Listen, I am the first to admit I am a huge Real Housewives fan. I am also proud to say that I never discriminate between the cities in which the action takes place. I will watch the gals from Beverly Hills, Orange County, Atlanta, New Jersey, Miami, and obviously, New York. I even extend my devotion to those lower-caliber shows, like Mob Wives and Basketball Wives, where the term “wife” is used very loosely. Some days, I wish I wasn’t such a wife junkie and could turn to Downton Abbey like other, more sophisticated folks—but who are we kidding?
I am so obsessed that I will call my husband, Peter, from my car to make sure he has programmed the TiVo to record the Real Housewives and also to make sure that we have chilled Chardonnay for viewing. I prefer to drink while I watch to create a more interactive experience; it helps me relate to the drunk housewives just that much more. This way, I can feel like I’m actually at Beverly Hills’ Adrienne Maloof’s cocktail party to unveil her new line of platform metal-studded heels. It’s just like how my kids prefer participating with their Wii to just watching TV.
Over the years, some of the housewives have become my Facebook friends. I’ve even met them and shared a meal. And, since they don’t eat, I always get to take some leftovers home for Peter. But I don’t feel bad about using them for free food. I know the only reason these “wife stars” want to be my friend is because they want to get closer to Chelsea Handler. This happens to me a lot. I tend to think of Chelsea as Jesus and myself as one of her disciples. They’re excited to meet Saint James, but who they really want to share that wine and break that bread with is the savior herself. Most of the time, when they hang out with me, they’re really just hoping to be booked as a guest on Chelsea Lately. They even get upset when they can’t get a booking and will call me to complain. I don’t know how much longer I can handle the drunk tears.
From our Real Housewives of New Jersey reunion parody. I’m playing Danielle Staub.
Deep down, though, I know where they’re coming from. I mean, if you think about it, they’ve worked so gosh-darned hard to get where they are. Let’s take a quick look: first, they had to marry well, then get divorced and marry well again. Next, they had to go all the way over to the Bravo website and fill out an application. Just think of the concentration required: remembering their Social Security number while also trying to recall their actual birthday. It must all be so taxing.
To be honest, I think Real Housewives fame might be just as dangerous as teen-idol fame, if not more so. Six months prior to being booked on the Real Housewives, these women’s biggest claim to fame was being the hottest mom in the car-pool lane at their kid’s school, and now they’re starring in a prime-time television show and are on the cover of Life & Style magazine. And the fact that it happens at the ripe Botoxed age of forty-five makes it that much more difficult for them to handle everything that has become available to them—thus, this delusion of grandeur. OK, I confess, I’m jealous of these women with their one-hit-wonder dance tunes, private wine labels, and wig lines. They didn’t log in thousands of hours doing stand-up comedy. They didn’t have to go on hundreds of auditions. They never had to be fingered by a William Morris agent through a bodysuit during the ’90s.
So you can understand that when I experienced my own unsolicited evening of real housewife–hood it took me by surprise. It was my husband’s birthday, which happened to fall on the airing of an After Lately episode. This episode was special because my husband and my two sons, Drake and Brandon, had a scene with Chelsea. Since my kids had never been on TV before and were very excited about possibly being recognized at Target, we decided to invite some families over for wine, dinner, and a lively viewing of After Lately. My little shindig could hardly compare to the extravagance of a Real Housewives–type party, where even brunch requires the hostess to have a stylist help her choose her wardrobe. But I think I did OK when I carefully selected my Hudson jeans with the buttons on the buttocks to make my flat ass cheeks appear less concave, paired with whatever T-shirt was on the top of the folded pile of clean laundry, and gold flats. And why do they all have personal assistants? Again, I’m jealous; I would die for an assistant. That way, my family and close friends would finally receive the thank-you notes they so rightfully deserve.
