Real Housewives of New York: The Manhattan Murders

On last night's episode an old friendship finally completely ground to a halt and exploded. It was inevitable, but still stung to watch. Also happening: a fashion shoot, an embarrassing interview, and a sad day for Crazy Eyes.

What are we to make of Bethenny and Jill? Is there something to learn from the scene of the accident? Can we trace our fingers along the lines of blood and broken glass and lives stopped too soon and divine some answer from them? Can we use the shards to repair our own wounded hearts? Or is it all just senseless and dull, is it just yet another of the mundane catastrophes that make the world, prickly bit by prickly bit, what it is? I suppose the real tragedy is that we may never know. The root of it, the reason for it, the benefit of it, may remain forever murky. Quel dommage. What pity. What shame. What silly, indescribable loss.

But we'll get to that! We needn't focus on that now when there are brighter, happier things to focus on. Things like Kelly Killoren Bensimon and her Interview, a Jean-Claude van Italie play staged in grotesque pas de deux. Yes someone somewhere in this hideous world of ours wants to interview Kelly Bensimon and last night we were tasked to emotionally navigate that chilling, heart-gulping fact. It was for Playboy! Which makes it worse, sure, but also at least puts it in context. There aren't two magazines vying to expose her to the world. No, it's just one. Just that out-of-date thing with the boobs.

Anyway, Kelly crawled out of a storm drain and crab-walked over to some sort of eatery or ale house and there waiting for her was a big, grinning slab of prime grade American man cheese. He was smoking a cigar and playing with a toy cash register and shooting a buffalo and pressuring a sorority girl into sex all at the same time. He was the definition of USA virility and he was there to talk to Kelly. She blinked her eight eyes in rapid succession and drank from her glass of sugar water and said "Ask me anything." Brock Hardbody smiled and Fourth of July fireworks shot out of his mouth and he said "OK, let's begin..." And then followed a whole list of sexy questions. "Tell me, Kell, can I call you Kell? Where did you get that face of yours?" Kelly smiled and touched the taut calf-hide wine pouch she'd sewn with leather wire onto her skull. "Oh this old thing? Flea market. Used to belong to a cowboy." Brick Nickeldick grinned as wide as the Grand Canyon and said "Oooo, giddyup." Kelly threw her head back and laughed, the gears and pulleys in her neck clanking and creaking, her brittle bones straining against the weight of her sand-filled head. After slowly and painstakingly righting herself, Kelly sexily half closed her eyes and looked across the table at Kirk Buckshot and said "Are you asking me out on a date?"

And the horrid thing, the really reprehensible thing is, he was. Sure maybe it was for the cameras. Maybe all Lance Sternjaw wants is to be on the TV. But no matter the reason, he ended up validating Kelly, which is a cardinal sin. For her part, Kelly played a game of astonished giggler, acting simply tickled and bashful that this walking, talking hunk of fried apple pie would express any interest in her. How ribald! Last night I watched the show with a friend who had never seen it, and he called Kelly "Gnarly Simon." Isn't that perfect? Gnarly Simon. She's so vain, she probably thinks this recap's about her.

But it's not! At least not entirely. No, it's also about Ramona. Oh Ramona. Don't you miss her? She hasn't even gone anywhere, she's still here, and yet one misses her. She just has that quality about her. To know Ramona is to miss her, to say "Oh where did that delightful fruit bat go?", even when she is standing right next to you. In this episode Ramona mostly did tennis game eyes, looking back and forth, back and forth, while stuck in the middle of some awkward situations. So, stuck in the middle of herself, basically. First she went to lovely drinks at Grand Central Station with Alex, Bethenny, and Kelly. Alex, the living embodiment of what's left after a rainstorm, is the Duchess of Brooklyn, a charming pastoral borough located across the churning waters of the Eastern River Sound, and has many royal duties to attend to. Chiefly, she is the head clothing picker (or something) for Brooklyn Fashion Week, a couture event second only to New York, London, Milan, Mumbai, Dubrovnik, Ljubljana, Decatur, and Gramma's Attic Where the Costume Chest Is fashion weeks. So it's a pretty big freaking job. Alex put on her Fashion Deciding hat and invited the other girls because they've all displayed such keen eyes for fashion on the seventeen seasons of this toxic reality experiment. Good thinking, Duchess!

