The Real Housewives franchise is heading to the world capital of unreality, Beverly Hills, for a sixth edition of namedropping and catfighting, premiering tonight on Bravo. And the participants want everyone to know that the drama will be can't-miss this time, even by the Housewives standards.
Most of the Housewives we've gotten to know on earlier versions were unknowns before agreeing to be filmed, but some of the Beverly Hills ladies have achieved notoriety already.
Camille Grammer is a onetime Club MTV dancer who worked her way up to become the latest ex-wife of sitcom veteran Kelsey Grammer. Kim Richards was a child star of the 1970s, something of a poor man's Jodie Foster, who left show biz to raise a family and is better known these days for her famous nieces, Paris and Nicky Hilton. Adrienne Maloof is part of the media-savvy family that owns the Palms Casino in Las Vegas and the NBA's Sacramento Kings.
The others in the frou-frou cast are British restaurateur and dog lover Lisa Vanderpump; Kim Richards's sister Kyle, also a former actress; and Midwestern girl Taylor Armstrong, who worries about not staying youthful enough for her husband.
Maloof, Vanderpump, and Kim Richards participated in a preseason conference call to promote the show, and all promised that viewers would see the Housewives mayhem they have come to know. But they didn't seem giddy about it. Richards, who may have a different perspective than the others on her coming fame because it's not the first time around for her, seemed particularly ambivalent. She said that the filming process opened up some wounds in her relationship with Kyle: "I've had the most fun with my sister [working on the show], but also the most conflict we've ever experienced in our lives. It's something that's not going to repair itself quickly. I was shocked at some of the things that went on, and some of the things that she had to say, and I guess she felt the same about me."
Richards received some guidance from niece Paris, who is a veteran at both reality shows and in dealing with dirty laundry becoming public. "Paris has always made lemonade out of lemons. She said to not let the negative things people say bring you down in any way," Richards said. She would not say, however, if Paris would be popping up at any point during the season. All of the Housewives have been similarly cautioned not to give away potential big name cameos.
One person who is apparently enough of a presence during the season to qualify as a true guest star is Kelsey Grammer, whose marriage to Camille was breaking up while filming was taking place. Word has it that he is not portrayed at all sympathetically, and none of the Housewives sounded especially eager to talk about him during the conference call. Camille and Kim Richards are the two unmarried members of the cast.
Vanderpump, a native of Britain who lived in France before coming to Beverly Hills five years ago, says that an added helping of humor, and the inimitable Southern California setting, sets this Housewives show apart from the others. "But you soon realize that all that glitters is not gold, and I think people will find that interesting," she said. Vanderpump portrayed herself as a bon vivant who enjoys the trappings of wealth. Her Mrs. Howell accent, omnipresent toy dog, and gay best friend she treats as an accessory cap off the image. When asked if she considers herself an actual housewife, she admitted "I'm kind of running my businesses. Doing the dishes, not so much."
Maloof is presumably the wealthiest of the Housewives, but has made an independent name for herself within her male-dominated family of egotists. "I have three little boys that I'm very hands on with, but I also have my business. So I do juggling and struggling, like a lot of mothers out there," she said. Of course, those other mothers typically don't have a mansion to come home to. Despite her wealth, however, Maloof comes across as relatively grounded and plain spoken, and seems determined to keep her children away from the cameras to grow up normally.
The ladies claim to not be concerned by any potential backlash from their other elite friends, who might regard any publicity, much less a reality show, as being something classy people just don't do. "You can't put too much importance on what other people think. I opened the gates of my heart to this," said Vanderpump. Richards said she came into the show vowing not to worry what others said, but had some second thoughts when things got heated between her and Kyle.
Despite the drama, or perhaps because of it, all three of the women interviewed said they would be willing to do another season of the show, if Bravo approaches them about it (and no Housewives show has ever been dropped after one season). But they don't pretend it would be easy emotionally. When asked an innocent enough question, whether all the women in the cast were still friends, the answer was the rote, "You'll have to tune in and watch!" That bad, huh?