In the wake of Luann de Lesseps‘ trip to rehab, former (and present) stars of Real Housewives Of New York and other franchises are speaking out about the producers’ tactics to allegedly push alcohol on the women in an effort to solicit big drama. This accusation is nothing new, but the details are quite illuminating and provide an interesting testimony for the behind-the-scenes workings of the show.
Aviva, known for the infamous prosthetic leg toss on the finale of season 6, was part of the RHONY cast reboot after season 4 and appeared on the show for two seasons (“writer girl“). Kelly, obviously, is notorious for her feuds with Bethenny Frankel culminating in Scary Island. Both women, along with some current housewives who chose to remain anonymous, claim there is a vested interest to push booze on the cast – even if it’s clearly against their best interest.
“When I see some of the drunk scenes, it’s dark. It’s gone from being funny and giddy to being drunk and depressing and it makes me feel sad,” reflects Aviva, who had some cringe-worthy moments of her own, and now reveals that she sometimes felt forced to drink.
Insiders also accuse the Real Housewives shows of exploiting cast members’ lifestyle issues to create drama, or at the very least, combining their insecurities and stresses with a non-stop access to their favorite booze. “I think a lot of women in NYC who are [in their 40s and 50s] self-medicate with alcohol,” opines Aviva, “but then you throw in a reality show where you are basically a gladiator with tits, and you have the perfect recipe for a drinking disaster.” Which she asserts is exactly what producers are hoping for!
A rep for Bravo denies this. “The franchise follows the women in their real lives. No one is pressured to drink alcohol. If the network, production company or castmates have deemed that someone is putting themselves at risk in their overall lives, we have taken and will continue to take responsible action.”
However, Aviva and others disagree. Aviva cites one such instance that has left lingering self-disappointment. Before a planned confrontation with Ramona Singer, she was urged to take a shot. She asked for water instead and was told “no.” Aviva, whose mother was an alcoholic, had never taken a shot before and against her better judgment, admits, “I took the shot. I felt tremendous pressure to do it.”
“I was so weak and so intimidated by the production team, and I had just gone through all the negotiations of my contract for the second season and those were demoralizing,” Aviva relents. Before her second season Aviva was almost fired and remained in negotiations until the last second before filming – she even had to rent a new apartment. That was also the season Luann was demoted to ‘Friend of…’
Gretchen cites the ‘Naked Wasted’ evening from her first ever big Real Housewives Of Orange County party scene. “I woke up and thought, ‘Gosh, I never specifically went up and asked for another drink.’ My drink always seemed to be magically filled up. So I realized that, possibly, producers were in the background going to the server, ‘It looks like Gretchen needs more alcohol.’ ”
Afterward, seeking to learn what happened, Gretchen approached her producer and was provided with a literal list of every drink she had consumed that night! As well as a lecture that she herself had made the decision to consume them. She recalls a producer asking, “‘‘Did anybody force you to drink?’ … They had literally documented every single drink I had. I found that to be very strange. It makes your stomach turn a little. It made me question what their intentions are.”
There is a storied history of Housewives drunken antics. From the hilarious: Luann tumbling into a bush, or Vicki Gunvalson whooping it up in Mexico (then peeing on Tamra’s bed); to the alarming: Taylor Armstrong‘s limo ride from hell with Kyle Richards, or Monique Samuel‘s post-martini car accident on this season of Real Housewives Of Potomac.
“At times, the producers would say, ‘Well, we’re not going to pay for Mr. Chow to cater your party because that’s over budget. But you’ll never hear them say, ‘We won’t pay for alcohol.’ It’s always readily available,” Aviva says of the inventive ways of keeping the women drunk.
There is also the cozy relationship the show maintains with booze vendors, who readily provide their product. Current Housewives who spoke, anonymously to Page Six about this phenomena, explain that while production doesn’t demand drinking, the alcohol is always free and readily available everywhere the women film. Especially for trips, party scenes or social events.
Kelly, who claims her experiences on RHONY had long-term damaging repercussions, recounts a situation she had with Sonja Morgan, and also what she learned in a post-mortem of her contract; specifically about the producer’s liability for the women. Chiefly that the women are told the producers aren’t “babysitters” and the cast is responsible for how they respond to situations – including alcohol consumption – giving them no legal recourse against the show. “It said on the contract: Anything goes and you can’t sue for defamation of character — because you wanted to be on the show, and wanted to be famous,” Kelly summaries.
Kelly realized how far they would take things on a night when Sonja was so drunk she couldn’t walk and was losing her hair extensions. “I was like, ‘I need to bring this woman home. This is just not cool,’ ” The producers said, ‘Don’t help her, don’t help her.’” Kelly helped anyway.
Despite Scary Island, Kelly returned for season 4 to try and remedy her destroyed reputation. She claims she “barley drank” but everyone had the opinion she was an unstable drunk. “When I got off the show, people said I was crazy and unhirable. It almost ruined my life.”
Heather, too, describes a day at the Saratoga Race Track where Sonja was uncontrollably drunk, and she similarly decided to protect Sonja instead of following producer’s orders. “Sonja had been drinking and the producers wanted us to go outside because she was leaving . . . and she was falling down with her suitcase. I refused. I’m not going to put her vulnerabilities on camera . . . I felt like it was irresponsible,” Heather detailed. “And the producer was unhappy that we wouldn’t go outside.”
That situation made Heather question just how far is too far. “I think if [behavior like Morgan’s] happens once or twice, they need to let the cameras run. But if it’s reoccurring, the producers may have to question if the cast member is right for the program.”
As is what occurred months later when the women traveled to Atlantic City. A Housewife who asked not to be named says Sonja was so wasted she stopped making sense (Smokey eye, updo, G’staad, I’m in PR…) and tried making out with Luann. The cast was so alarmed they called an intervention with producers to demand something be done!
The unidentified Housewife claims, “Bethenny said, ‘I didn’t realize how bad it was’ and ‘I didn’t realize she’s a f–king liability.’ And [the producers] said, ‘I know, I know.’ But at the end of the day, they invite [Sonja] back every year.” Sonja, who has abstained from alcohol this season, and in season’s past, admits it doesn’t always bring out the best in her, even though she’s generally a ‘fun drunk.’
After the article was published on Page Six, Bethenny responded to the accusations with a tweet, “Hello @AvivaDrescher as the person responsible for putting you on Rhony, I take offense to you misrepresenting the truth & saying producers prodded you to drink. As someone here since day 1 with 13 years of reality tv experience, it is a flat out falsehood @Bravotv @Andy”
“I am so happy for you and your experience,” Aviva replied, surprisingly solicitously, “I was once asked to do a shot with Ramona for a make-up scene (suggested by producers). When I asked producer to fill my shot with water – I was refused and told that I HAD to drink the shot with alcohol. That happened.” I’m guessing Aviva and Bethenny are no longer friends?
And Aviva concedes that the show does echo real life in that the women who party the most on the show, do so in real life too. “The producers just have two goals, one is to create a great television show. And two, if they can capture reality, that’s TV gold. A lot of the time, it’s not always 100-percent authentic. But when you catch somebody drunk, that’s as real as can be.”
Obviously, casting has a lot to do with the choices these women make, and the shows have morphed from documentaries of wealthy women in elite circles to its current iteration of a fishbowl of a largely manufactured social scene, both of which create an incredible impetus for drunken debauchery. With sometimes life-altering results.
You can read more of the allegations on Page Six.
TELL US – DO YOU THINK THE PRODUCERS PUSH ALCOHOL? OR ARE THE WOMEN RESPONSIBLE FOR THEMSELVES?
[Photo Credit: Bravo]