‘RHONY’: Luann de Lesseps’ Producer Shares Why Her Show Is Named ‘Countess & Friends’
Since the show’s launch, Countess & Friends has been successfully touring and entertaining audiences throughout the country. Luann de Lesseps from The Real Housewives of New York City delivers her own brand of cabaret thanks to the brains behind the show, producer Ben Rimalower.
Rimalower is a well-known Broadway producer, director, and writer. Plus he’s an RHONY superfan too. He recently shared the story of how de Lesseps’ cabaret show was named Countess & Friends. The original name was not going to include the “friends” part.
The cabaret show was years in the making. When de Lesseps was arrested in December 2017, Rimalower was already working on the show’s creation. He discussed his initial thoughts about the arrest, adding that the arrest and de Lesseps going to rehab changed the trajectory of the show. Because de Lesseps wasn’t available to rehearse leading up to the first show, Rimalower had to think fast.
Rimalower wanted de Lesseps to take care of herself
Rimalower talked with Out in the Wild podcast hosts about his initial reaction to de Lesseps’ arrest. He said he awoke to a flurry of text messages that de Lesseps had been arrested. “By that point, Luann and I had been working for months and I’d already filmed a couple of episodes of the show,” he recalls.
He says he was in shock and texted de Lesseps that day. She responded a few days later with her signature brand of humor. “And then we had a conversation within that week on the phone and she was very vulnerable and humble,” he recalls. Cabaret shows had been booked through the beginning of March and it was already late December.
Although they were on a tight schedule, Rimalower was more concerned about de Lesseps than the shows. “You are going to do a cabaret show and it doesn’t have to be on this schedule,” he recalls telling her. “You take care of yourself.” Rimalower really wanted de Lesseps to feel comfortable attending to herself first and they’d address the cabaret show when she was ready.
But the dates remained the same so they had to pivot
Even though Rimalower told de Lesseps they could postpone the shows, she insisted that they move forward with the original dates. However, because de Lesseps spent time in rehab, she couldn’t stick to the rigorous rehearsal schedule needed for the pre-scheduled dates.
“But then she decided she wanted to honor the dates and it would give her something to focus on when she got back from rehab,” he recalls. “And we just had to change our plans because we had been counting on getting a lot of work done.” With de Lesseps in rehab, Rimalower said they didn’t have enough material to fill an entire show.
Since de Lesseps would return with only a few weeks before her first show, the team decided to make it more of a collaborative effort. “That’s when we came up with the idea of Countess & Friends,” he shared. Originally, “We were not going to have any guests on,” he said. And while Countess & Friends initially included guest stars, Rimalower says the show is slowly migrating back to its original roots. He says soon de Lesseps will be doing shows with far fewer guests (or none), plus the Countess & Friends moniker is likely going to change too.