Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Every Tuesday night at nine o’clock central time, ten for anyone on the coasts, my cell phone gets turned off, Emmy and her barking dog get banned from the living room, and the TV remote clicks on channel 59, that’s Bravo here in Madison. It’s time for Nine on Design. All winter long I was seduced by the TV teasers for this newest offering in the reality genre by the talented people at Bravo. With Bravo’s history for disaster reality shows I so wanted to see this over-the-top design family fall apart over a series of explosive business relationships, unmanageable dislikeable children and an arrogance blown way beyond Donald Trump’s. I was really looking forward to being a witness to the total collapse of a snooty New York family trying to have it all, How could a pair of untrained design want-a-bees with seven kids be anything but a train wreck in the making? I was anticipating getting out the popcorn and sinking into a comfy chair to see a group of nine fame crazed kids and adults stumble and fizzle before imploding into a heap of ashes. I really wanted validation that this kind of life was unattainable and if it was a brass ring I wanted to see it came with dire consequences. It started out exactly where I expected it to begin, a chaotic dash to finish an impossible task. Bob and Cortney were in the process of building another home for their brood of six and soon to be seven kids all under the age of twelve. They were moving into yet another Manhattan mansion after having flipped their current home to another billionaire acquaintance who having seem their home just had to have it and had to have it now. It seemed that as soon as they nailed up the last Ann Carrrington artwork a buyer would miraculously show up, cash in hand and demand immediate possession of their current home sweet home. No worry, no time to fret even if the next house wasn’t quite finished, they’d find a rental for the next two months big enough to accommodate their tribe and all their business ventures. I’ve still to see where they do their work. There’s never been an office in sight. The only nod to a work area is the amebic shaped desk dominating their current bedroom, a desk that seems more of an art object or a prop for kinky sex than a place for putting pencil to paper and generating any real design ideas. This part made me shutter as I searched for a design process or a work ethic. They were making it all seem so intuitive and effortless. Cortney walks through a friend’s (all of their clients seem to be friends) Hamptons' beach house without anything more concrete than a feeling, telling an assistant to tear down wall after wall while only asking, “This isn’t load bearing is it?” It seems every paint sample, door pull, and window treatment lives in her brain yet somehow through the miracle of editing materializes into a finished project thirty-eight minutes later in the episode, complete to the last countersunk, spackled and painted screw. I was so ready to start throwing spit wads at the HDTV, but then something happened. I started to like them.
It started with Cortney. Her calm in the center of a storm wasn’t what I expected. With screaming big busted, table flipping New Jersey housewives dominating the reality air waves I was surprised with her ability to shrug her shoulders and face life with a “shit happens” attitude in light of a host of demands. Then I noticed the kids weren’t the spoiled brats I had come to know and loath from the other reality fare I’d seen. As much as they were present and vital to the story they didn’t seem exploited. They may have been a little precocious but not spoiled. They worked together as a unit picking up responsibility and sibling helpfulness when needed.
I still envied their success but the truth of the situation was they have real talent and they dealt with their talent in a way I was never able to do. Saying, “no” to a huge celebrity and paycheck takes more chutzpa then I possessed. Knowing your worth is a gift. They know theirs and there in lies a huge amount of their success. Who can’t admire an aesthetic ingenious enough to put a chartreuse range in a beach house kitchen or shelves filled with 1950’s bobble heads in a gymnasium lounge? Then there’s their compassion and charity. This isn’t to say the housewives of “pick-a-city” aren’t involved in giving but for some reason the Novogratz’s giving seemed genuine as opposed to gratuitous.
When I watched them at their christening party for their newest addition, it pulled me back to Emmy’ s first birthday party. In both cases we raised a glass to family, sharing our fortune and love with the people we cared the most about. A lesson worth reviewing no matter where you currently stand in life. 

Envy is a deadly sins. Appreciation and sharing are far more rewarding.

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