The one trouble with the whole thing was that the fashions were what the French would call les incompetents. Remember in Never Been Kissed when there's the Famous Couples dance toward the end and the three bimbo girls show up wearing similar Barbie costumes and Jessica Alba is wearing like a blue tuft of fabric around her ladygine and some brightly colored ceramic beads placed strategically elsewhere and she does this lame Saturday Night Fever finger dance and is like "I'm Disco Barbie!" and she probably thought she was being funny when they filmed that? Do you remember that? Well that outfit is basically what everyone designed for Crooklyn Fashion Weak (har!). They showed up with thin swaths of neon fabric and all the girls looked at them quizzically and, as if to reassure them, the designers said "Oh, it's a pantsuit." Alex's mouth did weird cartoon wiggles but she was trying to save face so she said "That's... very interesting." Meanwhile Kelly was being really polite by gagging and heaving and Ramona was leaking cod liver oil from her eye sockets and Bethenny was lazily texting. Alex clearly felt very embarrassed. But then finally someone competent showed up with fashions that all the girls just had to try on.

Well mostly Ramona had to try them on. She ran off to a corner and tried to hide behind a plant while she unrolled one dress down her fishy frame and tugged another one up. She came back wearing a black dress full of zippers with a large, strange, oddly menacing (especially when worn by Ramona) neck poof and said "Don't I look great?" And yes, Ramona did look great, if she was going to an outerspace drag queen's funeral in the year 2172. But anyway. After the horrible fashion show had ended, the girls got to chatting, and it got ugly fast. Mostly because Bethenny and Kelly had struck an awkward and tenuous peace accord last week that was bound to quickly and terribly dissolve. And dissolve it did as Kelly and Bethenny got to talking about that horrible sad time when Bethenny called Kelly "Madonna" for acting like a diva. Kelly pretends to be mad about that, but secretly she love love loves that her fabulosity could be compared to that of the ancient and terrible Maddonawitch. But for the sake of saving face, Kelly has to act mad about it and Bethenny has to be all "Whatthefuck?" and Ramona has to sit there in the middle, her zipperdress creaking strangely in the afternoon winds, while Alex does a mournful hoedown hurdy-gurdy dance in an effort to distract everyone. "There once was a girl from Brooklyn," she squawk-sings. "A Chinese girl named Sook Lin. She had a limp to her walk and ate nothing but chalk, and now she's married to an Irish-Vietnamese named Phuc Flynn." Her aching joints moaned and buckled but she kept on dancing, determined to stop the fightin' and the bickerin'. But it was to no avail. Kelly and Bethenny had gotten out their Tommy guns and were unloading hundreds of bullets on each other. Sadly, Ramona was in the middle and she was shot seven hundred times. The sun shone through the bullet holes in her midsection while she sat on the couch calmly, humming to herself and ordering another iced tea when the waiter came by.

So that was that. Another woeful little Alex failure. Moving on, let's talk about Jill. Jill Zarin. The Jay to the Z. Our witless, needlessly bitchy Hova. Last night we saw the return of her daughter, a troubled lump who can't quite seem to decide how she wants to behave on the show. Does she want to play to the cameras, pose and strut and say frameable things? Or does she want to retreat and be mature and mysterious? She can't quite decide, so she's stuck in some middle ground, up and out of the trenches, trying to hide behind a tree lest the machine guns find her. So last night, confused as ever, she let Jill and the camera crew drag her to a windblown abandoned photo studio, where she was to have a photoshoot. It actually was for something real, I think, but I can't remember what. Whatever it was for, it was a big deal to Jill. There was her daughter — slouchy, clotted houseplant — in a pretty dress, adored by cameras, twirling and hip-jutting over and over again in that same standard "I don't know how to do this" amateur model pose, the limp but tentative hand on the hip, the curdled smile. Jill loved it. Unfortunately it was clear about five minutes into the ordeal that the poor girl really, really did not want to be there (Breaking Dawn and the sofa and a Diet Fanta called out to her, quick and sharp from across town), but her mom wanted it to happen, so there it was.

