A note to Andy Cohen: Maybe don’t mock people on national TV if you may later rely on them to save your shaky show.
Last year, Bravo exec Cohen made a crack on his chat show “Watch What Happens Live,” suggesting that original “Real Housewives of New York City” star Jill Zarin is desperate to get back on the Bravo air.
But we’re told that in a bitter (or sweet, depending on your point of view) irony, it was actually Zarin’s take-it-or-leave-it attitude to Cohen’s so-called “Legacy” edition of the show that sank it entirely — and she hadn’t forgotten about the dig by the time she got to the negotiating table, either.
After the thirteenth season of the show went so catastrophically off the rails that the network had to call off the standard reunion episode, network execs announced a grand plan to split the show in two, rebuilding the cast of the “Real Housewives of New York City” from the ground up, while launching the “Legacy” version with a cast of fan favorites from previous seasons.
As Page Six reported, they pursued current stars Luann de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan for “Legacy,” plus veterans Zarin, Kelly Bensimon, Dorinda Medley and Tinsley Mortimer.
Curiously, as both shows were beginning to take shape, “Housewives” boss Cohen made a somewhat sharp quip at Zarin’s expense.
He said on his late night show that former “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Taylor Armstrong was to return to Bravo, this time on “The Real Housewives of Orange County.”
“She actually lives in Orange County. This makes her the first Housewife to move from [a show based on one] city to another.”
“In unrelated news, Jill Zarin is closing on homes in Potomac, New Jersey, Beverly Hills, Orange County, Atlanta, Miami, Dubai, and Salt Lake City,” he said, listing all the cities that host a series of the show. “Just kidding! I love you Jill,” Cohen added.
But, as it turned out, far from gratefully leaping at the first offer to join “Legacy,” Zarin (perhaps unexpectedly?) played hardball during the negotiations — and walked away when execs wouldn’t meet her demands. We’re told that after Zarin’s exit, execs “lost interest” in the “Legacy” edition and called off the negotiations entirely.
A source close to Bensimon told us at the time that the negotiations fell apart that, “[Zarin] pushing for a big payday was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
But a source close to Zarin tells us, “It wasn’t about the money. Jill just wanted all the women to be paid the same. They started at the same time. They built the show together. She felt they should be paid the same. She would have done it for $1, as long as everyone was getting paid the same.” (We’re told Bensimon was offered more than Zarin, and de Lesseps was offered more than Bensimon).
At the time, production insiders told us that all the women seemed to dramatically overestimate their value.
The problem wasn’t so much that the show couldn’t go on without Zarin. Something of an Achilles heel for “Legacy” was that there isn’t a huge list of “fan favorite” New York City “Housewives” in the first place.
Most “Real Housewives” shows have seven to ten regular cast members, so once Mortimer, longtime cast member Ramona Singer and former star Bethenny Frankel were counted out of “Legacy,” the network really needed everyone else — including Zarin — on board to make up the numbers.
Meanwhile, we’re told that Zarin brought her tax situation into the pay discussion. We’re told she lives more than half of the year in Florida so she doesn’t have to pay New York State tax, so — if the filming, promotion and other TV-related work was going to keep her in New York for more than six months of the year — she’d have to be paid at least what he tax bill would be just to break even.
Zarin and reps for Bravo declined to comment.