The Real First Housewife of New York

I was written up by Vanity Fair! Can you believe it? So I am 20 minutes late for dinner last Tuesday night at Mr. Chow with Jill Zarin, G.W.’s favorite “J-Z.” She greets me with open arms. The first course had already arrived and was being tucked away by her coterie, comprising her husband, Bobby Zarin, and her aide-de-camp, one very cute Darren Bettencourt. J-Z is looking quite fabulous—as well she should, since she is back in the public eye again as a leading “Bravolebrity” (what Bravo honcho Andy Cohen has dubbed his cast of hundreds). The premiere of the third season of The Real Housewives of New York City, starring Jill Zarin, aired last Thursday, and she is clearly more than ready for her close-ups. Settling in to join her troika for dinner, G.W. gave J-Z the quick once-over. Her shoulder-length chestnut hair and bangs have been salon-styled to perfection. The makeup, too, flawless. She is looking more toned than ever in a simple black sheath, laced-tinged hosiery, and on-trend platform pumps. “Sit! Eat!” The sassy and classy Jill Zarin is without a doubt the most rounded and evolved of all those other post-menopausal pseudo-divas from the entire Real Housewives franchise of Bravo television. G.W. has barely ordered his customary wine glass sparkling with Veuve Clicquot and a squirt of freshly squeezed orange juice before she starts dishing. “This season everything changes,” J-Z says. “All alliances have changed.” G.W. already knows where this conversation is headed, so he decides to cut through any faux niceties and get there first. “Jill, it took you all of three seasons to realize that ‘Horseface’ Bethenny is a no-good, evil piece of work,” G.W. says. The entire table bursts out laughing. (“Horseface” Bethenny is Bethenny Frankel, one of J-Z’s co-stars on the show. She is someone I have neither met nor want to meet. You only have to flip by The Real Housewives of New York City to discover this heinous, thoroughly abrasive witch. A recent trailer on Bravo showed J-Z barking into her cell phone, “Bethenny! We’re done!” There had to be a resounding amen from Real Housewives viewers across the North American continent.) “I guess I’m not a very good judge of character, George,” she says. “I like to give everybody a chance. I guess I had to learn the hard way.” So who are your buddies on season three? “The Countess LuAnn de Lesseps and I have become quite close,” she says. “I’ve warmed up to Kelly Bensimon too.” Uh-oh. Bensimon is another strange cookie G.W. isn’t too crazy about. “I know, I know. She is not easy to like. It took a while, but I really do like her this season.” G.W. sees the true reason hiding behind her words: Bensimon so hates Bethenny, too. Alliances! G.W. is already hooked! “This is definitely the best season ever,” J-Z says. “There’s definitely a lot of drama.” For all of these ‘Bravolebrity’ middle-aged women who have come into fame seemingly overnight, the first thing they must do in order to further their celebrity is to pen a book. Jill Zarin’s Secrets of a Jewish Mother: Real Advice, Real Stories, Real Love is being published by Dutton in April. It’s her collaboration with her sister, Lisa Wexler, and her mother (who looks as if she could also be her sister), Gloria Kamen. The simple fact that she chose this vehicle and decided to include her family speaks volumes for the type of woman Jill Zarin really is. “Our family is incredibly close, which translates into communicating with each other every single day, often more than once,” she writes in the book’s introduction, titled “A Little Matzah Ball Soup Never Hurt Anyone.” “I am really excited about the book,” J-Z says. “I hope it makes the Times best-seller list,” she continues, as the main course comes and disappears in a matter of minutes. (The lobster, filet mignon, and sticky fried rice of Mr. Chow continue to be must-orders on any and every visit.) Her hubby, Bobby, beams across the table as J-Z’s industrious young handler scrolls his Blackberry, checking out her latest tweets. “Guess what, George?” she says proudly. “I now have the same Hollywood agent as Brad Pitt and Courtney Cox. I am the only housewife of all the housewives signed to both C.A.A. and Brillstein-Grey. I am now the worldwide spokesperson for Kodak. I tour the country on their behalf attending conventions and speaking engagements. It’s a great gig. I also have a line of home furnishings, comforters, etc. coming out under the Zarin Fabrics brand.” Whoa, J-Z, talk about an empire state of mind! (Zarin Fabrics, founded by Bobby Zarin’s family, has been a New York institution since 1936.) “But this book is my greatest accomplishment. I didn’t want to do it alone. And including my mom and sister only makes it that much more special.” J-Z, girl, mazel tov!