Reality TV, RHONJ

#RHONJ: An Interview with Frank Catania Sr.

Last season, it was Real Housewives of New Jersey (RHONJ) newbie Margaret Josephs who tweeted that Frank Catania, Dolores’s ex-husband, was the “voice of reason” on the Bravo show. Many RHONJ fans agreed with this sentiment. Just like his name, he is frank, quick to get to the point, and gives a solid, confident opinion with no-nonsense advice.

Now in Season 9, we have just witnessed Teresa Giudice frustratingly getting nowhere trying to convey to her brother Joe Gorga that he needs to spend more time with their widowed father. Shortly thereafter came the scene where Frank and Joe sat down one-on-one at a restaurant. “No one looks back (on a family member’s life) and says ‘I wish I had spent more time working,’” Frank told Joe. Perhaps it was a case of ineffective communication because men are from Mars and women are from Venus – maybe sexism – but either way, the authoritative and commandingly large, muscular man at the table got through to Joe Gorga in a way Teresa hadn’t been able to.

While the ladies on RHONJ have more married “Housewives” than on the other franchises – i.e. Real Housewives of New York – Dolores Catania is currently unmarried, but came to the show with her ex-husband as part of an unconventional package deal. Frank, her best friend, business partner, and housemate insists that their relationship is platonic despite audience skepticism.

“I feel like I wouldn’t want anything sexual to happen because I wouldn’t want to ruin what we have,” Catania tells me, “I love the dynamic that we have. She is one of my best friends and we work together really well.”

He adds that the overall experience of participating in the Bravo show has opened up his eyes and greatly expanded his way of thinking.

This is something he is incredibly appreciative about:  “I used to be a very conservative individual. Through this show, I got to meet so many different people and understand their stories. I am all for same-sex marriage, same-sex adoptions – whereas 10 years ago, that wasn’t me. If the show ended tomorrow, it definitely would have had a good, lasting impact. I am ‘old school’ in certain ways, but my opinions and positions have changed because of so many things I wouldn’t have come into contact with if I hadn’t done the show. I probably would have been sheltered and not had the chance to understand all that I understand now.”

Following is the rest of my conversation with Frank Catania:

You came to the show in an unusual way – as Dolores’s ex-husband. How did they decide to feature you within the context of her story?

It has to do with the fact that despite being exes, Dolores and I are integral parts of each other’s lives. It’s hard to spotlight one without the other. It works. And it worked out really well. It has been the best for my children.

Don’t get me wrong, years ago, we had the divorce proceedings and it was a fight tooth and nail. Things were not always like this. But Dolores is very smart and as soon as it was over, she said we could either keep on fighting and it would not be good for our kids, or we could be friends. Quite honestly, we’ve always been great friends and it made the most sense and felt right. The whole husband thing at the time…I was having a hard time following the handbook – to say the least!

I give all the credit in the world to Dolores for how our relationship turned out. She is strong, smart and she put aside occurrences leading up to the divorce for the good of our family. She didn’t have to be that way if she didn’t want it to be that way. 

In Season 8, we saw how you two had begun living together because you were having problems with your girlfriend. Some fans expressed that they were unclear as to whether you and Dolores still have the same living arrangement during Season 9 since you tend to go to Florida often.

Yes, we do have the same arrangement. It was not even my idea or Dolores’s. I was with my girlfriend for about 14 years at that time and the only chance of things getting better was for me to move out. Being a builder, I was going to build myself a house. She saw that as an indication that there was very little chance of us working out. So my girlfriend approached Dolores – they became close, she (the girlfriend) was someone I had gotten together with well after the divorce – and asked Dolores if she thought me coming back home could be an idea. Dolores loved the idea thinking she could use some help around the house, and we have a strange relationship of divorced people who can be just friends and housemates.

Viewers say there must be sexual tension or sexual chemistry, but it sounds like there’s enough trust from the people you date. It’s so strange to me that Dolores’s boyfriend David is OK with things.

Anyone who knows us well knows there’s nothing sexual between us. Dolores is one of my two best friends and I would do anything for her. If there was anything sexual between us, that would ruin what we have.

I know you owned gyms together. Is that still the case?

We have a Gold’s and a Powerhouse and are partners in that. We have a building business as well as the gyms. We are also flipping houses together.

How were you able to do all those things while you were also a lawyer?

The gyms have great support and management staff, so that was something I was able to oversee, but had great people taking care of the businesses. The building business I always had, but I never took a hands on, day-to-day approach. When I stopped practicing law, I committed 100 percent to the building business. We’re now busier than we ever were with all different aspects of that business. I’m also a lot happier. I put on a pair of jeans to go to the site and check in with Dolores about the things she takes care of.  She’s really busy with the show now, so I pick up the slack

where I have to and it works out well.

Since you are notably quite buff and in shape, what does your daily workout and dietary regimen consist of?

