Last night, at the season-finale viewing party for The Real Housewives of New York City, we asked everybody the most important question we could think of: What color is Kelly Killoren's skin tone, actually? (On television, for those of you lucky enough not to have noticed, it appears to change from episode to episode, and even sometimes from facial expression to facial expression.) "She's always very tan, and she's got kind of an olive complexion going on," estimated co-star Alex McCord. "It depends which day it is," added Simon van Kempen, slightly less charitably. "My friends on the Purse Blog, women who love handbags, call her Klether. K-L-E-T-H-E-R." "Tan?" Jill Zarin ventured. "Is that a color? Tan! She's tan, she's very tan. I think she probably self-tans. I self-tan, so I'm not throwing stones at that glass house." Jill's daughter Ally guessed that Kelly was "Caucasian," while her friend Ariel lectured us. "You realize that's racist," she asked. "You're asking people about the color of somebody's skin. I'm preeeetty sure that in Obama Time, it's not the time to ask that."
Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen:
Simon: A show captures a little bit of our life. I use this analogy: Take a mushroom. it's a beautiful vegetable. Look at it under a microscope and it's awful. People see our lives -- the minutiae of our lives -- under a microscope.
Alex: It's about one percent of it.
NEW YORK: What parts don't we see?
Simon: When we do boring things like read the newspaper.
Alex: When we have fights over potato chips.
NEW YORK: How much do you change before the camera?
Simon: Nothing. Season one we did in the interest of dramatic television.
Alex: Season two we realized that the viewers were incredibly invested in being able to believe that everything was real. So we went out of our way to do what, at least what we could control, was genuine for us. Now it's more difficult with our boys because they're so little, they can't suspend disbelief. When there are twenty people around wearing body mikes and there's a boom -- a 3 and a 5-year-old can't understand that they're supposed to act normally. But as far as the adults, we worked hard to try to make it genuine.
NEW YORK: So how do you feel about being called Silex?
Simon: Season one we hated it because it was used in the derogatory sense. We have shirts coming out next week where we play on Silex, so we've embraced it. Season one we had a bad rap, partly self-induced, partly because of the way they showed us in the show, and when we heard Silex we didn't like it. Now it's a term of endearment.
NEW YORK: Are there tensions between the wives other than the ones we see?
Alex: Absolutely. We're one big dysfunctional family.
Simon: Everything you see on the camera [in] season two is the absolute gospel truth. The thing with Ramona and I, we share a shared experience. We all get beaten up. People hate her, people hate me. So when she gets attacked, I sympathize for her. It creates camaraderie.
NEW YORK: Yeah, but on the show, with the exception of the obvious tensions, everyone seems to get along pretty well. Is that accurate?
Alex: Sometimes we have dust-ups where we're screaming at each other or not talking, other times we're one big happy family.
Simon: That being said, we don't see Ramona except for press events or filming. I'll never go out of my way socially to mix with her off-camera. Jill and Bobby we see all the time.
NEW YORK: What about Bethenny?
Simon: It depends on how big her head is this week.
NEW YORK: So will there be resolution, closure, and tears in the final episode they're about to show?
Alex: No. But there will be drama, there will be fights, there will be laughter, and there will be dancing.
Simon: And Ramona and I have alien sex. [We watched the episode; it's true.]
NEW YORK: Are there tensions off-camera that we don't see?
Jill: I won't go there. It's the last show, all is good, I love them all and I truly mean it. If it wasn't for them, I couldn't be doing what I'm doing and I'm so grateful to each of those housewives.
NEW YORK: When you see yourself onscreen, how do you feel?
Jill: I laugh. I laugh. My whole life is about relationships, and watching the show brings that out. Watching myself with my mother, my sister, my family, my friends -- I love it. The funniest scene tonight, Ramona mentions the Social Register. And I'm like, 'Where is the social register, Ramona? She's like, 'I'll take you.' I said, 'Really, where is it?' You know the social register doesn't exist. It's not a place, it's a book! So that was the funniest thing tonight so far.
NEW YORK: Has your business improved since the show started?
Jill: I'll be honest with you, business is terrible. I mean it is, the economy is really hurting us.
NEW YORK: Is it better than it would be without the show?
NEW YORK: Kelly and Bethenny? Be honest -- trumped-up tension?
Jill: It's not trumped up. This is a reality show. We do not make things up -- I know people don't want to believe that. They want to hear that we edited, we added to it. The tension is real.
NEW YORK: A lot of people wonder if Kelly is crazy or on drugs? What do you think?
Jill: Neither, absolutely not. She's in Kelly-world. I don't think she meant social class [with the whole high-low thing]. Maybe that she was more enlightened. I think Kelly is much more aware now than she was nine months ago.
NEW YORK: So, Ally, who's the classiest of the Housewives?
Ally: Well, I would say my mom is classiest. Not only because she's my mom; because she says it like it is and tells the truth. But she has a nice, classy way, and never is mean. She's taught me to always write thank-you notes. I really do appreciate what all the Housewives have done for me. It's because of them that arthritis has a face to it.
NEW YORK: How are you feeling tonight? Okay?
Ally: Yeah, well, sadly, my arthritis has gotten worse. It gets worse as I get older. I've had it since I was ten. But I'm just happy that I have these people to support me.
NEW YORK: You're in high school?
Ally: I'm a junior. I had SATs this past weekend.
NEW YORK: Is Kelly crazy or on drugs?
Ally: My necklace says "cute" -- Kelly gave it to me and I appreciate it and it's out of love.
NEW YORK: But is she crazy?
Ally: I love Kelly. She's a really really great girl and she's really nice.
NEW YORK: Is there a touch of insanity there?
Ally:Who doesn't have a touch of insanity? I mean, my mom? Please. Everyone's insane. If you're not insane, you wouldn't be on a reality show.