Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Down-To-Earth Writer and Camelot Widow Carole Radziwill Goes On
Carole Radziwill is lounging on a chaise at the Bar on Fifth at the Setai hotel, crossing her Louboutin espadrilles. The lithe 48-year-old is decked out in hip-hugging jeans and an ivory cardigan. She’s got a big smile on her face and appears completely at ease for someone about to take her turn as one of the new “Real Housewives of New York City.”

There’s just one thing. She does not want to be photographed with a glass of Champagne.

“You’ll see on the show, I’m like, ‘Enough with the f - - king toasting!’ ” she laughs, poking fun at the Housewives’ propensity to turn every cocktail party into a “moment.”
Radziwill is one of three new cast members joining the reality hit, which premieres its fifth season Monday at 9 p.m.

But she’s not your typical Bravo reality-TV celebrity. There’s no entourage of unnecessary assistants and no strapless cocktail dress worn in broad daylight.

More surprising still: She doesn’t want to watch herself on television. “You get self-conscious, and then you lose something,” she says of the experience.

That said — and as she herself is quick to point out — this isn’t exactly her first rodeo. Radziwill gained national attention when she wed Polish prince Anthony Radziwill in August 1994, marrying into European royalty and, tangentially, American royalty. Anthony was the son of Lee Bouvier Radziwill, the beautiful sister of Jacqueline Kennedy. Anthony’s cousin John F. Kennedy Jr. was his best friend (and best man at his wedding), while his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, became Carole’s confidant and closest friend.

But in 1999, everything changed. On July 16, John and Carolyn died when their plane went down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Less than a month later, Anthony lost his five-year battle with testicular cancer. And just like that, Carole was alone.

In 2003, Radziwill, who had spent nearly two decades working as a journalist at ABC, left to write a memoir, “What Remains,” chronicling her loss. Critics raved about the heart-wrenching book, which landed Radziwill a spot on the New York Times Best Seller List in 2005 and a sit-down with Oprah. “Critical acclaim is great, and it gets you the corner table,” says Radziwill, “but commercial success pays the bills.”

Which brings her to her current venture. Mum’s the word on “Housewife” paychecks (a rep for Bravo declined to comment on finances), but returning cast members will reportedly make $500,000 each this season, while the newcomers will not make nearly as much. Radziwill says only that she considers the show “a job offer.” After leaving ABC, Radziwill began interviewing celebrities for Glamour on a contributing basis, but that gig has ended.
Already, people are talking about Radziwill’s debut on the reality show known for catfights and cocktails.
“The unlikely housewife,” she says, with a knowing laugh.

She says that she and Andy Cohen, the Bravo brain behind the “Housewives” franchise, go way back. Other women have groveled to Cohen to be cast, sometimes even showing up in the background of existing cast members’ filmed parties over and over again. In his memoir, Cohen says that 500 women showed up to audition for the Beverly Hills cast.

Radziwill, to the contrary, was chased. “I could probably count on one hand the number of conversations I’ve ever had about the ‘Housewives’ show with him,” she says.

“But last summer, we had dinner with some mutual friends. And he kind of asked me if I would consider it. My impulse was to say, ‘Are you crazy? Hell no!’ ”

But Cohen is nothing if not persistent. He followed up the next day and convinced Radziwill to consider it. 

She started meeting with the producers of the show and was surprised to find herself impressed with them. “I got the feeling ... that most of them probably would’ve been working in news had reality television not taken over the airwaves 10 years ago,” she says.

“A lot of them had journalism degrees. So there’s a comfort level.”

Still, the over-the-top nature of the show could prove quite controversial for a woman currently famous for being a widow.

“You know, I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m really comfortable with it,” says Radziwill of discussing her past. “It feels really natural to talk about my late husband. I get a joy out of it when I think of those memories.”
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