Something is going on over at Lisa Vanderpump’s famed LA restaurants. In the last week, the star ofReal Housewives of Beverly Hills, matriarch of the unswervingly-glossy-skinned narcissists onVanderpump Rules, and business mogul has dealt with a series of unfortunate events befalling her establishments. The rule of threes suggests that when weird things strike thrice, let alone all in the same place, it probably means something shady is happening—at least if you buy into conspiracy theories. And in the case of anything Vanderpump-related, it’s much more fun if you do. Let’s dive in!
On January 5, a Ferrari crashed into PUMP, her West Hollywood restaurant/bar known for its kind of gross food and ridiculous cocktail names (Pumpopolotan, anyone?). According to TMZ, who spoke to Vanderpump’s husband Ken Todd—a diminutive restaurant titan who looks like Rod Stewart would if someone left him in the dryer too long—and the LAPD, the driver had been cut off in traffic and swerved into the restaurant’s patio. The building appears to be left intact, but various chairs and some glass from the patio’s enclosure fell victim to the driver’s bumper, and one customer suffered a few scratches.
When interviewed by TMZ about the accident, Todd said, “Accidents happen… it’s life”—a very laissez faire, c’est la vie, and other French words reaction. When asked how his wife was dealing with the news, he answered, “She’s probably freaking out because she loves this restaurant.”
Todd brushed off the accident as a totally regular occurrence that we shouldn’t worry about, and he’s right. Insurance company Ameriprise reports that cars crash into a restaurant, retail store, or office building 60 times a day in the U.S., and that the annual cost associated with property damage and personal injury claims associated with these accidents is $200 million. Interesting. Very interesting.
While his carefree attitude toward the accident can be construed as not sweating the small stuff, it can also be read as Todd not wanting the media to make a big deal out of something that would inevitably lead to an insurance payout. However, Page Six reported that Todd was caught on video saying “we want to get as much publicity out of this…” (The video cuts off.) The tabloid added that a rep for Todd said the statement was taken out of context, and what Todd actually said was “I want to get as much publicity out of this that by the grace of God nobody was severely injured!” Maybe it’s a British thing (Todd is from the U.K.), but that statement feels awkward. Sure, if a car rams into your restaurant you probably want as many people as possible to know nobody got hurt and that you’re still serving $20 Pinky Pump Burgers, but it’s still fishy to act European-chill about the incident on camera, and then delight in squeezing press out of the incident when you think no one’s listening. PUMP continued operating that day, with Todd saying in his interview they’d simply close the patio and seat everyone in the garden. Since, so little-to-no money was lost in food and drink sales.
Vanderpump tweeted a little joke about PUMP not being a drive-thru and thanking god no one was hurt, so she also wasn’t “freaking out” like her husband suggested.
Just two days after the crash, Page Six reported that Vanderpump and Todd are in the middle of a class action lawsuit filed by Adam Pierce Antoine, a former employee who alleges that Todd and Vanderpump failed to pay minimum and overtime wages even when they worked up to 12-hour shifts, didn’t provide meal breaks or compensation in lieu of breaks, and violated California’s Unfair Competition Law at their many establishments, including PUMP, SUR, Tom Tom, and Villa Blanca (which all appear on their reality series). The Unfair Competition Law prohibits unfair practices and misleading and/or false advertisement by any business, and Antoine claims that “time records were manipulated after the fact to be in accordance with California state law, although employees commonly exceeded 40-hour work weeks and 12-hour days.” The suit notes the California labor laws that state that no employees should go more than five hours without a meal break of at least 30 minutes. Vanderpump and Todd responded that the allegations were without merit, with their lawyer saying, “The company, owned by Mr. Todd, operates in full compliance of labor and employment laws. It uses the nationally recognized payroll firm ADP to process all payroll and assure compliance.”
The suit was filed on December 16, giving (and I’m wildly speculating and spiraling into Charlie fromIt’s Always Sunnydeep in a conspiracy theory hole) Vanderpump and Todd plenty of time to hire a driver to crash into their restaurant so they can plant some positive articles and maybe claim a bit of insurance money.
And recall, all of this comes after electrical fires broke out at PUMP in 2016 and at SUR in 2017, which also begs the question: Isn’t this all kind of suspicious? A Reddit thread lays it down more succinctly: “Does anyone else support the fan theory that Lisa Vanderpump and Ken Todd have been committing (and getting away with) insurance fraud for decades?”
The overwhelming answer from fellow Redditors was no, and to be fair they might have a point, considering the payouts on the fires and the crash would be a drop in the bucket for the multimillionaires. Still, fans have tweeted or commented on blogs the insurance fraud theory both in relation to the crash and the fires, or even believe she orchestrated the crash, likely for publicity as AfterBuzz TV also speculated. The crash happened just two days before the season 8 premiere, and Ken saying he wanted to get as much publicity out of this has only fueled the conspiratorial fire. The Reddit thread also tosses out the claims that Vanderpump’s restaurants are fronts for an escort agency, perhaps fueled by cast member Lala Kent’s past travels with very rich, older men leading to accusations of being a high-end escort (she’s vehemently denied sleeping with any of the men she’s traveled with), so at least I don’t feel like I’m as deep in the conspiracy hole as that person. (Also, if Kent gets an all-expenses paid trip to an exotic destination, that’s her business.) While publicity seems as good a reason as any to maybe, possibly, unsubstantiated-ly hire a man to crash into your restaurant but only cause minimal damage, money seems like a more plausible reason, even for the extremely rich Vanderpump.
Vanderpump is by far the wealthiest of all the Housewives, with an estimated net worth of $75 million. As anyone can tell you who watched last season ofRHOBHand is acquainted with a little scandal known as “PuppyGate”—which led to the dissolution of friendships and threats of legal action from Lisa Rinna that she later took back—Vanderpump has been embroiled in various lawsuits related to her dog rescue foundation and other canine-related businesses. She and Todd had been accused and sued for fraud in 2013 after two entrepreneurs, Ryan Carrillo (who is a professional artistic roller skater as well apparently) and Andrew Gruver, claimed Vanderpump “unfairly snatched” a West Hollywood venue where they were set to open a gay sports bar. That venue is where PUMP now stands. But the plot thickens, and expands across theReal Housewivesuniverse. That same yearReal Housewives of Atlantastar Nene Leakes went on Jenny McCarthy’s radio show and alleged that Vanderpump snaked her on a lease for the exact same property after Leakes had asked her for advice on opening a bar there. Leakes never opened the bar, and as we all know PUMP remained a Vanderpump property. A woman also sued Vanderpump for allegedly giving her horrific diarrhea while at her table at SUR, but that’s…probably not connected? Regardless, the couple has seen their fair share of courtrooms over the years, and, if all is true, appear to engage in some cut throat business tactics. The fact that Vanderpump sounds like a Bond villain only adds to the mystery.
Lawsuits, even bogus ones, aren’t cheap to tackle. Could she use some extra money to help get these lawsuits out of her life? Sure. Would she benefit from good publicity? Of course. Am I 12 cups of cold brew deep and have turned my apartment into a conspiracy freak den, with an entire wall covered in sticker dots connecting images of Vanderpump, Todd, various high-end sports cars, JFK, Jimmy Hoffa, Kyle Richards, a cheeseburger, and alopecia-stricken dogs? Definitely.