‘Princesses: Long Island’ cast member’s boozy shoot with 9/11 statue offends firefighter’s family

Posted at 12:24 AM, Jul 02, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-02 15:39:16-04

HUNTINGTON, NY (PIX11) – The Bravo Network is responding to PIX 11’s questions about one of its reality shows by taking action.  This comes after the family of a fallen hero says they felt disrespected by a recent episode that was filmed at the Jonathan Ielpi Memorial Park in Great Neck Plaza.
Anger swept over Melissa Ielpi-Brengel while she was watching the Bravo reality tv show ‘Princesses: Long Island’, which follows six pampered Long Island women who live with their parents.

In Sunday’s episode, one of the so-called princesses who was doing a photo shoot to promote her product, incorporated a FDNY memorial and 9/11 statue from the Jonathan Ielpi Memorial Park.

The scene shows Amanda Bertoncini doing a photo shoot for her product (a piece of fabric that wraps around any sort of drink can or bottle) at the FDNY memorial where one of the models is hanging on the bronze statue of firefighter Jonathan Ielpi. You can hear the photographer tell the model, “Kiss the fireman, try to feed him the beer.”  Then Bertoncini exclaims, “Yeah, feed him the beer!  Then act scared.”

Ielpi-Brengel is not impressed.  “Pretending I’m drinking with this man who was killed, it may not be against the law to do it, but it is the most disrespectful and digusting that I think you can do,” she said.

Its especially disrespectful to her because that statue is made in the image of her brother: 29-year-old Jonathan Ielpi who lost his life on September 11th, 2001.

“It opens up the wounds and it makes you just want to cry all over again,” said Ielpi-Brengel.

Today, the actress Amanda Bertoncini posted an apology to the Ielpi Family on Facebook, saying, “I would especially like to extend my sincerest apologies to the family of Jonathan Ielpi.  I never meant to hurt or offend anyone when I was doing my photo shoot for The Drink Hanky.  I hope you all can find it in your hearts to forgive me and understand that it was a spontaneous photo shoot without being aware that the statue was of sentimental value.”

“That’s not an apology, it’s just another way to get her product out there,” said Ielpi-Brengel shaking her head.

As for the reality actress claiming she was not aware of the sentimental value, Ielpi-Brengel said this, “How do not know it has something to do with fire department.  You grew up in Great Neck.  You’re a 30-year-old woman, living off your parents, who also grew up in Great Neck.  How do you not know?”

Ielpi-Brengel knows full well that just doing a news story gives the show publicity.

“Unfortunately there will be people who tune into the show just to see what happens next… But at least this shows that we, as 9/11 families, and for all people that were killed, we’re not going to allow people to disrespect it, to forget about it, make jokes about it, because it’s not a joke.  And it never will be.”

Ielpi-Brengel raised the point that she was surprised camera operators, editors and producers of the show never caught the disrespectful nature of the scene.

PIX 11 contacted Bravo Network and a spokesperson issued this statement:

We are extremely sorry for any distress we caused the family of Jonathan Ielpi.  Bravo has removed the footage from any future airings.

While Ielpi-Brengel is happy to hear that response from the network, she says, she still would like a personal public apology from the reality actress to not only her family, but to all 9/11 victims’ families.