I wouldn’t say I act crazy at times. I’d rather use the word, “petulant”, to describe my not so pleasant behavior when the blender specialists at a certain “juice establishment” make my smoothie too watery or when the cash takers/food baggers at the not-to-be-named evil natural food store empire argue with me about putting a rubberband around my cartoon of eggs. (Just the thought of it makes mother want to use her pimp hand.). Maybe this “meticulous attention to detail” is why I can relate surprisingly well to Jeff Lewis, real estate speculator, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) sufferer and star of the Bravo reality show, Flipping Out (Tuesdays, 10 p.m. EST) now in its second season.
You see, my soul mate in managing the minutiae flips houses for fun and profit and is a character that not even the best writer of Hollywood could have created. (Another reason why I don’t watch much scripted television.)
Lewis’ OCD manifests itself in both ordinary and strange ways. For example, he doesn’t like onions on his food and insists on having them immediately removed by one of his underlings if he finds them on his order. I, too, like to have my food prepared in certain way have been known to throw a toddler-like fit when its not done to my specifications.
But, unlike Lewis, I don’t insist on having food and beverages in specific quantities in my refrigerator and arranged a certain way for maximum visual effect. Nor do I insist on my coffee’s temperature at 140 degrees exactly. Nor do I ask my assistant (I can only dream) to consolidate my breath mints–transferring them from one container to another then requesting that she throw the empty container away.
Managing Jeff’s crazy takes a phalanx of assistants. According to his much-put-upon executive assistant Jenni Pulos, Lewis employs five psychics, a “pet integrater”, a housekeeper, Zoila, plus two other assistants in addition to Jenni . (One is Jenni’s husband, Chris Elwood, former Trash Guy and now House Manager, who has the dubious distinction of having been fired at least seven times.) Jenni admits that the staff “doesn’t do a lot”. Maybe this is because Jeff hires the first person to show up at the door.
This season finds Jeff struggling to cope with the declining Los Angeles real estate market. According to him, real estate prices have dropped 10 – 11 percent. As a result, he can no longer flip 5 or 6 houses at a time. Needing to find jobs for his crew and money to pay his staff, he goes back to work in remodeling biz.
We find Jeff at his current job — restoring a 10,000 square foot home in the historic Hancock Park area of Los Angeles. He and his business partner, Ryan, have been hired as consultants for $25,000 per month. At first, I thought, “What a hell of a gig!” Then we are introduced the owner of the property, Courtney, a bear of woman –- a person more impossible to deal with than Jeff himself. She’s the kind of a broad that would make you want choke a beyotch. She constantly changes her mind –- agreeing to move forward with Jeff and Ryan’s suggestions, then, in what seems to be a day or two later, turns around says that the bids are too high and wants to get more bids all the while claiming she has decades of construction and remodeling business knowledge. Courtney is the embodiment of the saying “a little learning is a dangerous thing”.
Although working for someone is the bane of Jeff’s existence to say the very least, he is surprisingly patient with Courtney at first, for believes that she has been taken advantage of (or we are lead to be she has) and he feels confident he an do a great job for her.
Things go from bad to worse with Courtney and during a lunch meeting with his partner Jeff tell Ryan that he, Jeff, is feeling uncharacteristically mellow—a mood that he attributes to being depressed. “At what point did I become a prostitute?” he asks. Ryan suggests that Jeff look at the job in a different light, as something involving minimal financial risk.
Like the drama queen he is, Jeff swears that God is punishing him but doesn’t believe that God screwed with the real estate market to stick it to him specifically. “I am narcissistic…but I am not that narcissistic,” says Jeff.
Watching the exchange between Jeff and Ryan hit home really heard. I, like Jeff, don’t believe as others including Jenni and Ryan do that “when you work for someone, you have to take it.” To a certain extent, yes, but you have to draw the line somewhere. When Jeff asks Ryan if it bothers him that Courtney has made them “her bitch”, Ryan dismisses this assertion. As I sit watching this, I am thinking, “Where are your cajones dude? Are you traveling with an empty sack or what?” If you don’t have a line in the sand, you are apt to become a whore for more in danger of compromising your integrity and self-respect in the process. In the end, you have to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” as Jeff does during this episode, refusing to be convinced that being beaten, if not physically but psychologically, like you stole something is the way to go.
And I had to laugh at the “God is punishing me” remark. Been there. Done that. More times than I care to admit. (Viva la drama queens!) To think that God takes time out of his busy schedule to put a celestial foot up my ass because I have been a baaaad gurl is not just narcissistic but asinine as well.
Undeniably, Jeff is a master of his craft. And yes, it is a craft. Looking at the before and after pictures, we see how Jeff transformed his current residence, Commonwealth, which he considered a “creative challenge”, into what looks like something straight of the pages of Architectural Digest. The meticulous attention to detail that his OCD requires may wreak havoc on his relationships with his staff, business partner, crew and clients but it seems to be necessary to the creation of his art. And necessary also to the crazy that makes Flipping Out so very entertaining.
Because I am a generous scribe, here are a couple of bits of info you might be interested in:
Jeff Lewis’ Website www.jefflewisdesign.com
The “Flipping Out” Reunion Show on Bravo Tuesday, August 12 9 p.m. Eastern
Jeff Lewis is taking his crazy out on a neighbor and she’s (Ugly Betty actress Ashley Jensen) is having none of it. For more of the mess, click here. By the way, Flipping Out has been picked up for a third season.