Peter sent out an Evite and invited four families. This included my very best friend, Liz, whom I met in first grade and her husband, Mark. Also on the list were Anna and Steve, whom we socialize with all the time because their son is Drake’s best friend; Ted and Dina, whom we had only hung out with a couple of times so we didn’t know well; and Angelina Rose and Bill.
It was a Sunday night, and I had just returned earlier that day from Denver, where I had done six stand-up comedy shows over the weekend, so I was a little tired. Still, I’m always up for a party, and Peter seemed really excited about it too. We ordered some Greek food and I pulled what I like to call a “Kris Jenner” (Momager™ of the Kardashian clan, aka ruler of L.A.) where I transported the take-out dishes from their original foil containers to my personal serving platters. The adults and their kids starting coming around five p.m., but the wine had started flowing for me around four thirty. The kids ran around our backyard and jumped on the trampoline, and the women gathered at my kitchen table and talked about school while the men hung around Peter’s new barbecue grill smoker and did guy things.
Let’s pause for a moment to discuss Angelina Rose. I know when you hear that name you think stripper, but she isn’t. However, for some reason unknown to all of us she never dropped the middle name of Rose. Can you imagine if I was Heather Ann and everyone in my life—all my coworkers, family, and new associates—had to call me Heather Ann and if they just said Heather, I’d politely smile and correct them by saying “It’s Heather Ann.” How obnoxious would that be? I mean, I have to be honest, sometimes I can’t even remember my own kids’ middle names. Anyways, I met Angelina Rose a few years earlier when her daughter, Sophia, and my son Drake were at St. Ignatius’s preschool together and Angelina Rose coordinated a “Moms’ Night Out” at Paoli’s Italian Restaurant. Normally, I don’t go to Moms’ Night Out–type events because they are during the week. After working all day, I just want to spend a couple hours with my kids, but I said yes because it landed on a Tuesday and Tuesdays at Paoli’s is karaoke night. I’ll take pretty much any opportunity to sing “Something to Talk About” by Bonnie Raitt. I was born with a mike in my hand, and I am one of those freaks who will sing karaoke without drinking (though who’d want to?).
At this time, I had only been working at Chelsea Lately full-time for about a year. When I explained what I did for a living, Angelina Rose rolled her eyes and said, “I was in the business for years, but once I became a mother, I just couldn’t imagine leaving Sophia with some stranger to raise her while I went off to star in another movie.” Now, I watch a lot of movies, but I had never seen this woman outside of the preschool parking lot. “Oh, what have you been in?” I asked, trying to sound interested. “What haven’t I been in?” She laughed as she tossed her blond hair about. After fifteen minutes I concluded her last role was a guest spot on the original Hawaii Five-O, not the Hawaii Five-0 with the super-short hot guy who used to be on Entourage.
Angelina Rose was very attractive but about eight or nine years older than me, and it was starting to piss me off that she was acting like she turned down the Julianna Margulies role on The Good Wife because she didn’t want to put Sophia in day care. Her career wasn’t going anywhere and hadn’t for a while, but I didn’t judge (except, yes I did).
I admit, I have a lot of guilt about being gone so much, so I was taking it personally. A lot of moms choose to stay at home because they can afford to, or they always hated their job in insurance (or whatever) and giving birth was their lottery ticket out of cubicle hell. I doubt any stay-at-home mom would choose to stay home if Kelly Ripa’s one-hour-a-day job was suddenly offered to them. None of them, even Angelina Rose, would say, “Sorry, I just can’t leave my daughter to cohost a national morning talk show. Breakfast is just such a special time for us, and I am the only person who can pour her a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch the way she likes it.” Just like no one has ever said, “Heather should be able to bring her kids to work with her every day and have them sit beside her at her desk as she writes jokes about a man in Florida who got caught having sex with a red picnic table.” Was I feeling particularly guilty that day about being a working mom? Yes, I believe I was! I had also basically chosen karaoke over reading to my children, so that didn’t help how I was interpreting her comments. Sorry, but I’ll take singing “I Touch Myself” to an audience at a restaurant over reading Everybody Farts to Brandon and Drake for the hundredth time.
