Bad judgment by a princess, writer & faux housewife

September 24, 2014

1626254A50540BCE1833E7Radziwill is one of those names that used to only resonate with women of our generation. At one time it was the married name of Lee Bouvier, the sister of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Her husband was Prince of Poland and during their marriage, she was known as Princess Lee Radziwill.

She had a son, Anthony, John F. Kennedy, Jr’s cousin, who married an ABC producer, Carole. And then she got the title “Princess.” Anthony died of a terrible cancer shortly after his cousin’s plane crash that awful summer of 1999. It was the last summer of my mother’s life and I remember the TV on in her hospital room showing footage of the search for the young Kennedy and her coming to consciousness, me asking, “Do you know his plane has disappeared?” and her nodding that she did. We loved our celebrities, Mom and I.

After her husband’s premature passing, Princess Carole disappeared behind whatever curtain of obscurity rich widows have access to. She didn’t go back to ABC  so I’m sure she was well-situated with enough resources to live comfortably in Manhattan, traveling in high cotton of course, because the Bouvier girls, Lee and Jackie, came from a certain class and era—all white gloves and elegance and privacy. Once Jackie married JFK and events unfolded, the media were everywhere. As befitted women of their class, the two Bouvier women were notorious protectors of their own privacy.

No accounting for bad judgment

So I was quite surprised when Princess Carole turned up as one of the so-called Real Housewives of NYC. It seemed a peculiar move toward shallow celebrity by a woman who had career accomplishments and inherited wealth. I am certain that “Aunt Jackie” rolled in her grave and is still rolling and it’s said that the former mother-in-law Lee was appalled.  She–and I–see it as a truly tacky move.

bad-judgmentThe show is my guilty pleasure—pleasure isn’t accurate, it’s more like a guilty horror, like looking at scary insects from a safe distance—because the bad behavior of this group of exceedingly shallow women is so loathsome. I can’t defend my interest in this show but I can say that I look at it with furrowed brow and a social psychologist’s eye. The behavior of groups still interests me, even though I never did complete my PhD in social psych, which is the study of how groups interact. (That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.)

The Princess Radziwill seemed an unlikely candidate for such a low-rent venture.

The first year she kept an observer’s bemused distance from the nastiness but after that, she seemed to jump into the muck with both feet. Who knows, maybe the show producers felt her story line was too boring and wanted to up her visibility.

It was sad to see her behavior degenerate. And  just as her co-star, the “Countess” Luanne sang rather badly, “money can’t buy you class.”  It really can’t.  Too bad they don’t listen to themselves.

This past season, The Princess’ show “scandale” was the accusation that she had used a ghostwriter almost a decade ago for her very good memoir of that sad summer when her husband, his cousin and his best friend (JFK, Jr) and her best friend, Carolyne Bessette all died, along with Carolyne’s sister, Lauren, who is almost always a footnote to the story.

Since the Princess had been a producer, almost a journalist, it seemed a stretch that she’d hire a ghostwriter. I bought the book and read it in two sittings. It was beautifully written, so moving that it brought me to tears. No, not a ghostwriter, I thought.

So why was this story line on the reality show?

Really bad judgment.

It’s well-established that “Real Housewives” (many of whom aren’t housewives at all) sign releases that allow the show wide latitude in how they are depicted. So peculiar as it would be for a writer to allow a storyline like this, it’s the price of being on the show. And, the Princess has a new book to pimp. A novel, this time.

But back to the memoir. After reading it, I looked at the Amazon Review by Publisher’s Weekly, in which the completely tone-deaf reviewer accused her of jumping on the Kennedy bandwagon with the book. I suppose it was hard for the reviewer to understand that famous people also have friends and that Carole was telling the story of her beloved husband’s death that coincided almost exactly with the death of his cousin/best friend and her own best friend who was married to JFK. The fame was a fact, not the reason for the story. And it was a story of grief.  It’s hardly jumping on the Kennedy ghoul wagon to tell one’s own personal story of one’s own grief. She was, after all, part of the extended Kennedy family and a dear friend to them.

