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Life Is a Cabaret for Luann de Lesseps, the Countess of Bravo

The Real Housewives of New York star talks about her show at Feinstein's/54 Below, coming soon to a nightclub near you.

Luann de Lesseps attends the opening night of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical on Broadway.
(© Tricia Baron)

A year ago, Luann de Lesseps (better known as "The Countess" from Bravo's reality series The Real Housewives of New York City) was facing charges of disorderly intoxication, resisting arrest, and battery of a law enforcement officer following a dramatic dustup at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. She had also just premiered her nightclub act, #CountessAndFriends, at Feinstein's/54 Below. The charges have now been settled (she pleaded guilty in absentia to a lesser charge), but the show goes on.

Now seven months sober and appearing on her 11th season of Housewives, de Lesseps is set to play a series of engagements at Feinstein's/54 Below before setting off on a tour that will take her to Chicago, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. Some of the Countess's friends include Heléne Yorke, Murray Hill, and Constantine Maroulis, all of whom will be joining her this week.

The Countess spoke to TM about her show, which Housewife has the best voice, and how a healthy appreciation of spontaneity is useful in both cabaret and life.

A promotional image for #CountessAndFriends.

You've been doing #CountessAndFriends for a year. How has the show changed?
I'm always changing the show. I talk about different parts of my life and tell stories from my diary, and I change up the music. It's really never the same show.

What are you singing?
I'm singing "Fever," which I love. I'm doing a number by the Beatles. I'm also singing some Bonnie Raitt and the Eagles. I'm a country, rock, and Broadway chick. I love all kinds of different music.

Your music director is one of the greats, Billy Stritch. What have you learned from working with him?
He's such a pleasure to work with. I've learned that the most important thing is to be relaxed onstage. With Billy, I feel relaxed, because I feel like he's got me. It's like having your security team with you. He's very intuitive.

How did you meet him?
The first time I met him was in 2011 at Town Hall for a benefit for Broadway Cares. The lineup was Chita Rivera, Liza Minnelli, Lucie Arnaz, and me. I was so nervous, especially singing before Liza Minnelli and after Chita Rivera. But Billy just had me. When I came off the stage, Liza leaned over and said, "Well done, honey!" Can you imagine? So Billy and I have been friends ever since.

The show is called #CountessAndFriends because you have rotating guests. What makes a good friend — in the sense of this show?
A good friend is somebody who loves what I do, and who feels comfortable at 54 Below, which has really come to feel like an extension of my living room. I love Murray Hill and his aesthetic! He's so showbiz and so authentic to New York. I feel like that's really important with the traveling show. I've had Tony Yazbeck and other great Broadway performers in the show. I'm blown away that they want to come and be a part of it.

You're the cabaret singer, but if you take yourself out of the running, which of the New York Housewives has the best voice?
Probably Sonja. Sonja loves to be on the stage and perform…as we know. So I guess she would be the likeliest candidate. If you like something and like doing it, it makes all the difference. I love being onstage. I was nervous in the beginning, but after I've been up there five minutes, you have to pull me off with the hook.

Do you remember the moment you fell in love with cabaret?
Yes. I remember exactly. I went to 54 Below to see Chita Rivera and I thought, I want to be that. I want to do this for the rest of my life. It took me a while. I was getting married. I was getting divorced. I was filming Housewives. You know…I was busy! But this is something I always wanted to do. It terrified the hell out of me. Not only am I doing a cabaret show, but it's being filmed for Housewives. So this is really putting myself out there in a huge way. But life is not worth living unless you're terrified.

What else is new about the show?
I've added a Q&A, kind of a Carol Burnett thing. The most common question is about the other Housewives: Kill, Marry, F*ck?

And does your answer change depending on the season?
You'd think, but no, it pretty much stays the same: I'd marry Bethenny because she's the smartest and a businesswoman — real husband material. I'd f*ck Sonja, and kill Ramona. The strangest question came from Teresa Giudice [of The Real Housewives of New Jersey]. How do you pronounce her last name? I guess the jury is still out (not to mention court for either of us). She asked me what it was like to go through my divorce. It was a little Housewives reunion-y for my taste.

On the Housewives season 11 promo, there's a clip of Bethenny Frankel snapping at you and saying, "Life is not a cabaret." Why is she wrong?
Because life is a cabaret! What I love about doing the show is that it's spontaneous. It's why I do reality television and why I do cabaret. You never know what's going to happen. You never know when Sonja's dress is going to fall off! So life is a cabaret, and it's about how you put a smile on your face, come up with a great tune, and sing your way through everything. And that's what I intend to do.