‘Vanderpump Rules’ Scandal: Fans Talk Ariana-Sandoval Breakup

When I opened my Bravo group chat on Wednesday to say I was going to Schwartz & Sandy’s, the bar and restaurant co-owned by “Vanderpump Rules” stars Tom Schwartz and Tom Sandoval, the phone pinged quickly: “Lucky! Please report your findings. Tx.” Others were less diplomatic.

But it’s not about the pasta. It’s the reality TV cheating scandal that has my social media feeds—and probably yours—in a chokehold.

For those without a degree from Bravo University’s School of Messy Television, the story begins with “Vanderpump Rules,” a spinoff of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” that premiered in 2013 and followed the sordid drama of West’s handsome waiter . Hollywood’s SUR, owned by then-“RHOBH” star Lisa Vanderpump. A decade later, almost none of the core cast members still work at SUR, but their collective drama continues to grace our screens. Rage texts, ultimatums, drunken gaffes, heated skirmishes leading to slaps or punches, Mamaw beer cheese – all were part of the charm of the ridiculously addictive series. And cheating? It’s as baked into the show as Vanderpump’s name. Much of the first season revolved around whether former cast member Jax Taylor cheated on then-girlfriend, co-star and co-star Stassi Schroeder with a woman in Las Vegas and possibly got her pregnant.

But This The cheating scandal hit fans who were largely fed up with the franchise.

Last week, TMZ reported that Sandoval, a former bartender at SUR who entered the restaurant business with good friend and co-star Schwartz (more on him later), allegedly cheated on girlfriend of nine years, Ariana Madix, also a former bartender at SUR who is about to open a sandwich with the chestnut Katie Maloney. But wait – there’s more. Sandoval cheated on her co-star Raquel Leviss, who had previously been linked to Schwartz following his split from Maloney, after calling off her engagement to fellow cast member James Kennedy. (Fans will recall that Sandoval helped pay for the spectacle of Kennedy’s proposal aired on the show.) Reports have suggested the duration of the case stretches back at least seven months, but there has been no official confirmation.

Tom Sandoval and Ariana Madix in an episode of “Vanderpump Rules.”

(Bravo / Nicole Weingart)

Reaction to the case has activated the fan base in a way reminiscent of the Jennifer Aniston-Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie cheating frenzy — or as a keen observer described it to the uninitiated: “Imagine if Chandler [from “Friends”] cheated on Monica with Rachel secretly for 7 months and Joey knew all along.”

“He feels bigger than Jen Shah, who went to jail. This looks bigger than Erika Jayne,” said the owner of @QueensofBravoPlus on Instagram, who manages their account anonymously, referencing other true-crime scandals that have hit the Bravo universe. “Why? Because I think, in this case, there’s an immediate answer to who’s on the right side and who’s on the wrong side. There’s a clear villain and there’s a clear hero and a clear victim. With the Erika and Jen stuff, it’s almost like you had to wait a few months for it to come out. But here we have all the answers. People feel like they’re being played. And they’re putting all the pieces together right now. There’s a lot of deception that goes with it. … People might not be able to identify with elder fraud or [a spouse accused of] taking money from orphans and widows, but this is proportional, where people know what it’s like to be cheated or cheated by a friend.”

The truly committed have inhaled the helpful nuggets, theories and dissections that have made the TikTok rounds, Twitter, Instagram, etc. al, as if they were deep-fried goat cheese balls hot from SUR’s kitchen. He’s got Chrissy Teigen was released on the news “20 Different Conversations Happening,” while the actor and “The Talk” co-hosted Jerry O’Connell proudly posted a photo of herself in her Team Ariana jersey.

Weeks after the season wrapped production, filming resumed last Friday to capture the results so it could be included in the current season, which premiered last month. While there were reports that Sandoval threatened to stop filming, as of now he’s still involved, according to a source close to the production, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak candidly. The reunion is scheduled to take place on March 23, and each cast member is expected to appear in person.

In the days since, Sandoval has released two statements that essentially confirmed the cheating allegations. Leviss also issued a statement. This week, she filed for a restraining order against co-star Scheana Shay days after reports surfaced that Shay, who is best friends with Madix, allegedly attacked Leviss after learning about the affair.

Leviss, whose real name is Rachel, claims in court that she was “pushed into a brick wall [by Shay]causing an injury to the back of the head and punched me in the face causing an injury to my left eye.”

Meanwhile, Madix, who has since deleted her Twitter and Instagram accounts, has not publicly commented on the matter.

