June 29, 2012 9:03 pm
NOTE: Nicolette/Brooks story will be a part of “20/20” starting at 10:00 pm…
Is ‘Real Housewives’ Star a Deadbeat Dad?
Vicki Gunvalson is probably best known as the only original housewife still standing on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” Recently on the show, the divorced businesswoman has fallen for a 45-year-old businessman from Mississippi named Brooks Ayers. Ayers has been described as a deadbeat dad on the show, a label which he and Gunvalson often deny, but now a former girlfriend says she has the proof.
“He has not supported his child,” Nicolette Catanzarite told “20/20.” “He bailed on the hospital bill, the pediatrician bill, and left me with all of it.”
A 41-year-old model and hair salon owner from Indianapolis, Catanzarite is the mother of Ayers’ 3-year-old son. But she didn’t always have such choice words for Ayers. When she first met him, he swept her off her feet.
“I met Brooks in 2007 in Atlanta on a golf trip and he just kind of was a Southern charmer without a doubt,” Catanzarite said. “He just always said the right things at the right time.”
Catanzarite said Ayers treated her like a princess — opening doors, wining and dining her, and giving her a promise ring.
“He did mention that he was going through a divorce and that he was legally separated and that he had three children,” Catanzarite said. “It wasn’t appropriate that he would ask me to marry him while he was still married so he gave me a promise ring.”
Catanzarite said Ayers seemed so up front about his life that she never doubted anything he told her.
“I just believed everything that he said,” says Catanzarite.
Ayers told Catanzarite, who was a divorced mother of four, that he wanted a fresh start…and this time without children. She says he explained to her that he had had a vasectomy.
“It made him sad that he could never, if we were ever to get married, be able to have a baby together,” she said. “I bought it hook, line and sinker.”
When Catanzarite found out she was pregnant a few months in to the relationship she was surprised, but assumed his vasectomy didn’t take and this was a sign.
“I was like, this is gonna be the best kid in the world,” Catanzarite said, thinking that she would be with Ayers for the rest of her life. “I just couldn’t wait to have him and really always thought that this was such a blessing.”
Looking back Catanzarite says the vasectomy was the first of his many lies. Shortly after their son was born she says she noticed Ayers’ behavior was becoming erratic and things quickly went downhill.
“Within two or three weeks I started seeing kind of a different behavior from him,” Catanzarite said. “He was obsessive, angry, moody and controlling with me. It was very strange.”
Catanzarite said he even lied to people about having nose cancer. As Ayers’ lies began to mount, Catanzarite found herself in a quandary.
“Our electric bill was getting shut off, my phone was getting shut off and I didn’t know he hadn’t been paying the rent on the house,” she said. “He would always make up excuses and say the judge has held the escrow account and they’ve locked all their funds until the divorce was final.”
Soon after their son’s birth Catanzarite says Ayers disappeared and he has not been a part of his life at all.
“No birthdays, no cards for Christmas, no phone calls, nothing,” Catanzarite said. “It’s very frustrating.”
In 2010, Catanzarite sued Ayers for child support and they later entered an agreement that Ayers would pay Catanzarite $700 per month and child support arrears of more than $2,500. She says she has received little of that. Catanzarite had been trying to track him down but says she but could only find a post office box number for him. One night a friend insisted she turn on the TV and that’s when she discovered her son’s dad was appearing on “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” Ayers was actually hiding in plain sight for millions to see.
While Ayers reportedly owes thousands of dollars to Catanzarite, he is living large on television flashing new veneers and buying a mink coat for girlfriend, Gunvalson.
Brooks Ayers is no heir to any fortune. He has been arrested for DUI and later pleaded guilty to reckless driving. He has also been arrested for failure to pay child support. Gunvalson gets a lot of flak from family and friends on the show who can’t believe she is dating and defending a man with questionable character.
Recently in an interview on an online TV show, “Ask Dan and Mike,” he brags about how he is an involved father.
“I speak to my kids every day,” Ayers told the host. “I have three kids by my previous marriage and one extra child as well.”
Catanzarite was heartbroken and angry when she heard Ayers refer to their son as an “extra” … on SH May 6, 2012…and it was because of this interview that she decided to speak out for the first time to “20/20.”
In the online interview, Ayers speaks publicly about his support for his children.
“I’ve been in jail as a result of getting behind on child support and I have learned from that. I am happy to tell you that we got everything current. I never walked away from my kids.”
Catanzarite says that’s not entirely true. She says she has yet to see a dime from him and has a warning about the man she thought she knew.
“He’s a manipulator, he’s a liar, he’s a con, he’ll do or say anything to anybody, anytime, anywhere, to get what he wants,” said Catanzarite.
Although she continues to pursue the thousands of dollars she claims Ayers owes her in child support, Catanzarite is not bitter. She says she has found happiness in a new relationship and is raising her son in a loving environment.