Carole Radziwill – Free Radical

Photo: Anna Gunselman : "The Widow's Guid To Sex and Dating"

Photo: Anna Gunselman : “The Widow’s Guid To Sex and Dating”

Carole Radziwill is unlike any other Housewife I’ve met so far. A free spirited type who doesn’t take herself, or the show, too seriously, she reminds me of the New Yorkers I know. Perhaps because she hails from the same New York City suburb I do. She’s definitely not an uptown, uptight kind of girl. I might dare to say this interview was the greatest honor and challenge I’ve had to date. It’s a little intimidating interviewing a journalist, but Radziwill isn’t one to make others feel insecure or inferior. Just don’t send your ghostwriter to the interview…

TBB: Every Real Housewife has a story, how did you first get involved with the show?

CR: It was a serendipitous. I was finishing up my novel, and Bravo was looking to recast the show. Andy Cohen and I were friends, and he asked me out of the blue at a dinner if I’d be interested-which was surprising since at the time I was only vaguely aware of the show and his involvement in it. I have a natural curiosity for things, it’s my journalistic instinct, and I don’t have children or a husband to embarrass, only my dog Margaret. It was unlike anything I’d ever done, and like my late friend the great Hollywood agent Sue Mengers said,”Who are you to walk away from a deal? You’re just another single girl with bills.” I didn’t think about much more than that.

TBB: You and Andy have been friends for a long time. Was it odd to end up working for him?

CR: Oh shit. Is Andy my boss? I don’t interact with him day-to-day,we report to the show producers. Either way, Andy and I have respect for our friendship so are careful to keep that separate. Honestly, neither of us want to talk Housewives when we are at dinner with friends. But New York is also a very small town if you’re working in any aspect of media or entertainment, and I’ve been in this industry for 20+ years – journalism, writing, producing. There are few strangers in this field.

TBB: Your second season on RHONY is airing now, did you need any convincing to come back after your first one?

CR: Yes, I needed a bigger trailer, all the red M&M’s removed from my afternoon snack tray and a cute boyfriend. I got a bottle of Top Chef wine, and a Mazel t-shirt instead. I’ll try again next season.

TBB: Last season you and Aviva Drescher were buddies, now there’s the infamous “Bookgate.” When we watched the show it seemed like something was lost in editing and the initial conflict over lunch didn’t translate very well to the viewers. Can you fill inthe blanks for us?

CR: Yes, a lot is lost in editing. I get that it left viewers bewildered. The lunch was nearly 2 hours. We spoke a great deal about the state of our friendship, which was at that time, virtually non-existent. That was the conflict, it was not initially about my career or glasses or whether or not I wanted to date her moving men. Before that lunch I filmed scenes with some of the other women and I discussed my friendship with Aviva. So there are hours of footage that could have been used in the show to better set up my feelings going into the lunch. Bravo choose to make it unclear, maybe they thought it was more dramatic? Who knows. I suppose all those things come out at the reunion. Stay tuned.

TBB: What was your own reaction when you watched Aviva’s housewarming party?

CR: It was not at all fun to watch. I’d seen her belittle other cast-mates before but it was the first I’d been at the receiving end of that side of her. I had no idea how much had been said, and filmed, without my knowing — untruths about my career – and watching scene after scene of Aviva spreading lies and ridiculous gossip about me was more shocking than anything that was said at her housewarming party. It was all so contrived and calculated. In our conversation she was unintelligible, nothing she said made any sense. I should have laughed and walked away. But trust me, it is hard to do when you’re being insulted, belittled, and ridiculed. I’m not that cool! Instead, I tried to reason with an unreasonable person and, well, you all saw the result.

TBB: Many Housewives and celebrities in general, have jumped on the book writing bandwagon. As a writer by trade how does that make you feel?

CR: As I said on the show last season to Luann (DeLesseps), I’m happy to see anyone publish a book. My career outside the reality show and books published as part of story-lines on the show are not the same thing. I haven’t read all of the books, but I do hope the show has been a good platform to help them sell. It’s a difficult industry, and especially with the decline of brick and mortar bookstores, it’s hard for any one book to get the attention it needs to sell enough for a publisher to invest in the next one and a next one. I’m in the business of writing and selling books, and it’s good for everyone when people are buying and reading them.

TBB: Your first book, What Remains, was a memoir. Your latest, The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating, is anovel. Did you find it more challenging to share your own story, or create a character and her story?

CR: They were two wildly different challenges. It was difficult to relive my own story, and get it down in a way that didn’t feel gratuitous or melancholic. I didn’t want it to be a sad story and it was challenging to step out of my own emotions and write it down — all these people I loved — as characters, in a story. I thought fiction would be so much easier, because you can do whatever you want, but there’s so much art to it. When you’re limited by just your own creativity it can be daunting! After a first draft, I didn’t think any of the characters were interesting at all. I went back and shaded them in, gave it structure, and a more concrete plot.

TBB: Will there be more novels onthe way?

CR: I hope so. I don’t have anything in my head right now because I’m working on a non-fiction book of essays which I hope to finish this year. Then maybe I’ll go back to fiction again.

TBB: Any plans for a movie or TV version of Claire (The Widow’s Guide…) and her story?

CR: Universal/NBC recently bought the rights to the book to develop a television series. So, yes.But I have some experience in Hollywood. It can take years to get the right team in place — show-runners, actors, scriptwriters. People will sign on at different stages and have different creative ideas. So I don’t have a good idea of when Claire and her friends will be on screen. Hopefully in 2015!

TBB: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

CR: Rewrite. Write everything down, then rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. And ask strangers to read your work. I had a reading group for my memoir. I didn’t know any of them, my sister helped put it together for me and I got such valuable feedback. They helped me understand what worked and didn’t work, where the gaps were. But fall in love with re-writing, that’s where the magic happens.

TBB: Back to Housewives, to date what has been your favorite moment on the show?

CR: There are really so many but I think last season when Heather (Thomson) and I got drunk at a gaybar. I see that scene now and I can see the moment she went from fellow castmember to real friend. I also loved the double date scene with Lu and Jacque. It’s so real. Lots of girls can identify with an awkward first date. Add two cameras recording it all and you have a recipe for funny TV.

TBB: What about your most cringeworthy?

CR: Nothing makes me cringe. Oh, wait, maybe the scene with the matchmaker. I’d try anything once…..Ugh.

TBB: We recently watched you lunch with Brandi Glanville and Yolanda Foster from the Beverly Hills franchise. Do you watch the other Housewives shows and if so, which ones?

CR: I watch whichever show is on when I’m flipping through the channels. And mostly to see who has better cameramen and lighting! I spent 15 years in an edit room so I am interested in the editing also. They are not my guilty pleasure, it’s work now. And with a looming deadline for my next book, and promoting the last one as well as the show, I’ve had to really try to keep quiet space for myself to work. When we are filming, the hours are really consuming. So when we stop, I have to really focus on my day job — there is a lot to make up.

TBB: I like to think that those we have lost watch over us. If your husband, Anthony; and John and Carolyn Kennedy are watching over you, what do you think they are saying about Carole Radziwill, Real Housewife of New York City?

CR: Ha. Well,they all had the most wonderful senses of humor. And all three were risk-takers. Carolyn would probably have secretly loved the show. She’d have been happy with most of my wardrobe. I think all three would be shocked that regular people would be filmed in their own lives and put on television. If they’re watching over me, they probably want me to curse less.

TBB: Thank you for talking with us. Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?

CR: I’m a girly-girl,girls girl.