Listen to This: We Go Off Script with Andy Cohen!
Cameras, real people, and no script. Anything could happen. In this episode of Raised By Ricki from Lemonada Media, Ricki Lake and Kalen Allen are joined by Andy Cohen, executive producer of “The Real Housewives” and “Watch What Happens Live!” Andy talks about his lifelong love of reality TV and talk shows, the inspiration behind “The Real Housewives,” and how he first became a host. Plus, Ricki dishes on her time as the headmistress of “Charm School.”
In the 1990s, a generation of kids, teens, and young adults got home, kicked off their sneakers, and settled down in front of the TV to watch Ricki Lake. Hosted by Ricki herself alongside TV personality and digital creator Kalen Allen, Raised By Ricki revisits the 90s iconic talk show, The Ricki Lake Show, and the era to which it belonged. Part rewatch podcast, part cultural retrospective, and mostly hilarious, join Ricki and Kalen each week along with cultural icons like John Waters, Rosie O’Donnell, and Andy Cohen, past producers, former guests, former audience members and more. Drop your backpack at the door, pop a Hot Pocket in the microwave, and look back on the days where we were all raised by Ricki – and introduce her to a whole new generation today.
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Ricki Lake, Andy Cohen, Kalen Allen
Ricki Lake 00:14
Hi there. Welcome to another episode of Raised By Ricki. I am Ricki Lake.
Kalen Allen 00:19
And I’m Kalen Allen.
Ricki Lake 00:21
So good to see you, honey. Here you talk to you be in your presence. How are you, honey?
Kalen Allen 00:27
Oh, wonderful. How you doing?
Ricki Lake 00:29
I’m good. I’m good. I was a little unprepared for, you know, our session. I didn’t have my calendar. Does it happen to you?
Kalen Allen 00:37
Well, I mean, they do send us calendar invites.
Ricki Lake 00:41
I know it’s very unlike me, like me to not be on top of my game. To be honest. I’m a Virgo. And I don’t like disappointing people letting people down so forgive me. It won’t happen again. It’s bad. It’s bad character. So, I’m just […] And I’m really happy to be here. Okay, so reality TV. You’re a fan. Right? You are a fan.
Kalen Allen 01:11
You know, I don’t watch a lot of reality TV I did when I was growing up. I watched a lot of reality TV growing up like charm school, or flavor of Love, or I love New York. The Surreal Life.
Ricki Lake 01:25
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Those are your type of shows that you liked. What the bravo shows, housewives’?
Kalen Allen 01:32
So I have watched Real Housewives of Atlanta. Also, you know, my dogs are from Vanderpump dogs. And I’ve been on Lisa Vanderpump’s podcast. I’ve been to Lisa Vanderpump’s house. But I say that because even though I do not watch it on a regular basis, I still am very aware of everything that happens specifically in the housewives franchise because of social media, specifically Twitter.
Ricki Lake 02:01
Really? So, what you’ll see the highlights and then catch up that way?
Kalen Allen 02:05
I know who’s beefing with who have watched the clips. I watch all that. Like I am very much in tune to what’s going on, even if I have not seen the episodes.
Ricki Lake 02:15
So yeah, what is Vanderpump dogs?
Kalen Allen 02:18
Okay, so Vanderpump dogs is basically a dog shelter, that they have rescues that need to be adopted, you know, and so you go it’s also a grooming salon to at the same time, but it’s real bougie.
Ricki Lake 02:32
And does Lisa come through there or no?
Kalen Allen 02:37
She does and like the family works there. If you’ve ever watched like, the Vander pumps or anything like that, because you know, they also had their own spin off. But Lisa Vanderpump was on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Ricki Lake 02:52
I know that oh, I’m well aware. That’s how I know her.
Kalen Allen 02:55
So she was on there. But she’s like, known as a restauranteur or something like that.
Ricki Lake 03:01
And then she has all these other ones now.
Kalen Allen 03:02
Correct. Yeah. And her husband also creates restaurants if you and this is why I always know that people probably go know the Vanderpump name at least because everybody named mama go to Vegas. And if you go to Caesar’s Palace, they got a whole Vanderpump garden there, you know?
Ricki Lake 03:17
And what’s her house like?
Kalen Allen 03:21
They show to house in the housewives or wherever they would ever show? I don’t know if anybody lives there. That place when you walk in there first of all, there’s like swans that swim through like a little pool. Like when you pull up, Yes, there is, then you go inside and, have you ever been to Z gallerie?
Ricki Lake 03:43
Kalen Allen 03:46
That house is Z gallerie. Body in there, sit down. Don’t nobody touch anything. I have never been to a more put together like, you walk into a house and you know exactly who lives there.
Ricki Lake 04:01
You know, sterile, like there’s no pictures anywhere.
