The other night I saw God and it turns out he looks exactly like Bruce Springsteen.
I haven't completely figured out if there's a poetic meaning behind it all, but my 30th Springsteen concert was part of The River Tour, meaning he would be playing the entire iconic double album straight through before launching into another full set. I'd missed the original River Tour. I was too young to go to a show, a fact that didn't comfort me in the least when my parents and my sister left the house and promised to bring me back a tee shirt. No joke: I remember almost nothing from the earliest part of my life – and when it comes to the night I had to miss the Bruce show, I can vividly recall the name of my babysitter and that the feety pajamas I was wearing were yellow.
I still have the shirt they brought me. It fits now. I've been to many shows since and I feel nothing but blessed for all of those perfect nights, but still – the River Tour was always the one that got away.
Then December came. Springsteen released The Ties That Bind, a collection of outtakes from The River. Soon after, he announced that he and the band were heading back on the road for a mini tour and they'd be making two stops at The Garden. Pretending for a moment that I'd actually internalized anything from that time I secretly read The Secret, I entered the date of the show in the calendar of my phone before tickets even went on sale. (I think the pretend-gurus call this action "visualization.") The thing is, I knew I'd end up with tickets somehow. If 29 concerts had taught me anything, it's that I would happily trudge through gigantic cold parking lots looking for scalpers or suck it up and just pay far too much on Stubhub to gain entrance to a cathedral where holy music was played on a black electric guitar.
It was my first stop on the Let's-See-How-Much-I'll-Pay-This-Time ride, but I didn't really expect to come away from Ticketmaster victoriously. So many times I've frozen when it's time to type in that weird computerized security code and then a terrible message pops up to coldly inform me that all the tickets are gone. I think there's also a pop-up that appears that tells me my hair looks shitty at the moment, but my devastation might just be causing momentary hallucinations. This time – for this tour – I got tickets immediately. They weren't the best seats in the place, but it was a sure thing: all these years later, I was going to hear one of my favorite albums of all time played from side to side (to side to side). It could only be better and more memory-inducing if The Garden's floor was covered in a rust shag carpet for the evening.
I can hardly remember the first song he played, so dumbstruck I was rendered the minute he walked onstage and I realized that I was in the same room as someone whose words have defined my entire life. So yeah, the first verse of Meet Me in the City is a little fuzzy, but I recovered quickly and the night was magical. It was almost a little bit bizarre – but in a beautiful, hazy way – to hear all those songs that once played on a loop in my den as I built forts with my sister. Images came rushing back like a wave and the water was warm and still. As we all went along on Bruce's River journey, I found myself going on my own memory tour and I began to understand my past just a little bit more clearly.
There's a real gratitude I feel when words someone assembled and then crafted into a sentence moves everything inside of me. I think that one of my biggest goals is to write that one line that resonates so powerfully within somebody else. It's the dream of sharing that kind of lyrical collective consciousness that I guess I find so damn interesting and during the show, I thought that dream just might come true.
I mention all this because I'm imagining the act of seeing Erika Jayne perform live brings upon the same kind of emotional peace. Sure, the guy's been famous since before I was born, but I'm pretty sure nobody's ever called Springsteen "an enigma wrapped in cash." No, Erika Jayne is the real legend and I'm guessing that watching her hump that stage will finally convince all of us that real art does exist and I know that she will dazzle me to such a degree that I'll have the immediate desire to leave her show – while she's still singing – go home, and bedazzle everything I own.
This episode obviously cannot begin with the greatest artist of our time. That kind of shit has to be worked up to, so instead we start by watching a typical girls' day out – you know, the kind where you all decide to go to cryotherapy instead of having brunch? Cryotherapy is Yolanda's very favorite thing to do, and she has decided to bring Kyle, Lisa Vanderpump and her trusty health advocate, Daisy, with her so they can share in the magnificent splendor of being shoved into a freezer and then having to pay for it. Yolanda is so excited! She loves the days she gets to almost freeze to death in the name of alternative medicine and she's more than a bit confused at her friends' hesitation at the prospect of frostbite. Now listen: I am one of those people who believes that Yolanda is really sick, but that doesn't mean that I also can't believe that she's becoming a bit batshit crazy by repeatedly handing her body over to every shaman east of the Mississippi. Also? The look on her face at the cryotherapy lab was almost too intense in its delight. It read as kind of creepy, no?
