Exclusive: Russell Armstrong's Last Interview

Exclusive: Russell Armstrong's Last Interview - Page 3

By Maer Roshan 08/22/11

The Real HousewivesThe Fix.

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Reality Bites: Russell Armstrong and wifeTaylor in happier times. Photo via

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But it's unlikely that Bravo's will escape the controversy unscathed. In recent days the network has come under fierce attack for using well-worn reality-TV methods to wring drama from their real-life players: Plying them with liquor to dampen their inhibitions, manipulating situations to create conflict, and editing scenes to heighten the effect.

Meanwhile, the Armstrong family recently announced plans to sue the network for more than $50 million for its alleged culpability in Russell's death. “I hold Bravo absolutely responsible,” said a tearful Kelsoe. “When the show first started, he thought these people were his friends, but they ended up stabbing him in the back.” She added that Bravo’s producers recently approached her about discussing her problems with addiction on-air, promising to keep the segment informative and inspirational. “I thought that I could help other people, so I agreed to go on,” she said. “But then Russell warned me not to. He said he they’d just use me up and spit me out.”

In an interview with CNN Headline News, Armstrong's mother, John Ann Hotchkins, said her son was terrified about the way he would be portrayed in the coming season. "He said, 'Mom they're just going to crucify me...I don't know what to do. I'll never survive it." But while Bravo execs have publicly maintained a dignified silence in the wake of Armstrong's suicide, they have apparently worked furiously behind the scenes to evade blame by leaking—and first fabricating, as Kelsoe swore—scandalous stories about Armstrong’s “real” life. Last Friday, the New York Post  quoted a highly placed Bravo "insider" who claimed that Armstrong was a closeted homosexual who fell victim to his own fearful tendencies. "I'm constantly amazed at what people think they can hide," he sniped. "[Russell] was a fraud...People with skeletons in their closets should not go on reality shows because sooner or later it's going to come out."

The Armstrongs of Texas may be no match for Bravo’s New York spin-meisters, but Kelsoe is determined to defend what's left of her brother's battered reputation. "They’re just slandering Russell. He was not a homosexual or a wife beater or a crook. He was a decent and loving guy,” she said. “All these news stories mention that he went into bankruptcy but they don’t mention that he paid back every dime he owed.”

Though she acknowledged that her brother frequently suffered from depression, Kelsoe insisted that Russell never gave any sign of being vulnerable to suicide. “He was a really tough guy. Obviously he was going through some problems. Between the lawsuits and the show and his failing marriage, he was just beside himself,” she said.

A few days before his suicide, he called his 87-year-old grandmother and told her he was struggling, Kelsoe recalled. "She said she would pray for him and told him to put himself in God's hands." 

But for the moment, Armstrong remains in the hands of the LA county coroner, who is awaiting the results of a court battle between his estranged wife, who wants to bury him in Beverly Hills, and his family, who would like to cremate him in Texas. On Saturday, Armstrong's lawyer reported that the two sides had reached a settlement: Russell would be cremated and his ashes would be split between the two camps. On Monday, Taylor Armstrong held her memorial service for her late husband. She opted for a closed casket ceremony due to the physical damages he sustained when he hung himself.  Later this month, his family will hold a seprate memorial for him in Texas.

Earlier this week, there was some speculation that Bravo would dispatch a camera crew to film his funeral. But it seems he'll be spared that final indignity. In a notable act of self-restraint, the network announced that it had no intention of taping Armstrong's last rites. "Come on," said a Bravo spokesman. "We're not that sleazy." 

Maer Roshan is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Fix.

Additional Reporting by Matt Dickinson.

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Maer Roshan is an American writer, editor and entrepreneur who has launched and edited a series of prominent magazines and websites, including FourTwoNine.com, TheFix.com, NYQ, Punch!, Radar Magazine and Radaronline.com. You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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