When you have spent every day since you were nineteen years old being nothing but honest and forthright with a friend – the kind of person you tell absolutely everything to, including who you’ve faked orgasms with – it makes you stop cold the moment she seems to hesitate before asking you a question.
Um, she ventures over the phone, and you brace yourself for her to tell you that the new guys you’re cavorting with were once women. Do you watch Vanderpump Rules?
There was a point in your life where simply the question would offend you – and there was probably a time in your life where you also might have asked what’s Vanderpump Rules? But let’s face it: those days have faded into the recesses of the past like bunchy EG socks, ice-pink 44 lip-gloss, political candidates it doesn’t actively hurt to vote for, and quality television programs like My So-Called Life, a show that lasted merely one solitary season.
Vanderpump Rules is currently in season three.
I have seen every single episode.
Now, I love Lisa Vanderpump the way I’m guessing other people loved Elvis, even during his tubby years. She clacked her high-heeled way onto my television screen several years ago when the heavens swarmed together and God created first Andy Cohen and then The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and I sat on my sofa, my mouth slack with awe. Who was this perfect specimen, her hair glossy and expertly falling around her shoulders, speaking perfect sarcasm with an even more perfect English accent? Where had her confident swagger been all of my life? And how could I get her or her fluffy dog to adopt me so that I could live in her glorious mansion that seems swathed in silk fabric as far as the eye can see?
So when Bravo did the only thing they could do – give the woman a spinoff – of course I tuned in. Did I know I would soon make the acquaintance of vapid waitresses and bartenders who once had dreams of real stardom but settled for reality notoriety? I did not, but it’s not like I was terribly surprised. The new show was to be set at Lisa’s restaurant, and it’s not as though I expected even for a second that she would ever deign to haul a plate of avocado-encrusted sea bass herself.
The show is kind of awful, which means that I kind of love it. Shot like the femme fatales from the forties were, with Vaseline piled upon the lens of the camera to give the whole thing a glossy tint, the footage of Vanderpump Rules positively glows. And no, I don’t believe the show’s cameramen actually use Vaseline on the lens, but I’d bet that it could be crushed Valtrex, which I believe falls out of the cast members’ pockets with alarming regularity.
What’s the premise of the show? Oh, questions like that are silly these days and they reek of the presumption that a fully-developed premise is even necessary, but for the Bravo virgin (there has to be at least one, though a Bravo harlot like myself can’t even comprehend such a thing), let’s just say that the action follows servers and bartenders at a Hollywood restaurant – all attractive, but all of whom believe they are actually far better looking than they really are – as they sleep with one another, get into brief brawls at a club that allows a full camera crew inside, and pretend that they’d remain at the job if part of their contract did not include being beamed into the living rooms of non-discerning viewers like myself.
There’s Jax, a thirty-five year old bartender who looks like a caveman drawn for a comic book, one which was abandoned before the writer came in and bubbled words for him to say over his illustration. Jax is revolting as a human being, the kind of guy who sleeps with his best friend’s girlfriend and refuses to apologize, not even to the world at large for knowing that the sex could have led to his spawn eventually roaming the earth, and that shit would be unforgivable. Jax tattooed his ex-girlfriend’s name across his arm, the kind of mistake that should only be made maybe once, and even then, only if you were filled with levels of tequila that could kill anything with a pulse and you also became mentally warped because you had cameras following you and you felt you had to do something compelling because your caveman grunts and your frequent comments on your own questionable handsomeness might not be enough to snag you a contract for season three. But Jax also got another chick’s name inked across his other bicep, this time in bigger font, and this was a girl he didn’t really know how he felt about. He seemed confused – the way single-celled organisms sometimes can be – that the girl whose name covered his probably-STD-ridden-skin – felt she had been given a mixed message when he then broke up with her in a sleazy pizza place.
Girls are such crazy bitches, huh?
Perhaps the “character” who encompasses the very worst attributes of what is sometimes deemed as classic female behavior – being weepy, filled with vengeance, cannot see beyond the emotions that can change on a dime – well, that would be Tom. Tom is a beanie-wearing bartender too, the guy whose girlfriend once straddled his best friend in his living room while he slept, blissful and unaware, in his nearby bedroom. Shitty situation any way you spin the story, but Tom has bounced back with a pretty new girlfriend who is also a bartender at the restaurant and he has cloaked himself in a new kind of protective armor that looks an awful lot like a white terrycloth onesie that he actually tried on, bought, and then wore to a bar where he engaged in a brawl with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, an English child who I’m sure isn’t gay – stop being silly. Why would James, the spiky-haired pubescent, be with the thin-haired Kristen if he were gay? Oh, the cameras that could make him a pretend star? Stop being so cynical.
