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Real Housewives

Revisiting #BookGate: RHONY's Season 6 Literary Feud

Glenn Rowley

rhony-bookgate

The Real Housewives of New York City have given us an endless number of memorable fights and feuds over the years. From Jill Zarin and Bethenny Frankel's iconic falling out and Kelly Bensimon's descent into madness on Scary Island during the show's third season to the battle between the blondes and brunettes that dominated much of Season 4, there are certainly plenty of confrontations viewers won't be forgetting any time soon. Since RHONY's eighth season premieres this Wednesday, I figured it would be fun to look back on one of my absolute favorite showdowns in the history of the series: Season 6's literary war between Aviva Drescher and Carole Radziwill that became known in the course of Housewives history as #BookGate. So let's go back a couple chapters and reexamine the epic battle between RHONY's one-legged villain and cool voice of reason.

leggy-blonde-aviva-drescher

Our story begins at the start of Season 6, where Aviva has been offered a book deal between seasons to write a memoir and share her story as an amputee, appropriately titled Leggy Blonde. Now, this is a pretty standard branding opportunity for a Housewife: thanks to her role on the show, said 'Wife gets the chance to further establish her personal brand and cash in on her newfound celebrity status by publishing some type of book. We've seen it time and again, from Teresa Guidice's cookbook empire and Melissa Gorga's controversial "bible for marriage" to Taylor Armstrong's story as an abuse survivor following the suicide of her husband Russell in 2011. Earlier this year, we even got a peek into Tre's year-long stint in federal prison, thanks to the publication of her tell-all memoir mere weeks after her release date. Aviva's book, in particular, would tell the story of her life - from the farming accident that took her leg as a child to joining RHONY as part of the controversial Season 5 reboot.

 Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

While book deals have become a dime a dozen in the Bravo universe, one 'Wife's literary accomplishments stand well about the rest. Coming into the franchise with a journalism career lasting more than two decades, a New York Times bestselling memoir and multiple awards under her belt, RHONY's Carole Radziwill is the real deal when it comes to putting pen to paper. In fact, Cool Carole's career as a writer was so well-known that Aviva gushed over her new co-star's first memoir, What Remains, upon meeting her in the Season 5 premiere. So naturally, when Aviva locked down her book deal, she called upon Carole for some advice and help. However, Aviva's bizarre and aggressive behavior throughout Season 5 hadn't exactly endeared her to her cast mates, and she found herself on the outs with Carole and the other ladies as Season 6 began. 

 Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

At Heather Thomson's birthday party in the Season 6 premiere, Aviva asked Carole for help editing Leggy Blonde, but the #BookGate feud officially kicked off when the pair went to lunch in the following episode. The meal started awkwardly enough when Aviva pulled out a pair of glasses nearly identical to the pair Carole had been rocking the previous season. Vivs pulled a full-blown Single White Female! Yikes. Off-putting to say the least. As Carole said in her confessional, imitation is NOT the sincerest form of flattery. Actual flattery is. As Aviva launched into telling Carole about how she'd spent the last few months under a rock writing her memoir, the conversation quickly took a strange turn. While Aviva had been working on her memoir, Carole was in the final editing stages of her first novel, A Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating. Comparing their different writing processes, Carole explained that she insisted her editor consult her on any changes that were over two letters, and asked how Aviva actually put her story on paper - did she end up hiring a ghostwriter?

 Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

Much to Carole's surprise, Aviva balked at the suggestion she would have her book ghostwritten, and likened it to writing a long email. Never mind that hiring a ghostwriter for a celebrity memoir is a standard best practice in the publishing world or that Aviva had no previous writing experience, apparently sitting down to write your life story for a major publisher is just a breeze. Clearly bothered by the ghostwriter suggestion, Aviva somewhat inexplicably decided to go on the attack, turning the question around and asking whether Carole had either of her books ghostwritten. Now, let's just stop right here. This question is absolutely nonsensical, considering Carole's 20+ writing career. In her pre-Housewives life, the woman worked for Peter Jennings documentary unit at ABC News and won three Emmys and a Peabody Award. When she joined the show in 2012, Carole was still writing a monthly column for Glamour magazine. The insinuation that she would hire a ghostwriter for her memoir is not only bizarre and insulting, it's flat-out wrong.

rhony-bookgate-aviva-carole

Naturally, this ghostwriter gossip quickly circulated among the other 'Wives, as both women rehashed the awkward lunch with the group. Carole rightfully felt that Aviva was trying to call both her career and personal integrity into question, while Aviva claimed that Carole was simultaneously one-upping her and putting her down. Further, Aviva started spreading rumors to the rest of the group that her publishing house had passed on Carole's new novel, and that "the word on the street" was that her first memoir was actually ghostwritten by legendary editor Bill Whitworth. These inflammatory accusations turned out to be the main topic of conversation at Aviva's housewarming party, prompting an infuriated Carole to pull the hostess aside mid-event for an impromptu confrontation.

