Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by Casey Durkin/Peacock
Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Real Housewives Institute Bulletin. Hot enough out there for you? Haha. Just kidding. We all know that it’s hotter out there than the “Grindr Photos” folder on Andy Cohen’s iPhone. You’re probably seeing these letters as big as the Hollywood sign because everyone in America has been baked in their houses like so many cookie sheets full of Shrinky Dinks. Know who hasn’t gotten any smaller? The Real Housewives of the Heat Dome. Yes, all of our favorite ladies are still here going through their divorces, legal-team rehirings, Fox News firings, second acts as dog groomers, and potential future roles as First Lady of California. If you don’t get any of those references, well, it’s because you haven’t read the rest of the Bulletin yet. What are you waiting for? It’s not like you can leave the house now that you are a pile of flesh-colored goo. (Pile of Flesh-Colored Goo is also the pet name PK’s mom gave him.) Hurry up and get reading. The first person to make it to the end wins an all-expenses-paid luxury-yacht vacation like they’re on Below Deck. Just kidding. This is modern media. We don’t have the budget for that. But we can probably swing Malia on a paddleboat delivering you a four-pack of Loverboy.
— Dame Brian Moylan
Not all the news, but all the news you actually care about.
Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
SAD NEWS: Say what you will about NeNe Leakes, but she is one of the all-time great Real Housewives, and one of the best and most humanizing things about her is her long (and sometimes difficult) relationship with her sweet and silly husband Gregg. It’s with a heavy heart that I report that Gregg’s colon cancer, which had been in remission since 2019 and was a plot point on season 11 of RHOA, is back. NeNe revealed in an Instagram Live with the Jasmine Brand on Monday, June 28, that Gregg was in the hospital after surgery to remove the cancer. “I’d love for everybody to pray for Gregg, that would be beautiful. Pray for his strength. And pray for me too,” she told the Instagram audience. I’m usually not in the business of praying, but for Gregg, one of the nicest Househusbands out there, I will make an exception.
ABSENCE OF CHILL: NeNe’s formerly contracted bestie and castmate Cynthia Bailey is in fine health, but she’s dealing with a sick burn courtesy of daytime talk-show host Wendy Williams. On the June 24 episode of her show, Wendy asked Cynthia who should be fired from RHOA. Wendy then told Cynthia, straight to her immaculate, cheek-boned face, that the person who should go is her. “I think it should be you,” Wendy said. “Let me tell you why, because there’s nothing more exciting that you can give to us. I don’t want to see you fight, I don’t want to see you get divorced, like, I think it’s time.” This comes amid rumors that Cynthia is already on the way out after 11 seasons on the show. Fans definitely noticed when she removed that she’s on the cast from her Instagram bio. It would be a weird time to give her the axe, though, considering she’s already filmed and will be needed to promote the Housewives All-Stars that airs this fall on Peacock.
TIKI TORCHES: The Sun says that Traci Lynn Johnson is joining the cast of RHONJ next season, most likely as a “friend of.” She was spotted with Teresa Giudice, Dolores Catania, and the rest of the cast at a Pride party that Margaret Josephs threw at her house this past weekend. (Do you think she bothered to invite, you know, a person or two from the LGBTQ+ community? Did Rosie Pierri at least get a courtesy invite?) It was not reported if Traci was in attendance with her famous husband, former football player and certified babe Tiki Barber. We don’t know much about Traci or how she will be added to the cast, but we do know that Tiki left his wife while she was pregnant to get together with Traci, so she already sounds like she will fit in just perfectly with this crowd. Also, if Tiki (who should stay away from Leah McSweeney at all costs) joins the cast, RHONJ will cement its status as having the hottest male cast on Bravo.
ORANGE YOU GLAD WE’RE FRIENDS: The Sun is all up in the casting news this week. It also reports that Noella Bergener will be joining the freshly pruned cast of RHOC, now with 100 percent more Heather Dubrow. That wouldn’t be such huge news except that Noella — a “socialite” who lives in Newport Beach and is married to an “accident attorney” — is Braunwyn Windham-Burke’s best friend. Yeah, B just got her orange squeezed and now her bestie is going to be on the show. Braunwyn told Entertainment Tonight the story of how she found out she was fired, when a RHOC executive producer (that is not Andy Cohen) called her while she was walking on the beach and told her they weren’t renewing her contract. “I was a little bit heartbroken, to say the least,” she told the program. “And then I said, ‘Is my girlfriend who’s been auditioning, is she on?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ And so it was like a double hit. I was really looking forward to filming with her. I’ve never done the show with a friend. I’ve never really done the show with anyone that even liked me a little bit.”