Kalen Allen 04:07
It looks like a museum. You know? And then you walk to the so we did the podcast in the back where the pool is. I mean, it’s on a heel is she got like all, she got 50 million dogs. Because I told her she liked dogs. So you got 50 million dogs. And she got all these like dog houses and they just be running around. And it’s all this land is a big old pool. Wait, because the house actually has the name. Bella Rosa. Yes, she living in it.
Ricki Lake 04:42
Well, is it safe to say Andy Cohen discovered her?
Kalen Allen 04:45
You know, is that the first thing she ever did?
Ricki Lake 04:47
I mean, I’m sure she’s doesn’t have money before, right? Because she had to be in order to be a housewife.
Kalen Allen 04:53
Oh, yeah, I guess so. How fast is the first thing?
Ricki Lake 04:55
Wow. Well, Andy, Andy Cohen, who we’re talking to today. He’s best known for being the executive producer of The Real Housewives franchise which started in 2006. With the Orange County cast, he also hosts a late night show in Bravo called Watch What Happens Live. We love that show and Sirius XM radio show, Andy Cohen live.
Kalen Allen 05:14
Correct. But what is really interesting is that he actually started a CBS as a news producer in like the early 90s.
Ricki Lake 05:22
Unbelievable. Yeah, he went from behind the camera to really just, you know, being this huge superstar he is today. And, you know, some of the things I wanted to talk to him about with him, is his influence on shaping reality TV, he really is like the mastermind, the evolution of his incredible career, the connection between modern reality TV and my old show, because there is a connection, you know that, right? And I also want to talk to him about my friendship with him and how he’s kind of in a weird way, living my old life. It’s crazy.
Kalen Allen 05:57
Is the doorbell ring?
Ricki Lake 06:03
Andy, thank you so much. Thank you so much. And I just so appreciate it. Because you know, you and I have known each other for a very long time. We’re going on 26 years before I had children before you were on TV. Yeah, we met in the East house in East Hampton. One summer, the only summer I spent there. But I’ve never really compared notes with you. You know, you and I, we don’t do necessarily the same thing. But there’s a lot of parallels. And I’m just so excited to talk to you. I don’t know the origin story necessarily of how you ended up where you are. And you is a true you want it to be the next Matt Lauer on the Today Show. Is that really true.
Andy Cohen 06:43
I wanted to be a newscaster. And what I really thought is that I wanted to be on TV. And at the time because I’m old. At the time, watch it were the same exact dates. You know, we’re not the same age. I’m older than you.
Ricki Lake 07:01
Well, a couple of months. You’re born in 68′. Me too. Oh, I just turned 54.
Andy Cohen 07:05
All right. Yes. So, you know, when we grew up, there were not many avenues where you could actually be yourself on TV. If you really think about today, there are so many quote, personalities. And there’s so many talk shows, I mean, I guess there was like, Dinah Shore or Mike Douglas or things like that. Talk Shows like that. But for me, I wanted to be myself on TV. And I just thought, well, I’ll be in TV news. And that and then I thought, you know, maybe working at a morning show would be somewhere where, you know, that’s the most, that’s the place where you could be yourself and interview people. And it seemed most suited for me.
Ricki Lake 07:47
And did you study journalism?
Andy Cohen 07:49
I studied Broadcast Journalism at Boston University.
Kalen Allen 07:55
I find this very interesting because I have some of the same dreams and aspirations right now. Right now. I’m getting my Master’s at NYU in journalism. But I too, told my team, I was just like, you know, ideally, I could see myself at a today’s show a Good Morning, America, you know, definitely in that round. You know, I spent five years at the Ellen DeGeneres Show. So it’s like, I kind of want to branch out and do news as well. So I find it interesting that you had this this mindset already. Now, how do we go from wanting to be on the news to now this media mogul?
Andy Cohen 08:31
Did you sign an NDA at the Ellen DeGeneres Show?
Kalen Allen 08:34
Oh my gosh, yeah, but I’m sure it’s probably Nolan void by now.
Andy Cohen 08:38
I don’t think so. Sweetie. Warner Brothers. They don’t mess around.
Ricki Lake 08:45
Yeah, they don’t fuck around.
Andy Cohen 08:46
Anyway, I didn’t I you know, I listen. I always had big dreams for myself. But I just wanted to work in TV. That was my dream. And so when I started working TV, and I got my first job at CBS News. I thought I had made it because my check said CBS on it. And I was working behind the scenes. And I was in New York, working in New York. And I was kind of hobnobbing with all these famous people who were coming to do this shitty show that I worked for, which was the morning show on CBS, which was not a shitty show, but it was a fine show. It was the lowest rated morning show.
Ricki Lake 09:25
It was Harry Smith.
