Wednesday, March 18, 2009
'Real Housewife' Gretchen Rossi gets restraining order
TV star says in court papers that O.C. man threatened her.
By RICHARD CHANG
The Orange County Register
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Gretchen Rossi, one of the stars of "The Real Housewives of Orange County," has obtained a temporary restraining order against an Orange County man who says he was her secret boyfriend.
In the restraining order request, filed March 6 at Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, Rossi, 31, states that Jay Photoglou has threatened to kill her and her dogs, burn down her Costa Mesa house and has stolen items from her home.
She also asserts that Photoglou, 39, has made harassing phone calls, grabbed her hair and yanked her head back, vandalized her home and car and has threatened to "dispose of" Slade Smiley, a former cast member of the Bravo reality TV series.
"He was someone I trusted and believed had my best interest at heart until he started blackmailing me and became volatile," Rossi wrote about Photoglou in her request for orders to stop harassment. "He has since been nothing but verbally and pyshically (sic) abusive to me."
Photoglou, formerly of Huntington Beach (he lost his home to foreclosure in December), had been friends with Rossi since January 2008. He claims he was her boyfriend during the taping of "Housewives" last year, when Rossi was engaged to another man, Jeff Beitzel. Photoglou denies any threats or harassment.
In her request, Rossi attached a 9-page written testimony alleging more than a dozen instances of harassment, from Photoglou yelling at her in expletive-ridden tirades to attempting to break into her house to phoning at various times with threats to kill her and her dogs.
"On March 4, 2009," she wrote, "he decided to threaten my life again by saying that 'he was going to dispose of Slade, and that he would get inside my home and wait for me to be alone, and then surprise me and strangle me in the middle of the night, then hang himself in my bedroom to prove that he lived with me.'"
Smiley, 40, Rossi's friend and occasional business adviser, was arrested last month at Rossi's house on a civil contempt warrant. He served Photoglou the restraining order, according to the parties involved.
Rossi denies she ever had a romantic relationship with Photoglou, although she has said in other interviews that the two briefly dated before her engagement to Beitzel, who was shown with her on the program and died from leukemia on Sept. 13, 2008.
Photoglou, a car salesman, insists he did have a relationship with Rossi while Beitzel was alive and afterward and Rossi is lying about it to "keep her image clean" and "protect her newfound celebrity status."
"This has never been about me being obsessed with Gretchen," he said in an interview this week. "This has been about the truth being told. Basically, I want Gretchen to tell the truth. I never threatened to kill her."
Rossi said Photoglou is a con man who constantly lies. "I just want this guy out of my life," she said. "I don't want anything to do with him. He's constantly trying to use the media to defame me, to gain monetary value for him, and to gain celebrity for himself."
Paul Hillson, a neighbor of Rossi's, said Photoglou moved into her Costa Mesa house right after Beitzel died. He said it "certainly seemed that" the two were dating, and added that he would often see them "lovey dovey, holding hands."
"For her to deny that they were living together kind of shocked me," said Hillson, 38. He also noted that it appears that Smiley is currently living there.
The restraining order requires that Photoglou stay away from Rossi and her two dogs, identified as Rocco and Vito Rossi, plus avoid contacting her through telephone, messages or e-mail. A hearing for Photoglou to respond to the order is scheduled for March 27 at 10:30 a.m.
Photoglou had a previous restraining order filed against him by an ex-girlfriend in 2002. He also has dozens of traffic violations and in 2002 faced allegations of domestic violence that were later dismissed.
Rossi is vying for the "Woman of the Year" title through the Orange County and Inland Empire chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She's also a nominee for most popular and entertaining individual in a reality TV series for Bravo's second-annual A-List Awards, occurring April 5.
Contact the writer: 714-796-6026 or [email protected]