I have heard of this happening before. In my (New York Times best-selling, NBD) book The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives, RHOD’s Cary Deuber talks about how she recommended her friend Kary Brittingham, who then got a contract when Cary got the chop. And when I recently recorded Dana Wilkey’s podcast (What? Like I could say no to Dana/Pam?), she told me that while casting directors always ask the current cast members to recommend their friends, no one ever does because they’re all afraid of losing their spot to that friend. Guess that’s a very real fear!
BEACH BUMMED OUT: In other RHOC firing fallout, two days after Kelly Dodd got cut from the cast, her husband, Fox News reporter Rick Leventhal, also announced that he was leaving the news (and I use that term loosely) station. Good thing the pair live at the beach, because they’re going to have a lot of time to relax this summer.
GET OUT OF LODGE: It looks like two RHOC alumni are going to have a much busier summer than Kelly and Rick. On Tuesday, Vicki Gunvalson’s fiancé, the former cop Steve Lodge, announced that he was running for governor of California in the upcoming recall election against Governor Gavin Newsom. Yes, that is the same race that also features reality star and “Get off my lawn!” yeller Caitlyn Jenner.
“California is completely broken, it is unrecognizable,” Lodge said in a statement. “Californians are suffering, our hopes and dreams have been dashed by career politicians like Gavin Newsom who have become the problem and not the solution. Together let us get government out of our lives, off our backs, and out of our wallets.” That last sentence could be his Housewives tagline. But before we start celebrating First Lady Victoria Denise Gunvalson Jr., just remember that Lodge’s campaign is being run by a man named Randy Economy. Yeah, it’s that bad.
ERIKA UPDATES: As you would expect, there is a lot going on with Erika Jayne and her legal troubles. In the last newsletter, we talked about the Hulu documentary The Housewife and the Hustler, which talked about her soon-to-be-ex-husband Tom Girardi’s alleged embezzlement of funds from clients who used him to win big payouts from corporations. A day after it aired, Erika’s lawyers, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, filed papers in court to drop her because “the relationship of trust and confidence that is essential to a properly functioning attorney-client relationship has broken down.” Well, two days later, they rescinded those papers and decided to stay on as her legal team. That was quite an about-face.
There is one lawyer who is still very unhappy with Mx. Jayne. Ronald Richards, who is working on Tom’s bankruptcy case, filed court papers saying, “At every turn, Erika has used the glam to continue to aid and abet [these] sham transactions that have been occurring with respect to large transfers of assets from [Girardi Keese, Tom’s law firm] to Erika. Moreover, the Trustee has received zero cooperation from Erika which is constant with someone hiding assets.”
Erika then made a filing of her own, stating that “she has been and remains willing to cooperate fully,” and that Richards should be removed from the case for “false and inflammatory social-media posts and public statements.”
While the two sides squabble, it looks like Tom Girardi was out for lunch at a restaurant near his Pasadena home with a hot blonde. That doesn’t look like the kind of meal someone has if he is suffering Alzheimer’s so badly he can’t stand trial. Anonymous Instagram account DeuxMoi initially reported on the meeting, but All About the Real Housewives did a great job aggregating all of the allegations and reveals about the date, including that the woman is Tom’s longtime travel agent and that many at his (former) firm believe that he has been having an affair with her for years.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN: I don’t know if you’ve been following all the paternity drama on the latest season of Below Deck: Sailing Yacht, but it’s now gotten even wilder. For those who haven’t followed, the long and short of it is that double-double-barreled deckhand Jean-Luc Cerza-Lanaux had an affair onboard with stewardess Dani Soares and she got pregnant. She claims that JL is the baby’s father, but he won’t help support the child without a paternity test. Things got so crazy he even skipped the recent reunion special. (There’s a more thorough breakdown here.)
Also on the reunion, deckhand Sydney Zaruba said that she was dating the captain of the boat she’s working on, which seems like a violation of some kind of maritime law but, you know, schooners gonna schoon. All the fans assumed that meant she was getting it on with petit Canadian Captain Glenn. He took to Instagram to let us know that the pair are just friends. God, what sort of love potion were they putting in the drinking water on that boat?
PINOCCHIO NOSE: Dorit Kemsley is still trying to get us to buy the fact that she didn’t have a nose job, and even enlisted the help of a plastic surgeon to say she hasn’t. Girl. Come on. I’m not going to believe this until we have a Botched investigation.
SHE BANGS, SHE BANGS: Speaking of nose-job ruses, you can see Kyle Richards and her ill-advised bangs in the new trailer for Halloween Kills. She says a set accident broke her nose and she had to have it “repaired.” Sure.
