Martha Graham once said that "dance is a song of the body. Either of joy or pain." Last night's New Jersey deep dive proved her sage point. There was joy and there was pain, but also there was dancing.
Teresa and her tiny Italian bulldog of a husband both love Dancing with the Stars, so they decided to take fancy dance lessons and, this being how things work on this show, they invited some of the other housewives so everyone could embarrass themselves and we'd sort of cry/gurgle on the couch, wishing we had snacks. But we don't have snacks, or at least we didn't. So instead we watched dancing.
But let's rewind a bit and start, as Richard Marx and Donna Lewis would prefer it, at the beginning. When first we laid eyes on their bubbies, Teresa, wee little Jacqui, and blessed Garbanzo were eating at a retrofitted Olive Garden, trying to debate wine choices. "Do you want red or white?" Teresa mewed. "Nothing too heavy..." said Garbs, raising her already professionally raised eyebrows. I think because she didn't know what she meant. Which was funny! Because I pretend to sniff and swirl wine when I'm at fancy places like Applebee's and I don't know what I'm doing either. I should just start asking "Yes, good sir. I'm looking for a wine that will get me drunk. Do you have such a bottle?" Anyway, the reason Garbz had called this meeting of the Midnight Society was that she knew there were some rumahz floating around about how maybe she likes to steal husbands and do blow off their dead wives' bodies and maybe she once shot a guy and maybe she was in the Witness Protection Program dressed up as a gospel nun. All things that, yes, were maybe plausible, and all in good time she'd address them, Garbanzo said. In the meantime, there was no reason to think that she was unsuitable to be around. That was just single lady persecution. And she blamed the wicked bebubbied Dina for all of this.
Of course she should have blamed the producers, but that doesn't make good TV, does it? Speaking of Dina, she was busy sifting through a pile of brightly colored underpants trying to help her daughter Haley Joel Osment get ready for a trip to Cypress Gardens. Haley Joel was really excited because she'd get to watch the ski show and eat praline cookies. Dina was upset, though, because she'll miss her bespectacled daughter, plus she doesn't want her wearing skimpy bikini tops, lest any swarthy southern belles (who roam the grounds, this is a true fact) abscond with her. Haley Joel just chuckled softly at her silly top-heavy mother and they both stroked the hairless cat and we all dry heaved a few times because it looked like they were petting the fluke worm from that one episode of X-Files.
Then it was time for dancing! Everyone was there. Teresa and her husband, Bulldozer. Caroline and her two cherubic sons, Albie and Failure. Garbanzo and her... um... antennae. Everyone cooed and clapped when some old dude standing in the corner was introduced as the father of one of the guys on Dancing with the Stars. It's like when I met Megan Joy Corkrey's second cousin and I wet my pants. It was that big of a celebrity encounter. The music started and everyone got into first position and for the next forty two minutes we were treated to what Joan Acocella might call a fitful dreamscape of unresolved moments and unexpected, vaguely dissonant tableaux. The Housewives Dance Show will probably travel through the most important dance venues in the country before becoming a smash on the creaking stages of Paris and the floors polished by legends of deepest Russia. I had no idea what fluidity Caroline had in her arms. It was like watching a swan give birth to an angelic hairless cat made of gossamer. I wept openly and tore at my hair. Bill T. Jones saw it and immediately announced his retirement, because really what else was there to do? Somewhere in the murky parts of the immortal realm, a man named Balanchine did a sad, graceful bow of recognition and defeat. It was, to put it bluntly, nothing short of an artistic orgasm—prolonged and beauteous, like being slowly caressed by proud Terpsichore herself.
