A financially troubled Russell Armstrong tried desperately to maintain an illusion of wealth so his wife could become famous on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," but she left him soon after she did, Armstrong's attorney said Tuesday.
Attorney Ronald Richards said Armstrong, still trying to dig out from a 2005 bankruptcy, spent what money he had trying to help his wife, Taylor Armstrong. He said he last spoke to his client in the days before Armstrong was found dead by hanging Monday.
"He worked hard to get her where she was. Who do you think paid for that lifestyle?" Richards said in an interview with TheWrap. "He was disappointed. … He basically spent all their savings, and didn't accumulate any savings, to support the show."
Richards added: "He wasn't rich. He was just generating enough income to not lose the cover. The expenses were getting higher and higher and he was unable to cover it."
Armstrong also complained that the show "didn't care if they ruined his marriage," Richards said.
Bravo, which airs "Real Housewives," and a rep for Taylor Armstrong did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Richards discussed his client as Armstrong's estranged wife and their 5-year-old daughter mourned his death. Taylor Armstrong told People last month that the marriage was at times abusive, and in the same interview, Russell Armstrong said the show had "literally pushed us to the limit."
Richards said his client didn't want to do the show, but wanted to make his wife happy.
"He lost his marriage, he lost his wife, and he was constantly ridiculed by other housewives and by people that would make comments about the show. Stuff that would never have come up was exposed," Richards said.
"He never thought it would be good for the relationship," Richards added. "When people want to be famous, it's worse than getting a junkie off of heroin."
The attorney also disputed Taylor Armstrong's claim that his client was abusive, and said many of the couple's problems stemmed from alcohol. They often drank too much — including at parties they attended for the sake of the show — and Armstrong sometimes had to physically restrain his wife, Richards said.
"If you drink too much with your wife, and one person goes bananas and you grab them and say stop, I didn't think that was domestic violence," Richards said. "I thought that was calming your spouse down."
Armstrong's financial troubles included a 2005 filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in which he claimed $50,000 in assets and between $1 million and $10 million in debts. He never recovered, and staying out late for the show hurt his business, Richards said.
Taylor Armstrong filed for divorce last month. Richards was representing Russell Armstrong in the divorce and in a lawsuit seeking $1.5 million. That suit had accused Armstrong of selling shares in a company and then using the money to redecorate the couple's mansion and invest in a restaurant.
Richards said Armstrong had a past misdemeanor battery conviction and a "minor tax conviction" (actually, a felony) for not paying federal tax years ago.