Last night was the second time our sad-eyed ladies of the canyon went on a trip together, this time all the way over here to our own towering New York. And, of course, a fun trip turned ugly.
It's just always what happens on these shows. Whether it's to Poison Island or San Francisco or wherever the hell else, when Housewives travel in packs together, it almost always ends in murder and despair. So why did we think this excursion would be any different? Well, actually, we didn't think that. We saw the signs of impending misery early on.
Everyone was going to New York. You see, I'm not sure if you remember this or if you ever knew it to begin with, but Camille's husband is an actor. Yeah, he's this actor named Kelsey Grammer, from a show about homosexual incest called Frasier, and he was pretty popular there for a while. So what does one do when one was popular in the 1990s and is now just kind of a pleasant, exorbitantly wealthy memory? Well, one goes to where pleasant, wealthy memories thrive: Broadway! Ah yes, the warmly sad shuffle of the footlights, the manically bright posters and signs and weather-worn smiles. Broadway is the tattered god to whom theatrefolk (myself among them) pay a kind of strange, almost reluctant worship. It's weary and creaky and often placid and dull, and yet... it's Broadway. It still faintly echoes with those old taps of feet and belts of voice that used to set the world aflame.
So, yeah. Kelsey Grammer decided to do a Broadway show, which meant goodbye LA, which meant Hello, Camille Complain Time. Camille's all alone with only her house manager and tennis sex staff and four nannies to take care of her and her two children. What's a woman to do? A woman is to sigh and moan and grumble and pout. And then a woman is to invite all her fake TV friends for a weekend trip to New York to see Kelsey's opening, so she can sigh and grumble and pout in front of them. Oh, and her ailing mother! Camille is the best.
But enough about her for a moment. The other ones. Yes, there are other ones. All the ladies were sooo excited about the big New York trip, mostly because it meant pre-trip shopping!! Woohoo!!! These ladies love nothing more than to throw money around in front of picture cameras. The first shopping pairing was brown 'n brassy Kyle matched up with ol' misery-face herself, Taylor Twobuckets. Kyle tromped up to Taylor's decidedly small (relatively) house and rang the dingy-dongy and there Taylor was at the door, clutching the little white dog her beautiful and elegant husband Russell had given to their daughter in an effort to overshadow the birthday party Taylor had thrown, and she was squeezing that thing with such molten plastic resentment that I wanted to reach through the screen and rescue the poor thing. Kyle looked uncomfortable too, but what could she really do. Kyle waved hello to poor suffering Kennedy, Taylor's lonely child, who waits desperately for a sibling, named Idalis or Duffy or Downtown Julie Brown, to keep her company. And then the two adults left, leaving Kennedy curled up sadly on the staircase, the little white dog off gasping somewhere, trying to claw a hole under the backdoor, wonderful freedom just an agonizing few inches away.
Kyle and Taylor zoomed off in Kyle's extravagantly expensive Mercedes and soon they were at a small, low, crooked building. It had a strange round-topped door and tall, stalky plants in a messy garden out front. Taylor looked a little nervous but Kyle was confident, she'd been here before. She rapped, thrice, on the door and waited. There was a soft shuffling sound, like a butterfly caught in a box, and then the door opened. Standing there was the most curious figure Taylor had ever seen. She was both tall and squat, with large spectacles and flaps of fabric hanging off of her at various places. But most notable was the bright shock of pink curly hair atop her head, as if placed there by a bird or a child. A round fuzzy dollop of pink on an otherwise smooth head. Kyle smiled. "This is NooniNoomi, she is my fashion guru." NooniNoomi smiled and grabbed Taylor's hands. "Hallo!!!!! NooniNoomi is to be dressing you for the New York Cities, correct yes?" Taylor nodded her head. She didn't know quite why, but she knew it all the same: Russell wasn't gonna like this... NooniNoomi made an odd clucking sound, clapped her hands, and said "Excellenting! Come, NooniNoomi has so many fabrics for you and your body. Stand in the dressing chamber and I will get the devices!!" Then followed a fashion montage of the girls in various outfits, NooniNoomi smoking her feet-long knobbly pipe in a corner, looking on and nodding in praise. Kyle tried on a canary yellow business suit thing that was just the worst and I really, really wish she'd bought it. Taylor put on a little baby girl's outfit complete with bow and a sense of timid sadness, and it fit her perfectly of course, but Taylor knew she didn't want it. She wanted to look like a grownup for once. As she took the bow off, NooniNoomi's eyes grew dark and menacing for a second, but only a second. They brightened back up in a hurried way and she stood and walked over to Taylor and said "No bow. NooniNoomi knows now. No bow. No bow..." And Taylor could swear she felt a sharp fingernail dig into her skin as NooniNoomi took the bow from her. But oh well. Taylor smiled anyway. She did not think of the dog. Not once.