That review pissed me off because it was so unfair and because I loved the book and her voice so much.

But that “ghostwriter” story line nagged at me.

Shiny_Pencil_Icon_by_ApprenticeOfArtCurious about whether her other writing was in the same style, I clicked on her website. But the “blog” she writes for the RHONYC show had a completely different voice. Her bio a different one, still. Nothing on that website had the lovely writing I had seen in her first book. Of course, it’s not unusual for a celeb to hire someone to ghost their site I thought. Who likes to write bios?

I zoomed over to Amazon to read a few pages of her new novel. The tone also differed from her first book. But one could make the case that chick-lit’s written entirely differently than a literary memoir.

But still, the RHONYC storyline had raised the spectre of “ghostwriter” and now, I wondered for real. Doubt had raised its head and I couldn’t shake it.

It was clear I’d never shake it. I’d always wonder. And so would others.

Did she or didn’t she? Was she a real writer? As good as her book? Or did the Radziwell money buy her a ghost?

This post isn’t really about the facts. It’s about judgment.

The kind of judgment an accomplished woman exercises when she choose to join a show in which women attack each other and are humiliated. The kind of judgment a woman of means makes for fame and visibility and maybe even a platform to sell a novel.

It’s puzzling, really, why a woman who had written such a tender and affecting memoir would allow her credibility as a writer to be put on the line for a ridiculous reality show. Or why someone with what seems to be plenty of money would want to be part of such a program or use such a cheap tactic to sell her own books.

But then, this is the world we live in now, where “fame” at any cost seems to be the goal, even for women in generations closer to mine.

As I writer, I could never make the choice she did. Not that kind of bad judgment.

As I writer, I shake my head, and think, “what a shame.”






41 comments on “Bad judgment by a princess, writer & faux housewife
  1. Loved this post and am so glad somebody finally said it.

  2. I don’t watch these shows and am happy to see them called out…but I am concerned as to how many young women watch them. I hope just for pure entertainment and nothing more. I would hate to see anyone get life lessons here.

  3. I am proud to report I’ve never watched any of those shows. Once I was in Kansas City for a peer advocate training and when I had to get up to introduce myself, saying I’m from NJ, people only wanted to know if I knew “The Housewives” and I shuddered. Really? You have got to be kidding. They are the worst of us, in my opinion.

    Yes, Lee Radziwills and The Kennedy’s and I am sure Carol’s family and friends are all shaking their heads at her bad judgment. That said, I don’t walk in anyone’s shoes, so we don’t really know why she made this choice. With the tragedy and horror of living with and then losing someone with cancer, we don’t know who she is anymore.

    Great post, Carol. As always.

    • Yes, a writer has nothing if she has lost her credibility, so in my view, there would be no good reason, especially since her memoir was so beautifully written.I do mean lovely.

  4. Hi Carol. It’s hard to know if I agree with you about whether I would stoop to writing something like this if I were Carole. I can’t even imagine being her. But we don’t need to agree for me to enjoy your work. I loved reading this muse.

    I too often wonder why, like really why would they join this cast if life is as good as it appears for them.

    Hope you are enjoying vacay.

  5. Laura says:

    Maybe the blog is ghostwritten in the voice of her persona on the show and her credible voice is her memoir?

    I am a half generation removed from the trailer park and even I know how ill bred the “Housewives” from the big cities are. It’s too bad she felt compelled to join such an enterprise.

  6. Linda Roy says:

    Exactly. Why would she compromise her integrity? Okay, so maybe the money is good, but is she really hurting for cash? Doubtful. Not if she’s in that cast. Joining the cast of that show is inviting a world of stress, anxiety and drama that nobody needs in their life. And just for the record, it’s my guilty pleasure too! 😉 My husband cannot be in the room when I’m watching it. “You’re watching the bickering show again!” It’s just so addictive.

