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Caroline Manzo on the Wild Lives of 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey'

by Joel Keller, posted May 3rd 2010 11:02AM
Caroline Manzo of 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey'The second season of 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' is upon us. Starting tonight at 10PM ET on Bravo, the five ladies from Franklin Lakes -- sisters Caroline and Dina Manzo, Jacqueline Laurita, table-tosser Teresa Guidice and pot-stirrer Danielle Staub -- return to give audiences more of the family togetherness and interpersonal conflict that made the first season such a big hit.

And if anyone thinks the Manzos have let bygones be bygones with the mysterious Staub, don't worry. There's plenty of new conflict set for the second season, including an incident where Staub accused Laurita's daughter Ashley of pulling out one of her hair extensions. Last week, I spoke to Caroline, the family matriarch who made the phrase "thick as thieves" more popular than ever, about the incident -- which actually went to court -- what her highest and lowest moments of the last year were, and why she thinks reality producers are suddenly in love with the Garden State.

When did the second season start filming?
August. It's August through February.

So a solid six months of the cameras following you guys around.
Yeah. A solid six months of them, and then we had some pick-ups in like March. So it was a very long filming season.

After the experience of doing the first season and everything that went on, why did you decide to sign up for the second season?
Well, barring the obvious negative aspects of the show, there are a lot of positive things. We did have fun. We've been able to do some remarkable things that never, ever would have happened without the show. And it has been a really fun experience.

I decided to do the second season because I made a commitment to X amount of seasons, if you will. And you know what, you take the good with the bad. So wouldn't that be, you know, it would be childish of me, it would be irresponsible of me to say, well, "Gee, I'm not gonna do the second season because I didn't look pretty in episode four, or you made me look like a monster in episode six." It is what it is. And you know, you make a commitment to do something and you have to do it.

Was there any concern for you that the drama and the whatever silliness that went on during the first season would get ratcheted up in the second season?
Oh absolutely. You know, when you're living it, and you're in the middle of the cyclone, it drains you. There were days that I would just go up in my room and just close the door and say "I don't want to talk to anybody. I don't want to talk to anybody, I don't want to look at anybody." And then there were days that were absolutely hilarious. Again, good with the bad. It's just part of the equation, I guess.

What's an example where a door opened to you that you wouldn't have been able to go through without the show?
OK, I got a call from the owner of the Giants, saying that "we're huge fans of the show. And we would like to invite you to a game as our guest, to sit in the Giants' family box." And I was like, OK. And they said "Well, what game do you want to go to?" OK. So my sons picked Texas... Cowboys, the Cowboys. And we went, and when we got there, they had a custom Giants jersey for me, we got a tour of the Giants offices, we walked onto the field as they were practicing, met everybody, were escorted to the Giants luxury box, and watched the entire game with the owners of Giants.

And they won. It was a very big game for them, and they said that, it was cool, they said that we brought them luck, because they weren't doing so well. And they haven't won a game since then. So I've heard from them, they said "You have to come to every game." So that's hilarious to me. And then, you know, you become friends with these people, because you've spent some time with them, and they're lovely people. And to be able to see my sons on the field, standing on the Giants tarp or whatever the heck you call it, was priceless to me.

Is the family Giants fans or Jets fans?
Giants. Giants and the Yankees.

What about the painful moment?
The painful moment is always things that, oh gosh, I can't elaborate, but there are some things that happened to me in my life this year that... You know, the thing with the show is when something happens, and it changes from season to season, you have to explain what happened. And I had to explain something that absolutely broke my heart, and I was sobbing on television. That, I just went upstairs and I said "Just everybody leave me alone. I can't deal with it."

Danielle Staub of 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey'Of all the people on the show, you were the one who kind of took on a lot of the emotion of the conflicts. And you took a lot of it to heart, and took a lot of it personally, like when you confronted Danielle during the reunion. What is it about your nature that makes do this?

I think with me, when I look at a situation and I don't -- I hope I'm never catty, I don't appreciate cattiness. I think it's foolish and I think it's just a waste of time and energy. But when something is so severe, OK, and you try and you try to step away from it, you keep trying to step away, step away, step away, and it keeps slapping you in the face, no matter how hard you try to walk away from it, it builds on you. It builds on you, because it's my nature to say, "You know what, this is not worth my time and energy. This is high school, this is 'Mean Girls.'"

But at some point, you have to understand, these things that are going on, they are not only going on within that certain four minutes, two minutes of that hour of that television show. It's your life. And it's way, way, way more involved than what you see. And it's just the build up, the build up, the build up, and it just, to me, I couldn't take it anymore. I just could not take everything. I couldn't take the situation. It wasn't about one person, it was about the entire situation. I just wanted it to go away. I just wanted it to go away, because it was just so negative and so, you know, I just wanted it to go away.

Can you get into specifics of what you confronted Danielle about during the reunion?
No, you know, we do this show and we put a significant part of our lives out there. Some of it has to remain personal and private. And that's the way, you know, if it were me, I would say it. But it wasn't me. So I have to respect, you know, who her guns were aimed at. So I can't say anything.

