Jeff Lewis

Beth O. (above) as she accepts some bullshit award that we all know should have a name like “Wife of Legend” award.

On Tuesday night, Beth Ostrovsky, or Stern rather, graced the Bravo airwaves to do her ultra nice, painstakingly inoffensive North Shore Animal League shtick, no doubt because Andy is a huge Howard fan, among other reasons.  Most of which also relate to Howard.  We could see them all part of the same Hamptons circle, and Andy did Howard’s show recently, holding his own despite following an impossible act–Sacha Baron Cohen–appearing as himself.  Great stuff.

So we could picture WWHL wanting Howard and with no shot at landing him on the cable show, settling for Beth.  We are not Beth fans.  We have been hard on her in the past, most recently probably when she published her book about dogs which we said was probably stupid.  Beth has been real savvy when it comes to using Howard’s fame to get herself notoriety, entertainment reporter gigs, and nouveau socialite status.  Very savvy for a B model (do not dare call her a super model now) who has always seemed overly nice in an annoying way, but not really very interesting at all, nor particularly beautiful either for the reverential tones which people use to describe her, like she is some sort of Carmen Electra.

But we watched what happened live the other night and were rewarded with perhaps Beth O’s most interesting appearance ever, anywhere.  While her appearances on Sirius XM’s The Howard Stern Show are so pre-canned and innocuous  with Howard bending over backwards to protect her, and supremely boring for us, Andy Cohen got a gem out of her the other night, although it may have been a remark she’d like to have back.

Andy did a nice job, showing some old pics of Howard, leaving no doubt as to why he is so quick to call himself ugly.  Especially during the NBC years.  Horrifying.  Then he asked her how long they had been together.

“13 years.”

“13 years?”

“13 years.”

So that is Beth declaring that number 13 , not once but twice.  We thought it odd, being the huge fans of the show that we are and having some familiarity with the timeline of Howard’s personal life. And so we hopped right onto the net to check out where 13 years put Howard.

As we thought, Howard was still married to Alison in 1999, the year when Beth and Howard supposedly got together.  They were not divorced until 2001.  Now Howard and Alison were separated in 1999, according to reports.  But Howard often recounts this whirlwind fast lane bachelor period that occurred after he broke up with Alison, when he was “single.”

We would certainly love some clarification on these issues.  Howard, like our good friend Jeff Lewis, has a right to enjoy his personal life, and we are not trying to make him out to be an adulterer.  Moreso, we know there are times when Howard, who proclaims himself to be always truthful, does not tell the truth.  Is this a case of that?  If it isn’t, then Howard essentially met Beth and has been with her from the moment he separated with Alison, in which case, he didn’t have much time for the red hot bachelor period which he often boasts of.

As we’ve also iterated, we are not fans of Beth.  That’s our right.  She’s done absolutely nothing to win us over.  She’s not talented, not funny, not quick on her feet, and not nearly as beautiful as portrayed.  We’ve never liked hearing the stories of how pussy whipped Howard is at her hands.  So this would be an ironic twist to the Howard/Beth love story in the very least, and would provide us with a very concrete reason to justify our distaste for Beth.

Andy should have her back on so that she could clarify (i.e. change her story).  And good job on sneaking in a question from Marianne from Brooklyn.  While we sometimes cringe at how overly gay WWHL is, overall the show has provided some very high quality entertainment.

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Our beloved Jenni (above) playing kiss kiss with a Jeff Lewis promotional SUV.

We’ve never made any secret of the fact that we love Jeff Lewis, who rates with us as an immensely talented and driven individual.  He also happens to be one of the very best personalities on all of television and has been since “Flipping Out with Jeff Lewis” first aired some 5 years ago.  Our respect for Jeff was tarnished, as you may know, during the last season of FOWJL because of how mean he was to Sarah and Trace, and how we felt this turn was affected by Jeff’s partner Gage, who seems manipulative at best and who is, in truth, completely unlikeable.  That’s our opinion, sure, but it is obviously shared by the viewing audience.  The Gage feedback is decidedly negative, and with good reason.  We can tell by all the traffic we get to our page based on negative Gage internet queries.

