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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your background professionally?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you ever have guest co-hosts?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is your dream guest?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reality TV

#BB20: Cruel Cruel Summers

As a mother of four fairly independent sons, I feel a little less atrocious excusing myself to steal away for guilty pleasure TV consumption..

than I did when my youngest two were toddlers.

However, the fascination with the erratically scheduled reality show Big Brother began at an inconvenient period of my life, a time when I was more apologetic about cramming it in.

“Why are you watching this show now?” my husband once asked nearly a decade ago, “Didn’t this take up an hour of your time last night?” Sheepishly, I replied “Yeah, they announced last night that it would continue tonight. It’s a major competition secluding people in a house who rarely see sunlight. The schedule NEEDS to be condensed so people can return to their lives.”

It was as if that could explain it all away. To strike a compromise regarding time allotment, I made the decision to break from all other programs on all other networks. It’s ludicrous how much of a commitment today’s TV shows require (also see: The Bachelorette, 90 Day Fiance, shows that often demand 2 hour chunks of viewing a singular episode).

As I nursed my newborn twins nearly nine years ago, I somehow was rapt by the day-to-day minutiae of polarizing strangers sharing a house with the end-goal of being the last one in it. Alliances form in the process of plotting to overtake the house, but none can truly be trusted as the individualistic objective is to wipe everyone else out.

Astoundingly creative physical and mental competitions are held to secure positioning in the house as well as one’s safety. Far more captivating however, are the social dynamics and inevitable backstabbing that occur on Big Brother. Viewers find those scenarios most relatable as they are metaphorical to everyone’s lives. Consider the themes of: Trust, loyalty and how one maintains dignity while trying to come out on top. How many real life situations can you apply to that symbolic structure?

I’m not one to play underhanded social games, but I’ve been on the receiving end of them. I have had to learn how to combat sneaky people, plotting and competitive coworkers and the like… Ignoring folks is the strategy I most often employ, but that’s far from an option in this reality TV game if your desire is to triumph.

Another aspect of Big Brother that has me glued to the tube? “Showmances”. It is always fascinating to me to observe and note how romantic relationships form either due to boredom (There is a lot of downtime for contestants who are stripped of phones, technology or anything connecting them to the outside world and its news), bonding over shared duress, or legitimate connections that wouldn’t have formed had a bunch of random people not been thrown together under the same roof. More importantly, under the same roof sans outside interference or assistance.

The anachronistic notion of not being able to Google or Facebook- research a romantic interest rings sweeter in today’s day and age. Of course, you cannot help but ponder whether or not a couple will have staying power beyond their seclusion in the dry-aired B.B. House. There, the rare glimpse of sunlight (in limited outside moments restricted to right beside the house and no farther) is a treat.

From an anthropological viewpoint, what’s almost as intriguing as the game dynamics is the way the show has usurped the summer hours of its fan base. It is one thing to be committed to a television program, but quite another to pay for the show’s much-dissected “live feeds.” Many fans do this and what that entails is tuning in to the events of the house as they occur 24/7. With the feeds, fans get to witness a lot of the dramatic happenings that will ultimately be left on the cutting room floor.

The live feeds have also inspired an entire social media subculture: Fans interact with one another and weigh in on occurrences that do not necessarily make it to the televised footage.

From an objective standpoint, you might declare “why would I be interested in the every move of a stranger in a house?” Bear in mind that those in charge of casting have not chosen humdrum, uncomplicated individuals. They’ve selected a deliberately eclectic mix, while foreseeing intense clashes and connections.

Troy McEady tweets about being glued to the Big Brother live feeds each summer.

They have also chosen contestants with a wide range of views, knowing that some of the more conservative notions will garner shock and dismay from the more liberal critics (and vis versa).

The B.B. experience reminds me of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series that was so popular during my childhood in the 1980s.

As this is the 20th season of Big Brother, there was no social media when the show was first created two decades ago. However, from early on, B.B. called upon the audience to impact the game. In the age of social media, it is an exquisitely simple feat, with the viewers choosing game twists and even godawful meal selections (such as what constitutes “slop”) as punishments for the contestants.

Know that watching Big Brother may require a far greater commitment from you than you ever imagined possible. Once you become interested, you’re likely to become invested.

Suddenly, you may find yourself not only choosing players’ adventures…..

but how you spend your summer.

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