But you knew at that point you would have to do promotion for the show with Danielle and the show would come back the next year and she'd still be on it. How were you able to face that, knowing what was going on?
Listen, I'm a big girl. And again, I made this bed and I will lie in it. So I understand that press is part of the equation to do this show. Do I want to sit next to her? Do I want to see her face? Absolutely not. Can I stand in a room with her and act the way an adult should? Of course I can.

How'd you face it knowing there would be situations during the filming where you guys would be in that same room and maybe even have to face each other?
Again, it just comes, I guess, with a certain maturity. I don't know. What am I gonna do? What does she think I'm gonna do to her? My dislike is evident, it's apparent. I've said it to her face, OK? Beyond that, what does she think I'm gonna do? So I have no problem standing in a room with her, because the feelings are certainly mutual.

So guess what, we're gonna look at the camera, we're gonna say what we need to say, and we're gonna part our ways and walk away. So she may handle it differently, but I can certainly... you know, she knows I don't care for her, and I know she doesn't care for me. Fine. Done. Great. Now let's take the picture, smile, say what we have to say to the reporters. They know the feelings there. We're not trying to hide anything.

Is is uncomfortable? Absolutely, it's uncomfortable. I'm not saying it's a comfortable place to be, but in my mind, it's certainly not the lion's den. It's just something I have to do. And you just go and you do it, and you get through and you walk away.

I know you guys were on 'Regis and Kelly' the other day, it was just the four of you guys that are more interrelated, and Danielle wasn't there. So have they separated you guys out a little more this year?

No, no, no, not at all. She was invited to go. Oh no, no, she declined. I want to clear that up. Because a lot of people think, you know, "Well gee, the mean girl..." She was invited to go to all of these, with the exception of Jay Leno, because that was a tour that they kind of separate us for no other reason than we all can't be at all places at one time. But as far as the 'Today' show and 'Regis and Kelly,' she was invited to come along that day. And it was her choice not to be there.

There was an incident that actually spilled out into the public news cycle where there was a hair-pulling incident.

When I spoke to Andy Cohen about it, he said that we're going to see the whole story this year. Were you there when that happened?
No. No, I wasn't.

When you heard about it, were you a little mortified by it?
Of course I was mortified by it. That's not the way you behave. You know, on everybody then, that's not the way you behave. But again, you have to understand, this is where the emotions have taken everybody. And as far as (Jacqueline's daughter) Ashley is concerned, you know, we've said time and again, you don't lay your hands on anybody. Never, never lay a hand on anyone.

And she had to go through a process, and I'm hoping she learned a lesson. I understand where her head was at at that moment. It doesn't make her actions right, but I understand where her head was at at that moment. And you'll see how that plays out on the show.

What this season's going to be like? Is it going to be a running storyline like last year?
I will say that there is a running storyline. There also is, in this season, I think you're going to see so many different emotions you're going to feel. You are going to cry, you know, you are going to laugh, you are going to be angry, you're going to be shocked and appalled, you're going to have all of that. But within each situation, it definitely follows a story. Yes, yes. So I think it's going to be more than just a jambalaya of scenes that really don't make too much sense.

And you guys are getting paid this year? You weren't getting paid last year?
No, we got paid last year.

What is it about the New Jersey right now that gets reality producers so interested in wanting to explore it? And why now, and why this concentration of shows?
You know, I wish I had that answer. You know, it certainly started with 'The Sopranos.' And 'The Sopranos' was a phenomenon. And then now you have a group of women that are family women, that are -- listen, we are over the top, we are characters to say the very least, in some way, shape, or form.

The other shows, the 'Jersey Shore' kids, they're just kids doing their thing. And that's the thing that people don't understand. We are such a small little piece of what New Jersey is. You know, you live here, you lived here, it's beautiful. New Jersey's beautiful. So I just think that they're picking these people that are... I say have the audacity to be themselves. And I guess that's, you know, it brings on these, it's the character aspect of an over the top personality. And some of it, I'm sure, is overdramatized.

I think the 'Jersey Shore' kids are just really bringing it to another level. And again, they're young kids, and I think that one day they're going to turn around and say "Wow, was that really me?" And in retrospect, I may turn around one day and say, "Uh oh, did I really say that?" I don't know.

But you know, I just hope at one point and one time, I hope we get the boys (at Bravo) to show the really magnificent parts of New Jersey. You know, you go to Colt's Neck and Red Bank in Central Jersey, and it's these gorgeous towns, and the seashore and the countryside. You've got, in Newark, the arts center, which is magnificent, and the little Paper Mill Playhouse (in Millburn), and I could go on, and on, and on. New Jersey is just a wonderful state, and it's full of all different cultures, and races, and dynamics There's the Guidos, as they call them, and you have the yuppies as they call them, there's just a mix of everything. It's wonderful.