LEAVE BRITTANY ALONE: Former Vanderpump Rules drawler Brittany Cartwright Cauchi Taylor posted a picture of her baby Cruz on Instagram and then everyone freaked out at her because he was in his car seat but without a seat belt. She claims she was parked. I mean, how else is she taking pictures of the baby in the car? Wait, don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.
POTTY MOUTH: Online gambling site MrQ recently did a survey looking at celebrities on Twitter to figure out who swears the most. Coming in second place is none other than our very own Brandi Glanville (say her name three times and she shall appear). In her 300 most recent tweets, she cussed 946 times, putting her within wine-throwing distance of the foulest-mouthed celeb, Kevin Hart, who came in at 954. Come on, Brandi. We know that you can fucking take the shitty crown next cock-sucking, cunt-licking, ass-eating pee-pee poo-poo ca-ca doodie year.
Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by Casey Durkin/Peacock
This year, Lisa Vanderpump has launched not one, not two, but three (3) shows. That’s as many as it takes licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. The funny thing is, you might not have realized that any of it is happening because the results, well, haven’t been that great. Is Lisa, one of the breakout stars of the Real Housewives … nothing without the Real Housewives?
The first show was Overserved With Lisa Vanderpump, an E! talk show that was filmed during COVID, and you can tell. It featured Lisa in her preferred milieu, Villa Rosa — the perfume counter that grew so big it became a whole house — where she invites a pair of celebs over for a dinner party. As she says in the intro, “Each week there’s a unique theme, exquisite food, unforgettable moments, and revealing conversation.” The first episode shows her taking her miniature ponies, Diamonds and Rosé, to greet Vivica A. Fox, Lance Bass, and his husband Michael Turchin at her front gate. They then sit down for cocktails and dinner prepared (the show will have you believe) entirely by Lisa and her daughter, Pandora. Her husband, Ken Todd, haunts the proceedings like the ghost of Rod Stewart.
The second show was an even bigger gambit, the U.S. remake of Pooch Perfect, a hit BBC format that is essentially Top Chef but for dog grooming. Like the U.K. original, the ABC show was produced by Rebel Wilson, who served as host. Lisa was one of three judges on the panel.
Things didn’t turn out great for either program. Overserved’s March 18 premiere brought in only 353,000 viewers, and the second episode saw that audience halved to 169,000 viewers. Pooch Perfect had a decent 4.17 million for its March 30 premiere, but once again, episode two saw the audience dwindle to 2.81 million.
It’s really a shame, because both formats really played to Lisa’s strengths. While her overproducing the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills behind the scenes angered her castmates enough that Lisa took her toys and went home after season nine in 2019, her ham-fisted antics worked just perfectly when corralling guests in her home to have a good time. You might say it was a little bit charming, even. The blame for Pooch Perfect can’t be entirely laid at Lisa’s feet, because she was just one part of a larger formula. (And some viewers feeling like the show was abusing the animals probably didn’t help.) However, LVP is always at her best and most lovable when she’s around her furry friends. You know, she loves dogs, she’s just not crazy about bitches.
That brings us to her most recent show, the long-rumored Vanderpump Dogs, which is about her animal-rescue and dog-adoption agency in West Hollywood. This also brings us back to RHOBH, where the rumor was that Lisa was creating the Lucy Lucy Apple Juicy story line in order to jump-start a show about the agency, and the ladies were none too pleased to be drawn into her shenanigans.
Unlike Vanderpump Rules, Vanderpump Dogs is less about the staff that works there and more about the animals themselves and the people who come to adopt them. Each episode — they’re all streaming now on Peacock — shows two prospective dog parents as they meet a handful of dogs and select one for adoption. Luckily, in the episodes I sampled, the upchuck-inducing phrase “fur baby” is only used once. There is also a little bit about how the agency is run and the backstories about the dogs and where they were found. While we see the staff go about their roles, there is no drama between them. Hearteningly, they all seem there to just do their jobs, not for the reality-TV fame. If anything, I would like a little bit more screen time for Dr. Andrew, the hunky veterinarian on staff.
Lisa doesn’t make the mistake that Bethenny Frankel made in her HBO Max show The Big Shot With Bethenny, which is making herself the star of the show. Instead, Lisa lets the little furballs steal the spotlight. For Housewives fans, it’s a little bit boring, but you could find much worse “ambient TV” than half-watching a bunch of pups get makeovers after being tied up in someone’s backyard. I’m not going to lie, one episode, featuring an adoption that was also a proposal, had me nearly in tears.
But, once again, this doesn’t seem to be the star vehicle that Lisa needs at the moment. Though it’s been on Peacock since June 9, I haven’t heard any of the Housewives-chattering classes talking about the show. If a dog shits in the woods and no one is there to pick it up, is the Pope Catholic? Peacock, like so many streaming services, doesn’t report its ratings, but if the trailer is any indication, the YouTube video currently only has 21,000 views. The RHOBH season-11 trailer, for comparison’s sake, has 523,000.
