The ‘Real Housewives’ Don’t Have to Suck Up to Celebrities — So Why Do They?

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Last night's Real Housewives of New Jersey mixed in some awkwardness with the usual passive-aggression, when Albie and Christopher Manzo took their family to go see Alexa Ray Joel perform. It was cute how Albie was nervous to talk to Alexa, but downright weird to watch Caroline and Albert suck up to her at the dinner before her set. When Albie made some incomprehensible joke, his parents swooped in to compliment Alexa on her genes, while parents Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley sat nearby. Can you guess whose benefit that was really for?

I've started to recognize this trend as something that all of the Bravo Housewives share. Just a few weeks ago, the New York season finale had LuAnn de Lesseps acting all buddy-buddy with Natalie Cole, who was performing at her and Jacques‘ one-year anniversary party/cruise. Cole invited LuAnn to take the stage (not contrived at all), so that LuAnn was basically working on what should have been her night with her boyfriend. Bad manners, indeed.

The thing is, these women are celebrities in their own right. Sure, they're reality stars who make most of their money not off their talent or looks but their propensity to start fights over petty shit — but they're household names for any reality devotee. Just look at how much we write about them! For a while, Denise Richards lobbied to be on Beverly Hills, but the show doesn't need her to be fabulous. These “Bravolebrities” don't need to hitch their carts to actors or singers, and yet they continue to embarrass themselves by doing just that.

I cringe when I remember how, on last season of Beverly Hills, Kim and Kyle Richards pitched a fit when sister Kathy Hilton didn't come to a family gathering. I'm betting that what they were actually upset about was Kathy not bringing daughters Paris and Nicky to get higher ratings for that episode.

This behavior seems so unattractive partly because of the stars' in-between status. When you hear about celebs having crushes on each other or gushing about a co-star's performance, you figure that they're entitled to that kind of elbow-rubbing. But the Housewives are one step below red-carpet royalty and one step above clamoring fans; their desperation for celebrities to like them puts them closer to the low end of the spectrum. We expect them to act a bit more dignified.

If anything, lining up the Housewives alongside real celebrities would illustrate just what a parody of fame they are. Case in point: On last season of The Celebrity Apprentice, the other contestants looked down on NeNe Leakes. Guess they weren't fans of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.