By ANDREA HIGBIE
I can speak only for myself, but when I'm in the mood to annihilate someone, I throw a tea party. Yes, that's exactly what I do, haul out dozens of tiny cucumber sandwiches, neatly slicing off the crusts, and put out some delectable sweets, perhaps a pink marzipan litter of tiny pigs and then get in there and smash me some frenemy.
Pretty in Pink Lisa Vanderpump's tea party on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" last night was a chance for the girls, as these creatures crowding 50 and older love to refer to themselves, just as their elders by a good quarter-century waddle around calling out "Bingo!" as they screech to all the other Margies, the Dorothys and the Dots, the Patsys sprinkled among them, their painfully blue varicose veins pulsating while threatening to escape from the chunked-up paste-white legs holding them bound and in check with their knee-high support hose.
Lisa was simply thinking straight decimation, opening the ceremonies with a straightforward kick to Taylor Armstrong's lips, the target bigger and stranger than real lips have any right to be, hitting fast and below the belt, going for the jugular that is there, the eating disorder: "Eat some cake!"
And this after all the girls except for Taylor had arrived (Kim Richards, just forget about her; Lisa mimicked Kim's nasal huskiness, swaddled in false regret: "Oh, I can't come. I'm really sorry"; and Brandi Glanville, never thought to include her, along with Dana Wilkey, who never, ever deserves to be remembered or invited anywhere, and usually is not), so they seized the opportunity to analyze the latest "Taylor Armstrong Is Starving Herself to Death" story, complete with a "Dying to Be Thinner" skeletal photo of "Taylor Armstrong," who was once Shana Hughes, a name perfectly fitting the mobile home crowd she ran with.
"It's nice to know that she has been eating," Lisa points out. "Even if it is only diet pills."
Is she coming? the others asked, unaware that this was no ordinary tea party, not even a $60,000 tea party for a 4 year old -- what fun! There's Mommy and Daddy insulting each other by the $15,000 giant teapot! Just the right kind of party for a little girl who's going to lose her father within the year. But there will be that $2,000 strawberry shortcake Mommy orders for her fifth-birthday party to cheer her up. Can't wait!
Hope Mommy's not still drinking like a fish, or a Kim Richards, by then.
"Of course I invited everybody," Lisa says. "I wouldn't leave anybody out."
Oh, look! There's Shana Hughes, the ordinary Okie high schooler, just a girl with a set of regular lips and a dream, and ready to sell that soul to the highest bidder, on the way to transforming herself into Shana Ford, and letting it be (mis)understood that she was one of THE Fords and that her ice-cold blood ran as blue as she later told everyone in her current incarnation on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" that she was, sometimes crawling naked into suitcases to announce her sadness, weeping loudly and extravagantly without tears.
On the way to becoming this person, Shana stretched the truth further, just like her lips, becoming Taylor Ford and taking another striver, Russell Armstrong, hostage. Arnstrong turned himself from a middle-class Texas boy into a venture capitalist con artist, reportedly running scams with a duck-billed platypus who called herself his wife.
This Taylor Armstrong somehow gets herself nominated for a Los Angeles business award, and then invites all the "Housewives" except one. Who could that one be?
It's Lisa Vanderpump, of course! The woman Taylor has fixated on so she can claim that Lisa has it in for her, that she has leaked information about the Armstrong marriage to Us Weekly, to victimize poor Taylor, who's been busy flipping the off and on switch of her special, manufactured brand of crazy, confusing and even scaring everyone else.
This is while the whole wide world knows all the dirt that Taylor has put out about her marriage. All while teasing her castmates with vague hints about Russell beating her, and other trouble in paradise.
Taylor has decided to, as my mother would say, "start up with" Lisa once again, in last night's show not inviting her to the awards luncheon. (When Taylor loses to another nominee, she quickly said, like an Academy Awards nominee: "I never expected to really win. I was excited just to be recognized at all." Hard to go a moment without lying.)
The other "Housewives" realize that Taylor has purposely excluded Lisa, which Kyle discovers when she calls Lisa to ask where she is, surely somewhere in this vast L.A. hotel for the awards luncheon.
Nope. And Lisa's feelings are, understandably, hurt. As intended. She doesn't realize that Taylor is using her as a fake bully, convincing the others that Lisa is relentlessly brutal toward poor Taylor, who is actually trying to whip up their sympathy and gain solid allies for the day all of her and Russell's scams are exposed. Russell's death in August, though, relieved Taylor of having to complete the plan. What a shame that was; Taylor was having fun!
Why didn't you invite Lisa, the women asked Taylor.
"I just feel that Lisa doesn't like me," Taylor says. "You don't like someone, you just be cordial, and go about your business." Yes, Taylor, that's what you should do. You. And Lisa does not like you. You made sure of that, with your high jinx and by just being you.
Taylor recited for the girls, obviously prepared: "It was a big day for me, and I didn't want to wait for her to give me some kind of compliment wrapped up in sarcasm."
In her solo interview, Adrienne Maloof, who is, at last, coming out of her fog of denial -- Kim is fine, maybe she's tired and she did say she was sick -- said, "I think Taylor not inviting Lisa is passive-aggressive."
Taylor played the part of the Oakie from Muskogee in Season One, the little girl lost in the big city, poor as a child but finally living the life she deserved.
The more we see of Taylor, the more apparent it is that her sneaky brand of villainy makes Camille Grammer's flat-out insanity in Season One seem rather benign.
Taylor manages, just by being herself, to make Russell Armstrong seem sweet, a kind man who loves his wife. At the awards ceremony, Taylor gave an unpleasant impression of Russell when she told the Bravo camera, "When Russell is with me, I always feel like I have to worry about Russell," making her husband seem off, even dangerously unpredictable.
