Entertainment: The show goes on for arrested 'Housewife' Luann de Lesseps - CAMPUS94

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Friday, 23 February 2018

Entertainment: The show goes on for arrested 'Housewife' Luann de Lesseps

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“I am not a scripted actress — I’m more of an off-the-cuff-type person,” she said.

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, Luann de Lesseps — or “The Countess,” as she is known on Bravo’s reality series “The Real Housewives of New York City” — was trying something new: memorizing her lines.

“I am not a scripted actress — I’m more of an off-the-cuff-type person,” she said.

Standing in front of a baby-grand piano in her bright Upper West Side penthouse, freezing rain tapping gently against the windows, de Lesseps studied a printout of her introductory remarks for “#CountessAndFriends,” a cabaret show that will debut at the Manhattan nightclub Feinstein’s/54 Below on Tuesday.

As Grammy-winning composer Billy Stritch played “With a Little Help From My Friends,” she addressed an imaginary crowd, and the elephant in the room.

“I had a list of songs I wanted to sing tonight, but as it turns out I am reconsidering some of them — like ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘I Fought the Law and the Law Won,'” said de Lesseps, dressed in Lululemon pants, a black turtleneck and velvet slippers. “Craaaazy,” she crooned like an unhinged Patsy Cline, “for thinking I could get out of those handcuffs.”

De Lesseps was alluding to an episode that took place several weeks earlier, on the evening of Dec. 23, when she tried to escape a patrol car after being arrested on accusations of disorderly intoxication and assaulting a police officer at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.

Afterward, her mug shot appeared in just about every tabloid in America. In January, she pleaded not guilty to one felony (resisting an officer with violence) and two misdemeanors (trespassing and disorderly intoxication). A hearing has been set for April 13.

“Obviously it was a really bad night for me and something I am not proud of,” said de Lesseps, sipping espresso out of a mug emblazoned with the phrase “eggs à la Française,” a term she used in Season 7 of "Housewives” to describe scrambled eggs.

“#CountessAndFriends” was originally planned as a variety show about de Lesseps’ adventurous life, and will feature special guests like comedian and “Housewives” superfan Rachel Dratch, drag queen Lady Bunny and a castmate or two. But now “I can’t avoid the whole story of what happened to me in Palm Beach,” de Lesseps said. “I’m trying to keep it light while also taking it seriously.”

It’s been a hard fall for de Lesseps, a nurse turned model from Berlin, Connecticut, who obtained her royal designation from her first husband, a French count named Alexandre de Lesseps. (He is a descendant of Ferdinand de Lesseps, who oversaw the building of the Suez and Panama canals.) The title became central to de Lesseps’ branding, particularly after the publication of her etiquette book, “Class With the Countess: How to Live With Elegance and Flair,” in 2009, the same year that she and the count divorced.

For de Lesseps’ most recent “Housewives” tag line, presented in each episode’s opening credits, she declared that “the only title I’d trade Countess for is Wife.” And she did, but then quickly traded back after she and her second husband, Tom D’Agostino Jr., a businessman, divorced last year.

“I remain Luann de Lesseps — and for most people, the Countess,” she said.

De Lesseps has long dreamed of performing in her own cabaret show. She has been known to break out in song at dinner parties and has released three dance singles.

She first met Stritch, her musical director, several year ago when she sang at “Jim Caruso’s Cast Party,” an open mic-style show at Birdland, the Manhattan jazz club. Ben Rimalower, the show’s director, met de Lesseps through his friend’s father, who saw Rimalower’s off-Broadway play, “Patti Issues,” centered on Patti LuPone. (“My other favorite diva,” Rimalower said.)

After watching the show, the mutual friend told Rimalower he should really meet a woman he knows in New York who likes to sing. When he mentioned that her name was Luann, “I was like, ‘Excuse me! The Countess?'” Rimalower said.

He and de Lesseps emailed for about two years, “and then last year she woke up one day and was like, ‘It’s happening!’ and luckily the best in the biz was available,” he said, pointing to Stritch.

Tickets to the first performance of “#CountessandFriends” went on sale Dec. 10, and quickly sold out, inspiring de Lesseps to add a second date, which sold out within 24 hours. And that was all before she even left for Palm Beach.

After her arrest, she checked herself into a rehab facility for a month, cutting into an already tight rehearsal schedule. But de Lesseps, a woman for whom art and life have always been deeply intertwined, felt the show must go on.

“To know that the show was totally sold out and people are still trying to get tickets is a really great feeling,” said de Lesseps, adding that her mother and two children, Victoria and Noel, are expected to be in the audience to support her. “That I get to come back and have something creative to sink my teeth into has been really helpful for me, because it’s been a rocky road, the past two years.”

De Lesseps said the dissolution of her marriage was a tough blow that, in retrospect, caused her to self-medicate with alcohol. “This was my first time in Palm Beach since my wedding and being here brought up buried emotions,” she wrote on Twitter after she was released from county jail Dec. 24, adding that she is “committed to a transformative and hopeful 2018.”

De Lesseps says she has quit smoking, been practicing yoga, regularly attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and rehearsing rigorously. A few months ago, she moved to the Upper West Side, where she enjoys walking her dog, a Westie named Aston, in Riverside Park.

But she also has a lot of travel coming up, and Stritch has been making recordings of his musical arrangements for her to take on the road so she can practice. One is a beatbox track for a “Housewives” castmate, Sonja Morgan, who will accompany de Lesseps on a “Hamilton"-inspired version of her 2010 dance hit “Money Can’t Buy You Class.”

On Feb. 10, de Lesseps was leaving for a holiday with Morgan, and promised Rimalower that she would “wrangle her,” and make her practice the beatboxing element. She refused to say where they were going or whether cameras would be rolling for Season 10 of “Housewives.”

Amanda Long, a Bravo representative stationed in de Lesseps’ kitchen, wouldn’t confirm that de Lesseps was part of the cast. Any time the show came up in conversation, she piped in: “We can’t go there.”

“Guess what?” de Lesseps said, throwing up her hands. “I might not have a job!”

Hearing this, her dog Aston jumped up and started shaking. “He’s so nervous!” de Lesseps said. “I’ve never seen him this way.”

But it seems safe to assume that the Countess, an enduring fan favorite who has been part of the show for all of its past nine seasons, will make the cut. (Bravo will be filming at de Lesseps’ cabaret, Long said later, with the caveat that “nothing is confirmed to make it into the final episodes.”)

One of the highlights of last season featured de Lesseps on a tequila-fueled trip to Mexico, gracefully dancing off a ledge and falling into a bush. It was a moment that became an enduring internet meme, resurfacing recently when de Lesseps was Photoshopped into the verdant background of Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Barack Obama. (“Dying over this reinterpretation of Obama’s official portrait, featuring Lu!” Andy Cohen, the Bravo executive, wrote in a caption of the photo on Instagram.)

After the cabaret, de Lesseps plans to finish a new single called “Make It Part of the Dance,” inspired partly by the falling incident in Mexico, but also celebrating her philosophy of life.

“The important thing is to not take yourself so damn seriously,” she said. “I always think, ‘I can survive this if I keep on moving.'”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

RACHEL DODES © 2018 The New York Times

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