I live vicariously through the people I train, Teresa being one of them. I had an injury that stopped me from competing, but I continue with the lifestyle – I can’t get away from it. During the week, I have a regimented diet. I do cardio and working out. Then, during the weekends, I enjoy myself. I don’t drink too much and neither does Dolores, but I sure love to eat! As in shape as I may look, that’s why I always have a shirt on when you see me on the show. I enjoy food.

Many of the viewers were wanting to know: ‘Why did you say Teresa needed to lose 10 pounds?!’?

There are absolutely different requirements (than the norm) for being onstage. When I got Teresa – she had been training with a different trainer initially – she was 3 and a half weeks out from her show. Over those weeks, I helped Teresa to lose 18 pounds.  It is mostly water weight with women and there’s a certain toned and shredded look you need to compete. At the same time, we needed to keep the size of her ass because it was a bikini competition. She looked great when I first saw her, but to get on stage you to have to be on another level. 

I always find it interesting when the men are discussing the gossip and the goings-on between the ladies on the show. At the risk of gender stereotyping, just knowing the men in my own life, I don’t think it comes naturally to them. So, I’m naturally curious about you guys.

When you were advising Joe Gorga, I wondered if it was out of your comfort zone, and when you looked at the Bergen Record newspaper, I imagined a producer placing the newspaper in front of you and saying ‘discuss this’. How easy is it for you to get involved in the drama?

It’s not hard, but you’ll notice that I only get involved peripherally. You see Marty and Joe Benigno (Margaret Joseph’s husband) getting into it. I try to keep my distance from that.

Normally I never read a newspaper until I moved in with Dolores. She’s a newspaper and magazine fanatic who got me into. As I’m reading the newspaper, someone geared me a little bit so I got to that specific article a little bit quicker that particular day.

People loved how you effectively communicated to Joe Gorga that he needs to spend time with his aging dad. It seemed so difficult for Teresa to get through to him and I feel bad for Teresa that it seemed to only take you a second – if editing is to be trusted. So in reality, how easy was that for you? 

Believe it or not, it was pretty easy. I’m a few years older than Joe Gorga and when he was building his business, I was at the top of my game. I started representing him as an attorney. I helped him get deals that he wouldn’t have gotten. Then he ran with it and he’s doing great. We have a mutual respect for one another. That scene wasn’t made up for the camera.

In 2007, my mother passed away and I was talking to a friend who is a priest and I said “I worked like an animal.” I had my own thoughts about spending more time with her before she passed and how important that was, and the priest said to me that he had seen many people on their deathbeds and not one relative ever said “I wish I had spent more time working.” I took that to heart and the conversation I had with Joe came from my heart. Then Joe really took it to heart. 

One uncomfortable thing I wanted to get into…The whole disbarment thing. Did you want to avoid getting into it or did you inevitably have to because Danielle brought it up to Teresa (who then repeated it to Dolores)?

It came up at last year’s reunion and Dolores said ‘no’ because she had no idea I had been disbarred. I’m one of those people who, when something is bothering me, I’m not going to tell somebody if I feel there’s nothing they can do about it. The truth is, I should have told Dolores about it. I regret not doing so. I also knew she would have been approached – it was then in the tabloids and became public knowledge.

For that, I’m very sorry. I just didn’t want to tell her until some more time passed because I knew she was going to worry. Financially, we’re doing better now than we were doing before. The building business is much more lucrative than being a lawyer.

Are you still in touch with Dolores’s bestie from last season, Siggy Flicker?

Yes. Dolores is much more in touch than I am of course. I am in touch with Siggy’s husband Michael Campanella. They seem to be doing wonderfully. The best move for her was getting off the show. She is one of the nicest people I know. The drama and fights were just too much for her personality.

What do you think of Margaret Josephs this season? I know that she always liked you, but she and Dolores were not as close last year.

Even with the past issues between Dolores and Margaret, I’ve always been friendly with Margaret and her husband Joe. I’m down in Miami often and one time, I saw on Instagram that she was down here, so I DM’d her to see if Joe was with her and if he wanted to hang out. Dolores never had a problem with it and Margaret got to see that I had no problem with her. It’s the same with Danielle. I was always cordial to her when I saw her. I’m never going to let someone’s actions dictate my actions. 

We don’t get to see your (and Dolores’s) daughter Gabby on the show anymore?  Was that a conscientious decision on her part? We definitely see Frank Jr. a lot.

I have two children and they are on two totally different ends of the spectrum. My son loves being on the show and the reason my daughter is not on so much is two-fold.  She doesn’t really like to get involved as much as the rest of us do. Also, she’s in a different country. She studied to become a veterinarian and she’s really swamped with that. Her workload is really rough. Even if she wasn’t away, I don’t think you’d see her as often. She’s not drawn to the cameras as much as we are.

How do you feel about the storyline of your relationship with Dolores being so spotlighted, plus the fact that the other ladies keep saying you guys should get back together?

It doesn’t bother me at all. It’s my life with Dolores. I’m very proud that we’re able to be the way we are as a divorced couple. The amount of social media responses is incredible – with people wanting to know ‘how did you and Dolores do it?’ I try to give insight and then 2-3 months later, I will get a follow-up message saying “my ex and I went out to dinner the other night and we decided we’re going to be cordial.’ I just love that!

