At home with one of the Real Housewives of New York City--Dorinda Medley
Photos by John Gruen
Dorinda Medley—entrepreneur, homeowner, mother, and one of the “Real Housewives of New York City”—is our girl. Our Berkshire girl. She belongs to us. Unlike many other prominent Berkshire women, Medley was born, raised, and educated here. She went to Brownies on Bridge Street, attended the old Searles School, and then the Berkshire School in Sheffield.
Medley also waitressed at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge—and her experiences are vivid. She recalls the high standards set by Jane Fitzpatrick, former grand dame and matriarch of the inn. “She was demanding,” recalls Medley, “but at the same time inspirational. We weren’t just waitresses, we were ambassadors for the Berkshires. It wasn’t enough knowing the menu, we had to suggest places of local interest, like the Berkshire theater and the Norman Rockwell Museum.”
After attending Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Medley landed an interview at the fashion house of Liz Claiborne in New York City. Her strong personality and people skills acquired while working in Stockbridge won over the company president. Then she met and later married Ralph Lynch, an Englishman working in New York. When Lynch’s business took him back to England, the couple relocated to London’s upper-crust Chelsea.
Medley got to know London, hanging out at Annabel’s, a private-members club, and shopping at Peter Jones in Sloane Square and Harrods in Knightsbridge. “Back then,” she recalls, “there were no turkeys for Thanksgiving because it wasn’t a holiday for the British. You had to pre-order them from Harrods. It was like winning the lottery if you managed to get one.”
When the marriage ended, Medley returned to the United States so her daughter, Hannah, would be surrounded by American culture. Plus, her friends and contacts were in New York and her family wasn’t very far away in the Berkshires. Once back, she decided to get her real-estate license. One client, Richard Medley, former speechwriter for Geraldine Ferraro and founder of Medley Global Advisors, showed an interest in a brownstone on Manhattan’s East 87th Street. “I sold him the brownstone,” Medley recalls, “and if I’d known how it would turn out, I would’ve sold him a bigger one.”
Richard courted her, and in March of 2005 they got engaged. They came up to the Berkshires house-hunting for a country home and discovered the former home of Lloyd Weinstein, Blue Stone Manor, (pictured left) was on the market. “As a girl, I coveted this house,” Dorinda reminisces. “I just didn’t know one day I’d get it.”
After the untimely death of her second husband, Dorinda found herself back in New York. Not one to sit around and mope, she put herself back out there. Girlfriends suggested she might consider a role in the Bravo series “The Real Housewives of New York City.” Her vibrant personality and excellent communications skills made her a natural for the part.
One of her outstanding performances in the series was sharing the death of her husband, which she says helped so many women who had had similar experiences. She believes she became a role model by demonstrating how moving on was the best way for handling loss. “There’s no point hanging on to the past. All you can do is move on,” she says.
Medley credits her family for her tenacity and ability to go with the flow. She derives her passion for life from her parents, Diane and John Cinkala. The family’s history in the Berkshires dates back to 1890, when her mother’s family, the Magadinis, arrived in the Berkshires and established themselves as masons and builders. In 1949, her father’s family, the Cinkalas, moved from their Brooklyn brownstone to a 180-acre farm in Great Barrington. He met Diane and then, he says with a twinkle in his eye, “I never went back to Brooklyn again.”
At the time the Medleys purchased the estate, which Dorinda named Blue Stone Manor during the course of her first season on the show, they had no idea Dorinda’s family was involved in making the foundation of the house. In fact, her great-grandfather, John Viola, built the foundation, and her grandfather, Adorno “AJ” Magadini, moved one-third of the house across the property in 1945. “Not only does Dorinda have a strong connection with the Berkshires and her family but also with this house,” writes Barbara Syer, president of the Great Barrington Historical Society, in a letter.
The gated house, only a quarter-mile from Route 23, is set on 18 pristine acres with Great Barrington to the east and Mount Washington to the west. Nestled on a hill, it was built in 1904 to Stanford White specifications. Old oaks line the illuminated, pebbled drive approaching the entrance to the house. The corn grown by George Bebe, who owns the conservation land that abuts the property, lends an estate-like look.
When the Medleys bought the house, they subsequently closed it for two years to do some extensive remodeling and restoring. Phil Timpane got the job as builder and once told Dorinda that every artisan in the Berkshires had worked on the restoration.
Dorinda commissioned prestigious New York design firm Marshall Watson Interiors with the directive: Marilyn Monroe meets Frankenstein.
As a result, a strong theatrical sense is reflected throughout the house. Most of the house was gutted, except for the entrance hall; the original cast-iron, baronial Tudor fireplace and stairwell; and the gold-mosaic, Donald-Trump-meets-Liberace powder room.
Dorinda has a strong, dynamic presence. When asked where she gets her energy, she claims it’s innate. She considers Blue Stone Manor a place to relax, renew, and recharge from the fast pace of city life. Yet she has shared her retreat with her co-stars, the other Housewives of New York City on several occasions.
During one visit, the whole entourage strutted up and down Great Barrington’s Railroad Street, where they popped into Twigs, before heading over to the sister store in Lenox, then to recharge at the Patisserie on Main Street.
She admits to shopping at the Lee Premium Outlets and also making daily runs for groceries to Great Barrington’s Big Y.
When asked what she’ll do after she finishes “Housewives,” she purses her lips, pauses, then smiles. “Anything is possible,” she says. “I love it here. My family is here. My sister grows her own vegetables and cans them herself. My mother is a great cook. Maybe we’ll do a cooking thing.”
Sounds like she’s on her way to becoming a real housewife.