'Real Housewives of Orange County': Jeana Keough on why she's leaving and what she really thinks of Vicki
She provides the oh-so-awesome zingers each episode (sometimes at the expense of the other housewives). But Jeana Keough, one of original Orange County "Housewives," says she’s ditching the cameras to focus on work.
The 52-year-old Wisconsin native and one-time Playboy Playmate, found the down real estate market challenging, so she’s saying goodbye to the cat fights (or is it cougar fights?) to focus her attention on short sales and escrow disbursements. Her exit is highlighted in Thursday’s episode.
I spoke with Jeana over the phone Monday morning. Here’s what she had to say about her departure, what she really thinks of Vicki and … the prospect of another ‘Housewives’ wedding?
I’ll be back. I’m working on some other things. So I think I’ll be back on TV shortly.
Why did you initially want to do the show?
You know what, the show was written about my family. The producer was a former neighbor; he always said your family should be a reality show. You guys are Ozzy Osbourne, but without the drugs. He would come over and it was always craziness. So then when we moved to our bigger house, he'd come over and say, "You should have a revolving door as your front door. There’s always somebody here." So he started with that. He came to us and asked if he could film us for one day for a pilot he was thinking of doing. And I will do anything to help a friend, so we said yes. And then when it actually sold we were kind of stuck. And, you know, the kids enjoyed it the first few years. And then it got to be a little tough on them. With editing, you could have great moments. You can hit a home run and it will show you striking out. They just thought there was more negative than positive for them. And I need to focus on work. I really need to focus on work….
Well, now that we’re on the topic. Explain a little more about why you decided to leave the show.
Work. My real estate just went down two-thirds because I wasn’t around the summer to do the open houses and do the things that make me successful. I mean, you can have 15 listings but if you’re not the one sitting on them on the weekend and telling the people the positive things about the houses and why they should buy this house instead of another house -- it just … me not being there hurt my sales. The market changed horribly anyway. And me taking off four months in the height of the season was just really hard on me. I needed a summer to get my business back on track. I took a few other jobs. I’m doing, like, three spokesperson jobs. I needed to focus on my income. Loan modifications and short sales take an extraordinary amount of time over a normal sale. So I had to do four loan modifications on four properties. Plus helping all my clients do their short sales. I really didn’t have time to do the show. I had to move Kara from Berkeley down to UCLA. I had to go college searching with Colton. The kids were at a point in their life where they wanted a break from it. They really enjoyed their break from it … but now they miss it.
Over the seasons, we see the ins and outs of your relationship with Vicki. You guys bicker occasionally, but you always seem to work things out. This season, we learn that you asked to borrow money from Vicki and she didn’t help you out. And it seems you sort of lost touch.
Talk a little bit about the situation.
It was a small amount of money. It was a deadline for summer school and I didn’t get a check for a week. It was a small amount of money for a small amount of time. It meant nothing. I picked up the phone and called my next friend. It didn’t bother me at all. It just … I don’t know. It hurt my feelings just for a second. But I didn’t dwell on it. I don’t even know why she mentioned it. It was an insignificant thing. I’m not sure. It didn’t hurt my friendship with her. We just got busy. You see in the next few episodes, she traveled a lot this summer. She had to go to a whole bunch of different states for work. And she traveled with the show to a couple of different places. She wasn’t around. Normally, I went on vacations with her. If she was going to Mexico, we’d go. But I’m on a Mexican moratorium so I didn’t go this year.
So have you guys mended your relationship?
We’re actually good … we’ll be in a New York for a few days together. We’re looking forward to shopping—we’re hoping we have some time for it. We get along fine. She just asked me to pick up her dresses. We have each other’s back. With some editing, she says some things that are mean tonight, so maybe I’ll kick her [rear] when I see her tomorrow. You have to be careful with what you say six months ago in the heat of the moment. And, like, Vicki switched Realtors. That hurt my feelings for half a second. But who cares? It’s just a few hundred dollars. Tamra Barney is her own Realtor so I was really shocked to see she hired another Realtor to do her job. What are you doing? You’re a Realtor. Why are you hiring another Realtor? I don’t know. I guess she’s giving up real estate or something because that was odd. If you don’t think you’re a good enough Realtor to see your own house, why is anyone else going to think you’re any good? I wasn’t sure what her decision was on that one. I’ll have to talk with her one of these days.
What do you think of the Tamra-Gretchen feud?
I told Tamra many, many times: "It’s none of your business. One guy woke you up one night. Get over it. Say you’re sorry." We actually did an appearance where she apologized on TV. She wanted to do it on TV so everyone would know. She did apologize. She wanted to move on. But, of course, the episode came out and it brought up bad feelings. Hopefully, it’s done now and we can move on.
What about Gretchen and Slade’s relationship? True love?
I have a feeling they will be the next wedding. They’re very, very close. And they’re so cute together. Gretchen’s a girlfriend kind of girl. She wants to be married and have kids so … I think they’re in it for the long haul.
Do you keep in contact with the ladies when the cameras aren’t rolling?
I do. I just was with Lynne and Quinn the other day at a Taste of San Clemente.
What is Quinn up to?
Quinn is awesome. She lived with me for about six months while she was trying to decide if she was going to move to Eureka and remarry her ex-husband. And she decided to buy a house in Eureka and changed her mind about marrying her ex-husband. She’s still here for another six months and then she is going to move to Eureka to be near her zillions of grandchildren. I think she’ll be bored out of her mind, but. …
What about Kimberly and Laurie?