Lisa Vanderpump didn't so much as go shopping as take her gay sex slave Cedric to the restaurant, where they arranged flowers and Cedric cooed in his strange accent about his and Lisa's peculiar arrangement. Just where is Cedric from? There's a definitely an English accent in there, but it's muddled with something else. Maybe he's from where NooniNoomi is from? Maybe he's Swiss? It's very hard to tell. The whole Cedric thing is very strange and I can't quite tell if there's going to be some bigger story for him later this season, or if he's just going to be this odd, mostly unanswered detail. If Bravo is interested in clarity, I know one way you can begin to answer a mystery. Undress it. More of that maybe?
The Maloof went shopping with the poor avian-beaked ghost that is Kim Richards, and it started off fine. They talked about how when they're in New York they only wear black, and The Maloof said she was sick of black. So sick of black. And Kim of course knew how The Maloof felt, though I suspect that Kim's blackness was not the same as The Maloof's. No it was something far more abstract and intangible. The black that Kim is so sick of is that daily swimming pool feeling, that odd pressure and weight that thrums on her skin every morning when she wakes up in her silent bedroom, sees the sun streaming in through the big windows, telling a lie about a beautiful day. But she couldn't burden The Maloof with such thougths. Especially after The Maloof got a phone call informing her that an uncle had died and she needed to leave the store immediately. So there she went, and there Kim was, her shopping date over, standing in a store by herself, that flutter of black sparrow wings scraping against her heart, that dull tinny sound filling her head with nails.
Over at Camille's sprawling estate, she was having people over for lunch and drinks or something, including her sexypex tennis friend (or whoever), who brought his sad, slack-haired wife and whom Camille coolly dismissed by declaring, in front of everyone, that she was going to flirt with her husband. "What're you gonna do about it, sister?" Camille's glazed eyes seemed to say. While talking with her guests, one of her servants came over with a cellphone and it was The Maloof, understandably canceling her reservation on the New York Murder Express. Camille was girlish about it — "Oh my godddddddd! Oh my godddddddddddd." — and then handed the cellphone back to the servant ("Here, can you take this?") and turned to her guests and began talking about how so many things in her life were going haywire at the moment. Because, of course dear readers, The Maloof's uncle dying is an example of things in Camille's life going awry. It's her world, boys and ghouls. We're just living in it.
It was almost time to go to New York! First Kyle had to get hypnotized so she wasn't afraid of flying, so Bob Balaban's stockier older brother came over and did that nonsense while Lisa smirked (she is always smirking) on the couch next to her. Blah blah, who cayuhs. Camille whisked off to New York ahead of the other girls, to get ensconced in her new apartment. And oh it was so tiny! A measly 3,500 square feet! "It's small, you know, for us," she kept saying, over and over and goddamn over again. At one point she did admit that it was annoying to say that, but then she said it some more anyway. She's great, huh? Then Kelsey arrived and he gave his excited kids big hugs and lots of affection and then there was a strange, obligatory romance exchange between husband and wife and it was... I don't know. It's hard to say "sad", because Camille is awful. But I guess for the kids it was sad. There was pop playing with the ragamuffins and Camille just standing off awkwardly in the corner, watching. You know how sometimes men will say of their wives "She's the mother of my children"? Or women will say "I want to give him children"? Normally I find that a harmless, if itchily antiquated and patriarchally twinged, sentiment, but here... it seemed quite literal. She gave him kids and now, well, now she was off in the corner, not sure what to do, happy with houses and tiny New York three bedroom apartments, but unconnected, set loose, adrift, trying to engage in a playful pillow fight in the least playful way, in the most robotic way. There was a tired sadness in Kelsey's eyes and... well, he must have known then. At least then. If not before, right when he left maybe, on the plane as it coursed through the swift thin sky, a quiet but terrible flash of thought: I'm not going to miss her.
The next day Camille went to get her nails done and figured, hey, while she was out she might as well call up her mother who lives in New Jersey and is suffering from cancer. You know, two birds and all that. So her mom sat sadly on a stool next to Camille while she got her nails done, and Camille said "So... how's the cancer?" The mother began to answer awkwardly, camera-related awkwardness I assume, but she could barely get a sentence out before Camille said "Well I had the test to see if I have the same mutated cancer gene and I DO and then I went to the hospital and got this whole battery of tests and I'm producing, well trying to produce, this show for Nickelodeon, and plus with the kids and managing all my staff, I mean, thank god I have the staff..." "Thank god..." the mother said with that glorious kind of older generation sarcasm that barely sounds like sarcasm at all, it can go mostly undetected, but, because of that subtlety, it's infused with so much more disdain than today's casual, one-off, whatever kind of sarcasm. Camille's mother looked utterly bewildered, luckily too confused to actually seem hurt, which she should have been, her careless bobble-head daughter prattling on about her useless, vain nothing, seemingly completely uninterested in the fact that her mother was sick and was trying to talk about it. Camille's mother, who bore her, bored her. It was an ugly scene and I wish they'd stop dragging innocent old people onto this show.