Actually what happened was that everyone just made jokey-jokes, doing the worm because that's still funny I guess, and then doing weird doggy butt slap dances (why, Jacqui, why?) because that's still funny I guess, and then snickering like the little immature brats they are when Garbanzo grand plied onto the linoleum and did a feverish series of punches and jabs, a crossover ballet if ever there was one. See, G. used to be a "professional dancer," which, yes, of course, yes yes yes, means that she went to l'ecole at the pole. So we all weep for her strange display, especially when she manhandled golden Albie, the rays of his perfection emanating from him like smell lines in a child's drawing of poop. But we also clap for Garbanzo for sticking up for the 'mos when Bulldozer started saying some nasty things about them. "This is the gayest thing I ever did," he told his Medusa-like bride. Actually, Bull, the gayest thing you ever did was watch Dancing with the Stars and get so excited about it that you told your wife you wanted to take dancing lessons and have it filmed for her hit Bravo show. So. Also, calling someone "gaylord" stopped being cute when you turned nine years old. But yes, kadooz to Garbanzo the Brave.
Then it was back to Dina, who was absent from dancing because she has an exclusive contract with Merce. She was having a big going away party for little Haley Joel, because... going to Cypress Gardens for two weeks requires a catered affair in which gloopy bowls of cole slaw are unpackaged and stared at with mild horror. At one point beautiful Albie—his body like sculpted honeycomb, hair like Saints Cosmas and Damian themselves had used the Play-Doh spaghetti maker in heaven—ambled up to Haley Joel and asked her "So what's there to do in Greece?" I felt bad that no one said "No, no dear heart. It's in Florida." But no one did, so they just kept talking about these craaazy places called "Cyprus" and "Greece" and Haley Joel said that there was no drinking age and Albie said "You're not a party girl, right?" and I thought to myself... This girl is twelve years old. One hopes it wouldn't even be an option, not even a consideration, that she could be a party girl. But kids these days, who the hell knows. I saw a seven-year-old shooting smack in the flickering fluorescent light stairwell of my broken down tenement this morning. A sad state of affairs.
Then there was a sound like Shirley Temple getting her fingers stuck in the screen door or a family of marmots experiencing a hot air balloon accident. It was, of course, the clarion that Teresa and her daughters—Mortadella, Arrabbiata, e Lamborghini—had arrived. Caroline cooed over them and said that they were soooo cute, and I guess they are. If you think something wrapped in pink packaging and told to be pretty is cute. If you think children who are precocious and prissy are cute. Personally, I like my kids scruffy and messy, covered in a graham cracker and Juicy-Juice film, ragamuffins with wild, unkempt hair. But, that's just me. Dina took the arrival of the plasticine Hanes Sisters as an opportunity to say how sad she is that she can't dress Haley Joel up like that anymore and oh god, she's going to die of water poisoning at Cypress Gardens, isn't she?
Then everyone made fun of poor Garbanzo and her dancing disaster and the children in attendance learned a valuable lesson about how fun it is to talk shit about people when they're not around and how great it is to feel superior and sarcastically wicked. Circles of life, etc.
Finally it was time for Haley Joel to close her steamer trunk and bravely ascend the plank up into the Cunard steam liner she'd be taking down to Florida. Dina fretted and frizzled, and I sort of fell in love with her. She listed a series of horrible diseases that people can get when abroad. Someone she knew named Andrew went to a water park and got a "crazy ass disease." And that makes sense. Ass Disease affects 1 in 5 people who attend water parks in foreign countries. And what about Grandma Nina? She got Lyme Disease from Germany. I pictured an army of ticks sent out by the Nazis. Or a little old lady perusing a knickknackery souvenir shop saying "Ohh... this is pretty, isn't it Hal?" But when she brings it back home, it turns out to be Lyme Disease. "Dammit, Hal. It's Lyme Disease. It's like the time I had that foreign exchange student come stay at the house and it turned out to be potato bugs."