I just talked to Kimberly the other day because last time I went, she flew to New York to meet us and went to dinner with us. But I don’t think she’s going to make it because our schedule’s too short. Last time we were there longer. I just talked to her. Her daughter is looking at colleges so we had a lot to talk about because Colton’s doing the same thing. Her daughter’s really interested in Brown. Her son is fine. She’s very happy with her decision to move out of Orange County. None of the skin cancers have come back so she made the right choice to keep their little bodies out of the sun. She’s made a few new close friends.
Laurie … I e-mail her once in awhile. But I really haven’t talked to her since our barbecue -- when we filmed it together.
Jo … Somebody said she was working at karaoke ... doing bar tending at a karaoke bar as a part-time job. And she’s studying acting. I don't know what's happening with her music career. Slade talks to her a little bit and keeps me updated. I used to get a call once a month from her. I think she’s just really busy. Kara’s talked to her a couple of times. Kara’s interning at E! and she’s called Jo a couple of times to verify facts or something.
I talk to Slade once a week at least. Gretchen texts me a couple of times a day. I keep in touch with everybody.
What have Shane and Colton been up to?
Shane is off-season right now. He’s working for something called All Pro Sports; he’s one of the spokespeople for it. It’s a protein thing he’s trying to take it to [Major League Baseball]. And I think he has something going on in Vegas because he seems to be going there every other weekend.
Colton’s in high school. He just finished doing Angels Elite, which is the scout team for the Angels baseball team. He gets to play his games at Angel Stadium on Wednesday night. How fun is that? Just to be on that cool field. He’s having a great time. He’s doing great in school. All As and Bs -- good boy. He’s just doing the college search. He’s been a little high-strung lately because it’s so much work. He didn’t listen to me about the timing. I had to hire him a college counselor to make sure he stays on track. Kara did it all herself. And she went to Berkeley for two years and switched to UCLA. She’s in heaven.
So will you still tune in every Thursday?
Oh, of course.
How would you say the show -- or even the ladies -- has changed over the seasons?
We’ve all matured. Kathleen French, our producer, said to me that the fifth season, the fourth season are so tough because the women are aware of their image. The woman are aware of their angles, the location … it’s not as sweet and spontaneous as the first few seasons. It’s really a struggle to get the kind of footage you want when the women are too camera-smart. It should almost be a scripted show as you get to the fifth season because it’s hard to catch them as naturally as you did in the beginning.
This is an even tougher season because we're seeing how the economy has affected your lifestyles. That's a vulnerable position.
Right. A couple of us were really willing to share our lives. The only misconception I’m upset about is people seem to think I’m this down-and-out woman. I’m still extremely wealthy. I have a pretty large net worth with all my properties. Because I was cash poor -- the problem was, I used all my savings to carry a couple of people that were in my rentals that were personal friends and mortgage brokers. I did not think the market was so going to be so bad that these brokers wouldn’t make money for a year and a half. That was tough. So finally one of my friends said, "Let them move in with you so you can at least rent the properties." And I thought "what a great idea," so that’s what I did.
So do you think the housewives get a bad rap for the lavish lifestyles they have?
Well, you know, all of our lifestyles have changed. Everyone has turned in a couple of cars and downsized. Some of them are downsizing their homes. I think we’re showing an accurate portrayal of Orange County. Everyone in Orange County has been affected. From my housekeeper -- there are some things I won’t give up: the pool man, the plant man and the housekeeper. I will walk before I give them up. I can’t stand a green pool and I love green plants. And I want a clean toilet.
What will you miss most about being on the show?
I thought I would miss going out -- no matter where you go, there’s a million people to talk to. I thought I would miss that. And then the show got syndicated and now I can’t go anywhere. Especially with me leaving the show -- everyone has to come give me their opinion and buy me a drink. My sons love to go out with me because they doesn’t have to spend a penny on drinks.
Do you watch any of the other versions: Atlanta, New York…
I TiVo them all. I don’t get to watch them all. I try to keep up on them. Jill and I talk every other week or so. I haven’t talked to Bethenney since she got engaged and pregnant. Hopefully I’ll see them when they’re in New York, if they’re there.
Now for some word association. Describe your fellow, now former, 'Housewives' in one word:
Is that possible?
Spicey … It’s kind of funny. I’ve known her husband a few years cause we do business together. He does loans and stuff. It was really interesting to see their relationship in last week’s episode. I didn’t know it was that way. He’s kind of a controller. It was interesting. Tamra and Alexis both seem to have these men that want to control them. Interesting. I have always been the pants in the relationship because my husband traveled. I was the man. I was the husband, the wife, the whatever. I did it all. So I could so not have a relationship like that. One of the guys I’m dating now is a coach. And that I can handle. I don’t have to cut his meat. It’s so funny to watch the relationships of different people and I think that’s why people are fascinated with the show. My dating life has been tough because I have the boomerang ex-husband. He keeps coming back. He needs my help. I help everyone, so how can I not help him? It’s really hard to date when the boomerang shows up for a couple of weeks at a time.
I'm sure things will work out.
I think they will. I have lots of things going on right now. I’m working on a book. Keeping myself busy. It’s a book about my life -- being from Wisconsin; being a Playmate and the Hollywood lifestyle and taking a break and coming back to reality TV wonderland.
When will that be done?
Maybe a year. It takes a long time to do it right.
-- Yvonne Villarreal
Photo: Jeana Keough. Credit: Bravo