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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Real Life

From Your Shows to Mine

The past few months have been incredibly taxing when it comes to carving out time to write. I am in the process of obtaining certification in a profession that does not involve writing. At least, it will not in the beginning, but I plan to do a scientific form of writing once I’m further along. The profession will not involve Bravo or reality television…unless the individuals I end up working with choose to randomly discuss shows with me.

The challenge is to keep on writing and stay on top of things. I would still love to write about reality TV, true crime and cults (though the latter has become somewhat of a touchy subject of late).

It’s been a busy few weeks in other ways. Being in our late 30s and early 40s, I and those around me have noticed changes in older relatives. The importance of family usurps mini dramas with our peers. Launching a side venture or regularly providing commentary on Teresa Giuduce’s storyline on Real Housewives of New Jersey, weighing in on A-/B+ list actress Denise Richards joining Real Housewives of Beverly Hills suddenly is on the back burner. For now. There are blogs who once thought I desired to compete with them and that couldn’t be FARTHER from the truth. I write when I enjoy to do so, or when the idea of an incredible scoop comes to me, but I read so many other blogs and cheer them on, often sending ideas their way.

Suddenly I’m starring in my own reality show. It’s not very glamorous. It involves studying, care-taking for the post-Millennial and Baby Boomer generations. After interviewing countless reality tv personalities on a smattering of shows, I find myself talking to the enamored fan and saying “your next door neighbor could be on a show tomorrow. It’s not so special!”

I’m tired of the reality personalities who, I’m often informed, leave their old friends in the dust because they’re suddenly too glamorous to fraternize with commoners. People are just that. People.

You are all 6 degrees from a reality tv personality. It’s like that Kevin Bacon game. So while I will go back and wax philosophical on the vapid, ever changing alliances and frenemy dynamics on Vanderpump Rules, whether the Wild Things movie star is a good addition to a posse once run by Lisa Vanderpump and now (possibly) run amok by Dorit, I just wanted to share how healthy stepping away from the TV can be, and realizing we all have our own interesting IRL reality shows – uncultivated, unproduced, somewhat unknown to the world.

That said, I’d still like to get back to watching, commenting and interviewing when I’m in the right frame of mind. This has been a hiatus that has provided introspection on what I already knew and had to re-examine, particularly when a friend of mine, an exemplary soul, died after battling breast cancer. Television is a great escape, but our friends and family need our attention and sometimes – unless they prefer we curl in bed with them to enjoy RHONJ – a little less of our escapism.

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Bigotry, Homophobia, Real Housewives, RHONJ, Uncategorized

#BravoTV Wants NOTHING to Do with Him, But It Needs to Be Said

If the old school adage uttered by Jennifer Aydin on Real Housewives of New Jersey (“The husband is the head, but the woman is the neck and the neck can swivel the head and have control over it”) has any merit, a certain neck of a RHONJ alumnus could swivel the egomaniacal head above it.

However, as I write this, I’ve gotten word that the obstinate “neck” is stiff and upright in defense of her husband and other “good christians” who spread the gospel of homophobia.

Ok, so the Bible has its passages, Jim points out, and he is entitled (wrongly) to be angry that there are gay people in this world. He doesn’t seem to grasp that we are all wired the way we are in terms of sexuality. He doesn’t seem to have kept up with the articles or listened to the excellent podcast Unerased. He thinks being gay is a lifestyle choice.

His wife has indicated she backs him up in the flawed logic that gayness is an urge to fight off and not succumb to.

I want to insert here that some of us are somewhere on the Kinsey scale. Bisexuality is a real thing for those wondering about the depiction of Freddie Mercury in the Bohemian Rhapsody biopic. The comedic duo of Ronna & Beverly used to have a bit about there being a spectrum: “a little bit gay, a little bit straight…our show is for everyone.” For those who got the humor, their ridiculous ramblings resonated and the podcast (now on indefinite hiatus) amassed a cult following, within the LGBTQ community and elsewhere.

Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s former fledgling cast member Jim Marchese (pictured, husband to former RHONJ Housewife Amber) doesn’t get it. The question is: Why use his platform to spew hatred about homosexuality? What is his PERSONAL issue with it? Why not comment on something that doesn’t affect him personally?

Some have suggested that those who lash out in this manner do so because of their own internal battles. Perhaps Jim is projecting onto the LGBTQ community because he’s wrestling with his own demons and indoctrinated guilt? Maybe he doesn’t believe he’s a good Christian. Or maybe this is just who he is, a person who chooses a group to lash out at in order to pass the time. It could be a publicity stunt to remain relevant…which will have many people mad at me for even writing about it.

Something to consider is that there was that domestic dispute between he and his wife years ago on an airplane. The result was that law enforcement got involved. Parlaying their “15 minutes” from RHONJ into more TV time, they appeared on the show Marriage Bootcamp to address their public dysfunctions and (presumably) to salvage their union.

Maybe his (highly erroneous) form of penance is speaking out on all things he thinks aren’t “right” in the world.

However, the way he’s going about it is all wrong. See how Twitter has reacted (I of course had to weigh in because of my passion for the LGBTQ community and my friends who are even more offended by JM’s intolerant views than I am –which is saying something. I wasted several tweets on the vile man yesterday.)

As for the Bravo network and the RHONJ production company Sirens Media, they want us to either forget Jim and Amber Marchese ever existed, or acknowledge how far they’ve come with casting better people.