It takes a special sort to put daggers into people’s backs, to submarine Jeff’s family members, and to sneakily sift through a rival’s email, and then use those findings to prompt his firing.  We aren’t going to like Gage.  That’s how it is.  The people who love Jeff won’t ever like him.  Fact.  But Jeff is a person with a right to happiness, and he likes Gage, and needs him as a steward for his business, as a hatchet man for dead wood.

In fact, we feel Jeff has a greater right to happiness than most because he provides us with so much quality entertainment.  The flap with Ryan exploiting Jeff’s name was legitimate, and it obviously hurt Jeff very badly.  It was a double whammy, for reasons of breach of trust and because it effectively ended Jeff’s relationship with Ryan’s daughter, to whom he obviously became quite attached.  Jeff, for all the bluster, and brutal honesty, perhaps may be closer to the “fragile little turtle” that Kelly, a “shamanic therapist” who was featured in a recent episode of the new Jeff Lewis hit “Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis” suggested.  And therefore he needs a guy like Gage to be the heavy, to have his back against the incompetence of the Sarahs of the world, and of the time stealers like Trace, who in all candor, Jeff is probably too nice of a guy to fire.

Lewis has built a loyal fan base on the strength of his talent, wit, straight talk, and of course, because of the epic flip outs.  But last year, it seemed over the top.  Even when Jeff had set up spy cams that led to the breakup of Jenni’s marriage, you never got the sense that Jeff was a mean guy.  Jeff was mean to Sarah though, and in fact, bludgeoned her with meanness so repeatedly, that she wisely felt relief when he let her go.
But that’s the show, now more than ever.  Jeff isn’t flipping houses.  He’s just flipping.  While the fans have a right to criticize the show, it would be hypocritical of us all to be too hard on him for doing that which he does perhaps even better than design: nag, criticize, complain, badger and even bludgeon.

So we apologize to Jeff Lewis for our heavy handed criticisms.  Either way, we are married to his endeavors as we are often mesmerized by the force of his personality, the more so when he is flipping out uncontrollably.  While we criticized the show, especially when he was so mean to Sarah and Jenni, suggesting she could also be fired, we should not criticize his personal life.

This is not to suggest that the show has gotten out of hand, but in looking at IT, it is clear that Bravo has found a new medium and a great outlet for Jeff to do his thing.  Perhaps it is an even better outlet than Flipping Out which at times has become tedious because of the more contrived, repetitive, and played out aspects of the show.

How much Chaz can we really take, after all?  How much can we take of the same jobs and storylines that drag on from season to season?  What about Sarah’s trap bachelor party and similar antics, such as what we feel was his rift with Jenni, probably done mostly for the cameras?

How much abuse should Zoila be subject to, after all?

So we love Interior Therapy because Jeff gets to do what he does best: flip out and design great spaces.  The formula for the show is a winner, providing Jeff new people to complain about each week, thereby sparing Jenni and Zoila the abuse, and has subtracted the most hated part of the equation, which obviously is Gage.

And when Jeff gets to work in these homes and on these people, the things that come out of his mouth are priceless.  A few weeks back when re-doing Kelly the shaman therapist’s office, Jeff immediately hit on the bane of Kelly’s existence, her relationship with her ex-husband, who had moved out 5 years prior, but whose stuff dominated the home.  As soon as Kelly declared her love life complicated, Jeff followed with a barrage of questions, ascertaining that Kelly’s ex Armand was seeing other people.  Cut to Kelly, who declared to the camera that she was uncomfortable being grilled about her love life.  Cut back to Jeff, launching more and more questions, declaring the odd relationship “fascinating.” Cut to Jeff again, now telling the camera that obviously Kelly needs to move on, that the guy sees other people and that Kelly is in denial.

Then Jeff discovers a load of rat feces in Kelly’s office space, sending Jeff’s OCD into high gear.  When Jeff and Jenni pack the family off so they can complete their work, a necessity because Jeff refuses to try to explain to somebody that they don’t need 9 pairs of tweezers (Kelly is also a horder), he begins to go through the entire house with a huge trash bag, throwing all kinds of senseless shit away, while admitting he is unable to stop.

Jeff then focuses on the fact that Kelly keeps old fortunes from fortune cookies.

“Jenni”, he says, “do you save your old fortunes from fortune cookies?”