Do you ever think you're going to say the phrase "thick as thieves" again?
I don't know. You know what, I have to tell you, that was the first time I ever said that in my life. And I don't know where it came out of. I don't know where it came out of. I had such a rage inside of me that day, and I was trying to control it. Because I did not want to be that person that yelled and screamed. I did not want to give her that. And I had, it was like, I had like the Tasmanian Devil in my chest, trying to get it out. And I don't know where that came from.

[Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.

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Caroline, I wish I could talk to you personally to relay how Teresa is. I recognize it. She is in a fantasy world because it is the only way she can survive and breathe. There is so much wrong that real life is not an option. She, I'm sure does not watch the show itself, because it's showing some realism, as in her husband is clearly having an affair with one or more women. No man gives that teasing laugh to a male co-worker as he did at the vineyards. I know this as I have a cousin who is married to a child molester and she survives by thinking everything is sunshine and lollipops. I do not know whether to slap either of them (Teresa or my cousin )into reality or to pity them for the life they are choosing.
Definitely distance yourself as I had to, I know what her husband did and I will blow up as you did if I am in the situation that you were in. You were minding your own business sitting on a couch and all hell broke loose. Sometimes living at other ends of the country is not far enough to undo the damage. Save yourself, get away from reality TV, it's beneath you, you and your family have a viable business and a real care for each other, why are you even associated with these other people? Never mind in a very public way that is undermining to anyone with class.

September 09 2012 at 5:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love the "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" and Caroline is my favorite. I know she comes on strong at times but thats part of her character.
I don't have the money she has but am the same age and can see myself coming out in Caroline at times.

May 25 2010 at 9:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Caroline - Should everyone family have a family like all of you. You would never backstab your family and I love that. There is absolutely no doubt of your love to the family. The people who say negative things about you obviously do not feel the same and would backstab their family in a heartbeat and do not know what it means to "stick by your family and stand up for them".

May 19 2010 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

LOVE,LOVE,LOVE the show!!! Manzo family you are a strong family, stay that way..Danielle wants to cause trouble, she knows she not even close to having what you all have. Teresa you and Joe are great with a beautiful family..Congrats on the baby...

May 03 2010 at 11:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


May 03 2010 at 9:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dear Judith Monroe,

Dito, Dito, Ditto.

I applaud you and couldn't agree with you more. They should change the name of the show to,
The Sopranos and Sopranettes, or
The Guidos and Guidettes.

Thank you,


May 03 2010 at 9:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Real House wives of NJ: Caroline looks like a modern day
Gumada Jenny. One big difference was that
Gumada Jenny was truly a housewife, mother, and cousin in every sense of the word, not some neuvo riche cow who has not seen a kitchen, pot, or pan, in years,

May 03 2010 at 8:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was rasied in a Italian household. The traditional 3:00PM
Sunday dinners were pasta(s) meatballs, sausage, bracioles, a roast, salads, roasted hot peppers, fresh italian bread, fruits, coffee, and pastries.

The Real Housewives of NJ does not depict Italian families.
1) The Townhouse, obviously a mafia enterprise.
2) The women, "glamorized" whores.
3) The wife that turned the table over, needs some serious electrolysis or waxing to push her hairline further back on her forehead. Currently, her hairline meets her nose.
4) The men, are uneducated wanna be mobsters, and see their wives as sex receptacles.
5) Has anyone of these people read a book or magazine, other than TV Guide or Playboy.
4) Caroline, "an old fat broad" with delusions of class,
sex apeal, and class.

May 03 2010 at 8:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Barbra's comment

Barbara: I tried to be a little more "diplomatic" with my comment earlier, but I have to admit that your assessment is much more accurate. Caroline Manzo and the whole clan still think it's okay to just plow their way through life with very little regard for those who get trampled in the process. Wow, one wrong move or innocent comment that she or anyone in her hive might see as any kind of threat or negativity toward any of them, and you're toast --- no mercy!

The infamous "book" they drug up last season about Danielle's supposed past was finally used as an excuse to "take Danielle down." For any of you who watched last season unfold, you should recall that Caroline never liked Danielle and bad-mouthed her without any real reason, all the while claiming that she could "read people."

She and her clique gathered together like a group of 18-year old sorority sisters to cackle and slander Danielle every chance they had. The "book" was used simply as an excuse to continue with their bullying and as an attempt to cover up their own faults.

May 04 2010 at 5:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

im sorry but i can't get interested in these guidettes.
I do not hate them but there is no real intrigue like with the NYC houswives . the NYC women are smarter
a little more interesting and have many connections with social events, the world of fashion and society people, while they disgrace themselves!
the NJ houswives are only connected to their vast mafia families ... la familia. No life outside of the cocoon but they do also disgrace themselves ie table flippin fun!
It takes more to hold the interest of viewers other than having a big big house.

May 03 2010 at 8:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think Caroline so rocks. She is the big sister and let everyone know...you don't mess with family. Nothing wrong with that. I'm a born and bred Jersey girl myself. I'm not wealthy at all but those that come down on these women are just jealous. I say keep being yourself Caroline and clean house.

May 03 2010 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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