The one thing Jill did do right in this situation was bring Kelly along with her. If you are ever really nervous about doing a modeling shoot (and really, who hasn't been there??), just make sure that Kelly Bensimon is invited and all your cares will evaporate. You'll be feeling awkward and so damn unpretty, but then you'll look over and there will be Kelly, crawling quickly around on the walls, mandibles clacking, rolling her little ball of dung around with her, and you will think "Oh right, could be worse!" Then you will turn back to the camera, strike a Fierce pose, and RuPaul will burst through the wall and sing one long, low "Worrrrrrrrrk" and then disappear. So good job on that, Jill! Bad job on pretty much everything else.

Jill's parade of fuck ups continued apace as she headed home and waited for a houseguest. You see there's one distinct presence that's been missing in New York of late, and that's about to be corrected. The Countess Crackerjacks de Lesseps has been moored out in the Hamptons while her divorce from Count Oldula is finalized, and she is just itchin' to get back to the citay. She and her daughter, back from the lacrosse-filled handjob prison some folks call 'boarding school', had a little chat on the couch about getting a place in town. LuAnn took a long drag of her cigarette and said, with that weary/perky thing she's perfected, "We simply need a pied-à-terre." She liked that. Pied-à-terre. She'd learned the phrase from a book about France her chiropractor kept in the john. It was called Imagine Yourself In France, and it had a buncha pictures and little stories about all kinds of people living in France in different ways. Pierre lived in a house with his wife and son, Luc, in the suburbs of Lyons. Sandrine led hiking trips in the Pyrenees and lived in a strange A-frame chalet typea thing. Fatima lived with her parents in Marseilles and would sometimes stare out at the ocean thinking of Morocco. And Lulu had a flat in Paris, a pied-à-terre, when she wasn't in her manor near Giverny. Lulu. Crackerjacks liked that one the best. She wanted to be like Lulu. Cut off the Ann and double herself up. Sure the Upper East Side ain't Paris, but for now it'll do.

While looking for places, LuAnn was staying at Jill's. A sleepover! She trundled up to the joint and said "knock, knock" as she opened the door and made herself comfortable on the couch. Jill walked in with a scowl on her face. "Oh hiiiii," she said. "You're here." LuAnn let out a throaty cackle and slapped the couch and said "I'm here, baby. Here and queer." There was a brief silence, a dolphin's heartbeat, and then Jill said "I don't think you know what it means." LuAnn raised an eyebrow. "Oh, I know what it means."

So the girls were having a real traditional sleepover, braiding each other's hair and talking about boys and eating too much junk food, when the phone rang. Uh oh. Everyone knows that phone-related hijinks always ensue at sleepovers. This was gonna be good. The person on the other end was Ms. Bethenny, mad as wasps about something she'd just read in the Daily News. Yes, that paper of record ran an item about the Real Housewives of these New York cities that went something like

Breaking: Nobody likes Bethenny, she is an ugly jerk is who is a jerk and is ugly. Plus I heard she smells like monkey poop. In conclusion, Bethenny is an ugly jerk who nobody likes mostly because she smells like monkey poop, but also because look how ugly and jerky she is. Correction: A Gatecrasher item erroneously stated that Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel is "an ugly jerk." Ms. Frankel is actually "a big stupid ugmo with a total pasta face." We regret the error.