Over at poor Garby's house, she was making sad pizzapie dinner for her two best friend daughters. I felt bad for the lady, who is apparently no longer friends with Teresa. See what happened was that after Bulldozer called someone 'Little Lord Twinkledink' or whatever, Garbz got mad, and spoke up. Bulldozer got angry and Teresa was highly offended that G had dared insult her wonderful, stubby husband. "How dare she disrespect him while he's disrespecting an entire swath of the population!" Apparently G called to apologize to T, but T hung up on G, so now G is having sad pizzapie dinner and telling her girls that they are all alone in this world. While over at Dina's, Caroline and Teresa are gabbing about Garby and everyone's being mean and Teresa is wearing a backwards Kangol and suddenly it all makes sense—the headbands, the hats, the spills of hair. She knows.
Anyway, then of course the bombshell was dropped and The Book appeared. Garbanzo, nee Danielle, nee Beverly Merrill, is in a book called Coke Queens Through the Ages and it talks about how she kidnapped a millionaire and was a stripper assassin and single-handedly ran the Medellin cartel for six weeks while Pablo Escobar was on vacation at Cypress Gardens, and basically Trini, Gabriella, and the gang all think she's a menace. Teresa proved herself to be real foreheadless pit viper, hissing away about her one-time friend, calling her a prostitute, and what... all because Danielle told Bulldozer not to make gay slurs? Terrific, T. I hate you.
Poor little Jacqueline was being played like a chew toy, pulled between her wicked sisters-in-law and buggy Garbanzo. Being ever the clever diplomat, Jacqui went over to G's house to ask about the book, but also to not indicate her fambly. G told her side of the story: She'd been modeling, and came back to visit her boyfriend, and was busted federally. For kidnapping and beating up people and ransom and shooting people and stabbing babies right in the Rick Taylor and trying to kill the Queen of England at a Dodgers game and trying to capture the moon. G's thinking was, if I'm this horrible person, why haven't I been horrible? And Jacqui nodded her poor bobble head and continued on, asking about mugshots and other scary pictures. Jacqui frowned and furrowed her brow and evenly asked, "Danielle, are you the monster that lives under my bed?" Garby looked steely. A strange half smile inched across her face. "I'm not going to answer that." Then G. said "the written word is not the Bible" and I laughed and thought to myself, Well, yeah, but the Bible is the written word.
Garbanzo knew that Dina had been spreading these horrible words about her, telling everyone in the made-up town of Franklin Lakes. She brought it into Chateau and showed Vic and Brucie and Gina and Sandra Q. and Bonnie Leighton down at the ShopRite. Jacqui just Pound Puppied her face and was very confused. The poor dear needs a rest, everyone get out of the room, can't you see she's asleep on her feet? G. and J. clinked champagne glasses and worried about what her controlling family would say.
Over at the Alitalia airplane hangar that is Teresa's new granite mansion, the furniture was finally arriving. Out spilled a couch shaped like a carousel, an ottoman shaped like a pennyfarthing bicycle, the dessicated and headless corpse of Marie Antoinette that was to be propped up in the Great Room, yard upon yard of solid onyx curtains, and, the piece de resistance, a wrought-iron forehead to be hung on the wall. Teresa had the sunny blonde nanny bring over Citronella, Piedmont, and Extravirgin so they could squeal about their closets and jacuzzi tubs and everyone gets to be a princess in this glorious French chateau that's been paid for in cash. Bulldozer came by and said "The fuck do I care about furniture," and then pulled out his wad of hundos to pay the befuddled and amazed and slightly scared furniture movers. Later Teresa's actress daughter La Strada had to ask a mover to get her suitcase full of clothes, but she was worried because his name was Ernesto and she doesn't speak Spanish. "Mama, tu sai che non posso parlare la lingua dei contadini!"
After the clothes had been moved up by shabby old Ernesto, Bellini started on the work of being a weird little child-adult and saying strange things. When her agent/manager/lady who lives down the street and never had kids called, the offer was to be an extra on the Gossip Girl. So, I guess at one point, Milanese was on Gossip Girl. And I never did notice. Sigh.