Andy Cohen 09:29
It was Harry Smith and […], but even then, you know, I was like, wow, this is so cool. I work at CBS. And I was running around the hallways watching them shoot as the world turns, and the Joan Rivers show was in the studio next door. And I was like, this is so cool. And here I am, you know, 22 years old, and I just thought I had totally made it.
Ricki Lake 09:57
And what were you watching in that time? Were you into talks shows at that time?
Andy Cohen 10:01
I was really into Oprah, Ricky, I was so into Oprah. I was really a student of Oprah. And that started when she launched. I just was so blown away by her. And then in college, I mean, my roommate, it’s a wonder that I had to come out to him, because I was recording Oprah and all my children every day on my VHS, and I would get furious at him if he changed the channel before he left for class, because then it meant that it wasn’t taping on Channel Five in Boston, which was ABC, and I needed one o’clock and four o’clock to tape every day because that was AMC and Oprah. And I just thought that Oprah was just you know, the second coming.
Ricki Lake 10:50
What about Phil Donahue?
Andy Cohen 10:53
I was a caller on Phil Donahue once, in college. And the guest was it was in Boston and New York, Phil Donahue was live. And I thought that was so cool that Donahue was live in Boston. I was like, wow, this is really happening right now. And one day he had on the former press secretary of have Ronald Reagan and it goes to show what a different time it was. Because first of all, I just hated Ronald Reagan so much because he was so bad to the gay people. And but here was this guy, Larry speaks who had written a book about being his press secretary. And I called in to yell at him about how could you sell out all of these people and write a book about it? Meanwhile, that’s all anyone does. And I’ve written four books selling everything. But anyway, I got on you know, I got on Phil Donahue which is so funny. I wound up getting on Sally Jessy to and then was I ever on Ricki, I don’t think I ever..
Ricki Lake 12:00
You sat in the audience.
Andy Cohen 12:03
Very final episode of Ricki, which was amazing.
Ricki Lake 12:06
Did you watch my show back then before?
Andy Cohen 12:09
Did you know I watched it. Your show was something that I watched kind of cursorily because it messed up. My I was taping Oprah and all my children. So I couldn’t tape you. And I was on a different channels you a little bit. We had desks on our TVs at CBS. So I would watch you at CBS. And then when I became friends with you, I paid even more attention when you came on. I was like, oh, this is a big deal. She’s the young Oprah and I saw that you were doing totally different things. And you know, you were the voice of a young generation. And it was I totally got what you were doing. But I was still an old lady. And I was, I needed to take my soaps and my Oprah. So that’s why I didn’t catch you as much. But I had great respect for what you were doing. And I got it. And I was like, wow, this is a big deal. And of course, I had been a fan of yours from hairspray. But I remember when we became friends.
Ricki Lake 13:13
What do you remember that time, because I have my own memory of it.
Andy Cohen 13:17
Not to jump the gun on that. But well, what I remember is that I was so my favorite thing was I always used to say to you, what are you having on your show? You know, what’s your show? Today? You would be like; I have no idea. Or I would say I would see you that night for dinner. What did you How was your day? I had three shows. What were the topics? I don’t remember. What are the topics.
Ricki Lake 13:43
Can you relate now?
Andy Cohen 13:44
Well, this is Hold on. What’s so funny is so you never remembered and I will be like, come on, come on, I really want to know, then you would sit there and you’d be like, Oh, okay, okay, I remember. And then you would start telling the stories. And then you would start cracking yourself up. And you will be like, Oh my god, well, we had this show done. And you’d be like, oh, and it would be coming to you as if you were reliving it in your mind. And then you would realize, Oh, that was funny. Oh, that was good. But you wouldn’t have to kind of play it back. And the funny thing now is, and by the way, I live two blocks from where you live then. And by the way I lived then two blocks in the other direction from where you lived. So I’m still in this area. But you weren’t going to a certain playground that I now take my children to. I just came from taping his show. I had to yesterday, I have two tomorrow. And it’s like if we had dinner tonight and you said what was on my show, I’d be like, I don’t know. Don’t worry about it. And people you know, you might be like, well, I’m not worried about it. Just what was your show? But anyway, so I feel like it’s so weird. I realized the other day you and I were texting about something and I was like I’m living the lie. If that you were living, and it’s 25 years later, it’s crazy, Ricki because now I have young kids. I’m doing these shows, I’m taking them to Disney things. And it’s just absolutely wild. But I have memories of you doing all that stuff. And now you’re on the flip side. It’s just so weird to me.
Ricki Lake 15:26
Okay, kids, we need to take a quick break, but we’re going to be right back. I wanted to ask you about the real world was that something that like lit you up when that started to?
