Do You Know Any Real Housewives?

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Today let’s talk about reality shows and why it’s a really good thing I’m not a talent scout. Because I spend an awful lot of time wondering where on earth they find some of these people. They’re right under our noses, we’re told. But I never believed it. A few years ago I was at the Sundance Film Festival, covering movies and interviewing the people who make them. When you see photos, it always looks incredible with the mountains behind the streets of a cozy town that comes to life for a few days every winter – like some kind of Brigadoon. And what everyone (myself included) loves are the candid shots of stars strolling the snowy streets. What’s not to love? Adorable actresses entirely subsumed by massive (faux) fur-trimmed parkas smiling, their cheeks flushed pink with the cold, their intensive Hollywood skin regimens waging mini-dermal revolutions against the wind chill. Then there are the affably handsome actors wandering with them; and rather than the parkas, with these guys it’s all about layering. And it all has meaning – you can usually spot the tee shirt underneath which frequently has a slogan representing a bar or a sports team or  — better yet —  a sports team from that young man’s home town. Then atop that there’s usually some kind of overshirt /hoodie which was kindly provided by one of the many wilderness outfitters who are tickled pink that he’s wearing their garb in the first place. Then outside of this, even though he’s been offered any number of wool overcoats and ski-wear, he’s far more comfortable in the tattered leather jacket that he wore in the movie he just made, and he’s kept it as a beloved token. He too has pink cheeks that are completely aglow with a) youth b) the career prospects that will undoubtedly materialize on account of his latest film and c) the mind-shattering hangover that he got while celebrating  ‘b’. The interviews are usually less-than-exciting for the simple reason that talent is being corralled like ponies by publicists; they rarely have anything groundbreaking to say because it’s cold and because the whole thing is a blur for them. (I think that’s why). One evening however, I had an unusual experience with someone who could not have been more poised. We’d gone to cover a special Chef’s Night event, which is basically a fabulous free meal where several celebrity chefs pitch in, and the next thing you know you’re in a wonderful lodge sampling all these astonishing wares. Nor do you have the faintest idea how you wound up there, but you don’t ask. On this particular evening I found myself seated with the cast of a hit indie film, a well-known English rock band, and a few other journalists (each just as bewildered as I by our good fortune). The English rockers were charming and jovial, the indie movie cast fascinating and beyond cool, and the whole thing was spectacular. There were maybe 100 guests — and everyone was welcoming and encouraged mingling. Which is very odd because in a place like that usually everyone is way too cool for school. Not here. The whole environment was created to foster warmth & inclusiveness  – although we really weren’t sure who was welcoming us. Finally, over dessert, a publicist came and asked if I’d like to interview the person behind it all — and of course I did. She strolled over to me and she was quite pretty and – despite the noise and merriment all around us — she was measured and extremely well-spoken. Every time I put the microphone in front of her she said something intelligent and upbeat, but not in a fake or mindlessly cheery way. She explained that she was a chef who’d decided to promote other chefs and so she created  these events in cities all over the country where ordinary people can sample this fabulousness. I’m pretty sure there was a charity angle  too. The point is I’d never heard of – or been to – an evening as beautifully run, that was in no way off-putting. I was genuinely puzzled by now and asked why she wasn’t a household name, and I even said something colossally stupid like “You are so perfect for TV –  you’re so talented and you speak in actual sound bites. What a natural you are!” And she smiled graciously and I remember asking the publicist how someone like that could be so comfortable with all this media and calm and competent at the same time. She then gave me her business card and thanked me for coming.  I put the card away without looking at it and a few months later noticed it and wondered if anything would ever come of that Bethenny Frankel, the gal who was so gracious and competent. And now she’s left  The Real Housewives of New York. Are you bummed? Voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which of these Real Housewives is your favorite:

1)    Kelly Killoren Bensimon

2)    Jill Zarin

3)    Bethenny Frankel

4)    Alex McCord

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