'Summer House's Kyle Cooke on His Loverboy Breakup With Carl Radke and Season 7's 'Awkward' Start (Exclusive)
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Kyle Cooke admits Carl Radke's exit from Loverboy was "a long time coming."
"What people are seeing us kind of come into, that first weekend, is months of a little bit of long overdue conversation," the Summer House star explains to ET of how season 7 kicked off, awkward tension looming between the two pals who, for the past three years, had worked together at Kyle's canned alcoholic beverage brand.
Carl was feeling unfulfilled and undervalued at the company, but Kyle felt as if he'd done as much as he could to make his buddy happy in a way that also made sense for the business. Kyle says Carl's waning interest in the brand was felt beyond just him and his wife, Amanda Batula, who runs creative for Loverboy.
"Multiple people approached me with concern," he says. "It's not like I was holding these personal vendettas. You know, I am trying to run a company here. ... but I didn't expect our business to be everybody's business."
"I had sensed, like, right when kind he hit his peak productivity, it was almost like, boom! He started taking a step back," Kyle recalls. "By April , I had already tried to bring in a new VP to help run things on the sales and distribution side. ... I wanted to give him a chance to formally redefine his role, right? And when he waited a month -- while getting a full-time salary to do that -- I was frustrated."
Those frustrations boil over on season 7; in sneak peeks at upcoming episodes, Kyle calls Carl "checked out" and announces to their castmates that he could exit the business, and the brand wouldn't feel any impact.
"He was absolutely checked out," Kyle doubles down. "I think he was doing a lot of busy work, right? And I think he would be the first to admit it. I feel bad for saying that we wouldn't feel his absence. I had reached peak frustration. At this point, the whole house is talking about Loverboy."
"I regret saying [that he wouldn't be missed], he is absolutely missed," he says. "He is an incredible guy, and when he puts his mind to it, he is incredibly capable. So, I just let my frustration get the best of me in that moment."
Fans will see the two attempt to work through their issues in front of their Hamptons housemates over the course of the summer, including Carl's now-fiancée, Lindsay Hubbard. One episode in, and viewer opinion seems split on what level of impact Lindsay had on Carl questioning his place at the company.
"I'm no dummy," Kyle says. "You know, whether it's an email, or a conversation, he had his [Lindsay-approved] talking points."
"I know she was in his ear," he adds. "It was very clear to me that they've had multiple conversations ... about his quitting."
What viewers won't see on season 7 is Carl actually put in his two weeks notice. Kyle says they didn't officially part ways until December after a "long, slow process," which also included Carl reevaluating if his sobriety aligned with working at the brand.
"There's multiple factors here, he's brought a lot of them up," Kyle reflects. "If he is no longer drinking, and a big part of his job is to go host these events, I can understand and appreciate him not wanting to be around people drinking."
That said, Kyle "wants to remind everybody" that Carl had worked at the company as a sober person for longer than he did while he was drinking.
"Carl stopped drinking season 5, he was totally sober season 6," Kyle notes. "Like, that's not what's changed, you know? And yes, I’m well aware that when people are in a relationship it's-- I’m not always gonna have 'single Carl' like I used to, but ... I think entering into the house [for season 7], it was a subdued version of himself, right? I know Lindsay's a lot to deal with; I know he's trying to make her happy, and I know they're navigating living together, and the build-up to his proposal. So it's very clear one of the reasons why Loverboy was like in the backseat, Lindsay was his new priority."
"I think I was just bummed that the Carl that I know, and I love, just seemed to be kind of missing in action," he shares. "I hope we quickly kind of get back to normal."
Carl, too, felt like the Kyle he knew was missing in action. He's said he saw Kyle just as "checked out" as he was at the company, leaving Carl to operate as "the face" of it, but Kyle doesn't find that fair.
"I am the founder, I am the CEO," Kyle explains. "I have over 20 people working for me. He is the first to leave. We want to create a positive work environment, but I think he is referring to me going to Winter House, and he is referring to me going to film The Traitors, which I chalk up to personal brand building opportunities that help me sell more Loverboy. If our main customer acquisition strategy is TV, then I don't know what he is talking about, because I haven't taken a vacation in four years."