You could be the Divorce Whisperer

(Laughs) There you go!

Are you in touch with past RHONJ cast mates Caroline and Dina Manzo?

Dina, no because Dolores and Dina’s relationship deteriorated and Dina no longer lives in the area. I remain close with her ex Tommy. Caroline and Albert I don’t see as much because our paths don’t cross. If I go to The Brownstown, we hug. Jacqueline Laurita we still keep in touch with. The other ones I don’t know well – except the OG members. I’ve always been the closest to Joe Gorga who I’ve known before filming with him. 

OK, here’s a fun game that was proposed by a RHONJ fan from the Bravo Junkies Facebook group: Teresa, Danielle and Jennifer – Shag, Marry, Kill?

Teresa- Shag

Danielle – Shag

Jennifer – Shag

W-Wait. You would shag all of them?!

That’s just my personality, sorry! You wonder why Dolores and I didn’t work out.

What do you think of the two new additions to Season 9, Jennifer Aydin and Jackie Goldschneider?

I love Jennifer! It’s a shame because she was misunderstood originally. With her, there’s a sober side and then there’s Jennifer after a drink. Jenifer in person is a doll.

Jackie and I just aren’t in the same sphere. We say hello and are cordial, but there’s not much more beyond that. I have to be honest with myself and say that I think that might have a little to do with me being a lawyer. The women attorneys never meshed too well with me. It was like oil and water for us, so it might go back to that…and this feeling of someone needing to always get in the last word. But Jennifer is hilarious, fun and so nice. I hope the viewers get to witness more of that.

To see more of Frank Catania and his storyline with ex-wife Dolores, tune in to Real Housewives of New Jersey on Bravo, Wednesdays at 9PM.

(Photo source for featured image of Dolores and Frank Catania: Reality Blurb)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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#RHONY, Bravo TV, Reality TV, RHONJ, Women

The Reality of Reality TV Friendships

I often marvel at how perplexed fans are by the demise of a “friendship” between women on reality television. While casting directors often choose people who are familiar with one another, they also look for personalities that are dynamic enough for on-camera clashes and fireworks.

Sometimes a televised kinship is just that, a business arrangement of sorts where the women go back to their real friends during the months of no filming. In other instances, like colleagues in various professions, true personal bonds are formed and cast members do get together when the cameras aren’t rolling.

However the fates of these reality TV friendships are always uncertain due to group dynamics ahead, seeing one another in new environments, and after being asked dozens of questions about the other person by persistent (and often meddlesome) producers.

Last season of Real Housewives of New Jersey, Margaret Joseph was seen bonding with Danielle Staub and this season, according to Staub’s recent appearance on The Wendy Williams Show, the two had a massive falling out during the filming months. We also had the terse and painfully tumultuous “breakup” of Carole Radziwill and Bethenny Frankel on Real Housewives of New York, that left the viewing audience taking sides. On this season of Real Housewives of Dallas, currently airing, Leeanne Locken And D’Andra Simmons seem to be falling apart at the seams. With the latter, as Locken explained on the podcast Everything Iconic With Danny Pellegrino , there had been some particularly hurtful drama when they tried to work together on a prior reality show four years ago. Until this interview, most of us were unaware of the deep wounds and buried grudges that date back to that earlier project. Having a chaotic history coated by several layers of Southern politeness may have finally brought simmering resentments to a boil.

In many of our lives – the lives of regular people who will not be featured on television – we have lifelong friends as well as people who were once friends who we’ve lost touch with. Then there are friends we’ve lost – not to death, but to life circumstances, differences in lifestyles or geographical distances.

Sometimes women become too close and confide their deepest darkest secrets and a confidence is broken. Other times, we may come to see something in a friend that compels us to pull away. We don’t have producers asking us to articulate exactly what is going on in those moments or encouraging us to hash it out. If we did, we might be able to salvage those friendships through communication we wouldn’t otherwise employ – or more likely, an all-out screaming, glass smashing row would ensue.

The point is that although we all want to be part of a Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda dynamic a la Sex in the City, the headlines about longtime colleagues SJP and Kim Catrall not being able to stand one another attest to how fraught and complicated female relationships can be when you strip away the fictional script.

As a child I always thought it would be incredible to have a huge group of friends, but today I have about 6 or 7 really close friends. According to Facebook, I have 1,361 “friends” though I think I have broken bread with about fifteen percent of that contingent.

Like Leeanne and D’Andra, Margaret and Danielle, Bethenny and Carole, I have had my own friend fallouts over the years and although they cannot compare in volatility to the televised versions, I still wish all friends and acquaintances were life-long ones.

The notion of having everybody adore you forever is a childhood fantasy. As adults, we grow and change, our priorities shift. Fallouts inevitably result from differences in politics, beliefs and the loss of commonalities we once shared.

Whether a producer is in our ear or not, intuition dictates when it is time to walk away.

(Photos courtesy of: Bravo TV/NBC Universal, Us Weekly, People)

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