Some of the most talked-about moments took place in front of and behind the cameras at the WWHL taping.
Bravo Insider is celebrating BravoCon 2019 one year later by taking a look back at the wildest and most exciting moments — including the ones you didn’t get to see. Bravolebs, producers, and executives recalled their favorite memories, revealed behind-the-scene details from the VIP areas, and spilled some never-before-heard secrets from those iconic three days in NYC.
The special episode of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen from BravoCon 2019 weekend will go down in the show's history. Sure, WWHL has always been known for wild moments, but no episode was ever quite as over the top as the one that filmed live from BravoCon.
The night had it all: a bevy of Bravo stars past and present, an unexpected musical performance, and a smooch to end all smooches. Really, the evening was the living, breathing equivalent of what a Bravo superfan's fever dream might look like. Filmed on Friday, November 15 at Hammerstein Ballroom, the episode aired on the last night of the three-day event: Sunday, November 17.
In an interview first shared exclusively with Bravo Insider members, The Daily Dish spoke to the stars, producers, executives, and host Andy Cohen himself to learn all of the night's secrets and relive some of its most buzzworthy moments.
One year later, here are the behind-the-scenes stories from the night fans still can’t stop talking about.
Maria Laino DeLuca, Senior Vice President, Consumer and Social Marketing, Bravo and Universal Kids: It was insane. It definitely over-delivered on my expectations, but I had some pretty high expectations for that one. I think because I had experienced L.A., I knew that we could recreate that moment and that energy. When you look at [WWHL production company] Embassy Row and the energy that Andy brings to it, from the games that were played and the performance, that was just incredible. Having 77 talent on the stage was just incredible. One of the things that we tried to do with BravoCon when we designed it was we knew there were limitations in terms of how many fans could physically attend the event, so, we thought, "How do we extend this content and all of these fun elements nationally so that fans at home can enjoy it?" I think we really were able to execute on that with the special on air because even if you weren’t there, you got to experience it at home.
Deirdre Connolly, Executive Producer for Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen at Embassy Row: When you’re doing that [show] with [about] 70 people who have probably already been at BravoCon for most of the day, it’s complicated [laughs]. So that really was our main challenge. Andy absolutely loves chaos. He thrives on it. He loves a live event. He loves craziness. So, all of the planning in terms of the creative of the show was not the challenging part. It really was managing and the logistics of that many Bravolebrities in one place and going through this convoluted way of getting from A to B to C. So, we really needed to get the timing right because we also couldn’t have a ton of people in the tiny space, but also not hearing. We didn’t want a big group of people loudly talking behind there. Logistics of getting people to and from stage was insane.
Andy Cohen, host of WWHL: Well, the two big issues of the day were keeping Lisa Vanderpump away from the Housewives of Beverly Hills. I don't think she wanted to be near them. Also, keeping Caroline Manzo and Teresa [Giudice away]. If you notice on the show, Caroline kind of came out at the beginning, and then she left at Watch What Happens Live. There was very deliberate choreography there. Then Lisa Vanderpump left early before the Beverly Hills Housewives came out, so we were respectful of those moments.
But there were so many stars in the Clubhouse and behind the scenes that unexpected interactions were bound to take place.
Cynthia Bailey, The Real Housewives of Atlanta: It was the Super Bowl of Watch What Happens Live. I love Andy, I have a great relationship with him and just seeing how everything has just evolved to where it is now — all the big shows and all the Bravolebrities and Andy is a dad now — so much has happened in the past 11 years that I’ve been a part of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. It just felt like family. It was like, these are my people. This is my family. I don’t know half of these people, but we all are connected through Bravo.
Emily Simpson, The Real Housewives of Orange County: A normal taping [of WWHL] would be like sitting in the library and just being like "ha, ha, ha." And then the Watch What Happens Live at BravoCon would be like at a Rolling Stones concert [laughs]. You can’t even compare the two. It was insane.
Tom Sandoval, Vanderpump Rules, who showed up to the taping in drag: Most people loved it. It was funny when we were backstage [and] it was before we were doing Watch What Happens Live, I was sitting back there and [Andy] says hi to me, but then he’s talking at somebody and he’s literally losing his train of thought. I think he really liked it, let’s just say that. I think he really, really was feeling it.
Golnesa "GG" Gharachedaghi, Shahs of Sunset, who was pregnant with her first child during BravoCon weekend: You know who I got unexpected love from the actual night of the Watch What Happens Live taping and I was not expecting to get as much love as I did from [her was] Kenya [Moore]. We were all walking off stage and I think she could just tell I’m just pregnant and I’m wearing heels and everyone’s drinking and rushing past me. She literally grabbed my arm and just held me and walked me all the way 'til we got out. And I was just so flattered by that.
