Friday, August 22, 2014

Carole Radziwill Talks "RHONY" Season 6 and Aviva Drescher Drama
Being the voice of reason on a reality show such as Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York City is destined to be a doomed position, as Carole Radziwill found out the hard way in this past season. When she first joined the show in Season 5, Radziwill — a writer and Emmy-winning former ABC News producer — served the necessary function of commenting, if not sometimes gawking, at the often crazy behavior of the rest of the cast. She was a stand-in for viewers. 
It was not to last. Season 6, Radziwill’s second — which began airing in March — drew her immediately straight into its mad heart. What sucked her in were accusations from Aviva Drescher, a cast member who had also joined the show in Season 5, that she had heard “on the street” that Radziwill used a ghostwriter for What Remains, her 2005 memoir. Radziwill, who confronted (and strenuously denied) the question on camera in a heated fight with Drescher, was flabbergasted, and the scandal — #bookgate — hovered over and partly informed the trajectory of the season. What Remains is Radziwill’s recounting of her life with her late husband, Anthony Radziwill, his prolonged struggle with terminal cancer, and their close friendships with Anthony’s cousin, John F. Kennedy Jr., and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy. Three out of those four people died in the summer of 1999, which is also what What Remains is about. To call its authorship into question was new and ugly emotional territory, even for Real Housewives. 
The second of three reunion episodes aired Tuesday night, and #bookgate was addressed. The cast fell into its usual formation, with Radziwill, Heather Thomson, Kristen Taekman, and Luann de Lessepps on one side (literally), and Drescher, Sonja Morgan, and Ramona Singer on the other. Drescher still maintains she did not have a ghostwriter on her own memoir, Leggy Blonde, and in an effort to advance her theory that no writer writes a book alone, somehow also managed to smear Harper Lee. In other words, it was a mess, and nothing was resolved. Part 3 of the reunion will air next Tuesday. 
I recently met Radziwill at a diner in West Hollywood, where we talked about the disaster with Drescher, how infuriating #bookgate was for her, her frustrations with some of the other cast members (Sonja Morgan!), and her work outside of the show, including her recent novel, The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating. Oh, and we talked about Drescher throwing her leg on the floor.

In your first season, you were able to rise above and not get drawn into drama. I felt like your experience this season, however, proved that it’s impossible on one of these shows to rise above in perpetuity.
Carole Radziwill: Last season, because I was new and because all the women, I think, genuinely liked me, as I them, there wasn’t anyone gunning for me. I did, if you recall, cry — they made me cry. 

That’s true.
CR: It was an intense time in St. Barts. And there was a lot going on. Some of it not fun for me. But yeah, this season I scream. I cop to that. It wasn’t my finest moment. But I think I proved that I’m pretty easygoing about things, whether it’s gossip about my ex-boyfriend or silliness about who’s bossy and who’s not. Or who’s not invited to some party, or who is. But I think what really matters to me is my work. And when you not only question my integrity and my credibility — but also, it went deeper than that. I could have understood Aviva repeating gossip about my work, and saying people said I had a ghostwriter, although it seems implausible. But listen, there’s no industry that’s immune to gossip and professional jealously.
But when the attack was not only about my career, but impugns my late husband’s family, belittles my accomplishments, and kind of trashes my novel in a way that I knew to be untrue — and then she ridicules my age — it’s, like, Whoa! I feel like the audience wants you to defend yourself. You don’t mess with someone’s career, or work, or family.

When something like that happens, how aware of the cameras are you?
CR: Had I been more aware, I wouldn’t have reacted the way I did, I think. If someone said to me at a cocktail party, “Well, I hear gossip that Bill Whitworth, the editor of The Atlantic Monthly, ghostwrites all your books,” I would have been, like, “OK, you’re crazy.” And walked away. But as she’s saying it, I’m like, What is she saying? And then I’m like, She’s saying this on national television? And the minute you start to defend yourself, which I did, you kind of look defensive. 

She asked me at lunch if I used I ghostwriter. I said no. I asked her, she said no. It should have ended there. It didn’t. She went to everybody and repeated the gossip. And then confronted me in her home. I said no then, and then yeah, I got spitfire angry when she then continued to belittle my accomplishments and ridicule my age and talk about my late husband’s family — I couldn’t say I was so aware of the cameras at that moment. I was and I wasn’t. I was aware that she was saying this stuff on national television, but I wasn’t able to take that awareness and say, Let me at least behave in a way — I think I behaved in a way that anyone would have.

It happened so early in the season. It must have been jarring.
CR: You’re just coming back, you’re getting your sea legs, like, OK, I’ve got to gear up for this again! Had I known she wasn’t going to bring up her process of hiring a writer to work with, had I known she wasn’t going to bring that on camera, I never would have asked if she had hired the writer. At that moment when I said, “Have you hired the writer?” I fully thought she was going to do scenes with her. So when she said, “No, I did it alone,” in my stomach, I said, Oh, shit. I never thought she would go as far as she did.
Throughout the season, Aviva either said she wrote her book herself or “it takes a village.” But her book was ghostwritten by a woman named Valerie Frankel. Why is that a bad thing?
CR: It’s industry standard. She signed a deal, she had to turn that book around quickly. They peg it to the show. It’s what every other Housewife does. And it’s great. It’s great for publishing, it’s good for writers. It just never occurred to me that she wasn’t going to be honest about that. 

I imagine that one of the frightening things about being on a reality show is that people can just say anything.
CR: I know, Kate. I know! And I don’t have skeletons in my closet, I don’t have things I can’t talk about. But I realized after that, Oh, you can just make it up. I remember after that scene going to the producers and saying, “Well, that was drama, but it’s not true.
The publisher didn’t pass, and Bill Whitworth is an editor.” He was my copy editor, which is a phenomenal insult to him to even say that, because he’s one of the most respected editors. It’s just that he didn’t come on until the very end of What Remains. I remember saying to the producers, “That’s not true.” And they looked at me, like, We don’t care about the truth. It was this stupid “Aha!” moment. 

When something like that does happen, which is upsetting and potentially damaging, what do you do? Do you call Andy Cohen?
CR: The ironic thing is that the next morning at 10 a.m., I was at a wedding with Andy; a mutual friend was getting married. I was in a rage! I’m really good with Andy, because we do travel in the same social circles, and I’ve never — it’s like a Chinese Wall. Because I can be very passionate about things, especially about work, and I do regard the show as work. I don’t like to get into conversations with him about it, because he is the executive in charge of Bravo, and there’s a professionalism that has to exist. Neither of us wants to talk about the show when we’re at weddings. But I broke my rule.

Tell me more. CR: I think he had heard about it. And he knew I was upset about it. He was very smart, though. He said, “Rely on the intelligence of the audience, Carole.” I was, like, “I can’t do that! That’s slander! And this is insane!” And you know what? He was right.

CR: But there were calls to lawyers. 
RELATED:  6 Things Aviva Drescher Said About BuzzFeed’s Interview With Carole Radziwill