The Great Retouching Debate

The Great Retouching Debate

Simon shares renovation details and his thoughts on Bethenny's mag cover.

So this episode opens as usual with highlights of the last episode giving Bravo another excuse to show me adorned with only a bath towel covering my nether regions (and hopefully that's the last time this season where I show so much flesh!)

And then it's straight on to Brad showing the Zarins design boards with fabric & paint swatches and furniture samples for the interior redecoration and refurnishing of their NYC condo. Jill seems to not be too enamored with his suggestions and Bobby (bless him) sits quietly and lets Brad & Jill have it out. Great shots of Bobby's fabric store follow but you can tell Jill's felling a bit stressed with having too many choices. In her words 'she doesn't feel good!'

Continuing the redecoration theme of this season you see us meeting with a local Brooklyn architect who I found through a wonderful Brooklyn website called Brownstoner. Alex and I bought our house in mid 2005 when she was pregnant with Johan and with a newborn on the way we weren't about to immediately embark on any major renovations. The house was more than livable in its current state although by no means were the living areas as nice as the Park Slope Co-op we'd completely remodeled and had just sold.

Last season our house came in for tons of criticism, which we found amusing, frustrating and ridiculous all at the same time. Let me just say that I've laughed several times this season when I've seen people state that we've already done some work on the living areas based on footage in the 1st couple of episodes. Someone commented that we had new blonde wood flooring; someone else said some areas have been painted and so on. What this shows is how difficult it can be to deduce from the small screen just what our home is like. Last season much was made of our stairs and lower entryway and certainly when you see me running down the stairs to greet the architect, Aaron McDonald, you'll see that the stairs have finally had all the remains of the vinyl tiles, glue, linoleum and the other 100 years of detritus removed as well as the plaster from the brick wall. In addition a century plus of paint was painstakingly removed from the original tin ceiling in the corridor and down the stairs but this small area was the only area any work had been done between seasons

But I digress (and will expand this discussion at my Week 1 Renovation Blog that'll be up later this week), so back to our meeting with Aaron the Architect (no, not Ethel the Aardvark, she was a quantity surveyor). By the time we met with Aaron we'd changed our minds three times over about how we intended to live in the house, indeed we'd changed our minds again since we'd done the work in the basement (and thus simultaneously prepped a lot of plumbing and electrics for the eventual work on the upper floors which we had to change.)

Despite knowing exactly the floor plan we wanted, which involved the demolition of several load bearing walls as well as the building of new walls, we still very much needed an architect to help navigate the 1,000 page regulations that make up the NYC building code. For instance, who knew that a bedroom couldn't be anymore than 32' deep from the extremity of a deck? Only in NYC! The house (and hopefully you'll see over the next several episodes) is now laid out as follows:

Parlor Level -- Living Room, Dining Room, Kitchen, Pantry and half bath
Garden Level -- 2 Boys bedrooms and bathroom, Master bed and master bath
Basement Level -- Play room, Office/Gym, Laundry, - bath and mechanical room

Whereas in Season 1 it was:

Parlor Level -- Master Bedroom, Living room, Office, Bathroom, Closets
Garden Level -- 2 boys bedrooms, Combined Living/Dining, Kitchen & Bathroom
Basement Level -- Play room, Office/Gym, Laundry, - bath and mechanical room (hardly seen in season 1)

In all we have over 3,000 sq ft of living space (plenty for a family of four) as well as two additional floors of 900 sq ft each that we rent out. Another amusing thing has been the continual criticisms of our house since season 2 started. "How can they spend $8,000 on clothes and still live in a hovel?" (As if we ever did.) Oh! The things you keep quiet to help make entertaining television!

Next we're on to Bethenny's Magazine Moment and who knew, that just a month after she gleefully criticized Alex & me for attending a party for a magazine with Social Life in its name, she'd be over the moon to be their cover girl. Alls (with apologies to the Countess) I can say is it sure takes one striver to recognize another, eh Bethenny? We're just not so bitchy about others. If it makes you feel better about yourself that's fine too, but Alex and I are comfortable in our skin and don't need to validate ourselves by criticizing others.

