Who are these women?: D.C. "Housewives" recap and fact-check (#1, Aug. 5)
"The Real Housewives of D.C." opens with a thrillingly cheesy montage, combining all your favorite Washington clichés and all your favorite Housewives clichés. The Capitol, the White House, limousines at night. "Most powerful city in the world... all about who you know... proximity to power... social climbers everywhere." And clinking wine glasses, and fashion-show poses, and ladies wiping tears, and then -- dum-DUNH! The Salahis in the back of a limo -- that iconic red sari, and doesn't it just strike the same chord of doom in your heart now as Jackie in her pink suit and pillbox hat? (No? Just me?)
(But remember - Bravo says this isn't going to be all about the Salahis. Hmmm? Let's examine the other lies and truths of this show. Welcome to our weekly annotated recap of "The Real Housewives of D.C.")
Here's Mary Amons. Born and raised in D.C., she boasts, "and I've never left." Except that now she lives in McLean, Va. (It's inside the Beltway, though.) She namedrops the neighbors: CIA, Dick Cheney. "Oh, and Colin Powell lives across the street." (True, if what she meant was "in the subdivision on the far side of Rt. 123 from our subdivision," a roughly three-quarter mile drive.) Her grandfather, legendary broadcaster Arthur Godfrey, was BFFs with LBJ, she brags; her lobbyist dad was pals with Ethel Kennedy. "I have fond memories of hanging out at that Kennedy house," she says. (We couldn't bring ourselves to call Ethel) Nice distraction: The "Pretty in Pink"-era pics of her and her husband Rich (he looked like Spencer Pratt then), as they embarked on baby-making, barely out of their teens. That is interesting. We meet these kids briskly, during a photo shoot for the family Christmas cards. Lolly, Piper, Tagg, Willow and Moses. Ha, not really. With any luck, they'll slink quietly back into their adolescence, unviolated by reality TV, and we'll never need to know their names. (Except for Lolly. That one's real. Remember her, I think she's key to the plot.)
And now, Stacie Turner. She gets the kindest treatment throughout, but producers set her up here for just a bit of bitchiness as she says "You can't say you are a native Washingtonian and live in McLean." Oh, snap, hear that Mary? Reminds us it used to be called the Chocolate City. (True!) Credentials: Howard University, Harvard Business School. (True!) Also, "I met Barack Obama years ago" -- and there's the grip-and-grin photo to prove it -- "and I just knew that man was going places." A Realtor, she talks about how expensive D.C. housing is. (True!) We meet her jolly husband Jason. (We know about him!) Two cute little kids. (We don't see or hear enough of the 16th Street Heights home, which they converted from a church, but which we've read is dazzling.)
Lynda Erkiletian runs "the top modeling agency in Washington, D.C." (How many others are there, Lynda? We'll never let her live that down!) We see her auditioning some models, and she explains that "we cater to the ambassadors, to the dignitaries" (Note to self: At next embassy party, ask what they're hiring models for.) Her condo at the Georgetown Ritz-Carlton is nice. At the dinner table with her attractive late-teens, early-20s kids. -- Sam and Jessica and someone else and her assistant who is also dating her son. She's divorced and happy about it. "I love my life, and having a man is a bonus. Ebong just happens to be a six-foot-five FABULOUS bonus." (That would be Ebong Eka, a real D.C. person, accountant-on-the-scene in D.C., aspiring fashion designer.)
And now - Michaele Salahi. (Michaele -- before she was famous.) Getting her makeup done, sifting through a heap of clothes with unspecified gal pals. "I love to make an entrance," she says, (red sari!) And then getting her hair done at Georgetown's Roche Salon (three or four staffers ministering to her at once, one of them owner Dennis Roche). Namedrop time: "President Obama, we did an event for him for Rock the Vote..." (FIRST BIG LIE OF THE SEASON! The Salahis did indeed get themselves into a Rock the Vote party, way back in 2005, and they managed to get themselves into a grip-and-grin with the new Sen. Obama -- also, the Black Eyed Peas and Randy Jackson, but they were just guests there, like however many hundreds of folks.) More: "My husband is the captain of the America's Polo Cup" (true, though this is an organization he himself founded just about four years ago, and which is not recognized or sanctioned by the U.S. Polo Association, and mired in trouble)... "and owner of Oasis Winery." (not really; his parents, still alive, founded it, and he's been battling them in court over the property for years.) She talks about how he takes her to Paris for dinner; he gives her a diamond bracelet and brags that it has eight carats. (How are they paying for this stuff anyway? Spoiler alert!: The Salahis aren't just known for attending dinners they weren't invited to: they also have a whole mess of legal and financial problems. See "The Party Crashers: Trail of Accusations; Trials, Tribulations and Legal Fees.")
