Aviva Drescher appeared on seasons five and six of the Real Housewives of New York City.
In a new interview with the New York Post, Drescher is revealing how far producers would go to get the cast liquored up in order to create drama and better ratings.
She recalled the time a producer phoned ahead of filming and asked her to take a shot of alcohol with castmate Ramona Singer during a reconciliation scene at a restaurant.
“I told the head producer, ‘I don’t want to do a shot. Can you just fill it with water?’” Aviva, who grew up with an alcoholic mother and says she had never taken a shot before. “And they said no.”
“I was so weak and so intimidated by the production team, and I had just gone through all the negotiations of my contract for the second season and those were demoralizing,” she said. “I took the shot. I felt tremendous pressure to do it.”
Insiders say the stress of the show coupled with the free and flowing alcohol provided by producers and vendors is a dangerous combination. Some also wonder whether the series is exploiting cast members’ legitimate substance-abuse issues for the sake of drama.
“When I see some of the drunk scenes, it’s dark,” said Drescher. “It’s gone from being funny and giddy to being drunk and depressing and it makes me feel sad.” She added, “There are certain scenes where I’m just cringing for everybody involved.”
Housewives interviewed for this article say that while producers don’t explicitly push them to drink during filming, booze is always available — at no cost — courtesy of restaurants, events or the production team if a cast member is hosting a party that’s being filmed.
“At times, the producers would say, ‘Well, we’re not going to pay for Mr. Chow to cater your party because that’s over budget. But you’ll never hear them say, ‘We won’t pay for alcohol.’ It’s always readily available,” said Drescher.
“Everything is free, so the women drink in excess,” Cindy Barshop, who appeared on RHONY for one year in 2011. She added that the long shooting hours contributed to her co-stars’ boozing.
It also happens on trips out of town.
“You request the kind of alcohol you want and it’s there when you arrive to your villa,” said Heather Thomson, who appeared on RHONY for three seasons. “And if you run out, they get you more.”
Gretchen Rossi, who appeared on the Real Housewives of Orange County primarily from 2008 to 2013, remembered an evening of filming at a dinner party where she got incredibly intoxicated.
“I woke up and thought, ‘Gosh, I never specifically went up and asked for another drink.’ My drink always seemed to be magically filled up,” said Rossi.
“So I realized that, possibly, producers were in the background going to the server, ‘It looks like Gretchen needs more alcohol.’ ”
When Rossi approached producers about the party the next day, they retaliated with detailed notes.
“One of the producers goes, ‘Did anybody force you to drink? According to our notes here, you had two martinis, two shots of tequila . . .’ They had literally documented every single drink I had. I found that to be very strange,” she said. “It makes your stomach turn a little. It made me question what their intentions are.”
Kelly Bensimon added that the cast knows the producers aren’t baby-sitters. “It said on the contract: Anything goes and you can’t sue for defamation of character — because you wanted to be on the show, and wanted to be famous,” she revealed.
“I was like, ‘I need to bring this woman home. This is just not cool,’ ” said Bensimon. “The producers said, ‘Don’t help her, don’t help her.’”
“If someone is in a bad situation, I don’t care if the cameras are rolling or not. I’m not going to let someone look bad because they are getting crazy. I know what’s going to happen once the footage airs, so let me help them out,” said Bensimon. She believes that her professional reputation was tarnished after appearing on the series.
Heather Thomson also described an incident in Saratoga. “When we were in Saratoga at the horse race, Sonja had been drinking and the producers wanted us to go outside because she was leaving . . . and she was falling down with her suitcase,” Thomson said. “I refused. I’m not going to put her vulnerabilities on camera . . . I felt like it was irresponsible. And the producer was unhappy that we wouldn’t go outside.”
“I think if [behavior like Morgan’s] happens once or twice, they need to let the cameras run,” said Thomson. “But if it’s reoccurring, the producers may have to question if the cast member is right for the program.”
“Bethenny said, ‘I didn’t realize how bad it was’ and ‘I didn’t realize she’s a f*cking liability.’ And [the producers] said, ‘I know, I know.’ But at the end of the day, they invite [Morgan] back every year,” an anonymous Housewife said.
A Bravo spokeswoman said, “The franchise follows the women in their real lives. No one is pressured to drink alcohol. If the network, production company or castmates have deemed that someone is putting themselves at risk in their overall lives, we have taken and will continue to take responsible action.”
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