Andy Cohen 15:50
Really lit me up. And I’m quite sure you and I really discussed the real world. But yes, that totally blew me away, not only because they were showing gay people that were my age, or our age on TV, which was absolutely mind blowing. But it was a soap opera. But it was reality. And the theme that you will see running through all of this, for me is soap opera. And so I talked about all my children before, now we have the real world. And I’m looking at this show. And I was like, there is an infinite amount of possibilities here with the real world. It’s all about the casting. And this can go in any direction, and they can do it in any city. And it’s going to be totally different every season. Now, fast forward all these years later with the Real Housewives. This is crazy, right? Because here we are, did one thing have to do with another? Not deliberately, but it’s pretty incredible.
Kalen Allen 17:02
What I’m interested about is like, especially when we talk about reality, and because you know, Ricky is like you’ve talked about like after 9/11 being in a place of like, I don’t feel like I should be doing these type of topics, you know, are having these type of discussions. So, Andy, is there ever a point? Or was there ever a point, especially with how big housewives has become that you were like, does this hold substance or purpose in the world?
Andy Cohen 17:30
That’s a great question. I think that the substance I don’t expect for it to, I hold it in the place that I held soap operas growing up, which is a place of escapist entertainment. That connects me to a group of people in a way that takes me away from my reality. To a place that I want to go to take my mind off my troubles, I hear from more people who are, you know, going through terrible life events, life threatening illnesses, divorces, things like that. And they say the only thing that got me through it, believe it or not, is this show or, you know, some people even with all the conflict in the house in the housewives universe, people say, you know, this is something that is actually escapism. For me, it’s more there are people who say, you know, my daughter, and I don’t get along, we fight about everything. And the only common ground that we have to talk about that’s fun for us in our lives, is housewives. And so and that’s to me what soaps used to be for me and some of my friends and me and my mom, we used to talk about all my children in a really fun way. And it was just a really safe topic. I have families who say I don’t agree politically, with anyone in my family, but we can sit and we can talk about the housewives and it’s safe. And so you know, that makes me happy. And so in terms of a larger place, I think every so often there will be something like, you know, Jackie on New Jersey, suffered from an eating disorder. And I thought that the way that she shared her story was actually something that wound up being educational for me, or Chanel ion on the housewives of Dubai talked about being mutilated in a rain, I saw Africa as a child and she raised awareness for me about something that I knew nothing about. So listen, I’m not trying to be a Pollyanna and say that this is some big Shapeshifter on social issues. But I’m saying every so often, you know, you learn through your friend on the show about something that maybe, maybe you wouldn’t know, but ultimately, I think it is purely escapist entertainment.
Kalen Allen 19:55
Well, I think what’s interesting about that is you know, with the Ricki Lake show we had people on the show that the everyday person could relate to and I think what helps with the escapism of housewives is the fact that we have these rich women that a lot of people might not necessarily financially can relate to, but they find the humor and the enjoyment and seeing how chaotic it can be even if you got you know, she bachelorette coming out spring slept timber, you know, or something like that. But it’s like, what my question now is like when you were developing housewives, what was the intention? Were you very specific on which house wives you wanted to be on it were social class, they came from like?
Andy Cohen 20:37
It was developed, it was really we backed into it. A man named Scott Dunlap brought us videotape of his neighbors in a neighborhood called Coto De Caza. In Orange County. And Vicki was on the original tape, Laurie was on the original tape. And they were just these moms and their kids were all attractive. And they all they spoke to their kids in a way that I had never seen parents speak to their kids. And the kids spoke back to them in a way that I hadn’t seen. And the moms were just had these enormous boobs, and they were wearing bikinis in their grados in their backyards. And it was very sexy and scandalous. And it was right around the time that the real house and that Desperate Housewives was a huge hit on ABC. And so really, in my mind, I think all of us I think Scott thought it was I don’t totally still know what Scott thought it was going to be. I think he thought it was going to be like a Curb Your Enthusiasm type semi scripted comedy about suburbia, I think. Because his original tape I remember had narration and I there was a lot going on. And then I thought it was going to be a soap opera. And that they you know, they all went to the same tennis club and I was like, oh, that’s like in Knott’s landing. They’re all in this suburbia. Whatever. And anyway, we call it the Real Housewives in the Real Housewives was a play on Desperate Housewives.
Kalen Allen 22:14
I love that you say that.
Andy Cohen 22:15
Yeah, it is. The first ad campaign, and that’s why they’re holding oranges because the ad campaign from Desperate Housewives. They were holding apples, and [….] said the NBC lawyer or AD. By that I think it was done by NBC. They were like you can’t use oranges because ABC could sue and I remember Lauren’s Alaska Qur’an Bravo at the time said well, ABC doesn’t own fruit. This is this is citrus.
