Read an excerpt from Not All Diamonds and Rosé: How the Andy Cohen-hosted Real Housewives reunions began
A new book by EW alum Dave Quinn about the 15-year history of Bravo's Real Housewives franchise — which has now welcomed viewers into the lives of the rich and dramatic in 10 different American cities, and has a new mash-up series on the horizon — takes its title from LVP's immortal line. Not All Diamonds and Rosé: The Inside Story of the Real Housewives From the People Who Lived It hits shelves Tuesday, and it spills the tea (or the rosé, if you prefer) on the reality empire with extensive reporting from the series' casts, producers, executives, and more.
Ahead of the book's release, EW can share an exclusive excerpt describing the origin of one of the hallmarks of the Housewives: The cast reunion. With the launch of the end-of-season tradition came another game-changing move for the whole network, as Andy Cohen took the moderator's chair for the very first time. Read the excerpt below (including commentary from Cohen, former executives Lauren Zalaznick and Jerry Leo, original RHOC producer Scott Dunlop, and a variety of RHOC cast members) for the full story on this piece of Bravo history — plus some inside scoop on an infamous Housewives fashion staple.
Excerpted from NOT ALL DIAMONDS AND ROSE: The Inside Story of The Real Housewives From the People Who Lived It by Dave Quinn, to be published by Andy Cohen Books, an imprint from Henry Holt and Company, October 19, 2021. Copyright © 2021 by Bravo Media LLC. All rights reserved.
As season 1 wrapped, not holding back was about to become a part of the very fabric of the Real Housewives with the introduction of the reunion. . . .
Lauren Zalaznick: The entire inception to do a reunion came out of Jerry Leo's brain.
Jerry Leo: Bravo, in the first few years, only had about two nights of original programming. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So I was constantly looking to stretch the cycle out of the shows we did have for as long as I possibly could.
Lauren Zalaznick: Housewives was starting to pick up steam that first season, thanks to Jerry's brilliant programming strategy of constant re-airing, and I said to production one day, "Is there any way we can get an extra episode?"
Jerry Leo: We needed as many episodes of Housewives as we could get. They were the highest rated thing on at the time.
Lauren Zalaznick: Production said to me, "We can't do any more episodes. We've literally used every frame of every tape." So Jerry and his genius scheduling brain said, "Let's just get them back together and do a reunion."
Andy Cohen: Before Housewives, we had started doing reunions for Project Runway and Top Chef, and while they were a good way to extend the seasons, they also proved to bring good drama. There was a lot of tension in the first Project Runway reunion, where all the designers confronted Wendy Pepper over the way she played the game and called her "evil." The first Top Chef reunion was particularly chaotic. The chefs were chugging wine and got completely sloshed. A fist fight nearly broke out between two of our cheftestants, Ken Lee and Stephen Asprinio. I think Kevin also threatened our original host, Katie Lee Joel. And Tiffany Faison famously got so drunk, she ran off set to the side of the studio to throw up.
Jerry Leo: It worked in competition shows, we had proven that, but The Real World had been doing reunions, too, so I was inspired and thought it would work.
Scott Dunlop: Of course, our first reunion didn't really have that type of conflict because our show at the time didn't have that type of conflict.
Andy Cohen: We kind of gathered everyone to shoot at Vicki's backyard to see what everyone had been up to since the show premiered. It was quaint.
Jeana Keough: There was a monitor where we could see clips and we all sat together on high-top bar chairs in a semicircle, watching highlights of the episodes and laughing at ourselves.
Jo De La Rosa: I think we had champagne, too! It was totally chill and relaxed.
Jeana Keough: Everyone except Kimberly was there. I think she had already moved away at that point.
Scott Dunlop: It looks primitive if you look back at it now. But then again, I'm sure the whole first season does.
Jo De La Rosa: The first reunion versus the second reunion was so different. The second reunion, they stepped up their game. They brought us into a studio, gave us hair and makeup. There were lights, a fancy set, and the biggest difference, there was Andy.