Despite Angelina Rose, I still had a great time. Not only because I practically got a standing ovation when I held the word “touch” for fifty-seven seconds, but also because another woman in our group was going through a tumultuous divorce; it made for a very juicy conversation over eggplant Parmesan. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell Peter and was taking very meticulous mental notes.
There is nothing that annoys me more than when Peter comes home from playing golf for seven hours with three other men and has no stories to tell me, no scoop, nada. This is how a typical conversation will go.
How was golf?
Well, did you play fine enough to win any money?
Yes, eleven dollars.
Great. We’ll put that towards our $550 monthly country-club fees. Fiscally, joining the club is really working out. Well, you played with Ted, right?
Ooooh, what is happening with them? Are they still separated?
I don’t know. We don’t talk about that stuff.
What do you mean you don’t talk about it? Ted’s been your friend for six years. He put a tracking device on the roof of his wife’s Range Rover and discovered it was parked at her personal trainer’s house for four-hour blocks in the middle of the afternoon every day for two weeks, and she had gained weight. Well, what is up with the personal trainer she had met while in rehab for her addiction to Oxycontin?
I don’t know. I didn’t ask.
I didn’t either, but somehow I got your friend Ted to tell me the whole scandalous made-for-TV Lifetime movie between the piñata and the blowing of five candles at some kid’s birthday party. So, let me get this straight. You get to be gone all day and bring absolutely nothing home to entertain me with. How is your golf in any way benefiting me?
Seriously, it’s so frustrating. It’s not like Peter doesn’t love to gossip. I tell him everything that is happening at work and with my single girlfriends, as well as my married girlfriends, and he eats it up like a Gamma Phi Beta sorority sister. I’m sorry, but I think Peter not prying is just downright selfish. The only thing he brings home is his sunburned cheeks that are exasperated by his rosacea, and I’m forced to put Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturizer on his face before we leave as a couple to a cocktail party.
I kept running into Angelina Rose at pool and dinner parties, and each time she would tell me what a genius her daughter, Sophia, was and since she felt St. Ignatius was not going to be challenging enough for her they were looking into alternative schools. The kid was fine, but it wasn’t like she was playing Beethoven or reading The Wall Street Journal. She was just like all the other kids jumping around and whining to get their mom’s attention.
One time, at a Halloween party, Angelina Rose was talking about her favorite subject, Sophia, and how she is so smart it’s downright scary. My friend Anna was there, talking about her son, Mikey, who is the same age as Sophia, and Angelina Rose interrupted and said mockingly, “I’m sorry, Anna, but I saw Mikey’s first-grade homework, and Sophia was doing that same stuff in kindergarten at Whispering Meadows. St. Ignatius is so behind.”
The school that Angelina Rose eventually put her daughter into was called Whispering Meadows, and it was three times the price of St. Ignatius and was made up of mostly entertainment-industry families who think their kids poop Pulitzers.
Anyway, the night of my husband’s birthday, our evening started while the kids were jumping on the trampoline and Liz, Anna, Dina, Angelina Rose, and I were drinking our wine and wrestling with our lamb shish kebabs. Suddenly Angelina Rose started in again about the new school she had decided to send her so-called genius daughter, and how amazing their abstract-art department is. I mean, isn’t all the art that kids do considered abstract? I don’t understand abstract art, and half the time I don’t know what my boys are attempting to draw. Just then Sophia ran in, whispered something to her mother, and ran back out. Angelina Rose turned to me and said, “Sophia just said that she and Brandon were on the trampoline together and he called her ‘lame.’ ”
I asked, “Are you sure it was Brandon, and not Drake?”
“Yes, she said it was Brandon.”
