August 4, 2011
The Countless Countess: A Conversation with LuAnn de Lesseps
I am addicted to The Real Housewives of Anywhere, USA. With the exception of the DC chicks, who bored the hell out of me, I watch all the different cities. I find them to be both entertaining and mortifying. Contrary to popular belief, I am not on the payroll of either Bravo, or any cast member, of any of the locations.
I am just a fan and when it comes to New York City, I think the show needs to be recast. The dislike between the women is palpable, disgusting, and frankly sad. They started out one way, and rather than end with class and dignity, the current cast is leaving having been dragged through the mud. The fascinating thing is that they did the dragging themselves.
My regular readers know what I think about each of the ladies so there is no need to rehash that now, but even I was surprised by how much I sincerely liked LuAnn when I spoke with her yesterday. Many have described her this season as being condescending and mean, but there is something about her I found myself drawn to. I was curious, and so I reached out.
As a divorced, single mother, who is in the same age range, I admire LuAnn. From what I could see, as a watcher of her show, and with absolutely no first hand or inside knowledge of her life, I saw her go through the darkness and heartache of a divorce, and come out on the other side with her self-esteem intact, and her heart open. I admire that.
I answered my phone, heard a very deep, warm voice and immediately knew who it was. I said hello and she responded with Hello Darling, The Countess has arrived. She then immediately apologized for calling a couple of minutes later than our scheduled appointment. Say what you want about this woman, but her manners are impeccable and she is very funny.
During our conversation she laughed easily and often. She also called me Darling, which I got a kick out of, and when she wanted to make a point, she called me Ilana. I can’t explain how or why, but I felt she was not only listening to every word I said, but she actually heard me. We were 3000 mile apart but it was if she was looking at me straight in the eyes.
I think there is something quite lovely and special about her, and it’s a shame this show is trying so hard to push her into the gutter. I truly hope she opts not to return and does something a little classier with her career. I learned some very interesting things about LuAnn, all of which have now inspired me to read her book, “Class with the Countess”.
The book was sold as a how to guide about elegance and class, but it’s the autobiographical chapters that I am interested in. During part two of this season’s reunion, while I was watching and bashing myself over the heard with my remote to drown out all the screaming, I noticed that LuAnn pronounces the word sorry like a Canadian, and says “sooory”.
It turns out both of LuAnn’s parents hail from Canada, with her mother from Quebec and father from New Brunswick. She does a killer French Canadian accent imitation, which cracked me up. The same people who think I only like Jill because she is Jewish, will now think I only like LuAnn because she is Canadian. Say what you want people. I’m Canadian and I dig her.
LuAnn was married to Count Alexandre de Lesseps. For 16 years. I assumed he was a product of wealth and did not work, but it turns out he is a successful businessman and does some pretty impressive work to help underprivileged women rise above their circumstances, and have a better life. LuAnn speaks of her ex-husband with a lot of pride.
They appear to have had a very civilized parting. To be clear, she was heartbroken and the end of her marriage was rough, but her love for her children allowed to her to view her husband with respect rather than anger. There was pain and sadness, but not hate. I find that fascinating as most divorces that I know of, including my own, have slivers of hate.
She is now in love with Jacques Azoulay, who is almost 10 years her junior. They met at a party of mutual friends, when Jacques walked over to her and asked her to dance. They have been together for over a year and it’s love. This summer they travelled to Paris where LuAnn met his family, and he met her ex-husband. Interesting to note that she was not nervous.
She says both men are smart and open-minded. There have been implications over the years that her husband might not be a fan of the Jews, and Jacques is a Jew. He is a reform Jew, and the sweetest thing was when she told me that when at her Hampton’s home, Jacques will take his talit, which he’s had since his Bar Mitzvah, and go to the ocean to daven.
The men were both curious about each other. For Alex, his children love Jacques and he kept hearing about how great he was. For Jacques, there had to be a little part of him that was cautious to meet a man who on paper, would appear to not approve. In the end the men enjoyed each other. Alex respected the man who makes the mother of his children so happy.
It’s all quite civilized really. I’m not sure if it’s because they are people of privilege, or simply people of class. The two are not exclusive for as we know, money can’t buy you class. As for Jacques, he may be her next great love. He recites poetry, plays the piano, supports and respects her, and allows her heart to remain open. He is a mensch and she likes that.
Luann has never dated a Jewish man, nor has she dated anyone younger than her. She is a perfect example of how a woman should live her life after a divorce. So many of us close down, and make a list of rules of how we will love again. LuAnn had only one thing on her list. Be happy. How different would my life be if that were the only thing on my list?
Many things surprised me during our chat. LuAnn talks a lot about her projects and her goals for the future, but she does not hock anything, which I found refreshing. She is gracious and appreciative of the people who spend time and money buying her wares, but she is not a non-stop infomercial like so many of the housewife fame whores. (Bethenny and Ramona)
After a little research I found that you can get a Countess app for your phone called “Countess LuAnn”. It’s quite kitschy and cute. She is also doing a USTREAM chat live tomorrow, August 4th at 7:00 pm EST. I’m hoping she will also take my suggestion and record her version of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”. I think that would be brilliant.
LuAnn and I spoke for about 40 minutes and I could have kept going. She has great stories and was open to sharing them all. She did not refuse to answer any questions and nothing was off limits. We talked a lot about the housewives and her perspective on the ladies was honest, uncensored, and very similar to many people who comment on my blog.
I asked her if she thought doing another season would cause her to hit a wall. She responded by saying she had already hit the wall and that perhaps she was done. One never knows I suppose, but I really hope she opts to not return. I think she has a lot to offer beyond this show, and I fear for her that with one more year we simply won’t care.
We barely care about any of the ladies now. They have sucked all the joy out of this show and I think those that bow out now will be the ones who have a shot in hell of maintaining a career beyond this show. At the end of the day LuAnn is simply too classy for this show and is being sucked into reality hell. In my unsolicited opinion, she needs to bail.
We all watch the housewives, think we know them, and have opinions and judgments about who they are and what they are all about. Sadly, we only know what Bravo wants us to know. Editing has power of course, which is a shame because she is great and we don’t get to see it. I took pages of notes during out chat and could write a lot more.
I admire this woman. I respected her for how she spoke of her parents, siblings, ex-husband, boyfriend, and most importantly, her children. Our conversation made me think about things differently, and I learned a few things. Countess LuAnn has a powerful voice and I hope I have an opportunity to listen her to away from the train wreck.
My job here is not to defend her, or convince you to like her. That is her job. My job is to write a blog, with my opinion, in my voice, with my views, which I have done. Countess LuAnn is a cool lady, with lots to say, who needs to get the hell off of this show because quitting may be the only chance she has at keeping it real.