And then Russell says -- and yes, it is on camera, and yes, he knows it is, but still -- "It's about time someone acknowledges all your hard work."
He couldn't know that the hard work done by Taylor was in playing all sides against one another, with the goal of emerging squeaky clean.
When Bravo said it was re-editing this season in view of Armstrong's suicide three weeks before the Sept. 5 premiere, the executives gave the impression that when Russell Armstrong is seen on camera or when he is discussed, it wouldn't be gratuitious. It has been, and it has also been morbid, for little reason.
His presence is not essential, especially at this point, in the 11th episode, to move the story forward.
He's not Taylor's sole support. She has a sychophant in Dana Wilkey, the worst housewife, who recites the prices of her outfits in hopes of impressing others, anyone, someone, and can be counted on to say and do anything to curry favor with just about anybody. "Taylor, I think you did the right thing not inviting her," Dana said of Lisa. And when she said it, she was, as usual, ignored. And rightfully so.
Taylor, believing herself a master or reinvention, before all that was exposed, and fairly easily, has re-invented herself as Lisa's victim, but Lisa sees things clearly, hence she holds her tea party. And if there's one thing Lisa is not, it's intimidated.
It's tea party time, and remember how that turned out on "The Real Housewives of New York," when Cindy Barshop, the (recently fired after only one season) East Coast equivalent of Dana Wilkey, and just as ineffectual housething?
When Cindy foolishly tried to overthrow Ramona Singer as queen of the asphalt jungle (where Cindy got such an idea -- taking down Ramona -- is beyond understanding, and why would anyone bother, anyway -- Jill Zarin) and went about it as obviously and clumsily and in a way as doomed to fail as possible, a clearly offended Sonja Morgan invited her over for tea.
Cindy strode confidently into Sonja's expensive, well-located townhouse (one that Cindy, after this tea party slamdown, would later criticize as dirty, tired and in dire need of redesigning, pronto), but spent the bulk of her commanded visit visibly shaking, as Sonja took her down bit by bit, each bit harsher than the last. Cindy finally got away, free at last to cry alone in the street, to vajewel and vajazzle another genital area, and to ignore her bio-twins another day.
Now, that's a tea party! And last night Taylor was about to experience one, in the experienced hands of Lisa.
Everything looks lovely in the pink Vanderpump mansion. There is lots of lovely tea, and Champagne, and little cakes, and pink sugar piggies easily recognized as Taylor. Lisa is lovely, and so pink. And her gloves are off.
Taylor came in; was invited to eat cake. Declined, of course. And everyone else smiled.
"I heard you had an event yesterday," Lisa said to Taylor, the faces of the other women at once turning ashen.
Yes, said Taylor, blah, blah and blah.
"I was quite upset you didn't invite me," Lisa continued, bravely, "to be honest, Taylor, because everything I've done, I've always invited you. We've been very kind to you." Inviting you to Pandora's engagement party, for example, just one little bitty example, and you did enjoy your familiar, the snake, just the other week.
Taylor said: "I did, and I agree. I came bearing my best wishes."
You have to admit, while Taylor's remark about bearing wishes may seem generous, it is extremely cheap in light of the aforementioned snake, the camel, the undulating belly dancers, the flippety mermaid and all that extravagance that Mohamed purchased for the sake of some camera time.
Which is why you showed, Taylor. Even when Mohamed made it clear that your husband, Russell, whom Mohamed felt screwed him business-wise, was on the do not invite list.
Lisa said, "Equally we've all been a group -- we haven't excluded you."
And here Taylor went into her script mode: "The last couple of times you and I have had a conversation, you have led into it by saying, and I quote, I am not your friend."
Lisa said: "I never said, 'I am not your friend.' I said, 'I know we're not best friends, but you just say you need my help, and I'll help you.''' (Which the black-and-white flashback scene confirmed.)
"Why did I say," Lisa continued, "you could come, and live in my house with your daughter?"
Taylor replied, "Because it makes you look like a saint."
Who thinks that way? Only someone who would cook up such a scheme herself.
Lisa, on the money, says, "Well, why are you here?"
Taylor: "Because you invited me. That's why I'm here."
Lisa, savoring the moment, says: "Hmm. Well, if you're not my friend, I don't normally invite people --"
Taylor cuts her off, a rude trick she uses often, as well as then committing the very crime she has accused the other of committing: "Don't cut me off. This is what you do to me. You start conversations with me and Camille, and you never let me finish."
Camille issued a WTF? face, letting it say, "Leave me out of this."
And now for a detour to Crazy Town, one that was obviously rehearsed: "I have bent over backwards since the day I met you," Taylor recited.
How very patronizing. As if Lisa needs Taylor's kindness! Such as it would be.
A luckless little dialogue arises about who said what to whom about what.
And then, want to play?
Taylor suddenly loses any sort of dignity. It's all over for her.
"Ego!" Taylor shouts. "Shall" I put this to the room? she says to Lisa, who, amused, offers a yes, shall.
Taylor screeches, losing control: Who thinks Lisa is overdoing it? She has a screensaver of herself.
To Taylor, that's a crime.
"Everybody is afraid to confront you, Lisa," Taylor suddenly says. As she announces in each weekly opener of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," she is finding her voice. OK, Taylor, you've found it. Now put it away.
Taylor loves to act tough and loves to threaten to "go Oklahoma on your ass," which, she admitted in last season's reunion to Andy Cohen, reunion host and Bravo executive vice president, she had no idea what it meant.
And that's Taylor.
As for Kim Richards, she finally worked up the courage to introduce her sister Kyle to her serial murderer in waiting.
Kyle cried. Anyone would.