“That’s great,” I said, straight-faced. “Because last week, when a boy at the park cut in line for the swings, Brandon called him a ‘fucking asshole.’ Lame is nothing.” Anna and Liz burst into laughter, but Angelina Rose and Dina were a little shocked. “Sorry, I just did six stand-up shows in two days,” I said.
“Oh my goodness, I don’t think Sophia’s ever even heard those words,” Angelina Rose scoffed.
I was dying to say, Really? I doubt very much that your husband has never called you a fucking asshole. But I didn’t, because I’m a lady.
After Lately began at eight p.m. Some of the kids were in the playroom, and the others were running in and out of the living room to the backyard as we settled in on the sofa to watch the latest episode. This particular episode featured me having a breakdown over a fight I had with Peter in a writer’s meeting. Chelsea invites me to spend the weekend with her at her house to get my mind off it. We become so engrossed watching a Lifetime movie in her bed that she ends up peeing because she doesn’t want to miss out on anything in the riveting plot line.
Angelina Rose had poured herself a large glass of Pinot Noir and was completely stretched out on the lounge portion of my sectional couch. A couple minutes into the show, everyone was laughing and I didn’t even notice that Sophia had come into the living room. She was standing by her mother’s wineglass, watching a scene where Chelsea jokingly asks my colleague Sarah Colonna if she’d brought any drugs to her pool party. Angelina Rose, still taking up the entire bed portion of my couch, said, “Sophia just said to me, ‘Mom, this is so inappropriate.’ Can you believe that? Even Sophia knows what an inappropriate show this is. Maybe she’ll be a TV critic someday.” The show resumed and I’m shown getting drunk at Chelsea’s house with actresses playing my friends. Once again Sophia comes into the room just as on the show I’m leaning over in an attempt to play Twister and they’ve edited in a big black square to block out my crotch. Angelina Rose, still lying down, was sipping from her goblet and saying over the roars of laughter, “Oh my God, inappropriate, inappropriate. I can’t believe Sophia is seeing this.”
At this point I wanted to say, If you’re that concerned, then get off your ass, put down the wine, and take your impressionable genius of a daughter outside to play on the trampoline so she can stop being traumatized by E!’s original programming, but again I didn’t say anything.
When Drake and Brandon’s scene was about to come up with Peter and Chelsea, Peter called them in to watch. Once again, Angelina Rose, still lying there, said to the other mother in the room, Dina, “She’s going to have her kids watch this? Inappropriate.” The boys ran in still holding their Wii remotes, saw themselves say the words “Bye, Chelsea” on TV, and ran out. They’re total narcissists, and they had no interest in seeing me, their mother, be hilarious at all. The episode concluded, and the men were all saying how funny it was as the women gathered up the dishes and drinks and headed to the kitchen.
As I walked in, I heard Angelina Rose talking to Dina. She said, “Dina, I just can’t believe that show.” Dina said, “I know, I don’t let my kids watch much TV either because it makes me so uncomfortable.”
Angelina Rose continued, “I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to Sophia; she’s just so smart, it’s going to be difficult.”
And that’s when my Real Housewives moment happened. Angelina Rose had caught me on the wrong day. I was coming off of only four hours of sleep, I had consumed three generous glasses of Chardonnay, and it was the day my period was due. I turned with tears in my eyes and said rather loudly, “Well, I’m sorry that the show that puts food in my children’s hungry mouths was so inappropriate and it has somehow ruined your parenting plan, but you got the Evite and it clearly stated we’d be watching After Lately and not The Sound of Music. It wasn’t my intention for any of the kids to see it. I thought they’d be preoccupied with violent video games instead.”