Andy Cohen: By the time season 2 of Orange County started, I had been writing a blog on the Bravo website, offering behind-the-scenes scoops on Project Runway, Top Chef, etc. I was the only executive doing something like that, and it kind of upped my profile. Well, Lauren Zalaznick knew that one of my career goals was to be on television as myself. And in trying to figure out ways to help me and build BravoTV.com at the same time, she suggested I do a Top Chef aftershow online for season 2. "You'll have the eliminated chef on and we'll toss people to the website. It'll be like an extension of your blog." The first episode got something like 32,000 live-streams on BravoTV.com, which they thought was really great. American Express came in as a sponsor for the next season, meaning they were able to monetize it. And while this was going on, Lauren and Frances came to me and said, "We're going to do a reunion for season 2 of Orange County. Do you want to host this?"
Jerry Leo: We were already looking at Andy as on-air talent. We even talked about putting him on air for a few panel shows. We shot a few pilots for him and he was going to be our executive on the panel. One was called Fashionality, with Joan Rivers. Another, I think down the line, had Bethenny on it.
Andy Cohen: The network didn't really have a face back then. With the other reunions, Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn had hosted Project Runway's while Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and Katie Lee had hosted Top Chef 's. I guess the closest thing we had to the face of Bravo at the time was Kathy Griffin, who frankly would have been a hilarious and amazing host of these reunion shows. But with Kathy, she would have been expensive. I was cheap. I was getting, like, a thousand dollars a reunion. So I wasn't costing them anything. And there was the benefit of having me there because I had institutional knowledge of the show. I was going to be a team player.
Scott Dunlop: Having Andy as the face of the brand is genius. Andy has an energy and a work ethic like no one I've ever known. It's mind-boggling. He's smart, engaging, charismatic. And because he was involved on the production side, he had the women's trust.
Jerry Leo: He had their trust and he had authority about him that the viewers immediately responded to.
Scott Dunlop: It was the best of all worlds, for the network and for the Housewives.
Andy Cohen: I was really excited to be hosting, but in those early days, I was very careful not to show it too much because I was head of production, too, and I knew the minute I slacked at doing my day job, I would be out. So I was like, "I can't act like this is all I want to do because this is not what they want me to do." I was working double time.
Jo De La Rosa: I first met Andy in the back of Vicki's backyard. He came to visit and check out the shoot we were doing that day, and he was super sweet, very nice, and funny. I immediately liked him. And then there he was, at that next reunion, hosting it!
Andy Cohen: For the record, I've sadly never been to Vicki's backyard. The first time I actually met Jo was at that first reunion!
Jeana Keough: How cool is that? He was sort of involved on the production end and then, boom, he was in this host chair. I didn't even know he could do that!
Andy Cohen: Jeana Keough came up to me at that season 2 reunion. We were in this actual studio rather than Vicki's backyard, and she said, "Andy, if you're here doing this, and if we're in this big studio, I think this means our show is a hit, right?" I was like, "Yeah. I think this means you guys are doing well. We wouldn't be doing this if the show wasn't."
Jo De La Rosa: All I remember about that reunion was that I had just changed my hair color to that caramel color, like Eva Longoria and Jessica Alba had back then. My publicist was like, "Everyone's doing it," and I thought, "I'm going to be trendy!" I look back now on it and think, "Why?"
Andy Cohen: If you look back, a lot of the questions I asked that reunion were a bit cheeky. I was kind of a nice Jewish boy, talking to women about their boob sizes and plastic surgery and their love lives. These were topics I probably couldn't get away talking about if I were straight, by the way. Certainly not in the same way.
Jo De La Rosa: It was easy to open up to Andy, because he's so warm and disarming. He had all of us talking about our plastic surgery secrets like he was our best friend.
Andy Cohen: I kind of had a sense that I was supposed to be the sane one in the room, especially in those early years, because the women just seemed so unusual to me and even to the viewers. I was really asking them the questions we all wanted to know. Like, what was the deal with those damn Sky tops they were all wearing?
Jo De La Rosa: Oh, those freaking Sky tops! Why did I wear those?
Jeana Keough: Sky tops were very popular back then in Orange County.
Lynne Curtin: The first time I went to meet casting producers, I was wearing a Sky top. I didn't even know they were a thing at that time!
Jeana Keough: I introduced the girls to how to get clothes from people, because people kept reaching out to me to give me stuff, and then the girls would go, "I want it, I want it, too." Those Sky tops, they always sent me a big box to wear each season. When we went on the Today show, Al Roker goes, "What is with you girls and these diamond-encrusted shirts?" We were getting them for free and we did really love them.
Not All Diamonds and Rosé: The Inside Story of the Real Housewives From the People Who Lived It will be released Oct. 19. Pre-order it here.
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