‘Windy City Wives Club’ to showcase Chicago

By HermineBloom

Amidst the blur of couture, classic brownstones and buzzing BlackBerrys lives a New York City housewife, where the accents are notoriously thick and the competition is considerably thicker. On the opposite coast lives an Orange County housewife who’s organizing a charity gala poolside while eating spoonfuls of frozen yogurt. Somehow, the successful woman in Chicago, whose glamorous lifestyle mirrors those of the former two, has never seemed quite glitzy or edgy enough in the eyes of reality TV producers. Until now.

Becky Cattie, casting director at Towers Productions, said she believes the wealthy, influential women in Chicago will sparkle in a reality show devoted to the real lives of Chicago socialites.

“Chicago’s definitely hit on the reality market, but it’s not usually the backdrop,” Cattie said. “Shows come through and cast and pick a few, but they don’t usually locate the show here.”

Cattie has held auditions since June after receiving more than 400 e-mails from women who all believe they are a perfect fit for the show. She’s even received submissions from women in Indiana, where ladies have offered to move to an apartment downtown just to be on the show.

“Right now we’ve selected a group who we’re shooting a little demo with,” Cattie said. From there we will try to sell the show and see what happens.”

Although Towers Productions primarily makes documentaries, they’ve decided to branch out to the women’s networks and pitch a 10-minute mini-episode, or a “proof of concept” as Cattie calls it, to networks such as TLC, Lifetime, Oxygen, Bravo and TV Land.

“We’d like to call it a ‘docu-soap,’” Cattie said. “We keep joking that we’re going to bring the ‘real’ back to reality TV where it’s not contrived. ‘Let’s fight! Let’s bicker!’ It gives women a bad name. Let’s bring it back to genuine women and what it’s like to have someone else’s life. That’s what it started as, but at this point, the bar is so high. I don’t know how you’d top those Jersey girls, nor do we want to.”

The over-the-top Jersey girls Cattie refers to are one of the sassy groups of women who have starred on “The Real Housewives” series on the Bravo network. The Chicago-based show is a spin-off of “The Real Housewives” and is not currently affiliated with Bravo. However, Cattie said the target audience and genre is similar, hence the working title “The Windy City Wives Club.”

“We felt like, ‘Hey, it’s our own backyard, why can’t we do it?’” Cattie said. “So we never wanted it to be exactly like the other ‘Housewives’ shows. We really wanted something that was going to feel very Chicago and to showcase the city, but we also wanted it to be a group of women who had a natural chemistry.”

Shelley MacArthur Farley, wife of Bill Farley, former chairman of Fruit of the Loom, is one of the women who auditioned this past June. She auditioned with four of her closest girlfriends at contestant Shauna Montgomery’s swanky Lake Shore Drive apartment. Farley was a model for Elite Modeling Agency in Chicago in her earlier years and has been singing professionally for the past five years.

“I think the main appeal of the show was to work again, be with friends and create something that could really be great and exciting,” Farley said.

Not exactly fond of the connotation of the word “socialite,” Farley explained that she and the women in her audition group work in a different way to keep the city “alive and vibrant,” even if they don’t have nine-to-five jobs.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have been very successful in my career and in marrying a very successful man,” Farley said. “We’ve had the privilege to be invited to a lot of wonderful parties and we have wonderful friends, but we also do a lot for our community and for Chicago. [The word “socialite”] doesn’t have the true meaning of what I consider myself doing or some of my close friends consider themselves doing.”

Farley is on the Field Museum board of directors and the Joffrey Ballet Women’s Board, which provides the funding for Chicago arts, museums and medical organizations to name a few. Needless to say, Farley’s

philanthropy doesn’t go unnoticed—she frequently attends events such as the Joffrey Ballet Annual Gala. Farley has three sons, two of whom are studying to be actors in California and one who attends The Latin School of Chicago.

Trevian Kutti, owner of luxury retail shop Trevian, 1405 N. Wells St, knows Farley through events like the high-class Joffrey Ballet Annual Gala. Kutti lives two blocks away from her boutique in the Gold Coast neighborhood with her two young children and husband. She has lived in Chicago for the past 13 years and she, too, auditioned for the “Housewives” spin-off with close friends like Jerry Kleiner’s girlfriend. Kleiner, Chicago-based restaurateur and entrepreneur, is well-known for his lavishly decorated establishments such as Red Light, 820 W. Randolph St., and Marche, 833 W. Randolph St.

In keeping with the theme of lucrative Chicago businesses, Trevian sells upscale designers like Catherine Malandrino, Roberto Cavalli and Moshcino, among others. Due to construction reasons, the store recently re-located from Oak Street. to Wells Street. Unfazed by the move, Kutti describes Oak Street as “a lot of hoopla, a lot of ego and a lot of show and no dough,” whereas on Wells Street “the guy in his T-shirt and flip-flops can spend $5,000 and not blink.”

Kutti’s motto is: “if the opportunity presents itself, take the opportunity,” which is why she contacted Cattie in the first place. But she, unlike Farley, thinks that she could bring some of what Orange County and New York City has to a Chicago version.

“Chicago gets overlooked because the drive isn’t apparent,” Kutti said. “You can see drive in New York and Orange County. And those chicks in New Jersey, even though it was crass, there was drive, whether they do something positive or negative. Sometimes Chicago doesn’t make it over the hump as far as competing. That’s the element that I thought I could show because I compete not only with myself on a daily basis, but with everybody else [too]. It’s what drives me.”

Both Farley and Kutti believe that people who live in Chicago exude the utmost class and those who can afford to be are very philanthropic. Staying true to Towers Productions’ reputation, Cattie informed the women who auditioned that this particular reality show will, in fact, be part-documentary. This was certainly a factor in the types of Chicago women who applied.

“I would be friends with all of the women that I interviewed and every woman I talked to on the phone,” Cattie said. “None of them are Paris Hiltons—none of them would be a replica of those other shows—and maybe that’s credit to the Midwest.”

Cattie also promised that this reality show would adopt a “Sex and the City”-style attitude, in terms of being relatable to women everywhere.

“There’s always some point [in “Sex and the City”] that you relate to one of the girls,” Cattie said. “There are times when you’re shocked and there are times when you’re amazed, but you’re still going through that journey with them and I think that’s what I was really looking for.”

There is no definite date or time for this show as it’s still in its early stages.