- Real Housewives of Beverly Hills -Everything I Learned About "Big Kathy" (Kathy, Kim, & Kyle's Mom) During One Sleepless Night
I have three passions in life. Food, sex, and finding out as much as I can about the Richards sisters. The fascination with them started before I even knew they might be anyone worthy of a deep dive, because at 11 years old, I was obsessed with Paris Hilton and The Simple Life. And not in a way that I wanted to be Paris; I was just mesmerized by her, the fame, the clothes, the personality, and the chihuahua. And Paris was my Richards gateway drug.
What started with the Simple Life led to VH1’s Fabulous Life Of which lead to, when I was in high school, meeting Kim and Kyle Richards through Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Now, almost ten years later, we're finally meeting Kathy Hilton. It's like Russian Dolls honestly; you start with one, then open another and another and finally you reach the end.
But in this case we never reach the end because the last one is an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, and cash. And that is Kathleen Dugan Avanzino Richards Catain Fenton — Kathy, Kyle, and Kim's mother — aka “Big Kathy." The Heart Of The Ocean.
In Season 1, when Kim said her famous “you stole my goddamn house” line, which she screamed from the back of a stretch limo in a very Princess-Diana-revenge-dress-style moment, chignon and all, I too, screamed. And when Kyle responded with a death stare, then said, “Mom had to die worrying about you and stressing over you... you’re a liar and sick and an alcoholic.” Chills.
Most fans are really familiar with that scene, but for me, it was the little moments in Kim's confessional, when she said, “I really took care of my whole family growing up. I got Kyle her first car, bought our home. You know, I did it all.”
But, wait. On the other hand, we saw Kyle really mother Kim on the show, but in her confessional, Kim said she was a mother figure to Kyle. If they both feel like they parented the other, how, exactly, was the real mother involved?
“Big Kathy” was born in 1938 and passed away in 2002. She was married four times; her first husband Larry Avanzino is the father of Kathy Hilton, and Ken Richards, her second husband, is the father of Kyle and Kim. The age differences between Kathy and Kim is 6 years, and the age difference between Kathy and Kyle is almost 11 years.
Basically, since the beginning of RHOBH we have always heard of Big Kathy, the house in Palm Springs, Kim’s claim she provided for her family, and much more. In the book House of Hilton it goes into more detail about who Big Kathy was as a mother and let’s just say, the Richards sisters make a lot more sense.
The House of Hilton alleges that, “Big Kathy told Ken (Richards) that she wanted Kathy (Hilton) to know about sex and how to perform sex, literally, the best way possible … so she asked a young man to teach her in his van.” According to a Thought Catalog article that excerpts parts of the book, Big Kathy seemed to be very fixated on her daughter’s financial futures and advised them to marry rich and have four children. Why four? Unclear, but that's supposedly what she instructed them to do: marry rich and have lots of children. Little Kathy, Kim, and Kyle all have four children.
Everything I've read about Big Kathy really describes her as someone who's very eccentric and wealth-obsessed; she was someone who loved money, houses, diamonds, cars and would stop at nothing to get what she wanted. She doesn't give me black widow vibes, but more a Debbie Jellinsky from Addams Family Values.
Again, according to House of Hilton, her second husband Ken Richards was married when they met (as was Big Kathy) and they began to have an affair and once, she allegedly drugged his then-wife, followed her out to her car, and slammed her ankle in the car door.
Her third husband was allegedly part of some organized crime family and her fourth husband I don’t know much about except he was kicked out of the Palm Springs house after she died and she left it to her girls, which is yes, that goddamn house. The one Kyle “stole” from Kim.
A 2006 article in the New York Times about House of Hilton summarizes Big Kathy's shenanigans (can we call them shenanigans?) perfectly:
Paris Hilton’s maternal grandmother, the oft-married Kathleen Richards (known in the family as big Kathy), once fed dog food to one of her mothers-in-law; drugged a rival and crushed her ankle in a car door; tried to push her second husband, Ken Richards, down a staircase; and, out of sheer malice, served his daughter Diane a cheeseburger with a screw in it.
So keep all of that in mind as you think about her kids.
Kathy Hilton (Little Kathy) met Rick Hilton when she was 20 years old and had her first child, Paris, by 21. Big Kathy was apparently thrilled by this because Rick is an heir to the Hilton Hotel dynasty. Lil Kathy's acting career just never took off (she had a few roles here and there from 1968 to 1979), but, you know whose did? Kim’s.
Oh Kimmy. My sweet Kim Richards. I just adore her and want the best for her. I also want to hug her and just tell her it will all be OK. There's a fragility about Kim that just makes me sad. She was thrown into TV and film when she was only a few months old doing commercials and then as she got older she was a Disney child star, performing in movies and television shows.