All of these shows come at an inflection point for both Lisa and Bravo/the Housewives in general. Once she “Good-bye, Kyle”-ed out of RHOBH, at least she still had Vanderpump Rules to keep her on Bravo. But then COVID closed all of her restaurants, where the show is filmed. To make it worse, several cast members were fired for racist behavior in the reckoning that followed the death of George Floyd. 2020 really hit Lisa like a Ferrari driving through the front of PUMP.
With RHOBH gone and Pump Rules on the ropes after already hitting a creative downward spiral, the question seems to be whether Lisa is anything without the Real Housewives. The answer seems to be, uh, maybe not. If three shows in three very different genres on three very different platforms can’t attract her legions of fans, what will?
Lisa isn’t the only one facing this conundrum. Speaking of Big Shot With Bethenny, while many Housewives fans I know at least sampled the show, it didn’t seem to make a dent in the conversation, and no one really seemed to love it. She subsequently left her production deal with Mark Burnett and MGM, saying she wanted more creative control, but is that like a Real Housewife who says she walked away from the show for personal reasons when we all know the answer is something different? This also has to be hard for people like NeNe Leakes, Vicki Gunvalson, and Tamra Judge, popular OG Housewives who are having a hard time finding their footing after their exits and realizing that the game really is bigger than the players.
Ironically, this is also a problem for Bravo. While none of Lisa’s new shows are on the cable channel, E!, Peacock, and Bravo are all owned by NBCUniversal. Peacock has invested heavily in the Housewives Universe to try to woo subscribers to its freemium model. If viewers (and more importantly, subscribers) aren’t turning up for Vanderpump Dogs, are they going to turn up for the reboot of Real Housewives of Miami or the Housewives All-Stars? If NBC can’t turn Lisa into a marquee star, does it have a chance of achieving the same with any of the other women? And if there isn’t a life of fame after Real Housewives, will women want to stop signing up to be on the program? I don’t know that we have the answers to any of those questions yet, but it’s now clear that Lisa knows what the answer is not.
Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by Bravo
Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Season 11, Episode 6: Erika’s reception at the party was a little odd. They cheered her, like she was coming back from a trip abroad or a very delicate vajazzling procedure, which doesn’t seem like the kind of reception that a woman who just filed for a surprise divorce would be looking for. But these women are not me, because if this were my friend, as soon as she sat down, I would have been like, “Girl, let’s hear about this damn divorce.” But they all pussyfoot (which is also my stripper name) around Erika’s divorce until they can sit down for a formal lunch and get into it.
Real Housewives of New York City, Season 13, Episode 8: Leah tells Eboni that she doesn’t want her to feel like it’s her job, but it is her job. That is what Bravo brought her on to do, which is to be a shield for its lily-white casts. But we also want her to be a Housewife. That doesn’t mean fighting and drama and yelling, but it means opening up about her life. It’s great that she can teach us about the Black experience in America, but I also want her to teach us about her. When we care about her, we will care more about the offensive things that happen to her. Leah instructs Eboni to “just chill” a little bit more, but Eboni thinks, “If not me, then who?” Eboni. I love you. I think you are a great addition to the show. But if you think that you are going to change Ramona Singer, the Karen of Karens, then you are sadly mistaken. She has less change than a credit-only restaurant.
Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Season 11, Episode 7: There is no better authority on the matter than Kathy Hilton, whose response is, “Coming from someone who knows about raising daughters in the public eye, it could be worse. You know?” Oh, Kathy, we know. And we love you for this. Kathy continues to be this season’s MVP. Not only was she filing her nails in Crystal’s face, she also left us with the wonderful gem of Peeping Thomasina, and called out Dorit for being English. Yes, she’s from Connecticut, but where is that accent from? Dorit says, “I’m not English, my husband is English,” but Dorit is about as English as Madonna during the Guy Ritchie phase, which is to say as English as a Thomas’s English muffin. (And, yes, in England they do sell English muffins, but they’re just called “muffins.”)
Is it just me, or does it look like Sutton’s bow is somehow trying to escape? Oh, and this isn’t a highlight so much as a lowlight, but I will never stop thinking about this demonically possessed accessory.
Highlighting the best comment of the week for our lovely Institute members. This one is from this week’s RHONY:
Butterfly_Beach: Former high school teacher here. Eboni was teaching a 10th-grade-level Black History curriculum to a group of 3rd graders, right before lunch …
“If you’re 81 years old and you’re still out there trying to get some pussy, hats off to you, player.” — Erika Jayne