The stately Luann de Lesseps – the Countess, to you – has come into our homes on a regular basis since 2008 on Bravo's The Real Housewives of New York City. (That countess title is legit. Her former husband's French aristocratic family developed the Suez Canal and presented the Statue of Liberty to the United States.)
She's also a constant presence in the gossip mill for dramas like her Christmas Eve arrest in Palm Beach, Fla., for which she was charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting a police officer with violence. She's been in rehab twice since then and has a court date scheduled late this month in which she reportedly plans to submit a plea deal.
All the elements of de Lesseps' life – regal, painful, pricey – have become part of her genuinely impressive cabaret act, #CountessAndFriends. After becoming a critical and crowd sensation at the Manhattan watering hole Feinstein's/54 Below, de Lesseps has taken the act on the road. She is scheduled to play the Borgata on Friday, Aug. 24.
We talked with her recently about her world-class resilience, her Bob Seger mania, and the movie that de Lesseps says East Falls' own Princess Grace wanted to make. (There's a de Lesseps connection, of course.)
Because that is a passion of mine, and I think it shows. I love to entertain, I love to sing, I love to play host. I love to tell jokes, which is something most folks don't know about me — that I have a real comedic side. All of those things, it turns out, make for a perfect combination when it comes to cabaret.
You know, I used to be on Italian television, right, and hosted my own show on soccer? That's how I met the Count (Alexandre de Lesseps). I was skiing with Italian friends and we fell in love. I can speak three languages, too. And since I think of myself as a good hostess, I like to hold court for my friends in my living room. Since the fans are like my friends, the "#CountessAndFriends cabaret is me playing host in that living room.
Music always stayed with me. I was a teen in the '70s, and my older brothers loved Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Doobie Brothers, the Eagles, Boston, Foreigner, and Heart. I can sing every Bob Seger song you can think of …
As for singing, I'm always the one who gets up during a diner party and belts one out for my friends. Plus, I've got some pretty good jokes.
I'm an entertainer and a showgirl. The Count used to ask, 'What happened to you that you always want to be the center of attention?' I guess I didn't get as much attention at home because there were so many kids that my mother had to look after. Pick me, pick me!
It's actually 25 years ago now that we met. We fell in love, and got married two weeks later.
We eloped, got married in City Hall in New York after flying in from Paris during 1993's "storm of the century." We had to take a subway because no taxis were running. That's the French aristocrat's first time on a subway …
Alex was tight with your Princess Grace Kelly, through Prince Rainier. She wanted to make a movie about the building of the Suez Canal before she passed. I've never told anyone that story. Wow.
No. It's my brand. It's my hashtag.
That's growing up with six brothers and sisters. When you're raised around so many people, you learn to hold your own. I've always thought that having such a big family prepared me for the Housewives.
Plus, I was a model. I got a lot of nos, and doors slammed in my face. You learn to pick up your chin and keep it moving.
If you don't think you're great, no one else will. That's my motto. I've been doing this show for 10 years now. You can't let the haters … the jealous women … get to you.
I'm very grateful. How many people get to look at themselves on television so regularly? To say, 'Hey, I think I need to work on myself in one way or another.' … This last season for me, and this cabaret, has meant the world, because I fall flat on my face and stand right up and rise to the occasion. Believe me, I wasn't feeling so hot at Christmastime.
I'm writing all of that. Even the music. It's my life. It's mine.
I'm working with my director, Ben Rimalower. Billy Stritch is my musical director. He helped me turn my dance single "Money Can't Buy You Class" into something worthy of cabaret. We script it all together. I'm working with some amazingly talented Broadway-to-cabaret talent.
Because I crack myself up. When I laugh at my own jokes, I know that it's going to work.