“Kelly does.” Then Jeff discovers another old fortune and blurts out, “Look.  Another fucking fortune!”

Jeff has been fairly diplomatic with some on the new show, at least to their faces.  Some of the time.  We can’t say he was too diplomatic with Ross Matthews, with whom he butted heads with repeatedly.  But who in the audience could stand Matthews’ grating personality and bully attitude?  The only person around who could stand up to him was the one who did.  Jeff Lewis.

With nicer people he has looked to massage situations a bit more, yet when it’s just him and the camera, or him and Jenni, he speaks his mind.  That type of talk is well worth the price of admission.  Like when Jeff declared a few weeks back that the home he was doing did not have one nice possession and that everything needed to be thrown away, suggesting that not even charities would want that stuff donated.  Or how when last week Jeff made fun of the very annoying Brit who repeatedly questioned Jeff’s taste, yet wore eccentric, over-sized bow ties.  Jeff told Jenni he couldn’t look at “another stupid fucking bow tie” and also complained “I hate these people.”

Stupid bow tied British douchebag (above).

Jeff has dealt with more than one horder, several momma’s boys, domineering women and men, and other difficult personalities.  And in short spans of time, has done everything he could to set them all straight personally, while also taking care of their homes.  He has also cracked us up in the process.

That’s why Jeffrey Lewis is the man, and why almost any JL driven show would work.  Kudos to Bravo for finding the perfect vehicle for this great talent.  They have channeled Jeff’s energy toward less static situations and different families and we may even feel the new show is a better one than Flipping Out, especially since Gage was added to the cast.

In fact, Jeff is flipping out more than ever.  He’s just not making us cringe while doing so.  Neither is the smarmy, duplicitous, officious Gage who stars by his exclusion, positively conspicuous by his absence.

Speaking of traffic, we’d like to thank our loyal readers and others for their patronage.  On Wednesday we had 69,000 plus to this site.  But don’t worry.  We are not about to go big time on you!

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Recently fired Jeff Lewis employees Sarah and Trace (above).

As the new season of Flipping Out with Jeff Lewis was set to start, and Bravo was running their catch up marathons, several fans left us comments expressing their out and out disdain for Lewis.  In fact, one angry viewer and reader even bluntly theorized that for Jeff Lewis to treat his minions as he does, he must have a “small dick.”  We put it mildly.  And we defended our favorite gay man that side of Andy Cohen, and explained to the readers that Jeff has the talent to get away with treating people badly, and that he does makes the show.

Now we find ourselves more on the side of angry readers and viewers who are dissatisfied, and are increasingly upset at what the show has become.  There’s no doubting that Jeff Lewis is a singular talent and we firmly believe that for a while, was one of the funniest and most unique characters anywhere on television.  We thought most of his kidding to be good natured, and most of his insults to be tongue and cheek, and that most of his entourage who were in effect, his family, actual and for real intents and purposes, would be safe no matter how much the man protested otherwise.

It’s not true.  Jeff Lewis is a mean dick, becoming worse by the second, contradicting his claim for the need to expand his business by firing employees who were more than just employees for petty reasons, goaded by his Machiavellian boyfriend to act on petulant whims rather than the calculated acumen that made him the success he is.  Let’s be real. Who the fuck is Gage, from what rock did he crawl out from under, and does anyone like him and not take him for the controlling, backstabbing scumbag he is?

For the past few seasons, Jeff lived in a big, beautiful house called Valley Oak, got on pretty well with his staff, aside from his ego manufacturing problems with Jenni and Sarah, and was frequently depicted having nice takeout lunches and cocktails with his people.  We saw Jeff put Trace threw the mill with a client who got physical with him, we saw a proud Jeff Lewis design beam at Trace’s graduation, and we saw Jeff and Sarah get on like girlfriends, and Jeff dote over his houseboy Jett’s baby.

Jett has a baby and Sarah is related to Jeff through marriage, and Trace was a beloved protege.  Enter Gage, who had undermined Sarah all season until Jeff did what we thought was the unthinkable and fired her last week, who for no apparent reason, opened an email on Trace’s computer that he was not asked to open, leading to Trace’s dismissal, and who openly lobbied for Jett’s firing, a guy trying to support a family.  As Jett’s performance review approached, Gage sarcastically quipped to him “good luck with that”, and afterward, denied that he pushed for Jett’s firing, when he was the only one who did.

