I Got the Call!
My daughter Emily, and my wife Sheila and I were on our way to Nashville on Friday January 7th to celebrate my granddaughter's birthday party. We were in two different cars as Emily was leaving from the party to drive home to Cleveland, Ohio. We stopped to eat in Birmingham and Sheila was telling me that this was a family outing and I shouldn't be checking my Blackberry. She said, "There is nothing big that you will receive on that thing today"! My phone went off in that instant as we got into our different cars. The person identified herself as Barbara Fight the producer of the Martha Stewart Show. She said Martha would just love to have me on her woodworking show that will be taped January 19th. I said, "Yes"! Barbara told me Martha's brother Eric Scott, whom I had taught a year ago in a seven-day rocker class, considers me his woodworking teacher, mentor and a master woodworker. Both of us would be on the show with our rocking chairs. I called Sheila and told her of the invitation and haven't heard anymore about checking my Blackberry.
Planning for the Show
This trip to Nashville was a quick one. We went up one day and back the next because I was starting my annual January rocker class on Tuesday the 11th and finishing on Monday the 17th. On Tuesday, I received all the details in an email from Barbara's assistant Allie Wyman. I was to fly from Columbus to New York City on Tuesday the day after the class finished. I didn't have much time because I was teaching from 8:30AM - 7PM daily. On Monday I met with Cecil and Bettye Cheves and chose one of the five rockers I crafted for them to be on the show. On Tuesday, I had to crate the rocker for transport to the show, teach, meet with the producers and Eric for an hour-long conference call, and manage my business simultaneously and at the same time, too! My trusted friend and teaching assistant Mark McGowan crated the rocker and got FedEx to ship it. Atlanta was still frozen in from an ice storm and he found the only possible way to get it to Manhattan in time. Thanks Mark! Allie and I were able to finish planning the script and all the details through a series of over 40 emails. The plans were set including my daughter Emily joining me in New York for the adventure along with my valued business associates Curt Jarrell and Gerry Hicks, the owners of Newco USA Industries. The local newspaper and the ABC affiliate covered the story of the appearance and my rocker class. Wow!
The Adventure Begins - Day One
I started the day with a final editing of the script for my segment and emailing the changes back to Allie. Then I packed and headed to the airport. Martha's staff purchased airplane tickets that had me flying from Columbus to Atlanta then to LaGuardia in New York. Flying from Columbus is a game of chance. When it works it is great but when it doesn't, it's terrible! I reported 45 minutes early and waited until they invited us to approach the Delta counter. The clerk recognized me from the newspaper story that morning with glee and then announced, "Your flight to Atlanta has been canceled"! She said I should drive to Atlanta and pick up a later flight. I drove up, found some high priced parking and checked the bag containing my hand tools. I called Allie and told her I was finally getting on a flight. She re-scheduled the limo for a 6:30 PM arrival in the Big Apple. Freddie from Jersey was there at baggage claim with a sign saying "CHARLES BROCK". He whisked me into town to meet my daughter and friends at the Fashion 26 Hotel. It didn't seem real!
The Martha Stewart Show - Day Two
Part 1 - Getting Ready
We walked a block down to the studio and entered a secure door at 7:30 AM. Only to learn the shows taping had been rescheduled for 11AM. This was really good. I finally got to breathe a little. We returned a little early and went through a security check. We followed the catacombs of narrow hallways and stairs until we entered another security door and entered the studio. The studio is made up of offices for the show and all things "Martha Stewart" in addition to the shows production set. One hundred people are on payroll to tape most shows with about 60 being permanent employees. Our first stop was our "green room" which wasn't green, but glassed on two sides. It was kind of a fish bowl. It contained a conference table for seating up to 10 guests, a large TV for a monitor and a long side table with an awesome grouping of 10 Emmy Awards. The staff waited on us hand and foot as we met the other guests on the show. The staff was assigned to put us at ease and help us to be successful. I wanted to know where the rocker we shipped was located, if it arrived in good condition, etc.? They answered everything. These professionals have great people and organizational skills. Eric and I were reunited and thoroughly enjoyed catching up. Very quickly we were entertained with a tour of the studio. Emily was in heaven seeing Martha's perfection. There is nothing temporary about the set. It is huge at 16,000 square feet. The kitchen area is in the center and is designed based on kitchens in two of her homes. As you can see on TV her choices for colors are again perfect. They are meant to be neutral and make everything featured on the