Scheana Shay, Vanderpump Rules: Well, what you didn’t see was all of us and a few of the Beverly Hills Housewives sneaking a bottle of tequila behind each other, taking shots on the commercial breaks, and it was just so much fun. I never thought I would be on stage with Denise Richards having a shot of Casamigos, but…BravoCon made it happen.
James Kennedy, Vanderpump Rules: I'm a big fan of all the Housewives, so seeing them all together in one place was very fun for me. Denise Richards sat right in front of me — and I remember being a huge fan of Starship Troopers when I was a little kid and it was freakin' awesome. I loved it when they would walk out and each one had like a crazy little entrance.
This particular WWHL episode did the unthinkable in other ways: It managed to get Don't Be Tardy star Kim Zolciak-Biermann to resurrect her pop star persona. But it wasn't easy.
Connolly: There’s never enough time to do everything and it was an ambitious show. We had a Kim Zolciak performance, a limited rehearsal with that. I think it went really well and was really fun and people flipped out when they saw her at the back of the theater.
But again, we had limited time and Andy was supposed to sing along and we hadn’t taken into account that everyone would be standing instead of sitting. So, we had to reposition our cameras and it just was a lot. She hadn’t done it in a very long time.. She was hesitant, it had been a while. And you think you know the song but then there’s actual verses that you really need to know the words to and you have the hook in your head and then you’re like, "Oh wait, there’s this other part? I don’t know that part." But he [Andy] did a great job. He is a lover of all things Housewives, particularly Housewives singles. I think for all of us, “Don’t be Tardy” is like the gold standard of them. Because it just sentimentally means a lot too — I think it was one of our first. She performed it on our one and only Watch What Happens Live New Year’s Eve special. So it just has a really special place in our hearts. I think to do it at BravoCon was fun for the staff, fun for Andy, obviously fun for fans, and fun for Kim.
Cohen: [It was] both exhilarating and embarrassing because I really can't sing. “Tardy for the Party” has been kind of an anthem, not only for Housewives fans but for us at Watch What Happens Live. That song came out basically when we started and we've used that song a lot, so we just thought we needed a performance of it. She [Kim] didn’t want to sing it, and I called her up, and was trying to convince her. Then I said "Well wait a minute. What if we did it as a duet and I'll do it with you?" She was like "OK, now this could be fun." So at least, she and I were in it together. It was awesome and really cool.
Gina Kirschenheiter, The Real Housewives of Orange County: I definitely remember that [Tom Sandoval was in drag]... so I just assumed it was for something. But then, he didn't do a performance or anything. And then Kim came out and did her performance, which I thought was great. I actually really enjoyed "Tardy for the Party."
While many elements of a show this large are pre-planned, there were still moments that no one could have anticipated. One of those instances took place in front of the live studio audience when Million Dollar Listing New York's Fredrik Eklund stepped out on the stage and kissed Andy.
Cohen: I have to say when Fredrik kissed me, it came at exactly the right time. It shocked me to the core. He truly grabbed my face and it was not a staged kiss. It was significant, and I loved it. And I think what I also didn’t realize is Fredrik was back there with the Million Dollar Listing guys waiting to go on forever, and I think they were enjoying multiple cocktails while they waited.
Connolly: Unforgettable. I mean there’s always something super fun to see when something actually shocks Andy. It doesn’t happen too much because he’s just somebody who can roll right through things and I’m sure there’s not a lot he hasn’t seen on TV at this point. But when you really catch him off guard and you can see him be like wait, what just happened? It’s, as a producer, really fun. I know him well enough now to know exactly what’s going through his mind in those moments. So, I think it wasn’t surprising that he went in for another one.
If anything, WWHL is famous for the games guests play while hanging out and spilling the tea in the Clubhouse. And on this particular night, the name of the game was Squash That Beef, which gave Bravo stars from across the network the chance to air out any feuds they may have with one another.
Cohen: There was a moment where Ramona [Singer] and Luann [de Lesseps], I saw that they were about to leave during a commercial break. I ran over there and Ramona’s like, "Look, this is taking too long. No one will notice if we leave." I said, "Ramona, I'm about to call you up. We're doing something big with you," because we were gonna play Squash That Beef. I knew that we were using Ramona in three of the segments. She was really crucial to that, so she did stay and I was so glad that she did. Squash That Beef, I think was my favorite part of it. I just thought it was very funny.
Connolly: Our main goal was to get to Squash That Beef. No matter what other things we accomplished in the show [laughs].
