You are sitting among the Real Housewives of Dallas and trying to figure out if there’s any tension among the women. You don’t want to flat out ask, because it’s assumed they would say no. So you observe closely and fixate on the little clues.
The Housewives are eating and drinking at Lounge 31 in Highland Park Village and no one around seems to care. It’s a week before the premiere, so their faces haven’t invaded America’s homes yet. Earlier, as the hostess was leading you to your table, you asked if the Housewives have been there all day. The hostess didn’t know who or what you were talking about.
There’s an obvious disconnect, symbolized by their seating. LeeAnne Locken and Tiffany Hendra sit on one couch and Stephanie Hollman, Cary Deuber and Brandi Redmond sit on the other couch. They are cordial, but you get the sense it’s the kind of cordial you have to be to the other bridesmaids in the bridal party. You are there for a purpose — to please the bride — but you don’t hang out outside of wedding festivities. Here, the bride is the Bravo network.
The exceptions are the friendships that preceded the show. Locken and Hendra have been pals for 25 years, and if you ever forget, you are reminded every five minutes. When Hendra briefly mentions her wedding to musician Aaron Hendra, Locken makes a quick joke that she’s still upset she wasn’t there.
Hendra says that shortly after the cast was announced, the entire Internet began uncovering her “porn” past. She says it wasn’t porn, however, it was Cinemax. “How many boobs do we see now? We see more nudity in Game of Thrones. It was in my contract that it could only be waist up. It’s a part of my journey and I don’t regret it,” she explains. A quick Internet search shows more than just waist up, however.
As Hendra is defending her past, Locken nods along. “And it was before she even met her husband,” she chimes in.
While Hendra and Locken are childless women married to a musician and dating a police officer respectively, professions that don’t rake in a ton of money, Hollman, Deuber and Redmond are married with kids, living in mansions with husbands who could afford everyone’s sushi rolls at Lounge 31.
They are successful women on their own, however. Deuber is a first assistant registered nurse. She has her own checking account, she proudly announces.
And while Hollman and Redmond are stay-at-home moms now, they once also had their own careers in social work and top-secret government work, respectively. Redmond met her husband in eighth grade, so it’s kind of hard to argue she married for money. She says she was the breadwinner while he was building his business. The former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader also says she joined the cast of the Real Housewives as something fun to do with her best friend, Hollman. The two of them met through their husbands and they both remind me they don’t have brands or businesses to promote.
So what about the other women? Why do the show? Locken says she wanted to highlight the charity world she is a part of. In the first two episodes the press has gotten a sneak peek of, editing makes it seem like Locken is heavily involved with charities, while the other women are relatively new to it all.
But within a matter of seconds, all of the women begin spouting off the different charities they are involved with. Hendra took mission trips to Africa. Locken chaired several committees: “Once I hear the stories, I just can’t say no to the charities.” Hollman worked with Junior League for years. Deuber worked with an organization to help women going through reconstructive surgery.
They were the most competitive they had been all night as they tried to outshine one another in the charity world.
Hendra wants the show to be an outlet for her to get her message across. Almost casually, she tells me she was raped at 16, which led her into a downward spiral of drugs, alcohol and promiscuity.
“I was date raped, like so many girls,” she says. “The next day he was going around the school to everyone, saying, ‘I fucked Tiffany.’ I went to the nurse’s office and hyperventilated and my mom came and got me out of school. She never asked what happened, but she knew something bad had happened. I didn’t tell her until five years ago. And I’m 44 now.”
About 10 years ago, when she was living in Los Angeles, she had a moment of clarity during a visit home to Texas. So sweaty from a drug relapse that she couldn’t sit still on the toilet, she asked God to save her and ended up staying in Texas. She went months without sex, alcohol or drugs.
The conversation has quickly moved from sharing how they met their husbands to a serious conversation about God saving Hendra. Locken chimes in and begins to tear up thinking about how strong Hendra was through all of it. It’s hard to tell if they are real or fake tears, but it’s clear Locken is Team Best Friend.
This season of Real Housewives will be unlike any of the other seasons, Locken explains to me. Dallas isn’t like Atlanta or Beverly Hills, so why would the shows be similar?
I ask whose Housewives career each of them would most like to mirror and soon the conversation shifts to Real Housewife of New York City Bethenny Frankel’s short-lived morning talk show. “Talk shows are so hard, though,” Locken, a veteran TV host, begins to explain.
Before she can finish her sentence, Deuber cuts her off and leans back and says to me, “What was the question again?” attempting to veer us back on course. Her eyes were focused and a little annoyed. Nervous, I ask again, but slightly mess up my question. “Which Housewife would you like to be?”
“I don’t really want to be another Housewife. I’m my own person,” she says. It’s clear Deuber is a straight-shooter who isn’t too concerned with trying to impress anyone. She’s a type Triple A, she says, and doesn’t have time to trail off in conversation about talk shows.
We end the conversation while everyone is finishing their sushi rolls and glasses of wine. Poop somehow gets brought up. It’s kind of easy with part of this crowd. Within the first two episodes, you’ll see and hear Hollman and Redmond talking and joking about all things poop. Redmond explains to me how her life is centered around poop because of her young children.
I begin to leave and wish all of the women luck for their premiere. “Can’t wait for you to see the rest of the show. Hope you’re ready for potty humor,” Locken sarcastically says to me.
The Real Housewives of Dallas premieres at 9 p.m. Monday, April 11, on Bravo.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.