Even compared to similar Sun Belt metropolises like Atlanta and Dallas, glitzy Hollywood red carpet events—no matter how B-list—are rarities in Houston. So there was a special excitement in and around Midtown dance club VrSi for Thursday night’s Married to Medicine Houston premiere, a spinoff of the Atlanta-based original that follows the social lives of doctors and doctors’ wives.
Paparazzi, both pro and amateur, mobbed the red carpet that led to a Bravo TV backdrop where the cast grinned for the cameras through the embers of their soon-to-aired feuds, while waitresses bearing trays of canapes and empty champagne bottles full of sparklers patrolled the crowd inside. Starched jeans, blazers, or untucked Oxfords and lots of hair product for dudes, and backless dresses and heels ruled on the air-kissing ladies, all who wandered around what (I was told) was once, long ago in Midtown Houston’s pre-bro and broette wilder days, a bathhouse. Other local celebs were on the scene. There was Teresa Roemer, she of the three-story, 3,000-square-foot closet. And there was Houston’s biggest reality TV star, Tilman Fertitta, megabucks restaurateur, casino mogul, and star of CNBC’s Billion Dollar Buyer.
Befitting the riot of diversity that is the Texas Medical Center, MTMH’s cast is consummately multi-ethnic: Iranian-American audiologist Elly Pourasef; African-American dental surgeon Ashandra Batiste; plastic surgeon Erika Sato, daughter of Japanese-born pro wrestler Akio Sato; Rachel Suliburk, the white nursing student wife of trauma surgeon James Suliburk (along with Suliburk, Pourasef is not an MD, though she has a doctorate. Her quasi-doctor status is an oft-picked-upon sore point); and Indian-American cardiologist Monica Patel, “a serious doctor by day and a fun-loving social butterfly by night” per Bravo, or “the Kim Kardashian of Houston” as a source close to the show breathlessly described her.
Almost immediately upon my arrival I was introduced to co-star and “secret weapon” of the show Cindi Rose, prominent Houston socialite, wife of famed plastic surgeon Franklin Rose, and mother of former Bachelor and Bachelor Pad villain Erica Rose, who also stars in MTMH.
Rose was away to the races from the second we met. First, she told me all about her marriage, divorce, and remarriage to Franklin, a breast enhancement specialist whose clientele was composed in no small part of, as the Houston Press once put it, “a highly visible contingent of actresses, skin-mag models and topless dancers.” Franklin couldn’t resist the temptations he helped create, and he was openly dating one former patient—then 22-year-old Penthouse twentieth anniversary Pet of the Year, Lynn Johnson—a year before his 1990 divorce to Cindi. (Rose and Johnson even once mingled at a Penthouse gala with president-elect Donald Trump.) After seven years in the wilderness of starlets and dancers, Dr. Rose separated his shoulder in Aspen and realized that none of his new friends would be there for him. Instead of calling them, he called his ex, and the romance rekindled and took this time, apparently for good.
Also on her mind: her career as a silhouette artist (she is about to go on a national sales tour, and she is very proud of her Liberace piece that adorns the walls of the pianist’s museum in Paradise, Nevada) and the fallout from a dishy, unauthorized MTMH interview she and Erica had given CultureMap Houston’s Clifford Pugh earlier in the week. Cindi told Pugh that producers likened her role to that of Heather Locklear’s Amanda Woodward, the queen bitch of Melrose Place. On MTMH, Cindi is seen shepherding the young doctors through the perilous pitfalls and treacherous thickets of Houston’s nocturnal social scene. In the episode’s premiere she takes what could charitably be seen as a tough love approach to that endeavor, telling Suliburk that her attire may cut it in Beaumont, but was hardly up to Houston standards.
Oh. Em. Gee.
Reality shows of this ilk have always seemed like pro wrestling geared towards women— heightened reality dosed liberally with scripted drama, heel turns and their reversals, occasional actual violence—and MTMH delivers on that score. Though a certain stratum of Houston society has long pined for a Real Housewives franchise and was sick with envy when the Big D landed one instead, this will have to do until the real Andy Cohen deal comes along.