The thing absolutely no one tells you about going to the Real Housewives Awards, Bravo’s annual celebration of all things Real Housewives, is how much you’ll end up clapping. There’s practice clapping in the Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen clubhouse’s bar entrance, there’s practice clapping from inside the studio before beloved host Andy Cohen enters, and, of course, there’s real clapping when Cohen actually bursts into the studio in all his reality TV king glory. What follows is 45 minutes of whooping and hollering as a coterie of awards-hopeful Real Housewives make their way on set to shade their castmates, praise their castmates, and drink clear beverages of different bubbly levels.
According to the tally I kept betweens giggles and sips of the production-provided Frescila, Cohen’s own preferred libation of tequila and Fresca, I realized I had applauded 53 times in less than an hour.
At one point or another, it’s possible you might feel ridiculous for how often you’ve been screaming on a set in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, so close to midnight (30-minute WWHL starts filming at 11 p.m ET and has a 15-minute post-show). But then you realize all the clapping is in celebration of a delightful legion of women who have opened themselves up to looking silly — or vulnerable, or impossibly GIF-able — for your enjoyment over the last 365 days. You can keep clapping for a few seconds.
Walking into the Watch What Happens Live floor of a SoHo building feels a lot like entering a brightly lit lounge, especially on an Awards night. The elevator doors open and all of a sudden there’s a bar in front of you, music playing in a way that encourages everyone in the room to sway, and a pack of people abuzz for the evening ahead. Eventually, one of the production members in charge of the bar confirms every ticket comes with two drinks, which they’ll happily pour for you. Everyone is either drinking the Mazel — vodka, orange juice, and cranberry — or the aforementioned Frescila.
The waiting room for WWHL is built for selfie taking. There’s a massive cardboard recreation of the clubhouse, complete with a life-size Andy Cohen cut-out. The guests filter out of the elevator in a cloud of sequins and fabulous wigs, ready to wave to their adoring fans before disappearing to the green room. Erika Jayne’s “Painkiller” will play.
Inside the actual studio during filming, it’s astonishing how much being in the studio feels like watching at home. The explanation is likely because both run as boozy parties — this is a show with an at-home drinking game built into the proceedings.
The difference between sitting in the studio and tuning in from your couch is that, here, you get to witness first-hand the Lucille Ball-like joy that is Sonja Morgan, of Sonja by Sonja Morgan. Morgan, a Real Housewives Of New York City veteran, unsurprisingly took home the Best Comedic Performance statue thanks to her tour de force humor in RHONY season 10. The New York socialite's win is what brought her on-stage as the evening’s first surprise bartender (Real Housewives of Potomac breakout and Most Memorable Wig winner Karen Huger would eventually join her).
What you maybe don’t realize about Sonja Tremont-Morgan is that she is never not on, whether a camera is pointed at her or not. This is a Bravolebrity who loves bits as much as any member of Saturday Night Live, and she dramatically kissed WWHL's infamous gay shark mascot directly in front of the camera.
That's also why, during live filming, as the cameras were trained on Cohen and seated guests Kelly Dodd, of Real Housewives Of Orange County, and Brandi Redmond, Real Housewives Of Dallas’ top Jesus juice drinker, Morgan bemusedly created her own Puckish mischief. In a pure Morgan moment, she dropped her congratulatory bouquet of flowers into a decanter of whiskey and then waited for someone, anyone, to notice. Cohen would a few minutes later, and notify all the viewers at home.
But, the best little-heard moment arrived when Dodd attempted to figure out what was wrong with co-star and human lightning rod Vicki Gunvalson. During the semi-serious moment, Morgan whispered to Potamac’s Karen Huger, “Ramona’s crazy,” which is a comment the RHONY star has repeatedly, lovingly said of her longtime friend, New York O.G. Ramona Singer, over the years. Singer, who didn't attend, then confirmed she is one of New York’s wildest wild cards during a surprise phone call between the Turtle Timer and WWHL host Cohen.
During the chat, Singer alleged New York, not Real Housewives originator Orange County, put the franchise, and its network, “on the map.” Her evidence was that a mystery man and supposed head honcho named “Bond,” whom no one besides Singer could identify or remember, told her as much. Throughout the entire call, Morgan loudly claimed from the other side of the room that her pal was entertaining “a gentleman” on the other side of the line. Only Ramona Singer. Only Sonja Morgan.
Yet, the special also suggested a new comedy queen could be rising among the Bravo ranks: Redmond, Dallas O.G. Namely because the redhead shared the Real Housewives tagline she came up with before even joining the ever-expanding franchise: “This ginger is the real deal and I have the red carpet to prove it.”
Cue the 49th round of applause.
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