show really pop. The cabinet drawers are all perfectly organized with liners and containers. They even have a picture on the inside of each drawer to show where its contents should be returned. There is no wasted space. When she is facing the camera to the right there is a best of everything test kitchen with multiples of everything and 6 cooks. This is where we first encountered Martha who was approving some recipes and some completed dishes. She came over and introduced herself and met each of us. She was very charming in a warm way. She explained that her lip was better and that a flesh colored piece of tape had been placed over the 9 stitches. You couldn't tell unless you looked closely. After thanking us all for coming we continued with the tour. The left side of the stage contained an enormous green house with LED lighting used for grow lights. A multi-use set was in front of the greenhouse. This is the area where my segment would soon be taped. Audience seating was in a gallery behind a short knee wall with two groupings of chairs up close for extra special guests. Every chair had an assigned seat. I worked out my segment with various assistants. We found clamp on vises and everything was set in place to show Martha how to carve a back spindle for the rocker. Then everything was removed and returned in perfect order for rehearsal. We were led back to the green room and were fed the best lasagna and meatballs I have ever enjoyed along with a salad and deserts. They were prepared during a food segment taped in the morning. I was able to watch while the other segments were rehearsed with their producers. Martha doesn't attend the rehearsals. After the rehearsals the producers meet with her and they prep her for about an hour. Then she goes to wardrobe and makeup, then its time to "Tape to live" as they say. I rehearsed my segment with Barbara. She told me to just talk to Martha and it would be great. Then I dressed for the show with my leather apron and Irish wool hat. Deb came and took me to make-up. I now know how important it is to have a make-up artist like Deb to even everything out by taking off a few splotches and lines here and there. Then back to the Green Room to wait my turn. A gentleman was assigned to Eric and myself to escort us onto the set at the appropriate time. Right before it was my turn, Barbara came in and said just tell Martha what you want her to do and take charge and she won't have to work so hard to pull it together. I liked hearing that because I'm use to taking charge of the story. Just don't tell my wife!
Part 2 - We're Live!
The woodworking show started with Nick Offerman (TV actor and star of "Parks and Recreation") showing Martha how to make a boat paddle. David Lancaster showed her how to turn a bowl and Eric showed his wonderful Connecticut High Boy, fish carving and bowls before introducing Martha to the rocker he made in my class last year. Martha said, "When we come back we will introduce Eric’s mentor and teacher, master woodworker Chuck Brock." Then they brought me out, I was standing under all those lights, which by the way were not hot. Immediately I wanted water. They brought Martha water and she placed it under the workbench on a little stool. I really wanted that water but the director said, "Three, two, one, now we are live!" All I can remember was being told just have a conversation with Martha. We finished the spindle and all of a sudden her photographer was snapping pictures of all of us. Then pictures of just Martha and I. Wow! Then she sat in the rocker I had crafted and said, "This is great! I can see me sitting here reading and just enjoying". I was sitting in Eric's rocker next to her having a conversation with her while the photographer continued shooting pictures.
After the Lights Dimmed
Fine Woodworking Magazine's editor and his staff greeted me after the show and we talked about Martha 's show put woodworking and woodworkers in the spotlight for a change. I was assured by the carpenter that she would re-crate the chair. We said goodbye to all and Emily and I taxied to Saks 5th Avenue to buy gifts. Martha had agreed to join us for dinner and made reservations at her favorite restaurant Ciano. She was unable to attend but what a treat. The veal was amazing! I saw the Empire State building while walking back to the hotel and slept like a log that night. The next morning Anthony (Pavarotti’s driver for seven years) drove us to the airport.
It was a blast! I enjoyed watching the show and was more than pleased seeing the first run of the show on Friday. It will also re-aire twice before it is archived on her website.
I felt like I represented everyone in my hometown of Columbus, Georgia and every woodworker working in every shop or garage around the world. This was a pure blessing from God. The love of the Lord can bless us with more than we could ever dream. You can be next.
The following people just make everyone around them better. They have inspired and taught me unselfishly. I owe each of them for any success I have had or will have:
Sheila Brock, Emily Brock, Keri Price, Stephen Price, Cecil and Bettye Cheves, Chris and Sharon Bagby, Mark McGowan, Eric Scott, Doug Hall, Bert Scarbrough, Curt Jarrell, Gerry Hicks, et als.