Lisa makes the most of it by performing a striptease from inside the chamber that makes Yolanda laugh. Kyle looks like she's going to cry and makes an analogy about how it feels like she's skiing naked, but she makes sure to mention that the skinny-skiing would totally occur in Aspen because Kyle is a pretentious and superficial jerk.
It's not freezing over at Erika's house, and that's good because she cannot allow herself to catch a chill when she and her stylist have some serious packing to do. She's taking a tour bus down to San Diego to perform in a gay club and she and her faux ponytail could not be more excited. Her closet's a dream come true for even the most committed drag queen. There are miles of sparkly heels and bold cuffs and something tells me that this woman is not shy when it comes to slipping on some animal prints. They've got their work cut out for them as they try to sift through all the options to find the very best outfits for the sound check and the after party and the brunch the next day. (I can just see Springsteen trying desperately to decide whether he should wear the black tee or the other black tee for his sound check, can't you?) Obviously, the necklace she owns that spells out "cunty" is a must. It'll pair nicely with the shoes her stylist insist scream out, "My vagina's not cold!" and I'm going to need you all to excuse me for a moment so I can go reevaluate the outfit I'm wearing tomorrow because now I'm not sure what messages it's sending to the world about the temperature of my crotch.
(I'm back. I decided to go with the less opaque tights. My vagina agrees with this choice.)
Over at Lisa Rinna's house, she’s packing for the trip to San Diego (because all these women seem to do these days is pack and apologize to Yolanda) and she's expecting Erika's show to run the gamut from mildly smutty to featuring albinos swinging from chandeliers naked as Erika shimmies for the enraptured audience. I'd rather watch either of those scenarios play out than go to lunch with Kyle, Lisa, and Yolanda because the previews showed us what was coming. Before the fight about what might have been said about Yolanda's kids can happen, first we learn that Yolanda is not making the trip to San Diego because she's still recovering. I'll give her that – and I'll also give her credit for asking whether or not Kyle and Lisa stood up for her when Lisa Rinna dared to bring up the word "Munchausen." I like people who are direct and Yolanda is being direct here, but the thing about Lisa Vanderpump bringing up Yolanda's children just didn't happen. The woman answered a direct question and I realize that Yolanda’s a Real Housewife and everything and that means her career is to overreact, but if you're truly fighting for your life, how can you possibly see fit to make time to trace back every story someone might telling about you? Shouldn't you be paying someone to apply leeches to your skin instead of printing out copies of your babies' medical records in order for Lisa to go home and peruse this confidential information so she can know the truth? Is this at all the behavior of a rational person? It's funny – Yolanda remains cool and calm, the perfect Hitchcock blonde who forgot to put on lipstick, but she's actually coming off to me as someone who is not all there. She's reminding me of the kind of delusional person who thinks she's acting all smooth and she will go home later and congratulate her reflection in the mirror for keeping her composure while having no idea how she's really coming across to anyone with sight.
By the way, Yolanda would also like Lisa to apologize to her children for having the audacity to call them healthy.
In a way calmer lunch that doesn't involve an inquisition or hemoglobin results, Kathryn and Eileen eat salads and sit in the kind of shade that gives off the perfect light. These women are fucking backlit to the nines and I think all of us should eat every single meal on that restaurant's patio. It comes out that Eileen used to date Kathryn's ex-husband and it's possible that their relationships overlapped and I so wish that was the big storyline this season instead of Yolanda investigating what people might have said about her. In spite of the fact that they maybe nailed the same guy within a forty-eight hour period of one another, the two get along so well that Kathryn can tell Eileen that her purse is fucking disgusting and I think we are witnessing a true friendship being born.
The bus Erika takes to San Diego isn't her own, but that's only because she usually flies to shows – on her own motherfucking plane. Now, before I say what I'm sure I'll end up saying about Erika Jayne, allow me first to reveal that I like Erika. I find her cartoonishly ridiculous in the very best way and I also think there's clearly a brain in that head of hers. She strikes me as a decent person too, but that doesn't mean that I won't chuckle when one of her friends calls her "The Queen of Everything" and then rubs makeup all over her entire body.
