When I see that going on with public figures I’m as fascinated as an anthropologist encountering a strange new tribe. Because the need to be famous at all costs is something I don’t have personal experience with.
And so begins our cautionary tale: How much would YOU be willing to give up for fame?
Frequent readers know that a few of the “real housewives” shows are my guilty pleasure. New York City is a favorite, because it’s a life I might have lived if things had gone differently with M and me the first time around. Plus, the women are fascinating, sometimes in a train-wreck kind of way, but always in a “lesson-to-be-learned” way.
Such is the case with one of the first Housewives of New York City, Bethenny Frankel, whose drive for fame exceeds her drive for fortune, which is also significant. But let me tell you a bit about her.
Remember my name! Fame! I’m gonna live forever!
She’s a wise-cracking, fast-talking, alleged bulimic who is said to have craved fame from the start and got her first taste of it on that short-lived Martha Stewart Apprentice show in 2005. She came in second and Stewart said it was because she was a “pest.” I think Stewart was being kind. Frankel is kinetic, obnoxious and vulgar, which of course, makes good TV here in the 21st century. But doesn’t make her someone we’d want to root for. She’s quite a drama queen.
So it was no surprise when she was chosen for the Real Housewives of NYC in 2008, even though she wasn’t a housewife at all. She was divorced, but desperate to be remarried. Hold that thought.
On the NYC show, her electric energy and smartass, staccato remarks were characterized by a complete lack of filter. She’d blurt anything out, no matter how hurtful. On the show, we learned that she’d had a terrible upbringing, with parents she said were largely absent. Frankel claims her childhood was filled with eating disorders, mental illness and alcoholism. Her mother calls her “a vicious and horrible liar” who would do anything for ratings. Yes, her mother said that, and more. She reports that she hasn’t spoken to her daughter in a decade because of the lies and says she never will. In fact, she’s never seen her granddaughter. Hold that thought, too.
Frankel’s behavior on Housewives showed her to be quite troubled. But driven as she is, she parlayed that reality show into one of her very own: Bethenny’s Getting Married? That’s right. She found a man, Jason Hoppy and agreed to a reality show that depicted her engagement and marriage. Hoppy’s professional life was vague, but he seemed to be way more grounded than she. Normal, even. It didn’t seem like the world’s greatest match, but then again, you never know.
Since one year of fame wasn’t enough, that show morphed Bethenny Ever After, which chronicled her marriage, pregnancy and quick motherhood. Yes, the two had a daughter quite soon after their marriage.
Now, if anything is a recipe for marital failure it would be putting one’s marriage on camera and open to the world’s comment. And as you might expect, the show featured its share of arguments between the couple. It also showed Bethenny’s unfamiliarity with normal family life. Jason’s parents wanted to see their granddaughter often and invited the couple to their very normal Pennsylvania home frequently. They acted like any of our parents would.
Bethenny resented their involvement in her married life and had no interest in frequent visits to their very normal household. I remember her telling Jason that she “wasn’t used to this kind of thing,” which may bear out her claims of a crazy family life. But those were some of the most uncomfortable parts of the show to view, because she was just so clueless about how bad her attitude toward her in-laws were. And how inappropriate. She came off like a self-centered bitch.
As I watched these squabbles unfold on TV, it was clear that the marriage wasn’t going to make “ever after.” And Bethenny did herself no favors by revealing so much of her personal life on the show, which also featured segments from her therapy sessions, which is always a bad idea, in my opinion. How much of a fame whore do you have to be to feature your therapy sessions and your shrink on a reality show? To be so tone deaf to how badly you are coming off to viewers? I know your answer.
But see, that kind of train-wreck television draws viewers. Maybe they all watched as I did, with furrowed brow and the eye of a social psychologist (I was in a grad program for that once.) But probably not. Today’s TV audiences are a bloodthirsty group.
And then, Bethenny got a talk show of her very own. So it must have worked. Jason seemed to have plenty of time to visit the talk show and also to argue over whether they should buy a house in LA or not. His employment status remained vague. Tension remained thick.
Bethenny was cancelled after a single season. She said it was hard work and there were big parts of it she didn’t enjoy. Like being filtered and unable to say vagina or orgasm on TV. “I am a free spirit…”
Uh-huh. She said that she was “over herself” and wouldn’t blame viewers for “being over me.” Sounds like a break would be next, right? You would think.
Luckily, she didn’t have to worry about making a living. Halfway through the marriage, Bethenny sold a line of cocktails she developed for a reported $100+ million. She got her fortune.
She also got a divorce. I suspect Jason’s settlement will be a good one, although the ink isn’t dry on that part of their dissolution.
After all that, you’d think maybe she’d want to kick back and be a mom for a while.
Nope. People in the know say she immediately began pitching a new reality show based on her life after divorce. Seriously? Yes. No word on that so far, but she did rejoin the Real Housewives of NYC. It took only one episode for me to know that I was way over her. Wayyy over her.
So let’s rack up the Fame Whore credits: (since 2005. In the 90s she had a couple of small film appearances.)
* Martha Stewart Apprentice
* Real Housewives of NYC
* Bethenny Getting Married?
* Bethenny Ever After
* Bethenny talk show
* Back to Real Housewives of NYC
* Possible talks for her own reality show again
Me? If I were Bethenny, I would’ve stopped after the fortune. Because nothing good could come of showing the world more of my dysfunctional life. Not for viewers and certainly not for Bethenny. Or that poor daughter of hers.
There’s something super-dysfunctional going on when someone makes their fortune and still wants to bare all on reality TV. Some narcissm, perhaps, some insecurity, neediness–name it. This is a woman so troubled she doesn’t even get how troubled she is. How toxic.
Now, maybe I’ve got it wrong, I don’t know. I ask you: How much would you be willing to give up for fame and fortune? I’d like to think that Bethenny actually valued some of the things she gave up: a happy marriage, a wholesome family life for her daughter, privacy. But you know what? I don’t think she valued them at all. Her need for attention is just too great. Which is sad.
Your thoughts on fame and fortune?