  7. Carol – RHONY is one of my guilty pleasures too! I can’t watch any if the others, too tawdry. But maybe since I grew up an hour from NYC I find this one fascinating, in, as you said so well, a horror kind of way. I was also intrigued by the whole ghostwriter storyline. Still not sure what to believe, thanks for sharing this.


  8. Michelle says:

    I don’t watch reality shows (I’ve seen some episodes) but you’d have to live in a cave to not know what they are and what they are about.

    And maybe it’s just me…but ALL of these shows seem to be as far from reality as you can get..

  9. Oh, geez. I had no idea (I don’t watch the shows). Truly, what a shame. There’s so much tragedy in the Kennedy clan and this one, so very minor compared to the others, is still a tragedy. What knucklehead moves this former admirable woman has made. Yes, a shame.

  10. What a shame indeed. It does make me wonder why people seek fame over integrity. And, yes, writers should behave better.

  11. I’m surprised too that she lowered her standards in writing for a reality TV show. It smacks of desperation–both financially and for notoriety.

  12. Mary says:

    I must admit, the RH are my guilty pleasure, my brain need some down time of it’s own!

  13. Lana says:

    I think I’ve mentioned once or twice that I enjoy reality shows 🙂 – and the Real Housewives franchise is at the top of my list (except NJ – can’t watch that one anymore). I just started reading Carole’s memoir, and I’m only a few chapters in, so I can’t comment on that. However, I was also surprised to see her on the show – can’t figure out why she did it. I do think producers tried to up her “interesting” factor with the ghostwriter story line – but like you wrote, WHY would she let that come into question? She has plenty of money, so I can only come up with fame.

    • Let me know what you think of her memoir. I really did love the writing, although she really didn’t reveal much about herself, nothing deep, anyway. Agree with your other comments.

  14. Donna says:

    I loved this post!! I am with you, I love my celebs, or I did. They are all so miscalculating now…so without imagination. And they seem to look alike too. But your premise is right, as soon as she began to associate with women we know would do anything for fame and money….maybe she would ghost write. Not that there is anything wrong with ghost writing, but not being upfront about it is dishonest. Finger prints are all over books that aren’t really written by the famous name. Some of course…I have always wondered how much of Bill O’Reilley’s books are actually penned by him.
    Loved this blog….I haven’t heard high cotton in a long time. Love you my friend!!

  15. Kymberly says:

    Could be she authored all her own works and is accomplished enough to shift voices according to need and outlet. Truly good writers have this ability. I know – I am an optimist.

  16. I was shocked to find out that some bloggers you and I probably know use ghostwriters. This practice is most definitely not isolated to the very rich. It feels like cheating to me, but if I’ve learned anything in the past year it is that the chase for fame, and the promise of money that might come with it, causes people to do all sorts of crazy, unethical things.

    On the other hand, if the woman was in grief, which she likely was if she loved her husband, her best friend, and her best friend’s husband, then I can understand why she might hire someone to help her write her story.

    But why she’d allow this storyline to develop is another very good question. Either it’s true and she doesn’t care anymore, or it’s true and the money they are paying her (or the fame she’s getting) make up for having her reputation as a writer utterly ruined. Or it isn’t true.

    I think that people at this level of the game have come to a peace about the fact that they are giving up being a real human being in order to become a marketable cartoon character that the American public will consume. And consume them we do.

    Americans (or maybe it’s just people in general) LOVE, LOVE, LOVE nothing more than to see a successful person brought down low. It’s pathological, really. Seeing successful people humiliated and destroyed has become THE American pastime. It gives us a certain thrill that I can’t quite explain, and I certainly don’t understand. Maybe it helps us feel better about our own pathetic little lives? Seeing someone successful get brought down gives us a sort of sick satisfaction. A sort of, “How dare they think they could get too big for their britches?”