“For some people this is going to sound ridiculous, but I think if you get it, you get it: I’m stressed and nervous about putting my phone down because it’s like, what am I going to lose? But at the same time, I so desperately need a break from it,” said Abby Steffens, who runs @RealMomsofBravo with friend Vanessa Rizi. “It’s a lot. Then it’s easy to go down those rabbit holes. I was looking at Raquel’s stories from her Miss California pageant and I noticed that Sandoval, Ariana and Scheana were all there, and I watch the videos and I’m trying to say, “Well, what did he mean by that?” And I don’t know these people. It doesn’t affect my life, but somehow I’m so absorbed in it. It doesn’t excite me, but it intrigues me a lot. It’s kind of weird. This ruined someone’s life. I’m sure Ariana is devastated. We all want to get away from it, but we also can’t get enough of it.”

Ariana Madix and Raquel Leviss in an episode of “Vanderpump Rules.”

(Nicole Weingart / Bravo)

After the series struggled to find its footing again after unsuccessful cast additions and major departures, the current season feels like a return to the addictive drama of yesteryear, according to longtime watchers. “I felt like ‘Vanderpump Rules’ was on its last leg,” said the person behind the @QueensOfBravoPlus account. “But this season is definitely like a return to form with how messy it is.” The cameras followed as some cast members navigate new business ventures and others try to rebuild their lives after major breakups — notably the end of Schwartz’s marriage to Maloney, Leviss’ split from Kennedy, and Lala Kent’s split by her fiancé, the disgraced film producer. , Randall Emmett. Meanwhile, Schwartz & Sandy’s has been a flashpoint all season.

Now the nightspot, which launched last fall and endured its own drama on its way to opening, is embroiled in scandal. Angry fans bombarded the bar’s Yelp page with negative reviews in the days since news of the case broke. Its 4.5 star rating dropped to 3 amid backlash, with critics calling Sandoval a “snake” and saying he “deserved to live in a cave.” The page is now being monitored by Yelp’s support team for the sudden burst of activity.

It’s not yet clear how the negative attention will affect the new business, which Sandoval and Schwartz co-own with business partner Greg Morris. The “Vanderpump Rules” universe of restaurants, which also includes SUR, PUMP and TomTom, have become tourist attractions for Bravoholics, with fans eager to catch a glimpse of the familiar faces they see on screen.

“Vanderpump Rules” stars Tom Sandoval, left, and Tom Schwartz at the entrance of their restaurant, Schwartz & Sandy’s, in the Franklin Village neighborhood of Los Angeles.

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Tucked away in a narrow strip mall in Los Angeles’ Franklin Village neighborhood, the atmosphere at the dimly lit Schwartz & Sandy’s was subdued on a weekday as rounds of lobster and mushroom guieres made trips around the room. To be fair, this visit took place around 5:30pm. on a Wednesday, almost the magic hour for a salon (and Tom was visible), but the story deadlines can’t wait for the crazy vibes to start. And, of course, there was the occasional patron wandering the aisles while snapping giddy videos or photographic documentation of the experience.

Jessica Clem, 34, who is originally from Georgia but recently moved to Los Angeles to work as a traveling nurse, arrived as soon as the doors opened. It was her first stop on her “Vanderpump Rules” tour, with bookings for TomTom and SUR scheduled for later in the evening. She admits she has missed watching the show – she has a 19-month-old baby and has been on the road for the past 15 months – but heard about the cheating scandal.

“I’ve seen things about what happened and I hate that we didn’t have Bravo,” said Clem, who was joined by a friend who was unaware of the scandal. “I’m not picking sides yet. Everyone deserves to be happy.” (She was in awe of the James Turrell-inspired light fixture near the bathroom.)

Posing for photos at the venue’s entrance, where a framed collage of art hung above a mustard-colored tufted sofa, Anna Gunder, 32, of Winnetka, was more blunt: “I’m team Ariana.”

“I was very shocked,” Gunter said, referring to the scandal. “I mentioned it to people at work. And the thing is, ‘Vanderpump’ is built on everyone cheating on everyone. But that was just explosive.”

She initially tried to visit the salon last Wednesday, before the cheating scandal broke, but it was closed and she was hesitant to return. Finally he decided to try again: “What if all this is gone?”

Outside the salon, where the Schwartz & Sandy neon sign hummed in the distance, Lauren Albrecht, 34, of Columbus, Ohio, delivered a reality check. She’s as glued to the screen as other fans, keeping up with the influx of developments, but she’s the opposite of that.

“I feel embarrassed that I follow everything so religiously,” Albrecht said. “I think people are invested in Ariana [Madix] and Tom Sandoval. I think people are invested in the show. And I also think that maybe we shouldn’t be so invested in reality TV, to be honest. Things like that happen. It’s not often you see that played out on reality TV. … And so I think that’s why it’s so exciting. But I also want to really respect Ariana because she didn’t ask for this. And now the internet has exploded. And I think we as fans have glamorized it in a sense, and that’s not fair to her. We’re all like ‘Team Ariana,’ but really, we’re invading her privacy.”

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