Elsa Patton, she of the unfortunate countenance and the quirky one-liners, the breakout star of Bravo’s Real Housewives of Miami and a poster child for that malady that afflicts too many plastic surgery enthusiasts — not knowing when to say when — is busting her daughter’s chops over lunch.
“Ay, Marysol, I don’t want you to sell me so cheap,” she says when her daughter brings up the new ringtones she created featuring some of Elsa’s most quoted quips:
“I’m not much of a dreenker but once I start dreenking I feel goood,” Elsa says during an episode last season, wine glass in hand. Now, for $2.99, you can hear her say this over and over, in her comically heavy Spanish accent.
Marysol Patton, who on and off the air plays straight man to her mother and is president of Miami public relations firm The Patton Group, recently developed not only the ringtones, but also a line of Cuban coffee in honor of her mother. Havana Elsa features on the package a black-and-white image of Elsa from long ago, back before a single scalpel had touched her lovely face. (The ringtones and coffee are available at www.HavanaElsa.com.)
“I mean, $2.99 for a reeeng tone? Is that all your mother means to you?,” Elsa says while savoring a few prudent bites of cheesecake with berry coulis at PM Buenos Aires in the Brickell area. Yes, Marysol suggested the lunch spot, and yes, she represents the place.
“Mami, I have to stay within the market price,” the daughter says with a sigh. “You can’t charge more than that for a ringtone.”
You get the sense that while Marysol is trying to be the responsible businesswoman, working on possible branding opportunities and tie-ins while she and Mami have this moment in the spotlight, Elsa is playing the whole thing for laughs.
Sure, she has seen the website posts trash-talking her looks. But she’s not sweating any of the chatter.
“No, I’m not upset that some people talk about me that way. Because it’s true,” Elsa says with a shrug. “My doctor destroyed my face. For example, I never asked him to touch my chin. But he did anyway.’’
Did she consider suing?
“I don’t believe in that. The doctor said he would fix it again, for only $7,000. I said, ‘You want to charge me $7,000 for what you did to me?’ But I really don’t have a complex about how I look. When I needed to be pretty and young, I was pretty and young. Now I’m almost 80 and I don’t need to be that pretty. I wish I looked a little better. But I accept that what happened, happened.”
The mother, a self-professed clairvoyant who over lunch tells you about a woman who will help take your career to the next level, has plenty of grit. But the daughter can be a lot less impervious to the slings and arrows inherent in a TV show that by way of conceit throws together a bunch of pampered ladies (to use a term loosely) and waits for them to engage in that ancient and not-so-feminist sport of scratching out one another’s eyes.
Take, for instance, the earth-shattering controversy unfolding on the second season of the show: Whether or not Marysol, in her role as publicist for the annual gala hosted by star defense attorney Roy Black and his wife Lea, straight up dissed one of Lea’s best girlfriends and perhaps Miami’s most in-demand drag queen, Elaine Lancaster.
“I’m a pretty forgiving person,” Marysol says. “But I was very upset about the way they were talking about me. I didn’t sleep for many months.”
What exactly did Marysol do to inspire the on- and off-air venom she has received from Lea, who is one of the stars of Housewives, and Lancaster, a recurring guest who, in her oversized stilettos, towers above all the other designer label-obsessed, social-climbing wives?
According to Lancaster, Marysol didn’t let her strut her stuff on the red carpet outside the Blacks’ charity gala one year.
“I came down from my room at the Fontainebleau and was about to step on the red carpet to go into the event when Marysol and her assistant stopped me because the governor was on his way,” says Lancaster, who, out of drag, goes by the name James Davis. “I was cool with Charlie Crist going on the red carpet before me. But then she started letting a lot of other people go in front of me. I’m not stupid. She was trying to exert her limited power. I don’t have to hear the rattle to know when I’m dealing with a poisonous snake.”
So Lancaster ultimately had to ride a bare floor to get into the ballroom. So what? We’re not talking about the Oscars .
“It was that she disrespected me. I don’t need her to get on a red carpet. My life is a red carpet. I get paid to show up at events. That’s my job,” Lancaster says.
Over lunch Marysol pulls up photos on her iPhone that prove Lancaster indeed posed on the red carpet at the Blacks’ 2011 gala. But Elaine says she misspoke on the show when she said that Marysol got in her way at the gala “last year.” She says it was in 2010 that Marysol played her.
“It wasn’t just me. She also didn’t let Adriana [de Moura, another of the wives] walk the red carpet. She says I’m lying. I’d like to see her produce a photo of me on the red carpet in 2010,” Lancaster says.
Says Lea: “It’s going to get a lot more complicated and interesting than people think this season. TV brings out the best and the worst in people.”
“I guess we’ll just let it play out on the show and see what happens,” Marysol offers.
Red carpet war
But, come on. These women must be putting the viewers on. It can’t be that this red carpet business has risen to the level of a genuine war. Can it?
“The fights become very real and very wild,” Elsa says. “I have never been nasty to anyone on the show, but I’ve never had any reason to be. They have all been very nice to me, maybe because I’m much older. But the younger girls rip each other apart for real.”
At least Elsa retains perspective: “All of those women kill to get on the red carpet. Who wants to be on that dirty rag? It’s a joke. They’re not even fighting about interesting things.”
The show’s ratings have been reportedly slipping this season, but if there’s one episode to tune into, it will be the one featuring a dinner party at the home of Miami Beach developer and notorious bad boy Thomas Kramer. Bravo sources say the lineup has not been finalized yet, so there’s no firm date for Kramer’s appearance.
In a teaser, we see Kramer screaming at Elsa, with whom he goes way back.
“You dare to talk like this to my friends and my neighbors? Sit down and shut up or leave!” he bellows.
“Lea was just being very loud and I told her to please shut up. Well, I didn’t say ‘shut up.’ That’s when he screamed at me that I am nobody to tell his guests how to behave. I stand up slowly — his veins are popping out of his neck like an animal — and he screams, ‘Why don’t you go back to Cuba?’ And I responded, ‘For the same reason that you don’t go back to Germany!’ That’s when Mr. Brown says, ‘Very good answer, Elsa.’ ”
“Mom, it’s Mr. Black, not Mr. Brown,” Marysol interjects.
“Well, I know that it’s a color,” Elsa says and smiles.
But Lea has a soft spot for Mami.
“I don’t think she was disrespectful to me [at Kramer’s]. She didn’t like the tone of the evening, and she was shushing people in general. I like her a lot. I like eccentric people.’’