"So that logic doesn't line up, neither does him talking about things as if he is the face of the brand," he continues. "He signed up for this, you know? ... 'If I am throwing an event in Chicago without Kyle, then I am the face of the brand.' OK? I am literally paying you to do that."
"I wanted to give him that chance, and I think where I get frustrated is when he does talk about feeling blindsided or undervalued or underpaid or under appreciated, I am like, Carl, for most of the time we have worked together it hasn't been smooth sailing," he adds. Kyle hired Carl when he was down on his luck, having lost his previous sales job.
"Some of his personal struggles, he would bring into the work place and, you know, in a normal environment -- where you are not working with your friend who knows what you are capable of -- he probably wouldn't have lasted long," Kyle says. "It was awkward leading up to the summer, it was awkward leading up to him finally quitting, but it was a long time coming. Something had to change, and then it was several months of awkwardness, like, 'Hey, buddy! Happy New Year!' And then... crickets, so I was like, 'Listen, before this season airs -- 'cause we all know that that can kind of create its own little vortex and make things worse -- let's get dinner and catch up.'"
The two met up a week ahead of Summer House's return and are currently in the rebuilding phase of their friendship, finding the sweet spot that works for them now that business isn't a part of their relationship (though Carl remains an investor in Loverboy).
"The last thing we want is for what happened last summer, leading up to it and then after it, to affect our friendship," Kyle promises. "That's the No. 1 priority, it always has been. ... For the time being, this was the right move and I respect his decision."
"He will be missed," he reiterates. "Everyone appreciates Carl and what he did for the company. I think we are all in support of whatever he needs to do to be happy, and also I think everybody understands and appreciates that our friendship kind of got strained, so now that's the new focus."
Kyle and Carl's friendship isn't the only one tested by season 7 of Summer House; Lindsay and BFF Danielle Olivera have a falling out that leaves their relationship, as Danielle puts it in the trailer, "beyond repair."
"I was oblivious to some of the challenges that that Lindsay and Danielle might have been having," Kyle admits. "But you know, Lindsay likes to set her boundaries ... and what's very clear to me, she was kind of setting boundaries with Danielle and Danielle's friendships with the other ladies in the house. I was oblivious to that, but it became very crystal clear that Lindsay would not be OK with Danielle reconciling things with Mya [Allen], and having a good laugh with Paige [DeSorbo] and Amanda, you know?"
"It has nothing to do with [Lindsay and Carl's] relationship," he adds. "Danielle was in full support of them. I'm sure she had her question, just like everybody -- there's a lot of history here -- but she was still die-hard, you know? Going hard in the paint for Lindsay and Carl when she came into the house, episode 2. So I just really think it stems from Lindsay wanting full control over who Carl and Danielle can be friends with, and when she lost some of that, it really sparked [their fallout]."
The vibes were definitely off in episode 1, with notable members of the cast, including Danielle and Ciara Miller, MIA, and Carl and Lindsay opting for early bedtimes and workout classes over late-night partying. It also seemed as if most of the house didn't know what version of Carl and Lindsay they'd be getting.
"There were bunch of things that weren't addressed in Winter House, because all the girls, Lindsay included, knew that they could hopefully address those things at the season 6 reunion of Summer House," Kyle recalls. "I think myself and Amanda included felt none of that was actually being addressed at the reunion. That's why we ended up playing a more active role; we got a ton of s**t for it."
"It was insanely awkward," he says. "I will give people hope: the vibe of the house definitely starts to change. I think we have our first party by weekend three, which that's not normal. We usually kick things off of the party. So, little slow start on the partying front, we get to our rooms, you know, we have some fun."
Along for the ride is Kyle's mullet, a haircut more than a decade in the making.
"I like to say that you don't choose the mullet, the mullet chooses you," Kyle cracks, "and the mullet chose me 15 years ago, I just never grew real one. I traded like a $200 pair of aviators for my first mullet at a Halloween party, probably about 2005, 2006. So I don't really have any plans [to cut it]."
"[Amanda] finds it repulsive," he admits. "I’m pretty sure I was a lot more handsome without the mullet, but life's too short not to have a controversial haircut."
Kyle says the Summer House production team even attempted to stage an "intervention" at the end of filming season 7, but he refused their efforts.
"I want to do something provocative," he says. "[And] if I film Winter House season 3, I’ve got my own neck warmer."
Summer House airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.
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