Unfortunately, most child actors grow up too fast and don’t have much a childhood, and Kim was no exception; she said herself she was the one providing for her family and her sisters and she felt that she took on a lot of responsibility from a young age. When she was 21 years old she married Monty Brinson, and according to a friend of Big Kathy, Mickey Catain, Big Kathy told Kim to give Monty the ring back because it wasn’t big enough. The marriage didn’t last and Kim and Monty got divorced, and he passed away in 2016. We saw him on RHOBH living with Kim in his final months where she was his caretaker.
After Kim and Monty got divorced in 1988, Kim married Gregg Davis the same year. Gregg Davis was the son of an oil baron, Marvin Davis, who at one point owned 20th Century Fox and the Beverly Hills Hotel. That sentence is insane; it’s like, out of Dynasty... which, funny enough, Aaron Spelling is said to have based the Carrington family in Dynsaty off the Davis family.
Gregg and Kim had two children together. In the House of Hilton it is said that Gregg would give Kim a million dollars and just tell her to buy whatever she wanted. Gregg reportedly has a net worth in the billions... Forbes magazine said that in 2004, Marvin Davis, Gregg's father, was the 30th richest person in the US, estimating his net worth to be around $5.8 billion. Kim and Gregg got divorced in 1988.
Fun fact about the Davis family: Gregg’s nephew is Brandon Davis, who was the early 2000s bad boy who dated Mischa Barton for a while and you could see him out with Paris Hilton all the time. He was also the guy who said Lindsay Lohan was a fire crotch. Ah, a truly iconic moment in pop culture history.
Now, if Kim’s life marrying an oil tycoon and being a childstar couldn’t get more interesting, or tragic, her fiancé John J. Collette was fucking murdered in a deli WHILE SHE WAS ON THE PHONE WITH HIM in 1991. I guess he was part of some alleged scheme a la Jen Shah, and a hit man shot him execution style next to the cold cuts. Kim had to identify the body. His sister Nina Stormo told People magazine that “she loved him and he loved her and it was like a fairy tale.” This was obviously devastating for Kim.
Ever since we met Kim on the show in 2010, she's struggled with substance abuse and her relationship with Kyle has always come off as tense, but sisterly; you can tell there's a lot of history there.
If you go back and watch RHOBH, you'll notice that the two of them really are at odds about what they want to share about their family and their truth, and what they don't. And that is where a lot of the tension between the sisters lies. Kyle is much more open and ready to tell the story of her family. (I mean, she produced and created American Woman, which was loosely based on her life where her mom would take her and her sisters to Studio 54 when she was 10 years old, and Kyle would drive herself to school. Now that I think I think of it, no wonder Kyle and Bethenny Frankel are friends, they had relatively similar childhoods. Shit they probably met at Studio 54 when they were in their teens. If you recall, American Woman is the reason Kim and Kathy didn’t speak to Kyle for a while; they felt she was putting their family business out there for profit and it didn’t sit right with them.)
So, when I heard Lil Kathy was joining RHOBH, honestly, I wasn’t that thrilled. What I knew of her I didn’t love, because I'm also a Kyle fan, and I didn’t like how they treated Kyle during that whole American Woman debacle. I just didn’t know what to expect from her, and I guess after watching the Paris Hilton documentary I expected someone cold, quiet, and detached.
But guys, we are getting kind of the opposite. Kathy Hilton is hilarious, eccentric, and I couldn’t love her more if I tried. I'm almost mad Kyle has kept her from us for so long. She's truly one of those extremely wealthy women who lives on a different planet than the rest of us and rules don’t exist, but... she does all of it sans glam on their trip to Tahoe. Kathy is constantly in sweatpants and slogan tee with no make up, just shuffling around the house with her fan. She makes me excited to watch RHOBH every week because I just want to see what Kathy does next.
And the best part about having her on the show is, we get to peak behind the curtain into the Richards' childhood. Every week, if you look hard enough, we see Kathy and Kyle revert back to being kids. You can sense that they still have the same dynamic they probably had as children... Kathy calling Kyle “Doogie” and making her plug in her fan. Kathy pulls pranks, and Kyle gets a little uptight.
There's been no hint or rumor that Kim Richards will make an appearance on Season 11, but if we pray at the alter of a stuffed bunny next to a trash can, maybe it will happen. Kyle, Kim, and Kathy need to reunite on camera to talk about their exes, their husbands, their children, their diamonds, their sex lives, and did I mention their diamonds?
Because honestly, I can't imagine anything would make Big Kathy In the Sky happier than her extraordinarily rich and famous daughters talking about themselves on one of the most popular TV shows of the last decade.