Gizelle Bryant, The Real Housewives of Potomac: Well first of all, Ashley [Darby] whispered to me, "Gizelle, Andy’s gonna have a portion of this that’s a game and it’s gonna be like people who have beef with each other." And I was like, "No, he’s not." [At that point when I was called up], I was 100 percent mentally done with Ramona. I get who and what she is. And that’s fine — we’re all different people walking around on this earth. No big deal. That could have gone in many different directions and I think it went best case scenario for something like that, for sure.
Dolores Catania, The Real Housewives of New Jersey: My moment with Ramona on stage, when we squashed our beef [stood out to me].
Kate Chastain, Below Deck: I was sitting there and I just knew in my gut, I was like, "They’re gonna call me [about my beef with Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave from RHOBH]." I did feel a little like an underdog. If I’d been going against a Below Deck person, I would feel more in my wheelhouse, no pun intended. I wasn’t trying to have a feud with a pregnant woman [Teddi] in front of hundreds of people. I didn’t even think we really had that big of a feud. So, I just wanted to congratulate her and laugh.
Connolly: I’m sure Andy mentioned this too but he’s always been a big fan of Battle of the Network Stars. He was a big fan of that when he was growing up. I was a big fan. Seeing other casts interact with each other somehow is a very rewarding fan experience. To see them feud and potentially settle a feud is also really rewarding. I think that we really knew that that would be one of the things that we wanted to get to. I think we ended up taping for two hours because of the logistics of bringing everyone out, getting them seated, having interviews, talking to people. Those things alone really took up a lot of time, but we knew we wanted to get to [that segment].
While part of the night was about looking back on old feuds or reviving a classic Housewives moment, the episode also featured the introduction of new RHONY cast member, Leah McSweeney.
Luann De Lesseps, The Real Housewives of New York City: It was exciting to be the one to introduce the new Housewife. I was honored.
Cohen: Well, it was so funny because I knew what a superstar Leah was gonna be. When we introduced her that night, the audience was like, "Oh, OK, whatever." For her [Leah], she walked in pretty anonymously. Suffice to say the next time Leah is at BravoCon, she’ll get a far different reaction
Connolly: I think any fan is suspicious of the new Housewife, right? You like her or not, until she really develops her personality and you can get a feel for her. I think for me personally, as a New Yorker, Leah is a real New Yorker. She just screams New York and she’s tough and I think she had an excellent first season. I think she did become a fan favorite because she represents the city so well. Honestly, that night there was so much going on that even I barely remember her introduction because there were so many moving parts. It was like, "Oh yeah and we’re introducing a new Housewife," and until you said that I kind of forgot that we even did that. Originally, I think the plan was to introduce her during a panel, but then Andy really wanted to save it for Watch What Happens Live because he felt like it [was] just a bigger moment. I think that was the right call. It’s like a little Easter egg for people who came to BravoCon. They got to see her first, even before the show actually aired.
What fans didn't get to see and what cameras definitely weren't rolling on was the VIP area. The green room, according to those who got the chance to access it, sounded like a party to end all parties.
Connolly: I will sum it up by saying that Dori [Kornspan], our talent director, ended up having to get on a bullhorn and scream at people to get them to listen to her. Because it was pandemonium, as expected. Everyone’s there catching up with people they haven’t seen for awhile, or meeting people they have never met before and having cocktails while not really caring that there’s an actual show taping.
Laino DeLuca: I guess one moment that really sort of will stick with me for my life is when I went in the green room that night of Watch What Happens Live and I walked in that room. It was an old bank space. And we turned it into a holding space for the talent. I looked around, and it was as if you walked into Bravo heaven. Every Bravolebrity was in there and they were all talking to each other. It was just the most incredible thing ever. Everyone was happy to be there and excited. I was just standing there like, "Oh my god, we made this happen. We did this. This is incredible."
Sezin Cavusoglu, Vice President, Bravo Current Production: First of all Tinsley [Mortimer] and [Married to Medicine's Toya Bush-Harris], they showed up in the same dress. That was hilarious. Your eye just went straight to the two of them in the same dress. It was a hilarious moment. They were such good sports about it. They laughed about it, it was great. Then there were people who have to be kept separated. There were a bunch of us in the green room trying to move the talent around and wrangle the talent.
Still, as those who produced that show that night will tell you, there was so much to celebrate.
Connolly: Well, [the WWHL staff] went into Andy’s dressing room and, actually I was pregnant, but I hadn’t told anyone yet. So, I declined my glass of champagne, which made everyone wonder what the hell was going on. We all piled into Andy’s dressing room for a glass of champagne.
Cohen: I mean the whole Watch What Happens Live night was just awesome. It was really fun and I was in a state of shock afterwards but I was very tired. I think what was fun afterwards, we had a party in my green room with the Watch What Happens Live staff and we just stayed in there sharing stories and laughing for a very long time — it was really great.
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