Back to Tom for one quick moment, as I feel I need to mention that the man uses more concealer than I ever have and applies it with way more panache than I was ever able to, even as I prepared for a photo shoot to take a picture of myself for the back cover of my book. Next time, I’m flying Tom in from L.A. to beautify me because girlfriend knows what he’s doing when it comes to shading.
I’m leaving out the four-minute video text he sent to a girl whose birthday he ruined with his unimpressive boxing skills because the tear-filled message made me reconsider living amongst earthlings – and the voyages that regular people can take into outer space are not looking all that promising these days, so the whole scenario is just way too depressing to keep in my mind for more than a mere moment.
But it’s not more depressing than Kristen, Tom’s ex-girlfriend, who is a terrifying cautionary tale of what can transpire in a damaged psyche when one welcomes alcohol, a camera crew, no accountability, a lack of orthodontia, and the technological ability to stalk an ex into one’s life. She is gloom and doom shot in close-up and her false levels of confidence sadden me because she is old enough to know better. She’s the girl who sneers instead of sees, who reacts instead of reflects. She is the reality prototype of the woman the human species at large should fear because she continually blames the wrong people for her constant misery. She is a walking, talking, alcohol-guzzling, cigarette-smoking example of the kind of person whose participation on a reality show will ultimately ruin her life and it concerns me that, even as I sigh with resignation and pity when she clomps onto the screen, I also cannot stop myself from asking why she doesn’t get herself some extensions so that she at least looks better coiffed when she’s eventually carted off to Bellevue.
Kristen has lost her fair-weather best friends, Katie and Stassi, and I don’t much judge those girls for ditching a duplicitous lunatic. I do judge Katie for being boring and for the orange hair she rocked last season, but she’s back to a dark brown so I have moved on. She’s still dull as fuck, but as long as her boyfriend keeps hopping into fights, I suppose she’ll still have some sort of storyline. Her friend Stassi, a well-dressed and perfectly-accessorized blonde who weirdly looks like what a pretty version of Chelsea Clinton might look like, is now back in Los Angles from her sojourn to New York, so that’s got to make Katie happy. (I say it’s “got to” because Katie apparently was born without the muscles that allows a human to smile, so it’s hard to tell for sure if her friend’s return has brought her a semblance of joy, but I think I heard what I’d consider a happy inflection in her voice once, so I’m wiling to make that intellectual leap.) As for me, I think it’s so awesome and fortuitous – and not at all planned or strategic – that Stassi’s jaunt to New York took place during the show’s hiatus and her return just happened to coincide with the beginning of production for a brand new season. I know! Some people just live lives of utter good luck.
And into all this created nonsense struts Lisa Vanderpump, always looking flawless, lit as though the heavens filled spontaneously with shards of gold and silver because this perfect specimen simply woke up one morning. In my mind, Lisa does almost no wrong. Yes, she’s on ridiculous shows that I watch even as I mock them, but she is constantly funny, wise, and was born with the ability to sail above the silly fray.
But even Lisa has become part of a piece of the show of which I can’t fully abide, even as I love her, even as I know it’s just part of the Reality Show 101 structure. Lisa calls a meeting for her violence-prone staff to take them to task for living lives of public drama. But the astute – or the awake and conscious – viewer knows that if her staff didn’t create and then swim and bathe in that drama, she wouldn’t have a spinoff in the first place, so the whole stern talking to rang as fully false, and if there’s one thing I will not accept in my shitty television viewing experience, it’s Lisa Vanderpump coming off as less than impeccable.
I mean, really: I ask for so little. All I want for this program – one that premiered so close to the holidays that I can’t help but feel that it must be one of my presents – is for Jax to live forever in a room without a mirror, a camera, and a tattoo needle; for Tom to watch his video apology on repeat by the light of a bonfire on which he has burned his closetful of beanies; for Kristen to get herself some therapy and a wig; for Stassi to stare into the camera and say I came back to Los Angles because, as someone who has already appeared on three reality shows before this one, I can’t breathe knowing that a camera exists somewhere in the world that might not be pointed at me; and for Lisa to reclaim her diamond and platinum tiara and never ever take it off – and make me believe that she really is who I like to pretend she really is on camera, because a girl like me needs to believe in something and I’ve always been slightly unsure about God.
Is that really asking too much?