Clearly, this smacked of Jill. This was all Jill's doing, she had leaked nasty rumors to the paper. So Bethenny called her up to hash things out and, ring ring, Jill answered. Well, not only did Jill answer, she put the damn thing on speaker phone so Crackerjacks, so excited at this point she'd lit the bottom of a full back of cigarettes and was smoking it like a pan flute, could listen in. Class act, Jillzy! Bethenny asked if she was on speakerphone and Jill said "Yeah, you awrah." And Bethenny asked who was there with her and she said "Some friends," when she should have said "Your arch nemesis the Crackerjacks de Lesseps, oh and a camera crew." But she didn't, because that would be the high road and Jill gets altitude sickness. So she and Bethenny prattled on and on and then it turned into yelling. All Bethenny wanted to do was address the uncomfortable Page Six item and move on, but Jill wasn't hearing it. No, instead she raged about all the old stupid fight stuff, about Bobby and "get a hobby" ("Get a Hobby, Bobby", from the forgotten 1962 musical Lunchtime Lullabies) and Bethenny was like "whatthefuck" and LuAnn watched from the other end of the couch, licking her lips, her eyes glowing the cold, thin green of wickedness.

Bethenny made some interesting points, a few of which we hadn't heard before. My favorite one was when she said "Well if Bobby was sooooo sick, then how come you were out all summer doing press tours and going to parties?" Yes it's a little shitty to be like "Yeah, but how much cancer did he have?", but she did have a point. Jill didn't really know what to say to that, so just steamrolled past it and kept saying "Hobby?? A hobby??" ("Come on Bobby get a hobby / Do you hear me kemo sabe? / Cause you're lookin' for trouble in all the right places / There's nothin' good down at those drag races" — Grease totally ripped off Lunchtime Lullabies). Bethenny kind of ran out of words because what can you really say when the Zarin is just yelling phrases at you, repeatedly? Not much. You can't do much. So Beth let Jill basically say "We're not friends anymore" and then she cried on a lonely city street, the cruel sun warm and mocking on her shoulders, her little red dress (coat?) that had felt so fun and saucy that morning now feeling dumb and heavy on her tiny, trembling frame. Meanwhile back at JZ's crib you could see a brief — very brief, a dolphin having a small stroke — of guilt shadow across Jill's face but it quickly passed and she turned to LuAnn, who was stubbing out the cigarette pack, and said "The nerve'a hurah, huh?" LuAnn leaned in close and said, in Parseltongue, "She's a snake..." Jill's eyes turned glazed and fixed. "Yes. Snake." LuAnn smiled and coiled around Jill. And somewhere far away, Ramona's ears perked up and she sniffed at the air. She turned to Mario and said "It's begun." He nodded solemnly and went to get the shotguns and holy water.

So Bethenny cried on the street and Jill did a bloodletting ceremony with LuAnn and that was that. Earlier in the day Ramona had gone and had a strange dinner with Cher's corpse and what started out sort of silly and fun turned suddenly ugly and sad. Basically Ramona said that she's changed so much of late not because of her haircut (well not only because) but because she had finally made peace with her dying, abusive father. Which is like Real Life stuff that shouldn't be covered on these pages.

Instead we'll think about Kelly, doing little touch-ups on her face with the floor sander, dipping herself in caramel Magic Shell and letting it harden. She is getting ready for a date with Rock Stetson, Playboy man. He'll ask her questions and she'll titter mechanically and all of our hearts will break, in loud crumpling unison, because this is what love is. Two sharp-edged souls coming together, buttressed by stiff mesa winds, the whole of America aching to accommodate them.

We will think of Ramona, who is putting on her warpaint and getting ready to do battle. Who is rumbling across some unknown desert in a dusty jeep towards a mysterious bunker. What could possibly lie within it? Is it the key to our salvation? She parks the car and steps out, twin Colts holstered on her hips, a 12 gauge pump-action strapped across her back. She is a Warrior Woman, ready to defend us.

