20210527: Bridal Show, Year Two, and The Network Offer.

We learned a great deal in year one of the Bridal Show and refined our efforts for year “deux”. Background is no longer necessary.

The big difference in year two was the addition of ABC News. We had a local murder in town, and the B&B was heavily involved in assisting the FBI (feeding them – not investigating, of course.) An interview at our house was scheduled for the mother of the victim and at the last minute, cancelled. I was nice to the press all during the investigation and while they were in my home, but never gave them any details. One reporter, Rob Harleston, from the ABC affiliate noticed we were decorated for something big ….. and he asked. I explained about the bridal show and he said, “Oh, we’ll have to come down and shoot that….. when is it?”. I thought he was teasing me and replied, “March 3rd, Yeah, you and your big network and me and my piddley ‘lil bridal show, I won’t hold my breath.”

Well, Rob Harleston made me eat my words. About a week before the Bridal Show, Rob called and said he had a photog crew and wanted to come down and shoot for FOUR HOURS, in order to get 5 minutes of good tape.

I almost swallowed my shirt.

Four hours? “Rob”, I said, “Are your sure you can be that generous with the station’s time?”. He laughed and said, “Only if you’re making lunch.

I will say this, up front. That phone call was about 25yrs ago and I still consider Rob Harleston a good friend.

Well, four hours of network affiliate video tape meant we had to move up the schedule DRASTICALLY. All the vendors had to come in DAYS early. And this year, we had vendors from FIVE states, and many were not done with their displays. A few of them could not meet the accelerated schedule, but almost all of them did. Memphis Bridal Gallery came in….. we were now modeling 15K-50K wedding gowns….. and I was able to get the girls basketball team excused from school for the day. It worked….. everything was in place….. by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.

We had hair and makeup artists here to polish the girls, and loads of Grandma Dellas and MIL friends to fit the girls properly. The girls were positively breathtaking. I mean….. stunning. No guys, though, not for the ABC portion. There must have been a dozen of my girlfriends whizzing in and out that day. They saw the news truck, and it was …………. game on.

Yet, the ABC guys only spent about 15 minutes with the girls. They shot video of several of the displays and I took them around and introduced them to vendors, but I filled in for vendors who were not there and could not get away from their businesses during the weekday.

Strangely, when we went into guest room #2, Rob began a different format which I didn’t even notice at the time, and started interviewing me, asking me questions about the house, casual and funny conversation. I can’t remember what we talked about all these years later, but I do remember standing in the bathtub in the room, practically doubled over in laughter. Yeah…. We laughed and had a great time….. cameras rolling.

The girls went back to school and we went down to have some lunch……. cameras still rolling…….. We sat and ate lunch, cameras still rolling……… we went out in the yard…….. cameras still rolling…. Husband came home at one point, cameras still rolling, girlfriends still whizzing in and out……. cameras still rolling. Rob was lively, and you all know me………. I can talk to a doorknob.

The ABC crew left and I packed snacks for their trip back to Memphis. Big hugs and kisses goodbye. They were a terrific crew. It was a great day.

Welllllllllllllllll, apparently I missed the first airing of the B&B Bridal segment on the local station……… but apparently, everyone in town saw it.

And they ran it, morning, noon, and night, until the day of the bridal show.

Do you have ANY idea what that kind of press and air time would normally cost a small biz like mine????

Of course, Rob was a model for the Bridal Show, and the crew came back again for the big day. All the town ladies were decked out…….. cuz they were going to be on the news that night. I could have kissed Rob!

About 2 weeks later, I invited Rob and his photog guys to a super expensive lunch but in a casual place. I certainly needed to return the favor and thank them……..

……….. When I got into the shower to get ready to drive into Memphis…….. I started thinking…… How on earth could I get that kind of press on a fairly regular basis? I could never afford it. What could I do? I racked my brain….. thinking.

And you KNOW how dangerous that can be.

I thought about the local news, because I had watched more local news in the past 5 days than at any other time in my life. The local ABC and FOX affiliates had just switched stations, and they were both “re-programming” and trying different things to gain more viewership. So………. I had an idea, and hit the guys with with idea at lunch.

It seemed to me there was always a cooking segment on at noon news. BUT, I had the idea to do the cooking segment, sponsored by a local grocery……….. and using an ingredient which was ON SALE this week. That way, the advertising dollars would be MUCH easier to SELL to the sponsor. Makes sense, right?

Now go further…..

The gardening segment should not be a guy from New England, talking about HIS grass/flowers/vegetables. We needed to shoot the grass HERE and talk about our yards LOCALLY. I offered up three LARGE local vendors and an army of professionals who would LOVE to consult or show up in my yard.

Go further…..

There’s always a do-it-yourself segment on the weekend editions…… And I was married to a contractor…… Hello? And he had a pristine midwest accent and presented well. Perfect. Home Depot? Lowe’s? Ace hardware?

I had the corner on ANY holiday or seasonal planning, that was easy for me…………. Hobby Lobby as a sponsor would be an easy advertising sale and boost revenue for the station.

I went on and on, with examples of short segments, and what would SURELY be eager sponsors.