When Jeff sat with his sister-in-law, who is Sarah’s sister, and told her that he had to fire Sarah, she said as long as he didn’t disrespect her in the process, it wouldn’t cause a family a problem.  Jeff said no problem, but had already disrespected Sarah so thoroughly beyond the point of no return by, well, flipping out on her so early and often.  Sarah was not about to beg for her job, the way Jeff’s ego no doubt desired, because, well, the job wasn’t worth the abuse.  And Trace?  Fired for doing a design of his closet on Jeff’s time.  If that’s really such a big problem, but with Trace like family at this point, and so integral an employee on so many levels, couldn’t Jeff have just had a word with him and docked him some pay?  It’s a 22 year old kid, after all, who one would think would make mistakes here and there, and who we have seen rarely at fault.  When Gage opened the email of Trace’s closet plan, it was he who was beaming, and who questioned aloud, “what to do now?” as if he hadn’t just struck for a personal jackpot.

We really don’t think Trace deserved to be fired and we certainly don’t think that Trace deserved to be called an arrogant asshole by Jeff, or to be screamed at.  So at Trace’s performance review, when he was ambushed by Jeff and Gage, Trace, a quick study, caught on really well, and didn’t defend himself, knowing he had won his ticket out of the mad, angry world of Jeff Lewis, driving off into the sunset in his Range Rover.

Now Jeff lives in a smaller house, under a palpable cloud of discontent, fostered by Gage’s greed and jealousy.  Sarah was a relation and had to go.  He made sure Jeff got rid of her.  Trace was younger and prettier.  Gage got rid of him too.  Jett is just a nice guy, struggling in life, doing whatever he can, like pissing in a jug, handling Zoila’s panties, and shining shoes, but he’s also younger and prettier, if straight, so we would bet on Gage getting his way and forcing Jeff to get rid of Jett too.

And where is all of this next level business Gage was supposed to be helping Jeff land?  All we see is Jeff scrambling to hold on to Cole, eating shit from this annoying Jewish lady who hates Jenni, and managing some low budget renovation for some aging rockstar’s wife.  It’s certainly not like doing the kitchen of the year, or a high traffic restauraunt, plus several homes, like last year.

It all begs the question, what was Gage doing before Jeff came along?  Because he certainly only seems to be this great business manager in Jeff’s mind, and he has wreaked havoc on the office and on Jeff’s already tenuous personal life. 

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Chaz does diss Jeff Lewis Design and choose someone else for his New York salon?  Or perhaps a better way to phrase it would be, wouldn’t it be deserved?  Because there’s probably some equally talented designers out there who are also nice people and who don’t surround themselves with cold and conniving twerps.  We certainly hope Zoila and Jenni are untouchable, but for all we know, Gage is plotting their demise as well.

Would Jenni still get a producer’s credit if that were the case?  And would she still write catchy jams like “Prostitution Whore” and “Joisey’s in Da House”?  Leave it to Gage to fuck up an entire cable network.  Hopefully, Andy Cohen will call out Gage and Jeff on their shenanigans on WWHL and the reunion show, as he is so good at doing.

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Jeff Lewis (blue shirt), flanked by Jenni (left), Chris, and Ryan Brown (above).

In season one of Flipping Out with Jeff Lewis, Bravo’s twist on Home and Garden’s House Hunters/Designed to Sell, it didn’t take long to figure out that Bravo’s twist was significant, humorous and compelling enough to make the show–and Lewis–a cult favorite.  Lewis, an OCD, narcissist egomaniac, as the story goes, was not the original subject of the show that Jenni and Chris were developing for Bravo.  Both fledgling actors, they had gotten Bravo’s ear and were pitching a show about their lives, which included making the rounds to casting calls and open mics, while working at Jeff Lewis’ design business, which at the time, and in a different economy, concentrated on remodeling and flipping houses.

Ryan Brown was Jeff’s partner, former boyfriend, and best friend, who had a new boyfriend, some gay dude in cooking school, and they had a daughter, Chloe, who Jeff most certainly regarded as his own as well.  When Bravo took a look at Lewis, Jenni’s and Chris’s own show was forgotten, and a star was born in Lewis, a meticulous and fastidious worker with undying work ethic, perhaps only matched by his drive for control and success, and an inability to let small things go.  The combination of Lewis’s character traits, along with his acerbic wit has made Jeff Lewis one of television’s best kept secrets and most interesting personalities.

