Monday, March 16, 2015

Washington Social Diary: Patricia Altschul Talks the New Season of "Southern Charm"

Patricia Altschul records her "Southern Charm" on camera commentary before a green screen.
by Carol Joynt

What a relief. At long last the second season of “Southern Charm” debuts tonight on Bravo, and according to cast member Patricia Altschul it will be “20,000 times better” than season one.

Patricia Altschul dishes on "Southern Charm" and to New York Social Diary.
Chez Altschul, which she calls "the club house."
“This year there’s many more story lines, many more events, it’s much more visually interesting. It’s more complex and more fun and there is drama. Last year was nothing but Kathryn sleeping with everybody.”

Kathryn is Kathryn Dennis, girlfriend of Charleston aristo bad boy Thomas Ravenel – he’s 50-something to her 20-something – an old money, former South Carolina state treasurer who got tripped up by cocaine, lost his job, went to prison, rebounded with reality TV stardom, a baby with Dennis, and a losing U.S. Senate run against incumbent Lindsey Graham.

“There have been a lot of spoilers saying Thomas is not with Kathryn now,” says Patricia, who talked with me yesterday from Charleston. “Right this minute they are not together, but next week they could be. They have broken up ten times.” In fairness to Kathryn, there's no evidence in the show of her "sleeping with everybody."

I'm a fan, as I made clear here on New York Social Diary last year, and with sound logic. My job as communications director for Foreign Policy involves a consuming daily focus on the world's ills, deadly serious events that erupt in a flash. I come home happy to spend an hour with some distracting, mindless silliness.

On my DVR, mixed in with more sober and serious dramas, are episodes of the Real Housewives – New York, Bev Hills, Orange County and now Melbourne, a fizzy bath of Aussie accents – plus the Bachelor and Bachelorette (but, c’mon Chris, ramp it up), The Celebrity Apprentice (too nutty to miss), the Atlanta-based Fashion Queens (the master class of “right or ratchet”), and RIP the one season of the reality rock bottom, “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here?” in which the cast, stranded somewhere, included former supermodel Janice Dickinson, former American Idol contestant Sanjaya, one of the Baldwin brothers, and Patti Blagojevich, wife of the disgraced (and ultimately imprisoned) Illinois governor.
One big happy reality TV family. At the christening of baby Kensington, Patricia Altschul, Shep Rose, Thomas Ravenel, Kathryn Dennis, and Cameran Eubanks.
T-Rav with his daughter.
My heart belongs to "Southern Charm." Maybe it’s a Charleston thing, or that some of the cast actually intersect, if distantly, in my real life. Patricia once lived in Washington. Long ago I crewed on a sailing yacht owned by her late husband, Ed Fleming. Her son, Whitney Sudler-Smith, both a cast member and the show’s executive producer, went to the same high school as my son.
Whitney and Pat — mother and son, co-stars and (temporary) roommates, too.
Even with Whitney as the EP, Patricia is as uncertain as any reality star of how the stories of the new season will go. “I can’t see what they edit. They send us a DVD the day before, but that’s it,” she says. “Whitney can’t see it either. If you are talent you can’t have access to the way the show is edited. If the cast did have access it would be a nightmare for the producers to edit.”

The shooting of the second season began in the high heat and humidity of August, “which was brutal.” It wrapped in November, and then “a long wait and you don’t know what the trajectory is.”
Hamish Bowles with Patricia Altschul
Patricia said she hasn’t lost any sleep over how she’ll be portrayed. “I frankly don’t care,” she says. “I always say exactly what I think and they can do what they want. I just don’t want them putting up any ugly pictures of me.” She said Whitney, who lives part of the time in Los Angeles and at home with her in Charleston only while filming the show, “gets upset because he doesn’t like being portrayed as living with his mother. It drives him crazy. 20-year-olds do that, not 45-year-olds.”

In addition to Pat, Whitney, Thomas and Kathryn, returning for season two are Cameran Eubanks, Craig Conover, Shep Rose, and a new addition, Landon Clements.
The cast: Landon Clements, Shep Rose, Cameran Eubanks, Whitney Sudler-Smith, Craig Conover, Thomas Ravenel, and Kathryn Dennis.
According to Patricia, Whitney, Cameran, Craig and Shep will be in New York tonight for the season debut. She is remaining home in Charleston, however, after a weekend of entertaining Hamish Bowles of Vogue and Peter Topping of Oscar de la Renta, and, as her houseguest, Ed Grosvenor of American Heritage.

We wanted to know whether the insular and protective locals are friendlier about “Southern Charm” than they were initially. Patricia believes reporting of their unhappiness was overblown. “Everybody wants to be on it,” she says. “The few people who complain and say they don’t like it do watch it and then they talk about what they don’t like in each episode.”
Taking it easy when the cameras aren't rolling: Shep Rose and Craig Conover.
Shep Rose, Whitney Sudler-Smith, and Cameran Eubanks, back for more "Southern Charm."
In the kitchen in Charleston, Whitney's girlfriend, Austrian actress Larissa Marolt, with one of Patricia's Pomeranians.
Returning for season 2 of "Southern Charm," the man who brings Patricia her "medicine," also known as "Michael the butler."
Will she be inviting them over tonight for a watch party? Nope. She’ll be home with her dogs, watching from her bed.
A wave from Patricia, with Michael in her drawing room.

Out of the blue, it was the right party, the first of its kind this year. The hosts, a couple about to move back to Georgetown and their daughters, too, having the cred and connections needed to pull from every camp that counts – allies, and family, of presidents through the ages and people already working hard on behalf of Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, plus big job legal, lobbying, media, military, social, diplomatic, Capitol Hill, and a thread of friendship among all. Warm embraces, kisses on both cheeks, and handholding.

It could have been a college reunion, but it was the key players of a company town coming together for a little after hours reinforcement of what the company town does best.

The party was called to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and the merriment was packed into the cozy carved wood walls of The George Town Club, with cocktails downstairs and a seated roast beef buffet dinner upstairs. There were flashes of green in ties, jewelry, even feathers. Trays of martinis were hoisted overhead as servers navigated the crush, a happy din with a few tête-à-tête political conversations in quiet corners, a sense of pouring oil onto our public troubled waters for a moment, which is what a fine Washington party achieves; the social dark arts.
The George Town Club, location of a fine and already classic Washington party.
As the hours rolled on there were few departures and more arrivals – the Jeb bundler, the network anchorman, the former big D White House chief of staff, the famous Marine. Off the record. No photographers, no selfies. Bliss.

Though Shane Harris of The Daily Beast did Tweet: “Sign of a successful party: A Joynt introduced me to a Blunt.”

My advice to would-be hosts: steal the guest list.
A table for two at The George Town Club.

Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt