By Melissa Harris
Let me start by saying I am a HUGE Real Housewives fan. Several years ago, I was flipping through the channels and found a Real Housewives of Orange County, Season 1 marathon. I was hooked immediately. Here were these beautiful women living fabulous lives (ah the olden days of HWs) and 1 man, Slade Smiley. Fast forward a couple of seasons, we met Gretchen Rossi, who was engaged to an older man who she nursed though his cancer battle
I have my favorite housewives as any fan does. Sounds silly that these women have thousands of fans and people that like them just for being themselves. Gretchen is on the top of that list. I love her personality and she seems like a fun, lively person who I could actually be friends with. When I heard Slade and Gretchen were coming to my hometown of San Antonio, Texas, I had to be there.
The event was a boxing match after party called the VIP Celebrity Knockout Party, hosted by Mario Lopez and featuring Gretchen and Slade. It was held in downtown San Antonio at a Mexican Restaurant that is part of a big club. During the party, Gretchen was to preview her new swimwear line with a fashion show with proceeds to benefit Beckstrand Cancer Foundation. As we know, Slade’s son, Grayson, is battling cancer. The $50.00 ticket included access to the celebrities, a buffet and cocktails. Prior to purchasing the tickets, I made sure that it was a private, limited ticket, VIP event. I wanted to be sure I’d be able to meet the stars and not get lost in a mobscene. I bought two tickets and tried to control my excitement for 24 hours.
After some confusion, which I assure you all was on the restaurant’s part, we found our place and waited for the celebs to arrive. I was told Gretchen and Slade would be there around 10:30pm and finally at 11:30 they showed up. I spotted Slade first walking around by the rear of the venue. “OMG, they’re here!”
Just 2 blocks away, the boxing match was ending and crowds of people were walking by the restaurant. Suddenly, to my great disappointment, I heard a lady outside on a microphone shout, “FREE VIP. Come on in, we have celebrities. This is the official after party!” WHAT?? Just then, hundreds of people flooded the small restaurant we were supposed to have private access to. When Gretchen and Slade came out with Mario Lopez they were immediately swarmed. My heart sank. How was I going to get to them? I had this idea that I was going to be able to talk to them and ask my burning questions, and take pictures with them. I saw my chance slipping away. I went over to the photo op area with another girl, a fellow ticket holder, who shared in my frustration. I went straight to the PR lady and she was apologetic and pushed me to the front of the line to so I could get a picture with my favorite RHOC couple.
I’ve always thought Gretchen was gorgeous on TV, however, she is more stunning in person, flawless in fact. She looks like a real live Barbie. She wore an eggplant colored minidress with a black lace bra peeking over the top and black strappy high-heeled sandals. Slade is just as handsome in person as he is on TV. He was wearing a white button-down shirt, a black blazer and jeans. Perfect for the occasion. I walked up and shook Slade’s hand and he said, “Nice to meet you.” I had to sneak in a quick side-hug with Gretchen and I told her I was so excited to meet her. We took two pictures and as I was walking away Slade said, “Thanks Sweetie.” They both seemed very nice. I walked back to my table shaking like a leaf.
After about 10 minutes, Gretchen and Slade disappeared behind closed doors to get ready for the show. During the show Slade emceed. He really played up to the crowd which, at that point, were mainly drunk men. The girls came out and the men hooted and howled. I was surprised because I thought the fashion show was featuring her swimsuits but there were also suits by designers like Guess and Nautica. The show culminated with about 4 or 5 suits from the Gretchen Christine line. In pure Gretchen style, they were bling’d and very pretty. I was a little disappointed because I know at most fashion shows, the designer comes out at the end, but Gretchen never did. After the show, Slade hopped off the stage to take more fan photos. I got up the nerve to ask for one more and found him gracious and very approachable. He didn’t turn a single person down.
At around 1:30 am, the bar was pretty empty and I was hoping Gretchen would come out of the room where she had been cooped up with the models. I really wanted to speak with her and take one more picture. She emerged from the room with her purse and black coat, looking tired but still stunning, and thanked the security for their help. I thought “please look at me”. As she was walking out the door, she looked right at me and waved and said, “Bye Honey.” Warm fuzzies flooded my body. Overall, despite the hundreds of freeloaders and the fact I didn’t get to really talk to either of them, I am grateful I got to say hi and I will remember it always. Also, I’d like to add, that we are being reimburse because of the mishap. Hopefully, my next encounter with a housewife will be as exciting. By the way, did I mention Mario Lopez was there too?
Melissa Harris is a 36 year-old mother and soon to be newlywed and stepmother. In 2008 she opened Funtastic Playland, an indoor children’s playground with her ex-husband. After their divorce Melissa took on sole ownership of her business along with single motherhood. She has since met the “love of her life” and is looking forward to an April 2014 wedding! Melissa, her fiancee, their daughters and 2 dogs live in San Antonio, TX.
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