‘Vanderpump Rules’ Cast Pours It On During a Bar Crawl

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In the middle of an anxiety-inducing World Series Game 7, six days out from a presidential election, a bar crawl in New York City offered a brief glimpse into an alternate universe governed by some very well-known bartenders.

The event was hosted, and staffed, on Wednesday by the service industry stars of “Vanderpump Rules,” a Bravo reality show. There were probably more productive ways for me to spend an evening, but the world is a stressful place right now.

When given the choice between watching the proceedings of a reality TV show called “The Presidential Election” and catching a glimpse of a few real-life TV stars, I decided to join about 1,000 prospective voters who would rather take a chance on the Meatpacking district.

Stassi Schroeder, one of the show’s stars, gave me a firm handshake and surveyed the crowd at the first bar, Kola House. She considered the mood: Did the partygoers care about the election or the outcome of the big game?

“Not right now,” Ms. Schroeder said. “Right at this moment? Not right now.”

By the time the doors opened around 7:30 p.m., the line outside the lounge was already a block long. Inside, a world of grapefruit-flavored vodka, social-media influencers and constant selfies awaited. Several of the stars, most of whom still work at SUR, the West Hollywood restaurant where the show is filmed, were put to work mixing drinks. The first cocktail had a jalapeño slice floating in it and tasted like tangy heartburn. The drink was included in the $10 cover charge shelled out by fans.

How to explain “Vanderpump Rules” to the uninitiated? If you’ve ever looked at your friends and joked that your group’s antics were worthy of a reality show, this is what would result if Lisa Vanderpump, SUR’s owner, a reality TV veteran and the eponymous lodestar of the show, overheard that conversation and suggested the idea to a television producer.

The show’s fifth season starts on Monday, the night before Election Day. It can function as a silly chaser to an election season filled with ugliness, according to Kristen Doute, the show’s most notorious troublemaker.

“It’s like the best thing to watch before the election night,” Ms. Doute said. “Laugh at our expense before things get crazy.”

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By the Bravo network’s standards, it’s a popular show, averaging 2.4 million viewers per episode. Bravo likes to emphasize how well educated the network’s viewers are, and members of the cast like to emphasize how real they are.

“We all grew up together,” said Jax Taylor, one of the show’s most effective instigators and a semi-rehabilitated Lothario. “Our show is so easy for production. They literally show up and turn the ‘on’ switch and go.”

Mr. Taylor, 37, said that the show — once focused on screaming, below-the-belt catfights among a beautiful, tanned, party-hard crowd of friends — was evolving. Engagements and marriages are beginning to replace adulterous plot twists. And, he said, his probation period for stealing a pair of sunglasses on a group trip to Hawaii (televised, of course) ends next month.

People can change.

One cast mate, Scheana Shay, noted that a pleasant change in gender dynamics awaits viewers this season:

“From my experience this summer, the guys cry more than the girls.”

Ms. Doute agreed: “That is such a good point.”

If the pub crawl was any indication, this intoxicating reality TV ratio of mess to realness has found fans in the New York media, whose members attended just to watch a mindlessly fun night unfold. Naomi Fry of T magazine was there. In March, she wrote an official appreciation of the show for The New York Times Magazine, equating it to, among other things, “a very low-grade, consequence-free orgasm — a pleasurable sort of noninvolvement.” (To repeat: The world is stressful.)

As much as the show relies on the aggressive realness of its main characters, it also depends on the power of Snapchat and Instagram to draw fans to the fashion, the fillers and the sequin-strobe glamour of the West Hollywood night life.

Throughout the evening, a group of social-media influencers were shepherded through the party. They included JoJo Fletcher, the most recent winner of “The Bachelorette,” and her fiancé, Jordan Rodgers. (“It was sick how real it was,” Ms. Fletcher said of her own reality show.)

One of Ms. Fletcher’s Instagram posts from the bar later amassed more than 55,000 Instagram likes. And the Bravo Snapchat account’s story of the crawl drew more than 1.6 million views, according to Bravo.

On the sidewalk outside the last of three bars, No. 8, a trio of fans who grew up together in Brooklyn braved a line that hadn’t budged for an hour, hoping for admittance. They passed the time discussing whether the “Vanderpump Rules” stars were, in fact, the same in real life as they are on the reality show.

“They’re too nice,” one woman, Michelle Orzel, 28, mused. “It doesn’t make sense.”

But, she noted, “They’re much skinnier in person.”

Correction: November 4, 2016

An earlier version of this article misstated an affiliation of Naomi Fry’s. While she wrote an appreciation of “Vanderpump Rules” for The New York Times Magazine, she is an employee of T magazine.

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