looks back now and has mentally applied a lacquered coating on that period with Mr. M. She thinks it was never actually half as bad as it was, and had she only done things differently….

I’m speculating, but based on her behavior this season, it gels.

We saw Dorinda explode when Sonja made her divorce out to be worse than Dorinda having buried a husband. On social media, people argued that a divorce can feel like a death. Some were annoyed with Dorinda for minimizing Sonja’s pain. However, I’m #TeamDorinda on this one. Dorinda actually divorced her husband Ralph around the same time Sonja divorced Mr. Morgan, a little known fact. Dorinda was fortunate enough to meet and marry the love of her life, Richard Medley, after that divorce from Ralph. As Carole mentions in her blog, we rarely hear a word about Ralph from Dorinda.

In fairness to Sonja however, people say that the best way to get over someone is by getting under someone new. As the Samantha Jones character of this franchise, Sonja Morgan has bedded numerous men, but it doesn’t seem that any of them have truly captivated her or have come close to being a “Mr. Right.” Getting under someone for Sonja would mean fully getting under….their spell, being totally and indisputably in love.

From everything she has conveyed on RHONY, Sonja is not ready for that and for the give and take that a serious relationship requires. But perhaps once this time comes for her – if she is ready for it any time soon- we’ll see a new Sonja who is realistic about the past and what to expect from the future. Perhaps we’ll see a Sonja who fully gets that her husband didn’t die prematurely during the happy days of a marriage (and regrets comparing her situation to Dorinda’s), but that bad things happened requiring them to part.

There are other Mrs. Morgans as Sonja was actually her ex’s FOURTH wife. (Regardless, I liked the term “Third Wife Syndrome” that has a certain ring to it.) There are the Mrs. Morgans who divorced Sonja’s Mr. M and there is also the woman who is currently married to him. My advice to Sonja is to remove herself from the Mrs. Morgan Club and leave the handling of that legendary last name to her daughter. She could then forge ahead anew with ventures under the Tremont name.

To paraphrase a popular Israeli expression: You change your name, you change your luck.

Incidentally, Tremont Toasters has a very nice ring to it.

fashion, Psychology, public figures, suicide

Kate Spade Tragedy: Andy Spade Addresses the Media

A message was just released from Andy Spade, the husband of designer Kate Spade, who tragically succumbed to the demons of anxiety and depression that had plagued her for years. I have personally been horrified reading comments from random people asking: “How could she do this? She abandoned her young daughter.” Suicide is not something that the lay person necessarily understands. It’s important to know that someone who takes their life is at their wit’s end and feels completely hopeless. We cannot even fathom what their inner turmoil is or judge another human until we’ve walked a mile in his or her shoes. Sounds trite, but it’s positively true.

Andy Spade (whose brother is comedian David Spade) was quite peeved about the media reports stating that a message had been left for the couple’s daughter,saying he had only read about that in the onslaught of press coverage.

Here’s his full statement:

“Kate was the most beautiful woman in the world. She was the kindest person I’ve ever known and my best friend for 35 years. My daughter and I are devastated by her loss, and can’t even begin to fathom life without her. We are deeply heartbroken and miss her already.

Kate suffered from depression and anxiety for many years. She was actively seeking help and working closely with her doctors to treat her disease, one that takes far too many lives. We were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy. There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock. And it clearly wasn’t her. There were personal demons she was battling.

For the past 10 months we had been living separately, but within a few blocks of each other. Bea was living with both of us and we saw each other or spoke every day. We ate many meals together as a family and continued to vacation together as a family. Our daughter was our priority. We were not legally separated, and never even discussed divorce. We were best friends trying to work through our problems in the best way we knew how. We were together for 35 years. We loved each other very much and simply needed a break.

This is the truth. Anything else that is out there right now is false. She was actively seeking help for depression and anxiety over the last 5 years, seeing a doctor on a regular basis and taking medication for both depression and anxiety. There was no substance or alcohol abuse. There were no business problems. We loved creating our businesses together. We were co-parenting our beautiful daughter. I have yet to see any note left behind and am appalled that a private message to my daughter has been so heartlessly shared with the media.

My main concern is Bea and protecting her privacy as she deals with the unimaginable grief of losing her mother. Kate loved Bea so very much.”