Ricki Lake 22:48
And what was the programming at Bravo at that time?
Andy Cohen 22:51
It was queer eye.
Ricki Lake 22:56
I came to visit you in Malibu Pepperdine, you did the Battle of the network reality stars. I remember hanging with amorosa at pepperdine.
Kalen Allen 23:09
And this isn’t a producer position, correct?
Andy Cohen 23:11
Yes, sir. I was in charge of current programming at Bravo. So all the shows that were being produced, were under my watch. So with the Real Housewives, basically this Sherry Levine and I were handed this VHS and it was like we’re gonna do this show about these women. Now you guys have to figure out what the show is. And we went from there. And by the way, before it premiered. My boss, Lauren said, we’re going to add, it was called The Real Housewives and she said we’re going to add of Orange County to the title, in case we ever decided to do it anywhere else. And I was like, that is the dumbest title I have ever heard. The Real Housewives of Orange County like that doesn’t even make sense. I’m like, were we ever doing this show again? So once again, dope me.
Ricki Lake 24:19
Did you ever anticipate?
Andy Cohen 24:22
No, we have 10 housewives, Ricky? I have this little postcard sitting on my desk. Just to remind me I look at it. And I’m like, Okay, what’s going on with Atlanta on what’s going on in Beverly Hills? What’s going on in New Jersey? What’s Oh, that was Dallas. Now it’s Dubai. Like, you know, so it just is there to kind of, it’s my little check in spot, too. So I can tick down to make sure like, oh, okay, is there something I’m supposed to be doing here?
Ricki Lake 24:55
And with these women, like, do you ever have any sense that one is going to be uncovered.
Andy Cohen 25:02
No. No, I mean, I’m no, of course not. One would assume that if you were going on a reality show, you wouldn’t have something to hide.
Ricki Lake 25:18
You would assume that you have it. I mean, so many of them.
Kalen Allen 25:22
It makes great TV.
Andy Cohen 25:24
Yeah, it does. What’s so interesting to me is that I think it was only during COVID that you Ricki got into the housewives.
Ricki Lake 25:32
I don’t know. I’ve been, well, Atlanta I’ve gotten in a new cast with salt lake I got into because my husband Ross is an ex-devout Mormon, you know, so, so Utah was really interesting for us. And then it just took off. Now, I’ve always been in Beverly Hills. But some of the other paths I got into during COVID. And below deck, I was making a movie in Canada last night, and I was got way into that. And others. I mean, it’s like I am a Bravo. You know, I’m obsessed is just like the rest, but I’m not like the encyclopedia. Right. But do you think you’ve said to me before that, like the housewives are somewhat derivative of talk shows like mine, do you still feel that way?
Andy Cohen 26:14
I don’t think the housewives are derivative of shows like yours. I think Watch What Happens Live has. I mean, I think that there’s I think you guys I mean, to me, You invented the doorbell. I mean, you know, that’s like I just always think of the Ricki Lake show when the doorbell rang. I mean, you knew there was trouble behind the door. And for me, it’s just a surprise guest. But I think that the fun to me, the Ricki Lake Show was so fun, and it was so outrageous. And I just think you would do things and play games on the Ricki Lake Show that you would never see on another talk show. And that’s how we try to be on Watch What Happens Live in terms of pushing the envelope and stuff. But I don’t know that I see the correlation between the Ricki Lake Show and housewives, but I do and Watch What Happens Live.
Kalen Allen 27:08
Well, I have a question to that. Because how do we go from producing to now you’re in front of the camera, but and also to that point, also, because I think what is very admirable about your career as a whole is that these things have become successful. So how did you have this formula? Do you feel as though it’s from your producer background? But how did you crack the code multiple times?
Andy Cohen 27:31
Well, I think that, first of all, it’s always a team of people. So I never want to take like full credit. I think I got a lot of the glory for the housewives specifically. But I think first of all, you have the casting and producers that I think it was a perfect storm of things happening. And in terms of me being on the air. When Ricky was seeing me at Battle of the network reality stars, I was in charge of current programming of Bravo, I was emailing very gossipy reports of what was happening on set to my bosses. And I would do that every time I was on set of a show and my boss Lauren Zalaznick said, listen, you should write a blog, you’re a good writer, you should write a blog on the Bravo website. And you’ll be the first network executive blogging about the shows. I did that, in turn, I started to get interviewed about television from random. I became like a talking head on CNN when they wanted someone to comment about the phenomenon of this or that or the other. And I loved it because I initially wanted to be on camera. But I was still behind the camera. Now I’m 14 years into my TV career. I am happily behind the camera. I have a great job that Bravo. But hey, now I’m getting to be interviewed about stuff. And I was like, Oh, this is cool. Lauren wanted to do a live show on Bravo tv.com, which had which there were no live shows on web sites, really. And I did an after show after Top Chef, and I did it out of a closet. And she said it’ll be an extension of your blog. I did it for like 12 episodes after Top Chef. It was so fun. They paid me like $50 or $100 an episode to do it. All while I was still doing my day job, which was a very big job running current programming at Bravo, all the shows were under me.