And there's Alex, standing in her lonely Brooklyn manse, grunting and ululating softly to herself, the human embodiment of a see-saw. "See-saw, see-saw" she says to herself in a honking whisper as she pads around the house. She looks at some fashions for the big event. "Wellll, whaddaya we got heeere," she says, to no one, in a strange, witchy Popeye voice. "Ohh yeah, it's a dress, see? A dress I tells ya..." It is the saddest and most beautiful thing anyone has ever done, Alex talking to herself in funny little voices, and up in heaven God claps his hands, deafening every eternal soul around him, and he says "Bravo! Oh, bravo Alex." (God is really queeny.) But because she cannot hear it all the way down on Earth, Alex still feels lonely and forgotten.

Jill and Bethenny will someday kill each other. They will unhinge their jaws and begin to swallow each other from the feet up. Lying there on the floor in a tragic circle, bile and gasses consuming them, no one looking or paying attention to them, just the clocks ticking and, barely visible through a doorway, the feet of Jill's gay house elf, as he is lying dead in the dining room, unlucky collateral damage. The sun will make its way across the walls and when it is dark and they are up to each other's knees, Bethenny will say "Do ew thfink we should thhtop thith?" and Jill will say "Never!" and move up toward's Bethenny's thighs.

And LuAnn will be pleased that she caused it all, willed it all to happen. She does not like challenges to her throne and Bethenny represented one. She's sorry that Jill had to go too, but thems is, as the poets used to say, the breaks. She will miss the sleepovers, though.

She remembers going to a fun sleepovers when she was a kid, how she'd marvel at the other girls' houses, real full houses. With shag carpeting and television sets that looked like strange lunar units and avocado green phones and brown patterned linoleum on the kitchen floor. Those houses were nothing like her house, that augmented and added-to trailer out in the field behind the shopping mall. She was always terrified to bring kids from school back to that place, with its rusting edges and its acid-tongued Ma and molding loaf of bread Dad, stuck in the recliner smoking cigarettes, grainy Let's Make a Deal playing at low volume on the ancient wood-sided TV.

Her mother had once suggested a sleepover. Not out of any sense of fun, but because she'd run into Leeny Scarber's mom at the supermarket and Mrs. Scarber has told her that it was very nice to have LuAnn over the previous weekend, that all the girls had such fun. And Lu's mom just couldn't deal with "that stuck-up bitch" acting like she was better'n everyone else. The idea of having a group of girls over to the trailer filled LuAnn with ultimate dread but her mother stood over her while she called a few girls from school — Milly Walters, Leeny of course, Marsha Cloxon, Jenny Rudner — and invited them over for Friday night. They'd seemed wary at first (LuAnn's living conditions were not as much of a secret as she wanted them to be) but eventually agreed. "Sounds fun!" LuAnn remembers Marsha saying, the way something innocent and happy like that could sound so horrible and sad. When LuAnn was done making the calls her mother said nothing, just coughed loudly and shuffled off toward the back bedroom.

By Friday afternoon she'd come up with a lie, her dad was really sick, and told the girls she was real sorry, but she'd have to cancel the sleepover. Jenny said no problem, they could all go to her house, but LuAnn knew she'd at least have to go home first, face her mother and tell her the sleepover was off and get the wrath over with. When she got home it was dark — October seemed to turn to fall earlier and earlier it seemed — and the light on the side of the trailer was buzzing loudly. She walked into the house and turned on the floor lamp. Her parents were both gone and there was a note on the coffee table, from her mother. It said "Lu — Working early night shift, back at nine. Don't drink my beer, there's soda." LuAnn went to the fridge and opened it. Her mother had, indeed, bought soda for the night. For her and her friends, LuAnn realized. She turned back to the living room and noticed something propped up on the couch. It was a record. Her mother had bought a new record for her. For her and her friends to listen to. At their sleepover. David Cassidy's "Cherish." Her mother had been thinking about the party, LuAnn realized. Had wanted, in some small way, to make it a nice time. She suddenly felt sideways and mean. What a dumb thing she had done.

But it was too late, she figured. What could she do now. She wrote her mother a note saying the party had moved to Jenny's and she left, leaving the record lying on the couch, David Cassidy staring up at the dark ceiling, waiting for someone, anyone, to come home and fill the house with music.