rhony-bookgate

The conversation started out rather calmly, with Carole explaining that there wasn't any element of competition between the two 'Wives - she was happy Aviva got a book deal, but asked her not compare her singular memoir with Carole's entire journalism and writing career. It's like apples to insulting oranges. Not even remotely the same thing. However, once Aviva brought up the accusation about Bill Whitworth, Cool Carole went from voice of reason to rightfully enraged, calling Aviva a liar who had no idea what she was talking about. Aviva continued to run with her story that Widow's Guide had been turned down by her publisher, but Carole incredulously pointed out that her book had been the subject of an intense bidding war between six different publishing houses, which had been covered extensively in the press. Check your facts, Vivs. The argument continued to escalate, eventually spilling out into the stairwell in front of the other guests as Carole called Aviva a "mean, nasty, insulting bi***" and a soulless "psychopath." Storming out of the party, Carole declared her friendship with Aviva officially over, saying the other woman was "completely out of touch with reality." Aviva, of course, continued to vent to some of the other 'Wives, insisting that it "takes a village" to write a book and Carole couldn't possibly have done it herself.

bookgate-heather-thomson

From that point on, the feud only intensified as the other 'Wives took sides and declared themselves either Team Carole or Team Aviva. As Carole's resident BFF on the show, Heather obviously took up for her alongside newcomer Kristen Taekman, while Ramona Singer and Sonja Morgan were more supportive of Aviva. When Countess Luann de Lesseps hosted a BBQ for all the ladies at her home in the Hamptons, Carole and Aviva went for round 2 of their argument and Heather's protective side came out in full force to back up her bestie. Accusing Aviva of attempting to assassinate Carole's character with her gossip and rumors, the Yummie founder clashed with both Vivs and "image consultant" Amanda Sanders, whom the blonde villain had brought as backup. Ultimately, Heather jumping into the fight resulted in her gangsta side rearing its head as she unleashed "don't tell me anything, motherf***er!" on Aviva in the midst of the chaos. Don't mess with the Holla! queen, people.

bookgate-aviva-drescher-widows-guide

At Kristen's beachside clambake to celebrate the Fourth of July, the two women attempted to bury the #BookGate hatchet once and for all. Carole couldn't understand what she had said at their first lunch that was so offensive that it sparked Aviva's relentless campaign to slander her entire life's work. In just two years, Aviva had gone from Carole's superfan to maligning the very career she had so vocally admired in when they met. It was something akin to emotional whiplash. However, in yet another bizarre about-face, Aviva came to the beach ready to sing Carole's praises, admitting that she had read A Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating. Having somehow managed to get her hands on a pre-release copy meant for the press and people in the publishing industry, Aviva pulled Carole's book from her bag and claimed to have loved every page. With an outlandish "job well done," Aviva called a ceasefire on the episodes-long feud and the Housewives eventually moved on to other drama.

carole-radziwill-season-6-reunion

While Carole spent the remainder of the season largely avoiding her frenemy, the #Bookgate drama was rehashed one final time during the Season 6 reunion. With Andy Cohen mediating, the two 'Wives simply couldn't see eye to eye. Despite maintaining that it "takes a village" to write a book, Aviva once again denied employing a ghostwriter for her memoir. (She also spouted off that Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird was supposedly ghostwritten by Truman Capote, but that's neither here nor there.) Carole justifiably pointed out that not all Housewives fights are created equal. This wasn't about ditching a trip or getting someone's blowout wet, this was Aviva attempting to discredit her entire life's work as a journalist and storyteller. Without any resolution in sight, Andy put a lid on the feud once and for all.

 Photo Credit: Bravo

Photo Credit: Bravo

To this day, Housewives fans have never gotten any definitive answers on who used a ghostwriter and who didn't. We may never know the full truth behind #BookGate. However, I think it's fairly safe to say that the evidence speaks for itself. Carole has an established, award-winning literary career, which she built over two decades as a journalist, author and now reality TV star. A Widow's Guide... was optioned as a TV show and she spent all of Season 7 working on her third book, which will be a collection of personal essays. In fact, her contract with her publisher even prevented her from blogging for Bravotv.com during the season. Aviva, on the other hand, was fired following Season 6 for refusing to take part in either of the cast's trips to the Berkshires and Montana and manufacturing the infamous leg throw at Le Circque during the season finale. I don't know about you, but in the epic battle for literary glory, I say Writer Girl comes out unequivocally on top.

Whose side were you on in the #BookGate drama? Do you miss Aviva's antics on the show? Comment below and don't forget to tune in to Season 8 of The Real Housewives of New York City, premiering Wednesday, April 6 only on Bravo!