Ricki Lake 29:25
Was Project Runway around then?
Andy Cohen 29:26
And I started doing online after show after Project Runway two. And they got sponsored by American Express, which was a big deal because now this little online show was starting to make money. And then they were like, okay, we’re gonna pay you a little more and I was like, I don’t want to be I didn’t want them to think that I thought that I was like a star or that I deserved anything. Because I knew that what they needed me for was my day job, though. I was very happy that this stuff was happening. Orange County Season Two Lauren was like, We should do a reunion show for this to extend the life because the ratings were going really, you know, the ratings were good. Now, for season two, she goes, would you want to host a reunion show? And it’ll be like an extension of the online show. And it’ll be the first show to go from online to linear. And I was like, Would I ever Yes. And so I did it. And I wasn’t good, but I wasn’t bad. And then we started doing reunion shows for other shows. And they just, you know, they, they kept asking me to do them. Now, the face of the network at the time was Kathy Griffin, who probably would have been great at those. And in truth, they probably saved a lot of money on me doing it, because I think they were paying me like, you know, $500 to do it, you know, and they really didn’t know if it was going to be a thing or not.
Ricki Lake 31:02
When did you segue to the clubhouse and watch what happens live?
Andy Cohen 31:06
That was 2009. Michael Davies, who runs the still the production company that produces Watch What Happens Live. He came to Bravo. He saw me on a flipping out reunion and took me to lunch. And he said, You know, I think you’re talented. He was the first and outside of Lauren Zalaznick to like in the outside world to say you have talent, and you could maybe really seriously do this. And so and I was like, wow. And he was like, I want to develop something with you or whatever. And he came to Bravo. He said, I have this teeny little studio. I could broadcast Andy’s live web show. But I could do it on Bravo for a very small budget. And he took it to Bravo. And they got him down to I think that they budgeted him to $56,000 and episode, which is nothing, it’s nothing. Bravo came to me it was right after my friend Natasha Richardson had died very suddenly in a skiing accident. And I was at the lowest point of my life. And they and the week I came, I took a week off of work. And I went back to work and right when I went back, they said, Do you want to do this test on air for 12 episodes? And I said yes. And I was so grief stricken that it wasn’t the glory moment that it should have been, or that I would have always dreamed that it would be. But it was also good. Because everything was in perspective, which actually was a really good way for me to balance what it meant to me also, I was like, this is a wonderful thing. But it’s you know, it’s there are greater things in the world. And every week, I looked at the ratings, and I was like, this could go away. I was the one that got the ratings in the morning. So I was like, wow, like, this is working. This is working.
Ricki Lake 33:10
Okay, folks, got to take a quick break, but we’re gonna be right back in a jiffy. Okay, now back to our conversation. Can I go back to the housewives in the crazy you know, you’re in it with these women, because I if you remember, I hosted my own reality show called […]. Did we ever break it down and talk about? Well, I might want to share with..
Andy Cohen 33:45
But yours were bad girls.
Ricki Lake 33:49
Well, I mean, it’s all relative, honestly, because I mean, I look at some of the cast, what they’re going through, but I mean, for me, I took the job and I will say I took it for they offered me a million dollars for three weeks of work. I didn’t even need to hear anymore. Yeah, I had never watched either rock of love or with Flavor Flav or the second one, which was called Rock of love with Bret Michaels. And the concept was it was Season Three, Kalen, were you aware of the show?
Kalen Allen 34:20
I watched it when Monique was the host.
Ricki Lake 34:22
Okay, so Monique did the first season with Flavor Flav. Sharon Osbourne did Season Two and their great idea was to get Ricki Lake to bring back the standouts of these women that were on these shows and put them in a house and I get to decide as headmistress who’s the most charming, okay? And for me, I wanted I’d never produced a reality show. I’d never seen how it worked the ins and outs and I just was fascinated. And the first night and I’d never watched the show I didn’t know research really I’m like America’s sweetheart or so I think and I go and I think I’m gonna breeze through this. What were you gonna say Kalen?
Kalen Allen 34:54
Well, I was gonna say well, charm school specifically was supposed to take these women In that we’re on this show and basically almost like a rehab kind of behavioral kind of thing. You’re teaching them how to be polite and be more well-mannered.
Ricki Lake 35:09
And every single one of these women are savvy, they have all built their character on their other seasons, and they want their own spin off. Like that’s their agenda.