Whoosh, zoom, fart, whine. All the other girls arrived in New York. On the plane, they'd let Kim and Kyle come up into the cockpit so Kyle could feel safe about the trip. She did OK. Kim, meanwhile, stood in the cockpit, chewing in a unpleasantly girlish way on some Twizzlers, and tried to make eye-time with one of the pilots. She tossed her hair a little and twirled her Twizzler and one of the pilots actually seemed interested, but then same old tiredness seemed to descend over Kim and she just went dead-faced, chewing her Twizzler like cud, wanting to move on to the next thing. She's way too easily overcome by all the dead leaves inside her. I wish, for her sake, that she'd open herself up and do some raking.
They got to the hotel and the first matter to attend to was the whole dramatic crux of the episode. You'll remember that, in the first episode, Camille got all stink-potted because supposedly Kyle said something about how "Oh, why would you want to go to Hawaii without Kelsey, who cares about you without Kelsey?" Well, that's still an issue and Kyle denies saying it and there was going to be tension, so Kyle figured she'd just nip the damn thing in the damn bud and talk to Camille about it. So they got to their hotel room and Kyle immediately pulled Camille aside and said "Look, I never said that, I would never say that, I was merely saying it was brave of you to go on vacay with your kids without your husband, blah blah." Camille said "I heard you say that..." and Kyle said "I didn't say that..." and it went back and forth like that for a while. I'm thinking two things about this. First, if Bravo really didn't film the main event that is the catalyst for the main drama on this season, that was a bungle. Second, maybe Bravo did film it, but the ambiguity of not really knowing if Kyle said it or not seemed more interesting to them than cold hard footage either way. No matter the answer, it's sort of a dull virtual conflict based on something we have no way into. Which is frustrating.
But whatever. Camille seemed to accept Kyle's explanation, though she did bristle a little when Kyle called her "insecure," her blatant insecurity causing her to get upset over the word insecure. It was a tiger eating its tail or a chicken fucking an egg or something. I don't know. Camille is a barrel of whale oil and axle grease. She's awful, no matter what. Absolutely no matter what. Anyway, the girls hugged and then decided they'd all go out and everything seemed hunkydory. Of course it was not. The more Camille thought about the word "insecure", the more insecure she got, so by the time the girls had made it to dinner, Camille wanted to start shit again. And start shit she did. The "You said it"/"No I didn't say it" conversation went back and forth and back and forth and back and forth across the table for another ninety or so minutes, all the other wives, all of us, uncomfortable and anxious. (Meanwhile all the hubbies were having dinner in California, saying nonsense words, being weird, missing their wives, not missing their wives, looking like shaved apes, being sneaky Russells, etc. Who cares. It was, also, uncomfortable.)
Camille is clearly a bit psychically damaged, and Kyle pointed this out. Which is never a good idea to do with a mentally addled person. Don't say "You need therapy!" because it just never goes over well. (See: "Murder Island, case of Frankel v. Bensimon, 2009") Then Kyle started swearing, really losing her cool, and the more Kyle spluttered and gnashed, the more Camille settled into that creepy, gross, glossy haze of hers, thus further infuriating Kyle, and everyone dug in their hills and decided it was going to be a long night. This was one of Housewives's usual cut-in-the-middle-of-a-fight endings, so we'll have to see the resolution, and the real escalation, next week. Bah.
Did you notice that during the fight, feeling awkward and bored and sad and, yes, uncomfortable, Kim sneaked off? Yeah, stood up, nodded weakly toward the bathroom and walked off. She left the restaurant and just began walking aimlessly, south, southeast, not really knowing or caring where she was headed. She just liked looking at all the buildings, this thick forest of stone and squares of light, the busy interior hum of it, the lack of any clear view or vista. You were just in the middle of everything, Kim thought about New York. Maybe she should move here. Where everyone would always be close-by. Maybe not friends, but at least... fellow passengers. Maybe that.
She eventually made her way down into the East Village, into the darker corners of Alphabet City. And for a while she just stood. She could see a bit of the dull twinkle of the East River and Brooklyn beyond it, but mostly she saw packs of kids, NYU kids, out staggering in the night. Girls with lazy hair and skinny everything, boys with concave chests and stilted swaggers. Watching them, especially the girls, the groups of them, all rosy and loose, made the tightness in Kim's chest burn like an ulcer, then turn into a kind of goopy, purple hurt. Like she was filled up with it, like it was coating her insides like medicine in those medicine commercials. A layer of pain, the cruel gift of unnegotiable time. She thought of those Alphabet girls as she made her way back up to the restaurant, figuring the Wives would be looking for her by now. She thought about those young things waking up the next morning, after frantic fuzzy nights, some snoring lump of boy next to them, or maybe just by themselves, tangled in sheets, a knocked-over water glass. And Kim pictured them just before they opened their eyes for the first time that morning, just before they let a fresh new day wash away the night. In that little moment, with their eyes still closed, how they hovered! Between dreams and the world! Between future and past! Kim wanted to live in that moment forever. She would if she could.
But when she got back to the restaurant, they were still yelling — "No I didn't", "Yes you did" — and they hadn't even noticed that Kim had slipped out. So she slumped down in the booth, let the leaves pile up, let her eyes stay wintry, let the future be ruined, the past long dead. The present just this, just noise and yelling. Kim so tired of Fighting, knowing, after all, that she'd already lost long ago.