Lunch was great…… Rob asked me to write up a brief outline of the idea and he promised he would submit it. The photog guys loved the idea and volunteered to be the ones to always film. They were funny. I spent a few hours on an outline when I got home and mailed it off to Rob, plus sent by email. Rob gave me a videotape of the segment I could use for promotions. He was incredibly kind.

I moved on with my life. Forgot about the idea.

About two weeks later, I got a call from Rob. He wanted me to come in and “present” my idea……. talk about coming out of left field…… Then, he dropped a bomb.

You see, the National Planners for ABC had come in from Los Angeles for rounds of meetings with station management. biggest thing on the agenda was new content and raising revenue. One of the things station management had done was submit to the big wigs in LA, my 2-3 minute segment with souped-up outline of my original idea. The planners loved it. It was about 10:20am when Rob called…… he said they wanted to meet with me, immediately. AND they were currently sitting in a room, watching my 4+ hours of unedited film. They liked it all……

Then, Rob dropped a bigger bomb.

He said, “here’s the issue, and you need to be prepared……” I was walking around with a cordless phone listening to Rob while he talked….. I bet my face had already contorted into a thousand different expressions of disbelief, but when he said I “needed to be prepared”, I grabbed the dining room chair to brace myself. He said, Martha Stewart had just left Good Morning America and signed with NBC……. and the ABC planners were looking for someone less pretentious……. and for God’s sakes……….. she’s perfect………… and she’s married to a Bob Villa.

I had to sit down….

Weird….. Over the years, a few guests and locals had referred to me as the home grown version of Martha. Privately, the staff/girlfriends would always reply, “Martha ain’t got $hit on us.” PLUS, when we bought the house, we contacted “This Old House”, trying to be a feature. They were VERY interested, had never done a project in our region…. cuz they said experts were hard to come by….. but were assured because we had master trim guy on staff and specialized in historic renovation….. Talks with “This Old House” went on for months, but they finally wanted to put us on an 18 month wait….. and we could not “wait”, we wanted to finish the house. Could this really be happening????

Rob kept going….. “but you need to be here, right now. How fast can you get here?”

I told him to give me an hour.

I threw on my best suitcoat dress, black crepe, velvet collar, gold/red/blue threads at the cuff with a big slit up the front. I didn’t even call my husband to tell him what I was up to……… after all, it could be a total dud. I practically floated on air, driving into Memphis…..

I arrived at the television station.

Receptionist chic was rude. I told her who I was, who I was here to see, but she didn’t care and told me to sit and wait. Made me wait 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes……. I was getting antsy…… 45 minutes, someone else finally found me….. The receptionist apologized, she thought I was an unfriendly lawyer….. I was wearing my lawyer dress…..”You looked like a lawyer”, she said. They were waiting for me.

I walked into a room with six large televisions mounted high on the walls and there I was……… plastered over the walls………. Unnerving. No one looks good that close up.

And the boys from LA started talking……..

Understand, I’ve lived in Chicago, New York, Miami, New Orleans. I was a metro girl. BUT, I’ve never met three people who talked as fast as those guys did from Los Angeles. They were bouncing off the walls, brimming with ideas.

By the time I left, we had “reached an accord”. My segments would become “green” video, meaning they could be replayed time and again, and never have an expiration date. I had editing control over finished segment, meaning I could bury my mistakes and slipups. The network (I was at the network level now) would own the segments. I would be paid an ungodly sum of money for the first six months, and then….. if I “developed a likeable persona and gained a gathering”, I would be offered an even higher and more unGodly sum of money. They requested one per week national appearance for Good Morning America, but it didn’t have to be cooking…….. it could be anything………. and one per month with husband, with an option to increase if we were successful. They even talked about putting a temporary tower in my back yard for broadcast….. OMG, how was I going to explain that to husband. Yet, we weren’t at that point, yet.

We would start in the month of May, cuz May was rating sweeps month, and we were already into April. I was to write out 3 segments as a trial run, for the first week of May. They would be shot, endlessly, until perfect, during the month of April. The boys from LA would review, and if they liked it……… and they sure seemed like they had no problem “liking it”, I would be given a full team……. and probably a new kitchen. (YOU MEAN I GET A NEW KITCHEN??????? – Dear Lord, I would have done it for free).

Of course, I had a million questions. What should I cook? What would my script be like? And that’s where they put their foot down. They DID NOT want me to be scripted because it was too unnatural. They just wanted me to talk to the camera, like they were sitting in my kitchen and decided to drop by for a cup of coffee. It was far more friendly and appealing. They wanted the “Un-Martha”, …..no bitch.

They would draw up the contracts for my attorney to review.

My newfound friend, Rob, walked me to the elevator. I think I was in shock. “What the hell am I going to do, Rob?”, I said to him, leaning on his arm….. He smiled, “Don’t practice, whatever you do. They don’t want a German haus frau who measures everything precisely, and has a staccato voice. They want…….. comfortable and welcoming, very natural, and lots of laughter.” I wrinkled my nose. I could do that.

And I drove home…….. The whole thing was surreal.