In season 1, Jeff spent a lot of the time verbally sparring with Jenni’s husband Chris, whom he regarded as lazy, and whom he felt did not take his business as seriously as he did the pursuit of his acting career, and his bit part in the Method Man film How High.  Jeff battered Chris constantly, and battered Jenni about Chris, her husband, because Jenni, as Jeff’s executive assistant, was always with him in the car, and making the rounds to different properties–a captive audience.  An obvious conundrum for Jenni, who stuck up for her husband, and believed she was right to do so.  Jeff said Chris was using the internet to chat amongst friends on Jeff Lewis’s time from Jeff’s office.  Jenni and Chris said he wasn’t.  Chris quit a few times, came back, quit some more, and so forth, but the internet problem was never adequately resolved in Jeff’s mind.  So that’s when Jeff set up a secret camera in his office to catch Chris in the act.  In a thrilling climax to the end of season 2, Jeff not only caught Chris on tape, but caught him on tape chatting over the net to other women.  The ripple effect crushed Jenni and her marriage, and when season 3 convened, Jenni was newly divorced. 

Jeff is quick to point out that he only did what he did to protect his business, and had no idea that he would be destroying Jenni’s marriage in the process.  That said, Jeff, obviously remorseful on some level, was also unapologetic.  Jenni’s husband was bad news, he contested, and Jeff forced a hard, but necessary change.  But he had to live with the damage he did to Jenni’s life up close, during a dark period for her.  And despite his rampant sarcasm and the fact that he’ll make you wear a hazmat suit as punishment for not saying his phone recitation properly (“It’s a great day at Jeff Lewis’s office!  This is Jenni speaking.  How may I help you?”), you could tell that Jeff felt awfully about Jenni, and that he had a heart.

Season 3’s controversy centered around Ryan Brown.  When Jeff found out that by googling the name “Jeff Lewis”, the first google redirect was to Ryan’s website, Ryan Brown Desgin, Jeff was incensed.  Ryan claimed it was innocently done and that anyone who called looking for Jeff Lewis was directed by his staff to Jeff.  Jeff didn’t believe that, and if Ryan was lying, it meant that Jeff would be losing a business partner, whom Jeff had made rich, a best friend, and his connection to Chloe, the little girl Jeff so obviously adored.  Jeff tried to keep the business separate from the personal as best he could, and his huge heart was evident when he insisted on taking care of all of the children’s entertainment for Chloe’s 3rd birthday party, from balloons to bouncy houses to kid’s games, sparing no expense.  Jenni, a talented slam poet and a rapper, even showed up in a giant frog suit and regaled Chloe with a special birthday rap.  But at the end of the party, an obviously distraught Jeff, realizing that this was probably the last good time he’d have with Ryan and Chloe, because of Ryan’s unethical business dealings, did something we thought we’d never see: he lost his composure and became emotional, sneaking away from the party quietly in very un-Jeff like fashion.

Was Ryan stealing business from him?  Yes he was.  Despite his denials, and his forceful if not logical denial that people “simply do not steal business from competitors in this business”, he had exploited Jeff’s name, and Jeff later found that many clients looking for Jeff ended up with Ryan.  But Ryan, in weasel-like fashion, tried to make it a poker match with Jeff, claiming such outrage at having such an accusation leveled at him that if Jeff went forward with it, then his and Jeff’s long standing friendship was done.  A cruel move indeed, considering that Ryan was essentially stealing from Jeff and then using his daughter as a chip over Jeff in what amounted to blackmail. 

Jeff once again did the right thing, which was also the hard thing, and it would devastate him, the way the evidence against Chris devastated Jenni.  But now we are seeing an older, more retrospective Jeff Lewis, even perhaps a crazier Jeff Lewis.  Examples?  Jeff ordering his male employees, Trace and Jett, to urinate in jugs and then pour the urine out around his estate called Valley Oak, to mark the territory, because he had heard that human urine repelled hyenas, and he was worried about his pets’ safety, having heard about a hyena problem in his neighborhood.  Jeff obsessing about his housekeeper Zoila’s house work, despite the fact that she is up there in years and still does an amazing job in a huge house that always seems spotless.  After reducing Zoila to tears repeatedly, Jeff’s assistant and sister-in-law’s sister, Sarah, told Jeff to go and apologize.  “Why?” Jeff asked.  “Um,” began Sarah, “because you really aren’t very nice.”

