On Sunday, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Kim Richards was booked at California’s Valley Jail after reportedly attempting to shoplift over $600 worth of goods from Target. The 50-year-old, who spent Sunday night in jail and posted $5,000 bail in the morning, has bigger problems than a Van Nuys security guard. With her history of alcoholism, disordered eating, family drama, and personal trauma, Richards is the latest reality TV victim to have earned years of ratings success at the price of her well-being and sobriety. Her tale is sad enough to draw a tear from even the most rigidly Botoxed real housewives, and speaks to the dark consequences of America’s insatiable demand for raw footage of emotionally unstable C-listers.
Richards’s pre-RHOBH “fame” consisted of a solid child star career, and the role of a lifetime as socialites Paris and Nicky Hilton’s aunt. First married at 21, Richards has been married and divorced twice, and has four children between three partners. In 1991, she was on the phone with then-fiancé John Collett when he was gunned down outside of a deli. Collett was under investigation for his part in a $150 million scam involving 8,000 elderly investors.
After joining the Real Housewives, Richards’s personal life went from tragic to tragicomic. Richards, whose 2012 trip to rehab was already her third attempt, predictably struggled with RHOBH’s prescriptive fare of fake bitches and comically oversized glasses of wine. In 2011, co-star Brandi Glanville accused Richards of using crystal meth—and at Game Night, no less! Glanville’s legitimately odd meth allegation (this is RHOBH, not Teen Mom 2) was triggered by Richards’s strange behavior, including multiple trips to the ladies’ room. While Kim later copped to acting oddly, she blamed her grogginess on a new medication regime to treat her “anxiety and panic disorder.”
In 2013, one of Richards’s children was placed in an involuntary psychiatric hold after a public breakdown. Less than a year later, Richards’s “best friend,” pit bull Kingsley, bit her 18-year-old niece Alexia Umansky. Umansky, the daughter of Kim’s sister and fellow Real Housewife Kyle Richards, was home from college when she went to visit her aunt—emerging with dog bites on her hand that resulted in a hospital stay and surgery.
Apparently, this wasn’t the first time Kim’s keeper took her protection a little too seriously. In March of 2014, 80-year-old family friend Kay Rozario was attacked by the pit bull, and left Richards’s house with “big gaping wounds” and a lawsuit claiming negligence and emotional distress. Despite the two incidences of foul play, the cold-blooded canine’s life was spared, and he was sent away for training and rehabilitation. Meanwhile, Kim and sister Kyle’s close relationship reportedly cooled after Kim chose her poorly trained pup over Kyle’s human daughter.
As if cohabitating with a bloodthirsty pit bull wasn’t enough, in 2014 Richards moved in with her ex-husband Monty Brinson, who was diagnosed with cancer. Brinson and Richards remained close after they ended their yearlong marriage; current reports say that Brinson only has months left to live.
Richards’s thoroughly depressing roommate situation took a turn for the even worse (and weirder) in 2015, when Richards appeared visibly inebriated during an episode of RHOBH. According to Richards, she had been battling bronchitis and pneumonia before the onscreen party, and so Brinson loaned her a Vicodin to help with the pain. While she admitted that she “wasn’t feeling well,” she stuck by sobriety claims. In addition to acting not sober, Richards’ most recent Housewives season was marked by generally erratic behavior, from continuing to feud with sister Kyle to fabricating a shocking family secret on behalf of new housewife Lisa Rinna.
Richards’s on-again, off-again relationship with sobriety finally got hot and heavy in April 2015, when the “out-of-control drunk” star was kicked out of the Beverly Hills Hotel at 1:30 a.m. Apparently, an uncooperative Richards was dragged out of the restaurant’s bathroom by cops, and later kicked an officer in jail. Despite immediately checking in to rehab in the wake of her release, Richards was charged with public intoxication, resisting arrest, and battery, and could be sentenced to up to 2½ years in jail.
Naturally, Richards was scared straight—not by the prospect of jail time, but rather the potential loss of her career as America’s favorite semi-famous trainwreck. Apparently, the Real Housewives producers were annoyed that Richards wasn’t honest about her sobriety, conveniently forgetting their complicity in placing a recovering alcoholic in a televised vat of drama and rosé. After getting the alleged ax, Kim refused to stay fired, “hounding producers” and showing up “at the offices to try and beg—Kim cannot stand that the mistakes she made are having such consequences and she hates being irrelevant.”
In her ongoing war against irrelevancy, Richards teamed up with fellow lifelong fame hunter Dr. Phil for the celebrity disaster’s last stand: the post-arrest tell-all. In an interview that ranged from cringeworthy to painfully cringeworthy, Richards admitted that she had been lying on the most recent Real Housewives reunion special, when she claimed that she “had not drank in over three years.” She told Dr. Phil that she did have drinks “a couple other times over the past few months”; she also let slip that she “smokes pot every once in a while.” Additionally, she mentioned that her sister Kyle texted her after the arrest for the “first time in five months,” and that “there isn’t a day that goes by” that she doesn’t think about her murdered fiancé.
While Dr. Phil’s attempted intervention ended in Richards storming out of the interview, she eventually checked herself back into rehab. Her facility gave her a pass to attend her daughter Brooke’s wedding in May, where observers claimed that “Kim was clearly under the influence of something,” and said “horribly nasty things to her daughter” before failing to return to rehab by her Monday deadline.
Before her Sunday arrest, Richards was last heard from in late July, when she told Entertainment Tonight, “I love sobriety.” She continued, “My arrest was my a-ha [moment], [I thought] I get to go away now and rest and take a break from all of this.” Richards also insisted to ET that her relationship with Bravo was perfectly intact: “I’ve been focusing on my treatment but my representative did speak to [Bravo] and they did ask me to come back.”
While ailing ex-husband Monty Brinson insists that the Target shoplifting spree allegations are “some kind of mistake,” and “not alcohol- or drug-related,” this most recent arrest is clearly proof that the last thing Richards needs is to spend her recovery time at a series of charitable galas and ill-informed business launches, catering to the cameras with her gaggle of frenemies and enablers. Pushing Richards onscreen would be next-level exploitative…even for Bravo.