Back in LA, all of the ladies get into a Hummer limo (because, of course) and they ogle Eileen's ass in what might be a denim jumpsuit. As they head down to Erika's show, Lisa Rinna tells the group that she Googled the club and they'll be there on Pervert Night. "I'm a pervert," chirps Kyle, and hearing that woman say that line has definitely just made my vagina go cold and no kind of tights is going to solve this problem.
But it's Lisa Rinna whose nether regions might fall out from pure shock. Kyle and Lisa tell her that Yolanda said that Lisa said that Lisa Vanderpump was talking shit about her. (I feel all of a sudden like I'm writing a very bad sentence for a Sweet Valley High book.) Lisa Rinna is stunned; she claims to have never said a word about any of that and even though she was so nervous in front of Yolanda that she might have let something unintentional dribble out the corner of her mouth, I believe her. I think it was Erika who told Yolanda half a story and now everyone is trapped in a Hummer with Eileen's ugly purse and all kinds of suspicions and they're ready to fight about something that never actually happened.
At the hotel, Eileen visits Lisa Rinna's room where the two attempt to solve a puzzle: who told Yolanda about what Lisa Vanderpump never really said? It wasn't either of them – that much they can suss out. It doesn't take a good amount of sleuthing to realize that it has to be Erika who's the fink and they will confront her later that night, maybe even while she's patting her puss.
On the way to the club, Kathryn reveals she's deaf in one ear and Lisa Rinna proclaims that the truth will always prevail and she appears to have had a glass (or six) of wine. She is ready to rumble with the star of the night so she can get down to the truth of the matter immediately because, as I've said before, I think Lisa Rinna would rather fake her own death than have to answer pointed questions at a reunion ever again and she will resolve this conflict before that fucking day ever comes, so help her.
But the confrontation can wait, because it's also Perfect Ass night at the club and the women gawk at the men in chaps and leather collars while backstage, Erika and her crew gather in a circle to pray to God that he turn up the sex in her performance and that moment was so awesomely hilarious that I might watch it on repeat for seven hours straight and call in sick to work tomorrow.
Then she arrives onstage. So who is Erika Jayne? Well, we already knew she was both class and ass dipped in cash, but she's very versatile. She's a temptress, too! Her hair is longer and blonder than it’s ever been and her every move is accompanied by a wind machine and when she raises her hand, glitter explodes from the sky. I'm gonna BE her for Halloween.
Erika's performance is so generically inspiring that her presence causes Lisa Rinna to feel herself up and Kyle Richards to say that her show wasn't disappointing, which is the highest praise she pays anyone who didn't star in Tuff Turf. Still, they are all complimentary to Erika and they get on the bus with her and the mood is festive. Or the mood was festive until Kathryn predictably makes it known that she doesn't like the "cunty" necklace, which is kind of a comment only a cunt would make. The word bothers Kyle too, but Erika is trying to explain that she has reclaimed the word and it means things like "sexy" and "fabulous" and "rich enough to own your own goddamn plane." Eileen, who I'm thinking might have a sweet crush on Ms. Erika Jayne, busts in to tell them all to relax and "cunty" is just a word and I think Eileen might become Erika Jayne's first real groupie. I'm excited for both of them!
At the after party – which is women holding grudges sipping cocktails in a hotel room – Lisa Rinna starts the confrontation. Was it Erika who told Yolanda things about both Lisas? Erika shakes her head no. She's not about to admit to being a common snitch while she's wearing $500,000 of Swarovski crystals on her thong! She just had an incredible show and she's not going to be brought down and everybody starts yelling right about then and I wonder if this is exactly what happens when the East Street Band gets together after a show.
The evening ends without incident, but Lisa Rinna knows what’s up here. "Erika's a pussy," she states to us. She knows that Erika's the one who said the thing about Lisa Vanderpump and I think Lisa Rinna had herself a moment of pure in clarity in San Diego as she gazed out of her hotel room window at the lights below. She rested her inebriated head against the glass and she thought long and hard about the cunty woman in the penthouse above her and she thought to herself, fuck it – guess I’m going all in at the reunion.
Nell Kalter teaches Film and Media at a school in New York. She is the author of the books THAT YEAR and STUDENT, both available on amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle.