Taylor Armstrong never stopped loving her late, estranged husband Russell.
Although the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star filed for divorce a mere month ago from Russell—who committed suicide yesterday—following a series of very-public falling-outs, she still loved him, family friend Lisa Gastineau tells HollywoodLife.com in an exclusive interview.
“Taylor might not have liked him recently, but she still loved him,” says longtime friend Lisa, who had spent every Thanksgiving with Taylor and Russell since she and her daughter Brittny moved to Los Angeles. “Taylor genuinely cared for him. Despite the fighting, they cared for each other. Their relationship was fragile, but Taylor was his love. They kind of balanced each other. For some reason it worked. And there was genuine love there.”
Lisa last saw Russell and Taylor together about two months ago, and they seemed perfectly fine. “I saw them at [Real Housewives of Beverly Hills co-star] Adrienne Maloof‘s house, about seven to eight weeks ago,” Lisa remembers. “They were filming a benefit at Adrienne’s. They hadn’t split yet, and everything seemed like it was OK. All of the Housewives were there, but since we weren’t being filmed, him and I were just hanging around, talking to each other. He was in good spirits, we were having drinks.”
But that would soon change: Just weeks later, on July 15, Taylor filed for divorce. “She really wanted it to work out, but things had gotten so bad,” says Lisa. “I saw Taylor right when they split. She was accepting of it. She had resolved that she was going to get through this.”
For distraught Lisa, who says she “couldn’t believe it” when her friend Jill Zarin of the Real Housewives of New York called her Tuesday morning and broke the news, she’d rather remember how her friends were at Adrienne’s. “I just want to think of them how they were eight weeks ago.”
While Russell was supportive of his wife’s endevours, Lisa says the stress of being under the reality TV microscope did wear on Russell—specifically his lack of privacy when it came to his business and personal affairs. “I think there was so much outside pressure on him, and being on the show, there was so much scrutiny,” Lisa tells HollywoodLife.com. “I know he was going through hell, because there had been so much scrutiny, because he was so on the radar. I don’t think Russell could handle the scrutiny on him and Taylor, the finances, his reputation. It was all too much.”
She adds, “I don’t think he could handle the scrutiny of his business dealings and the financial hardships, and the dissolution of his marriage. Some people thrive on it.”
But Russell, says Lisa, was happier focusing on his family. “He was happy to have you in his home,” Lisa says. “He always made me feel welcome in his home. Thanksgiving would include southern fried turkey. His mom and kids would be there. He was very southern. He wanted to take care of his family.”