As I’m saying all this, crying and shaking, I see Peter come around the corner with a look of total shock on his face as if to say, “Shit, what now?” Then my best friend, Liz, comes around the corner. If this were The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Liz would be as protective as the matriarch Caroline Manzo and as angry as Teresa Giudice, ready to flip a table at a moment’s notice. “Whoa, whoa, what’s going on here, ladies?” Liz asked as she tossed her straight, long blond hair to one side. Meanwhile, Anna didn’t know what to do and clearly didn’t want to get involved. At this moment I imagined all of us at the Bravo version of The Real Housewives of Woodland Hills reunion show, with host Andy Cohen seated in the middle holding his blue cards. It would be at the Woodland Hills Marriott because that is Woodland Hills’ most historic hotel, built back in 1986. Sitting on the couch next to me would be Liz, of course, and on the other couch would be Angelina Rose and Dina. Anna would be sitting not as close to the other two, as if to say “I’m Switzerland.” Anna would never interrupt and only speak when asked a direct question from Andy Cohen, sent in by a viewer from Beaver Creek, Nebraska. Later it would be announced that Anna chose to leave the show because she wanted to spend more time with her family and her booming candle-making business, but the truth would come out that she was asked not to return because she was so boring and in the history of the Housewives franchise, she was the first woman who honestly didn’t like the drama.
I would wear a one-sleeved cranberry-red minidress with gold and diamond hoops and a cuff bracelet—not a ton of bangles, because those clanging bracelets are a nightmare for the sound guy when you’re wearing a microphone and they start clanging as you wave your hands to make your point about an untruth someone wrote about you on their blog. I’d pair my dress with my patent-leather nude Jimmy Choo peep-toe heels, highlighting my overly spray-tanned, moisturized legs.
Everyone was frozen. Liz continued, “Angelina Rose, what did you say to Heather? What happened, Heather?” The hostess in me came back out and said, “No, it’s nothing, it’s just I didn’t mean for the kids to see After Lately and some (really only one, but I didn’t want to point it out) of them did and I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.” Then Angelina Rose said, “It’s fine, Heather. Everyone makes mistakes.” She went to hug me, but my hands were wiping my tears away so she just stood there and held me awkwardly. I tried to end the hug by pulling away, but she kept on hugging me in a tight hold. Thank God her normal husband had the good sense to gather their coats and was standing there ready to leave. Dina apologized to me, saying that her kids didn’t see any of it and that she felt bad that she said anything about it.
Once all the families had left, Peter asked, “God, what happened? Why did you get so upset and start crying?” Now, this question really pissed me off because after eleven years of marriage he should know to shut up and be on my side. I said, “OK, Peter, when you come back to earth as a woman and you’ve had four hours of sleep and three glasses of wine on the day before your period, and another woman criticizes your profession and your parenting over and over again in your home and you choose not to cry, then you can criticize my behavior tonight!”
Liz called me the next morning as I was driving to work and said, “You know what that whole thing was about, don’t you? Angelina Rose was jealous. She is an out-of-work actress. She would die to be starring on a TV show, and here you are on not only one show, but two. She is not happy with the decisions she’s made in her life and the only way she can deal with it is trying to make a happy, confident person like you question your decisions.”
I started to feel a little sorry for Angelina Rose and made a conscious effort to let the whole thing go. That is, until a few hours later when I checked my Facebook page, where, by the way, I have the maximum of 5,000 friends. That includes all my real friends and fans, all of whom I accepted until it got to the maximum (I now have a fan page, so feel free to Like me). Lo and behold, right there on my Facebook wall was a message from Angelina Rose. She wrote: “Heather, thanks for the great dinner and wine last night. Being a mother can be so trying sometimes and it’s obvious from last night that you are having a very difficult time with it. I will continue to pray for you.”
OK, that was it! I no longer felt sorry for her. The first thing I did was remove the post. The second thing I did was to call Peter and tell him about it. I said, “The good news is, I’m not under some contract with Bravo. Therefore, The Real Housewives of Woodland Hills does not exist so producers cannot legally force me to hang out with this woman so we can be filmed together. We are not going to socialize with Angelina Rose and her husband, and she will never step foot in my home or on my trampoline ever again! Got it?” Peter responded with a resounding shrug of his shoulders and mild concern that we would be losing out on a gossip source.