After 2 minutes of Bethenny's photoshoot we're treated to one of the rare occasions this season that we've seen of Ramona & Mario at their house in the Hamptons . (You might remember that soon after Jill & I were making up in Episode 1 at the July 4th Social Life Magazine party the show cut to Ramona & Mario when they were sitting back in NYC discussing my 'sexuality.') So Ramona comes out wearing what looks like underwear but presumably were swimmers and she and Mario canoodle by their pool and then here comes one of the lamest juxtapositions of either season so far. We cut to Alex & me cooling off in our dinky Brooklyn backyard blow-up pool. Yup, it sure is nice to come back from working in Manhattan in summer, as Alex & I both did last summer, and jump in and cool off in our little pool. Is it akin to the Hamptons? No. Do we pretend otherwise? No. Is it further evidence that we're not one of them? Who gives a sh*t, and if we did why would we have given them the footage to use? Alex & I have never pretended to be anything we're not; we are very comfortable by most standards and do reasonably well by NYC standards. Do we want more? Sure, but are we content with what we've got? You betcha, and we're not afraid to show it in all its 10' round blow-up pool glory.

Next Bethenny and LuAnn have lunch about a lunch LuAnn's planning for the NYC branch of Hope Lodge and they discuss LuAnn's upcoming book, Class with the Countess. Bethenny seems to really quiz LuAnn about the relationship between being a Countess and etiquette, but to me there's not much difference between someone being thin writing a book about that topic too!

Ramona's new BFF Kelly wants to share a part of her life with Ramona and does so by touring Richard Meier's model warehouse. I suppose Kelly's a model and a building full of wooden models is a little too ironic even for me. Of course Ramona seemingly knowing more than Kelly did makes you wonder just how much Kelly knows about her own life.

Continuing the Social Life Magazine shoot, Bethenny finds out she's a cover girl! "Who-hoo!" as Vicki G would say.

Ramona and Mario get a great commercial for their jewelry that Ramona sold last week on HSN.

Then we're off to Hope Lodge and Ramona gets another chance to suffer foot in mouth disease when she fails in math and can't calculate the Count's age. He hardly looks 86! But first Bethenny gets her knickers in a twist over a retouching comment that LuAnn made about her magazine shoot. For the life of me I can't understand why Bethenny found that offensive, it's so standard and there's not a magazine that doesn't (and hasn't she seen her own PR photos on the Bravo website?)

Ramona continues giving Bethenny relationship advice and then when she disagrees with LuAnn, Ramona says what would LuAnn know "as you're married to a man twice your age" Wow two women arguing over the looks of their husbands! What drama, but in this case I've got to say Ramona was way out of order and in this case LuAnn handled herself and the situation really well. Ramona was 'quite shocked' at LuAnn's reaction and then compounded her problem by stating that she only apologized because LuAnn wanted one and not that the apology was warranted. Ramona, please go find that filter!

Jill arrives having missed the whole scene but quickly catches up and at last we see a little of the reason they were there in the first place - to prepare a meal for those living with cancer.

Next we see Alex and me not only packing for our vacation, but packing up two floors of our house so some of the renovation work can begin while we're away. But first I need time to pack my pink jeans and as Alex suggests, my new hot pink loafers! Then we cut to us quickly throwing several empty suitcases in our car while we 'drive' off to the airport to fly to St. Barths. For those that caught it I can assure you that Johan came with us too and wasn't left on our stoop.

Back in the Hamptons, Bethenny and LuAnn are having lunch to work through the retouched photo issue and in this instance I am again on LuAnn's side. Bethenny is being way too touchy on this issue as it seems to show some major insecurities about her looks.

So now it's back to the Social Life Magazine estate and thankfully Brad's not there to go on about the pedestrian people with plastic surgery at these parties. But then we weren't there (we were in St Barths) so the 'pedestrian' comment wasn't required.

Bethenny celebrates her cover, LuAnn ducks out early and STILL the air brushing/retouching issue gets another life.

p.s. Extra points if you know how many times did Bethenny in this episode mouth the words Social Life? (Imagine what she'd have said if Alex had dropped those words that much!)

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