Finally, Catherine Ommanney, the British one, frolicking in a leafy suburban backyard. (Chevy Chase, Md., just inside the Beltway) with daughters Jade and Ruby. Cute little accents. She moved them here in 2008. "Within a month of being here," her girls were "the happiest they've ever been." (Sad. Since this taping, Ommanney has split from her second husband and sent the girls back to the UK to live with their father.) She calls Charles Ommanney her "childhood sweetheart" (but later explains they knew each other briefly at 18 and not again for years) and gushes about his work: "One of the best photographers in America." (true, he's a big prize winner), but also "well known White House photographer... he was with the Bush administration for eight years, then traveling with Obama for two years" (misleading -- makes it sound like he's a White House staffer; in fact, he works for Newsweek).
Let's get the plot in gear, shall we? We arrive at the Salahi's polo match, September 2009, not far from the Washington Monument. Tareq calls it "the kickoff for the season of balls, galas, parties and networking .. . The Who's Who of every segment you can name." (This just isn't true. It's a minor event, with mixed reviews and a long list of complaints over its very short history) But hey, there's a dignitary!: Michele Jones, a Pentagon official (who careful readers of the Post's coverage know is the same one that told the Salahis she'd "try" to get them into the White House). She's in a sundress, taking the microphone saying "this game is the true reflection of the relationships we have around the world." (Note to self: Check to see if she still has her job.)
Michaele, a hugging, air-kissing whirling dervish, mingles with Edwina Rogers, an overdressed lobbyist in a red dress and black headdress. (There was a time last year when we thought they were going to cast her as a Housewife -- a bona fide woman working in politics. Didn't work out, though.) She's relegated here to just a tiny bit of chit-chat with Michaele, who gushes that she, too, once lobbied. 'It was hard." Then later, "I really like Edwina. She's a fellow girl lobbyist." (Whatever!)
But the producers quickly let us know whe're not supposed to be impressed with this polo cup stuff. Cut to Lynda saying they don't pay their bills. Also, that it's a little "goat rodeo" she'll never go to again. (Hey, maybe I don't need to be doing these little fact-checking parentheticals.)
Lynda, Mary and Ebong have drinks at the Madison (later the real-life site of the premiere party). Whom to invite to Mary's birthday party? Why, all the other 'Wives of couse. Then at Mary's house, where she shows off the biometric lock on her closet that keeps her daughter out (Brilliant! Did she get this installed just to clinch a reality TV contract?) Then dinner with the whole gang at Equinox (truly a very nice restaurant, in downtown D.C.). Clinking wine glasses. Lynda, in voice over, calls the Salahis "second tier" and wonders why they are there. (But why are any of them? The mechanics are showing here: Most of these people aren't friends. They barely know each other. Without cameras, they would not be together.)
The plot machinery wheezes into second. Michaele asks Stacie if she's going to the Congressional Black Caucus gala - because "I'm going to that." (dum-DUNH! If you've followed the Salahi scandal, you know that they crashed this dinner, months before they crashed the White House.)
And now, Mary's already infamous moment, telling Stacie and celeb stylist Ted Gibson (is he off-screen friends with these people?) that "salons need to integrate. We have different hair, different needs, but why do we have to be at a different salon?.... we have this beautiful couple leading this country..." (Mwa-MWAH! I think the soundtrack actually just did that. It should be your reminder that, as absurd as Mary seems, and while you are sitting there and saying, "omg, look at HER!" that that is exactly what producers want you to say. They spent six months with these ladies to get about seven hours (nine episodes) of programming. They're picking and choosing.) Stacie explains to the cameras that "Mary's a little tipsy."
Some other day in the future. Stacie and her friend Erika sit at her home planning a dinner party/cooking class with Janet Jackson's chef. (Reality TV clearly has some surreal perks). Whom to invite? Why, her new best friends, the other 'Wives, of course. Brief scene of Cat at home with the kids and Charles, who today may be regretting his little on-air anecdote about driving through North Carolina. "Everytime I looked out of the window I could have sworn I saw someone playing the banjo. It was like 'Deliverance.'"
Mary helps dress her husband for Washingtonian's best-dressed party. He's on the list. "The Washingtonian publisher is one of my best friends," she says. "I think she's really hookin' me up!" (We don't need to call Cathy Merrill Williams and ask her about this because, minutes later, the camera cruelly capture Williams at the party casually mispronouncing their last name.)
