Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lights! Camera! False Eyelashes!

I barely had a chance to catch my breath from the radio interview when I got a call from KCAL news, which is a Los Angeles-based station affiliated with CBS. They heard about our book and asked if we would like to be featured on their newscast later that week. Would we like that? How about, “Would we love that?" “Would we adore that? “Would we do cartwheels down the main street of town, if we knew how?” Those would be the better questions. Between heart palpitations, I booked the gig.

They originally wanted to film it in my kitchen where the book got its start. While I have a decent sized kitchen, it is rather nondescript, along with being long and narrow. The thought of trying to comfortably squeeze in a bunch (herd? gaggle? pod?) of studs plus cameramen and a reporter gave me serious pause. To the rescue came a wonderful friend (thanks, Val!) who had an equally wonderful friend (thanks, Cindy!) with a gorgeous, huge, Tuscan-inspired kitchen. Problem solved.

The week became a whirlwind of muffin baking, clothes shopping, stud scheduling, demo preparing (think many little glass bowls filled with ingredients, a la any Food Network cooking show) and lots of jitters. The time flew, and the day arrived before I knew it. Ready or not, we were going to be on TV. Holy guacamole.

I arrived at the surrogate house an hour before the news crew was due and started unloading what felt like a small bakery. There were already quite a few people inside buzzing around, and the excitement was almost palpable. I spent several minutes setting up the demonstration area, putting out fresh muffins for “the magic of TV” baking—the ones that would be pulled out of the oven immediately after mixing the ingredients—and warning everyone not to eat the muffins that were being used for decoration, as they were over a week old and beyond stale, but still presentable for the camera.

Now it was my turn to become presentable for the camera, as I, too was over a week old and beyond stale. We hired a professional makeup artist, and I watched through the mirror as she applied layers of concealers, foundations, creams, and shadows (I believe I saw her dip into a vat of spackle from Costco to help camouflage my wrinkles.) The final touch was the application of false eyelashes, which I have never worn. They felt so weird, as if someone parked a pair of spiders on my lids, but I was told they were necessary as the camera lights would fade out my normal puny lashes. Heaven forbid I offend the viewing public by making them look at someone with less than lush lashes. (Side note: When I went home later that day, they scared my young daughter, who kept her distance and said repeatedly, “Mama, take them off!” So much for my critics.)

Cater Lee, the reporter from KCAL arrived, along with her cameraman, and the next two hours were a blur of sound checks, lighting adjustments, pre-camera interviews, and then the final taping. As with the radio experience, I had a head full of clever quips and smooth comments I wanted to say. What came out was completely not what I practiced. It was if I was outside my body, watching someone else answer the questions. What the--?! I asked Ms. Lee if I could have a do-over, but she insisted that what I said was just fine.

It was now nearing 11:00, and our piece was scheduled to be aired at 12:40. Ms. Lee and the cameraman quickly left and went as far as their van parked out front. When they didn’t leave right away, I went out to see if they were all right. Turns out that they had a full-fledged editing bay in the van, and they were cutting the film and laying down the voiceovers in the driveway. Modern technology is so amazing.

I went back inside to repack my small bakery and help clean up. The wonderful homeowner was kind enough to invite all of us to stay and watch the broadcast on a massive big screen TV in her beautiful home. When she brought out some champagne, it sealed the deal. I stayed.

She turned on the TV at noon, and we went about the last minute clean-up with champagne goblets in hand. I remember thinking that I should always clean the house this way, but then decided it might become very counterproductive very quickly. As we listened to the top stories, the traffic report, and the weather forecast, our excitement began to grow. Then, around 12:20, the worst possible thing happened. We stood in stunned horror as the studio reporters said the words that brought dread to our hearts: “We have breaking news of a police pursuit in South Los Angeles.” Noooooooooooooo!

Now, for those of you who do not live in the Southern California area, this is when ALL news comes to a screeching halt as some fool driver thinks he can outrun a squadron of police cars on his tail and a tracking news helicopter over his head. These things can drag out for hours, as the driver and his tails swerve in and out of (or against oncoming) traffic. And once the cameras have latched on to this pursuit, they will not break away until the fool driver crashes or is caught. That day, the world could have come under nuclear attack, and the cameras would have still been honed on the 1978 maroon Pinto on the 405 until the bitter end.

So there we sat, drinks still in hand and watching the clock tick closer to our 12:40air time. We suddenly became very ardent and vocal supporters of the police department as we yelled at the screen, “Cut him off at El Segundo!” “Use the frigging spike strip!” “It’s a Pinto, for heaven’s sake! Just plow him off the road!” The longer the chase went on, the louder we got. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the alcohol. It was just that we worked so hard for this moment. Okay, maybe the alcohol might have figured in a bit. But we were so close to getting on TV.

Then, the Muffin gods took pity on us, and we watched with great relief as the fool driver wiped out onto a patch of grass at 12:30. We gave a hearty cheer, but that was quelled quickly when the fool driver exited his car and became a fool runner. We were now on our feet, screaming at the pursuing officers to get him! Get him NOW! It seemed an eternity, but the officers finally caught up to the fool runner and tackled him to the ground. It was like we just watched the final play in the Superbowl where we had a huge bet placed on the winning team. We cheered. We hugged. We high-fived. We had even more champagne. It was a great moment.

So we were not bumped from the newscast after all. As our two-and-a-half minute segment played in all its big screen glory, which was a succinct mixture of interviews, baking demonstration, and description of the book, I was struck by three thoughts: 1.) My models looked and sounded great on camera, and I am so blessed to have them as a part of this crazy project, 2.) I guess Costco spackle can’t conceal that second chin I’ve tried to pretend I didn’t have; 2.) A dream come true cannot be quashed, not even by an L.A. car chase.

To enjoy this segment, please visit http://www.studmuffinsbook.com/studmuff/studvideo.

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