Good for Sarah, who had done the right thing.  But it was very bad for her the next week when Jeff turned Sarah’s personal life into television fodder by picking at her over the fact that her boyfriend of 10 years had not yet proposed.  Jeff made it a topic of conversation with everyone in the office, and hammered away at Sarah until she had her own crying fit.  Zoila–as much a mother figure as employee to Jeff–this time had Sarah’s back.  “Jeffrey,” said Zoila, “you are a professional man.  You have to treat people professionally.”  We also learned that Zoila worked 29 or 30 days each month, including two Sundays each week at Jeff’s grandmother’s, for whom she had worked for in some capacity for many years.

The next week, Jeff took to absolutely hammering Jenni, repeatedly citing her absent-mindedness, threatening to fire his best and most long standing employee, practically firing her when she misplaced Jeff’s planner, and then telling the rest of the office that Jenny is ditzy, unreliable, and that whatever he tells her goes in one ear and out the other.  Was the planner that big a deal?  I don’t think so.  It could only have been at a few places, where they had just finished making rounds.  But Jenny was fired if she couldn’t find the planner, and even when she did find it, she never heard the end of it.  Frankly, as a big Jeff Lewis fan but also a Jenni fan, the verbal abuse was not funny.  It was over the top, incessant, and remarkedly short sighted, and at that moment, I was hoping that she quit.

When Jeff Lewis flips out it is often good comedy and very entertaining.  But in the progression of the show and in Jeff’s life, we now see a man who may never have another intimate relationship, and whose obsessive behavior has probably cost him that.  We feel for him.  This man is a design genius that is probably unmmatched by any home designer on television.  He makes those people who remodel properties with the 9 kids look like completely annoying amateurs, has made Trading Spaces virtually unwatchable by nature of his impressive talents, and even designed House Beautiful’s Kitchen of the Year for 2010 which was displayed all summer here in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, a truly singular honor.

Jenni, one of the show’s producers, thankfully did not quit.  And we are grateful that Jeff finally calmed down.  Sarah, to her credit, got engaged.  But let’s be real.  Jeff Lewis could get tears from a stone.  On the flip side, we’ve also seen him buy Zoila a new car this season, ask Zoila to raise the child he plans to adopt when he took her along on a business trip to New York, because she has “never gotten to go anywhere”, and tell Zoila how important she is to him over a nice dinner in Little Italy.  Jeff has even let Jett, his house manager, bring his baby to work.  We don’t think we’d have seen that from Jeff five years ago, and don’t believe we’d have ever seen it had his relationship with Ryan and Chloe not fractured.  We’ve even seen Jeff, used to getting his way and seeing his design visions carried out unilaterally bend on account of sentimental reasons, which never before had even a diagram in his playbook.  He attended Trace’s college graduation, and despite being impatient while there, playing with his Blackberry every two seconds, and running out to the car to drink Coronas, he saw the kid’s big moment.

When Jeff found out that Chaz, a high end stylist who owns a luxe boutique called Cole, with whom he has also forged a friendship with, wanted to keep a mural in his boutique because that mural reminded him of his brother’s passing, Jeff actually felt badly for pushing so hard to have the mural scrapped, and proposed a way in which the mural could be properly preserved.  It reminded me of Terminator 2: “I now know why you cry.” 

Does it mean that people who hate Jeff Lewis have stopped leaving human fesces at his job sites?  Not hardly.  Has he softened on his stance that his employees “should not eat dinner”?  No.  And we wouldn’t want him too.  But if I had an extra $ 100 K, would I want Jeff to shape up this old house?  You bet.  And after tonight’s finale, Jeff Lewis will be greatly missed, and we can only hope that Bravo is smart enough to bring back one of television’s best characters, and maybe, it’s best reality television show.

Flipping Out with Jeff Lewis, season finale, tonight @ 9 PM on Bravo. 

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