Andy Cohen 35:20
People are fighting for a spin off. It’s too much.
Kalen Allen 35:25
Well, that also happened because in Flavor of Love that happened with Tiffany Paul.
Andy Cohen 35:30
Who was a superstar, but I have to assume that it happened organically. Like she was great on that show. And they gave her you know, it’s like.
Ricki Lake 35:39
I don’t even know who that is. I can’t picture, I know the name, but I can’t picture her. Well, anyway, my experience the first day they bring all these women in their little Britney Spears baby hit me one more time outfits, and they all come in and they all suddenly they see each other and like, this one’s literally the racist and this one is, I mean, they were just hated each other. And all of them, you know, walk in the house, see where they’re gonna be bunking who they’re the bunk beds, they’re all in bunk beds. And you know, the, they all at the end of the night, say, Fuck this, we’re out of here. They all take their suitcases, and they and I turn around to the producers. And I’m like, am I pair play here? I need to go home. They literally like no, you have to go ring along, they’ll all and get them back in the house. And it was the when I say I earned the money. I earned every penny. And it was a fiasco that was so bad. They didn’t mean I was I was contracted to do a reunion just like you, Andy. And they, it was so volatile, and potentially like, like, people could have gotten killed, that they canceled the reunion. And I learned a lot. But I have like so much respect for you. I mean, you’re in it with those reunion shows? How do you get through it?
Andy Cohen 36:59
Well, I think it’s just my job. You know, I mean, I have to say it used to really be, listen, I’ve been down doing this for 16 years. Well, I’ve been doing kind of reunions for maybe 17 years, something like that. But so I know what I’m doing, obviously, but it is really emotionally taxing in this current Beverly Hills reunion, that for this current season was really, really emotionally taxing. Because the times and I think Kalen, you asked something where, you know, you asked a question earlier when, you know, was there a moment where I thought the show wasn’t, you know, elevating the culture, you know, whatever. I don’t have moments where I do reunions where I where I think, Oh, this is gross, or I don’t like this. It’s very rare that that’s happened, but it has happened. And the times that it has happened is when it seems like the show is coming between family. And that’s happened on New Jersey, and it’s happening a little bit this season with Beverly Hills. And that’s to me something that, you know, look, you don’t like to see good friendships ripped apart by an argument or whatever. But family is family. And that always really, that gets me.
Kalen Allen 38:30
Well, that just made me think about the reunion with Phaedra and Candy and all that. And my question, because I think what’s very interesting about the housewives is at any time housewives is even talked about. You are always included in the conversation. And I think it’s also hard because you somewhat also create these friendships and these bonds with these women. So how do you separate the two, to be one now I have to be a producer?
Andy Cohen 39:01
Well, you know, I’m always a producer first. And I think that that Phaedra Candy reunion is a really good example that you bring up because Phaedra was always one of my favorites on Atlanta. I just loved watching her she was so funny. And not only did I always love her friendship with candy, but I just love Vader on the show. Have you watched you know, watch what happens live, it’s easy to see who I’m just delight really tickled by and fader was always one of them. And when that all unfolded, you it was a shock to everyone in the room. And you know, my first thought is how does Phaedra come back from this? You know, how does she because this is a possible friendship Ender with candy. And is this like, is she going to now leave the show Though like what, you know, when it becomes something like that, and you’re like, oh, wait a minute. And I sat there as a producer and a host. And I felt like in my mind, I was throwing her what I thought were lifelines. And I was saying, listen, let’s try to dig into maybe, if you did say this, maybe let’s think about why you said it. Maybe you were so mad at Candy, because she hurt you. She had hurt you; your feelings were hurt. And you know, I was trying to kind of rationalize it emotionally, so that she could maybe grab on to that, and say, Yeah, you know, you really hurt me. And this is why and whatever, and I was retaliating and it was wrong, or whatever, so that maybe you could get to a place where they could understand each other. But no such thing happened. And, you know, we saw what happened as a result. So, but the producer hat is always on. And I’m always kind of trying to think about, you know, I’m not only answering to the viewers who are either going to be really pissed at someone or not. But I’m also trying to, you know, is there rehabilitation for this person? Or how can we dig into this further with the Viki cancer thing with Brooks to me, I really wanted to get into at that reunion, maybe we should talk about why you’re so desperate to be in love, that you will ignore that maybe this man is faking having cancer. That turned out to be something in my mind. That was interesting to get into.
Ricki Lake 41:34
Yeah, I mean, it’s a lot and I didn’t realize that you were the first gay late night host ever. I didn’t know that. That’s incredible. I just love you. And I wanted to also say that like, one thing that I think you and I have in common, is that you and I have the ability to basically ask any question to anyone. I don’t know what that is about.
Andy Cohen 42:01
How did you get that?