Meanwhile at Chateau Sing Sing, Garbanzo had her old gay friend Tommy over and they had wine drinks and talked about the bitchy sadness of being in a crime book about women who murder nuns while naked. Garbs once again plead innocent and acted tough, until eventually she cried. She cried because why did Dina have to tell everyone and why did these bitches have to be this way and why did her life have to curl and wander in this direction, because we only get to do this once and now it's all ruin and sad pizzapie dinners. Old gay Tommy looked pitying, but then they laughed. They decided there should be a cage match, a rumble, a fisticuff fumble. So we'll get conflict next week. Oh goody woo hoos.
For a week though, a sweaty languid week of muggy early June, we'll just have to wonder what happens and wait. Dina will stand by the window, a white kerchief pressed to her reddening features. What mysteries, what perils might Cypress Gardens hold? Could there be a waterskiing accident, a topiary catastrophe? Why is a fortnight so terribly long? And why do we love people only so they can leave us?
Caroline will wonder why she doesn't dance. Maybe it's the haircut. Maybe she's Samson and she just didn't know it. She'll wait for Failure to stop herky-jerk dancing and mugging and aping and realize that he'll never be Albie, radiant, shining, dewdrop Albie. With his chin square and sharp like a bald eagle's buttocks. His arms tawny and thick like enormous drumsticks.
Jacqueline will just wait for a baby. Because yes she is pregnant and that is very nice for her. But she'll also lie awake at night, hearing the skitter skitter of the creature, the monster, the plastic-faced being that lurks under her bed. Why do these things always happen to her? First the Langoliers that called to her from the Poconos. And now this. This low cackling goblin, this thing threatening and teasing. What she doesn't know, not just yet, is that creature's name is Adulthood, and it's coming to eat her.
Teresa will wonder if one can actually eat marble. Marble and pasta, marble and pesto, marble and those little cocktail weiners she used to like to eat before Bulldozer came by and swept her off her feet. On summer nights she'd stand on the porch at her parents' house, the street lights buzzing, the can in hand, digging her little fingers in there, eating and chomping. Ugh, how low and base she had been! Hardly even knew what a chateau was then. And now she's the queen. Or a princess. A princess sounds younger. A princess can only go up. A queen is already there. There's something higher to get. She knows it. Diamonds she'll suddenly think. A house made of diamonds.
And Garby. Old Beverly Merrill. The ex-con. The grifter, the drifter. She'll just wait and wonder until the next terrible thing. Until the next shingle falls off the roof. Until a rumor is spread like Oleo over the stale bread of her life. What a mistake she'd made. What a mistake it had been. To try. To want. To run away.
When she was younger, during that illegal summer when she was twenty and alive, she had this one thing she did, when she wasn't modeling or dancing or slung over some leather couch, feeling the cold pounding of love leaving the room. When she wasn't doing any of that, she'd get in her Chevy and drive over to Newark. There was a place, a hole in the fence that some teenagers had cut, drunk and daring one night, where you could sneak through and sit and watch very close, so so close, as the planes landed. She'd sit there for hours and hours, plane after plane after plane. Coming from Brussels or Bangkok or Boston. People escaping and fleeing and coming home in one piece. She loved it, the strange pull of it, the want that would canyon open inside of her when she thought about going. How people go, she would think, taking a pull from a bottle. Some fruity dumb drink. Some wild girl thing she'd long since lost the taste for.
And there was a moment, right as the front wheels whined and leaned down to the tarmac, where it was all light and noise. Everything around her, her entire world it would seem, was so bright and so loud, and she would get this feeling. That all the warm and wonderful things in this overused world were suddenly inside her, a part of her. She would feel, there on the grass, a girl all of twenty, almost inhuman, something else, something special and faraway.
And she realizes now, as she watches the grass and the trees and she hears the blue, ticking silence of her daughters away at school, she realizes that that moment, that near indescribable second—that sound, that fury, that feeling of lifting—that was the closest she had ever come to disappearing.