    The question is whether or not this is a true take-down, or is this just a cartoon of one for entertainment of the masses and money for those participating in creating the show?

    • Well, I think you can get blogs ghostwritten cheaply, books is another story. So to speak. I know that Pioneer Woman has ghost writers for sure and other big bloggers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some smaller bloggers have ghosts, if they are blogging for the $ and not for the love of writing. It wouldn’t surprise me at all.
      Yeah, the storyline did her in, I think, at least in the minds of astute writers who read her. I found your comments very thought-provoking, Chloe, thanks for stopping by.

  17. I watch CNN and Game of Thrones and Bill Maher. But I remember those names….my mother bought every movie and fan magazine available!

  18. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    I don’t watch the Real Housewives shows but I’ve got trash TV a-plenty with the Kardashians and Kendra. I’m ashamed to say I watch the shows but that hasn’t stopped me. 😉

  19. I’ve never watched that particular show but will admit that I watch ‘others’. And by that I mean the RHOC and RHBH. No I’m not from CA but it is odd that I watch those two, haha! Like you, I watch it to observe, and as I always tell my hubby, to feel blessed and grateful for my life. How can you not feel blessed when you see how insane these women get? And how stupidly they fight over the most trivial of things….haha! I guess the producers are to blame. I ‘ve heard a lot of the conflicts are manufactured too sometimes. Oh well, the joys of reality tv. But speaking of books…not entirely of ghost writing….I’m surprised and enraged…ok, maybe jealous ?…that the Jenner kids have a book??!!!! Whoa! Anyway, I have to look more into that. 😉

  20. Carol, here it is….reality tv meets the publishing world… *sigh* The first paragraph /sentence of this article was my exact reaction when I first found out they published a book.

  21. I had no idea who she ‘was.’ What a horribly sad story she has.
    The NY Housewives are the only ones I don’t watch. I will have to check them out now. The shows are scripted so there really is no reality but like you said, the horror and ridiculousness of it all. I watch, listen and work with so much news and sadness that my brain needs a ‘dumbness’ break.
    I will say that so much grief in a short time can cause PTSD which can cause family members and friends to abandon, leaving you lonely and hopeless. Somebody in a situation like that may be a target for less than genuine friends, like the other housewives.
    As far as the ghostwriting, I have no idea but as a ghostwriter if I cannot feel the soul and find the voice of the person I am writing ‘with’ I do not take the project. I think people choose ghostwriters for many different reasons, not always because they cannot write
    I think my professional writing and my personal writing differ in voice at least I try to make them different.
    Donna- Bill O’Reilly is quite public about his writing partner, Martin Dugard. The history, facts and story are Bill’s the writing is Martin’s.

  22. Ruth Curran says:

    Even though I have seen it so many times since I moved to California, I am still surprised at the lure of celebrity and sparkly pull of fame – even at the cost of integrity and forsaking gifts/talents. Reminders that that happens are every where but, still I guess my rose colored glasses don’t allow me to focus enough to get it :)! I love why this angered you Carol!

  23. Well now I am really curious about the memoir, even if it was written by a ghost writer your endorsement is wonderful. My daughter went through a brief period of watching reality TV, it was the perfect forum to deconstruct poor decisions and horrific behavior, sounds as if this show is in the same gutter. I couldn’t agree more that it seems as if that is truly a misstep for Carole.

    I think I am going to cleave to the idea that she wrote her memoir…

  24. This is the first one of your posts I wish I hadn’t read (not really) but I loved that book and now I will always wonder too. I watched the show the first year she was on it and was baffled but it was the other women who finally just gave me a migraine so I missed following seasons. I can’t believe as a writer she would have allowed this …huge disappointment.

  25. I can’t watch any of those shows. I’m mortified by the whole idea of the Real Housewives franchise and it makes me sad that someone like the Princess would feel the need to be part of it in any way.

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