Ricki Lake 42:03
I think I was just always naturally curious. You know about people because my show is real people with real right.
Andy Cohen 42:09
You know, for me, I got it. A, listening to Howard Stern. But also, I got it from dealing with reality stars, because they were ready to go, you can ask them anything. Now I was able to then translate it to big stars. So now I can do interviews with big stars.
Ricki Lake 42:30
I watched you with Hillary and like what you were able to get out of them. Hillary Clinton was just on with her daughter. And yes, they’re on their tour plugging their whatever their TV show. But you have this knack. And I like to think that I do too, even though I’ve never read Hillary Clinton. But it’s like, you have this like impish like this that you can say. And you had Oprah, you did Oprah, I think the first time you had Oprah on Yeah, and you come off as a fan as a true fan. But you also go into places that I think a lot of people can’t do. And so I just I really, really respect that about you. And I love you, like I love you. And I love I do see the person that I know, you know, it’s like a lot of people meet me and they say, Oh, you’re exactly as you are off camera as you are on and you too. And I think that’s also rare.
Andy Cohen 43:15
And I think the other thing is that you and I are, I would say if you look at you and I 26 years ago when we met, I would say we are very similar. I just don’t think we’ve changed much. I was talking to Rosie O’Donnell about you the other day and I go Ricky is the most pure person I go. She is exactly who she is. I said and she has never faltered I go she’s just always been perfectly herself for the whole time steady eddy. And she said, I totally agree.
Ricki Lake 43:54
And I think the same about Rosie. She’s an there’s something to be said for that. You know, there’s like an especially in this genre of like, people see us every day being ourselves, you know, and yeah, I really I love that about you. I am so happy for your success and your beautiful family. You have everything you’ve ever wanted. And yes, you’re living in my old neighborhood. I do. I don’t miss New York and I miss New York but I think about right being in that playground with your kids and me not being able to come by and see you.
Andy Cohen 44:25
It’s just so weird that it flipped all these years later. Like I’m in the back of the black town car now with makeup on.
Ricki Lake 44:40
Like, and I’m literally without my bra and my underwear talking to you right now in my guest room.
Andy Cohen 44:47
There are arguments to be made for both ways that we did it. You had kids super young. You did it all you made bank all those years ago. And now she’s just on Ayahuasca on the top of the mountain.
Ricki Lake 45:05
Yeah, that another thing is I just went to a women’s retreat all weekend, stunning are yonis. Yoni gazing.
Kalen Allen 45:14
I’m over here in Jersey City still making it.
Ricki Lake 45:20
Kalen is such a superstar. And I’m so lucky to have him to co-host and interview you with me. And thank you so much. I know you’re the busiest guy around. Thank you for doing this.
Andy Cohen 45:32
Thank you guys for having me. I love you
Kalen Allen 45:39
All right. There he was, the icon. What did you think about our conversation?
Ricki Lake 45:50
I loved it. I mean, hanging with Andy. It’s like, it just brings me back. It just feels like home to me. You know, he’s like, I would say a brother or an uncle. And I just love the guy. Yeah. How about you?
Kalen Allen 46:03
You know what I think what I loved about the conversation is, I think, from the top, you could tell that you two were genuinely friends. And it kind of reminds me of like, old school Hollywood, you know what I mean? Like, I feel like you are grew up in the industry in a time and place where honestly, like, you guys, were probably all you really had to lean on, you know, or that you could talk to or become friends with, especially like in New York City. You know, and I think nowadays things are so different as far as what that looks like, you know, I think they’re the gap between celebrity and you know, everyday person isn’t as big as it used to be back in the day. And so I think people have a little bit more community. But I think, I really enjoy just being able to see you all talk from a place that felt very unholywood.
Ricki Lake 46:47
I mean, he’s very true to himself. And I loved his candor, and I loved connecting with him in this way. You know, it was really a lot of fun. I hope you guys listening had fun, too. Thank you so much for joining us and what do they need to do? It would be really great if they did this.
Kalen Allen 47:12
They need to make sure that they rate and review us okay, because we try to grow.
Ricki Lake 47:17
Absolutely. Thank you so much for listening. See you next time. Hey, if you want more Raised by Ricki, just subscribe to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts. Every other week. I answered listeners questions, subscribe now. Raised by Ricki with Ricki Lake and Kalen Allen is a Lemonada Media Original. This show is produced by Claire Jones and Nancy Rosenbaum. Our associate producer is Tiffany Buoy. Our senior director of new content is Rachel Neill, VP of weekly production is Steve Nelson and our executive producers Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer and DeRay McKesson, and the show is mixed by Johnny Vince Evans. Music is written and produced by Jellybean Benitez, Jason Peralta and Jay Coos for Jelly Bean Productions.