How in the hell was I going to tell my husband that I practically signed him up to appear on Good Morning America, once a month, with an option for more, ……… as the friendly and better looking version of Bob Villa?

I didn’t tell any of my girlfriends where I was or what had happened. Looking back, I think it was the only secret I ever kept from them in 25yrs. I had to tell husband first, and big news like this….. I mean………… they would never keep the secret. If I told them, chances are, by the time husband came home from work, he would already know and HATE the idea. No, I had to be careful with this one.

But the girls sure were curious when I showed up the middle of the day, after a lunch in Memphis, dressed to kill…………. lots of questions….. and I wasn’t talking.

I made husband’s favorite dinner, bought him a case of beer, he was actually in a pretty good mood. I asked him about his day……… and casually mentioned I had taken Rob Harleston from ABC and his photographers to lunch to say thanks for all the great press at the bridal show.

Husband, “Oh yeah, where did you eat?” I hadn’t told husband about ANY of the idea, cuz I thought it would bomb, maybe. No reason to get upset about something until it might actually happen, right?

So, I continued, and by dessert, I had told him the whole thing.

He hadn’t said a whole lot during dinner, mostly strange looks….I awaited his opinion/verdict. ABC was clear, they wanted me, for sure, but I knew if we included husband, he wouldn’t give me grief and make my life difficult.

  • They’re NOT going to do this, they’re pulling your chain…… (He was winding up). They’ll want to invade the house for hours, film like crazy, not pay you, and keep the video.
  • Sooooo, they really want you to sell advertising for the station.
  • What makes you so special?
  • There are a thousand chefs in Memphis who could do the same thing.
  • You’re not an expert.
  • Why the hell do they want me?
  • What the hell have you gotten me into NOW?
  • There’s no way in hell YOU can go without a strict script, you’re liable to say ANYTHING.
  • When is this supposed to happen?
  • And finally…….
  • The want to pay you HOW MUCH?

I told him I had to do three segments in April and submit. We would only have Rob, who agreed and one, maybe two photographers. They would film and film until perfect, and could then edit to get it into a 3-5 minute segment. They wanted one food, one garden, and one……… with him…….. doing something easy, like how to rewire a lamp or explain the proper use and care of a particular tool, and preferably with us both together. If the guys in LA liked it, we would be given a whole crew for about 25 segments in the Month of May, during sweeps. I had to do four national segments and he had to do one, during May, pending approval of the first three.

His eyes got big and he peered over his glasses at me….. “What happens if I teach the public how to re-wire a lamp and someone electrocutes themselves?” I swear, he asked that. “Honey”, I said, “I’m sure the lawyers can work out the liability of it all.”

He got up from the table and dismissed the whole idea. “They’re not going to do this…., they’re blowing smoke.”

A few days later, the contracts arrived, FedEx. They wanted them back, and said “please”, in about 10-15 days, but understood if we needed to hire a lawyer to look them over.

I drove by the shop and put the FedEx envelope on the seat of his truck….

He came home in about an hour.

“Well, you weren’t lying”…. he said. WTF? Did he think I was lying? Why would he think I was lying….. about something like this….. about anything? I was his wife!! Again, WTF? But, I remained still and silent. He said he took them to one of our friend/lawyers in town and “Sure enough, they were real.” If we did it for a year, we could at least pay off the house. His construction company and the B&B would be booked, forevermore. How could we pass up this kind of an opportunity? He was talking like it was HIS idea.

He was excited. I was beginning to think it might work.

But then……., he told his guys about the idea. They were guys. The next day, someone made a big silver star and they pasted it to the side of his truck……….. since he was going to be a “star”. They painted the hard hat he used…. gold. They ribbed him constantly. Then, another guy came up with a bellmen’s hat…… cuz they were convinced he would be carrying my suitcases for “his famous wife” for the rest of his life. They were brutal……and …… small-minded….. and petty…… and jealous.

Their attitude killed the whole thing.

The idea became poison to my husband………. and it would never work without his support.

I passed it up.

About two months after we separated, about a decade later, I got a phone call from an entertainment lawyer in Philadelphia. He had my video and the outline. He loved the idea. They wanted to “discuss” and “could you fly into NYC early in the week”. It was the wrong time in my life. I passed, although I really wanted to do it. It was the closest I would ever come to any kind of notoriety, but fame never really impressed me that much.


This kitchen is still the same, warm and well-worn. We’re user-friendly. Almost nothing has changed. So, if you are in the neighborhood and need a cup of coffee, stop by. We don’t need an audience.

Moral of the story: Because I was at least nice to the media during an incredibly tense time in our town, they returned the favor. When I doubted their motives, they made me eat my words. They were beyond benevolent and gave me press time a small business could have never afforded, and an opportunity to launch into a bigger league. Guess you never know what will happen on any given day…..


5 thoughts on “20210527: Bridal Show, Year Two, and The Network Offer.

  1. They were brutal……and …… small-minded….. and petty…… and jealous.

    Very sad to hear that “jealous others”….in essence… caused millions of people across the USA to miss having our much deserving Miss Daughn become the next “Martha Stewart” of the world….

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