Viewers have mixed opinions on the current cast, but are thankful that Jim Marchese is only currently starring on The Big Twitter Shit Show From New Jersey.

Hang in there: it’s about to lose audience members.

(Featured Photo Source: RADAR ONLINE)

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Reality TV

#RealityTV Realness: Looking to Cast “Crazy” Folks (But Let’s STOP Using That Word)

“Reality TV is definitely not for the faint of heart,” Emily Simpson recently remarked. In case her name is unfamiliar to you, Simpson was a cast mate on Real Housewives of Orange County this past season, her inaugural one which had a level of inevitable hazing for the newbie.

As an attorney, part time party planner, and a mother, Simpson thought she was well-equipped for any battle ground. However, she quickly discovered that even she, “a tough cookie” needed to be stronger, to fight back, stand her ground and adamantly state what she was opposed to from her cast mates.

Her general tendency is to be more laid back, but she found her voice amongst the taunts, outbursts, gossip and chatter from the other ladies during filming – especially when Kelly Dodd insulted her husband Shane by calling him a “little geek”, “a twerp” and “a nerd.”

Emily fought back, perhaps too hard, saying the words (to Kelly Dodd) that we all need to consider carefully before uttering: “I will kill you.” But stress – and the duress brought on by filming a show which requires you to hang out with volatile personalities who are virtual strangers full of unpleasant surprises – can get the best of you.

That’s why I personally wouldn’t sign release forms. Television would be a magnification of my worse traits. I have a hard enough time listening to my own voice when I’m on a podcast.

Other Housewives franchises and reality shows across the many networks, especially 90 Day Fiance on TLC, are cast with the most eclectic, explosive, dramatic, controversial and polarizing individuals. This is not to say that other people aren’t cast as foils to their antitheses, or because they’re enormously endearing.

Nevertheless, “Crazy” is the most overused (albeit at times, seemingly suitable) label for reality folks. Some of the Real Housewives of New Jersey cast have had difficulty handling the brashness and blunt manner of Margaret Josephs. The answer about whether reactions to her remarks are “crazy” may be subjective. However, it would be wrong to use such a harsh term when discussing exclusively what’s shown on television.

Is Caroline on Bravo’s Below Deck “crazy” on the show? One could definitely assert that she seems neurotic, filled with anxiety and understandably on edge around judgmental cast mates, but again, based solely on the footage (and discounting social media tirades), “crazy” wouldn’t be a fair depiction.

Is it ever a fair one? Caroline is dealing with a mother who has dementia, Emily is dealing with the stress of the unexpected, a terse relationship with her mother, while also grappling with the heavy decision about having another child (following an emotional fertility journey and multiple miscarriages).

Women in their 50s on other franchises have hormones entirely out of whack as menopause looms large. Then there is an audience unwilling to hold back or mince harsh words on all social media platforms.

Maybe we should all own up to the crazy label and say “Yes, I own my temporary insanity”, but I think the word “crazy” is tossed around too liberally. I suffer from Generalized Anxiety and I’m currently dealing with real life stresses that could affect any woman my age as their parents get older.

Do I handle stress well? Not always (or to quote Dorinda Medley from Real Housewives of New York, “not well, bitch!”)

Have I had my “crazy” moments? Oh yes, definitely. I once left a harsh voicemail message asking an individual to knock off their baffling shenanigans. I had my Alec Baldwin moment when the individual (not a friend or even an acquaintance) published the voicemail on a website. I chose not to listen to it (I’ve mentioned hating the sound of my own voice), but I will cop to sounding like I was at my wit’s end – I was.

I’m not bothered that the individual (again, a stranger) went on to call me a nut, unstable…with regard to my momentary lapse in judgement. This person doesn’t actually know me and how I’m open about my anxiety, how I went through the worst period when my twins were born shockingly and detrimentally prematurely. I felt no shame about going on Lexapro when their traumatic birth was followed by months of insomnia.

Emily Simpson certainly never intended to actually kill Kelly Dodd when she screamed “I’ll kill you.”

The normal, everyday man or woman (and let’s be real about how men easily get passes when it comes to “bad behavior,” and are less prone to be labeled “crazy” than women are… “strong,” “stubborn,” “hot headed,” “annoyed” and worse, justified in their annoyance – yet rarely “crazy”) needs to pause and think before reacting.

That is what would happen in an ideal reality, but reality TV is set up with the cards stacked against its stars purposely and things moving quickly as directed by producers.

When on reality TV, you are to spend lots of time – including overseas getaways – with people who are not your “real life friends.” You are advised to swallow your pride in order to film, and producers ask deliberate questions, knowing the answers are sure to get you in trouble.

In your most tense-filled moment, you are asked “Siggy, what do you think of the things Margaret said?” You may cry, you may yell out an expletive. You feel wronged and who is to say feelings aren’t justified! Are you crazy? NO.

You are in an ill-suited environment for you. You are desperately in need of a new one, surrounded by people you view as kind, like-minded, who share your sense of humor and propriety.

Should you decide to return to the show – which is my hope for Emily Simpson of RHOC – you now know how to do things differently and what you will never repeat. And your hope is to give viewers and reviewers new adjectives. “Crazy” is not only a cop-out, but a disservice – especially to women who have been dismissed simply as just that for thousands of years.

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

Body Image by Bravo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggest it to ABC. I will too.

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Bravo TV, 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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