(I went to this party. With all due respect to the stylish ways of Lynda and Rich, I suspect Washingtonian only put them on the list to capitalize on Housewives mania. The rain kept everyone stuck inside a stuffy hotel banquet room. It was crowded enough that you weren't contstantly aware of the cameras, but they were taking up a fair bit of room, a little pool of light following Lynda and the Amonses as they tried to do normal mingling. The interesting thing: The Washingtonian folks called up the honorees, each by name, and when they got to Lynda... she wasn't there! A no-show! I was convinced that this was a bit of Housewives drama -- you could just see how this would be portrayed on TV. Instead, on TV, Lynda comes to the front when her name was called. So obviously, they recreated it for the cameras. Thanks, Washingtonian!).
Paul Wharton is there, this time with flatironed hair. He and Lynda gossip about the polo match (where we saw him with a loose, curly ponytail). Knowing looks, "don't you start," hahaha! Plot kicks further into gear: Lynda tells Paul that Michaele is looking too thin these days. "She's losing weight to the degree she needs to be spoken to."
Next scene is in Paul's apartment, exposed brick and high ceilings. (It's really his place.) He's got a big rack of evening gowns there that he's showing off to Michaele. (What does Paul do? He told MetroWeekly this month he's tired of people calling him a stylist. "I haven't styled in forever." So what is he? "TV personality and fashion and lifestyle enthusiast." He's been on some lesser-known beauty-and-fashion reality shows, and had a regular gig with the local CW-50.) His hair is naturally wavy today. He tells Michaele that Lynda "was very concerned about you and the weight." Michaele pushes back. "Why is Lynda doing that? Just leave me alone."
(Now, in the world of reality TV, this seems like a pretty minor conflict, right? But in real life, the stars have been burned up by this. It kept coming up when Hank Stuever interviewed them last week -- shortly after they all saw the premiere for the first time -- and boiled over when Tareq threw a glass of wine in Lynda's face last Friday, and boiled over again on "The View.")
Stacie's dinner party. Her guests include Cat and Mary. The chef, Cheo, offers them shots of sake. "I'm not big on sake," Cat says, and (mwa-MWAH!) cut to shot of Stacie looking offended. (Really?) Cat's just getting started, showing off an iPhone pic from Charles of Joe Biden in the back of a limo. Brags about how close her husband is to Obama., that the future president knew all about their courtship "from day one!" (We know that Charles is a well-liked member of the WH press corps, but can't confirm all this.) It goes downhill from there. Cheo discloses that he used to work for Tyra Banks. Cat says she can't stand Tyra -- which is undeniably a rude thing to say to a former employee -- but then goes on to talk in a sort-of dialect to describe what she doesn't like about Tyra. "I was shocked," Stacie tells the camera. Then Cat further offends Stacie by griping that George Bush had the decency to RSVP to their wedding (presumably in the negative) while Obama didn't bother. (We think he was accepting the Democratic nomination around then; otherwise, White House has declined to comment on any allegations from tipsy reality stars.) Stacie is offended. "I am not a fan," she tells the camera.
Preview of the coming season!: Michaele shaking some pompoms. (Nervy! She has told people she's a former Redskins cheerleader, even showing up at alumni events, but the team says she was never on the squad.) We see Jason Turner telling some other guys "It's actually called the penile volumetric measuring device." (Yes, his patent! We broke this story the other day.) More fussing about the Salahis: "They haven't been paying their bills." (We told you all about this, eight months ago.) And then a scene in which Tareq is leveling some accusation against Mary's daughter (or so we've pieced together -- see the end of this story). Scenes of 'Wives crying. Accusations, recriminations... and then (dun-DUNH!) more red sari. Voiceover of Michaele pleading the Fifth. (Before a congresional committee.)
(Who "comes across well," as we say? Lynda wins this round -- a little bitchy, sure, but light, funny, comfortable in her own skin. Who among us hasn't talked about our friends and frenemies behind their backs. Stacie comes in a close second, but you can't help but feel the producers are in her corner: They've set her up as The Normal One. Surprisingly for a show starring Michaele Salahi, it is Mary and Catherine who come across as the most obnoxious. They're the ones who had all the "Can you believe she said THAT?" moments that are the engine of a franchise like this. Just remember, everyone, as you shake your head and wag your finger -- that's exactly the reaction producers wanted you to have.)
The Reliable Source
August 6, 2010; 12:52 PM ET
Categories: Housewives recaps , Real Housewives of D.C.
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