I had less than a week to coordinate four baking segments for KTLA Morning News. The week became a blur of little glass ingredient dishes, sample muffins, custom aprons, phone calls, e-mails to Studs and Allie Mac Kay, demo scripts, and decorations to make our baking area pretty. The latter was created with the help of my wonderful and creative mother-in-law, Barbara, who helped me put together an eye-pleasing display for very little money. I am always in awe of her talent and appreciation of my dwindling budget.
One of the e-mails from Allie Mac Kay included directions to the L.A. Times Test Kitchen, where we would be filming that morning, along with our call time: Five o’clock. In the A.M. As in before dawn. As in reeeeeeally early. Would I be willing to lose a couple hours of sleep for my dream? You betcha. Who needs sleep when Hollywood’s calling? My only concern was if the Studs would look puffy. Turns out I forgot that when you’re in your twenties, puffy doesn’t compute. I was going to be the one in need of the industrial-sized under-eye reducer.
The week flew by and as the day of the show approached, so did one of the biggest storms of the winter. Now, if you don’t live in Southern California, you may poo-poo a story of a rainy day. But we So Cal residents freak out when any kind of precipitation even threatens to leave the sky. Every news station jumps to “Storm Watch!” For me, the thought of driving to L.A. on a dark, stormy morning was very nerve-rattling. But, our photographer, Tammy planned on being my co-pilot that morning, so at least I wouldn’t be alone.
Somehow, I was able to get completely ready and packed by the night before, to the sounds of a torrential downpour outside my garage. Then the phone rang. It was Tammy, who lives in the beautiful town of Lake Arrowhead, high in the local mountains. She explained that the clouds that were pouring rain on me at the base of the mountains were dumping foot upon foot of snow on her. My co-pilot was now trapped in a winter wonderland, and I was facing one of my greatest fears: dark, wet L.A. freeways—alone.
I went to bed around midnight and set the alarm for 2:30 AM, with plans on getting out of the house within an hour. I really don’t think I slept, partly from the sound of the rain and partly for fear I wouldn’t hear the alarm. I just kept worrying that I’d wake up at 8:00, turn on the Morning News and see my Studs sadly standing there, with nary a baking item in sight.
I got up before the alarm, and at half past three exactly, I fired up my van and opened the garage door, expecting to pull out to a rain deluge. Once again, the Stud Muffin Angels had pity on my, and the rain had completely stopped. In fact, I could even see bright stars peeking out from the breaking clouds. (Insert “The Halleluiah Chorus” here.) Then, the calm, authoritative voice on my GPS told me to turn left, and I was on my way. The day was off to a great start.
As I got on the freeway, another of my fears reared its head: a traffic jam. The drive to L.A., about 50 miles, has been known to be a real bear, taking many hours as hundreds of thousands of people clog the roads to inch westward. Little did I know, however, that NOBODY was on the road at that time of the morning. It looked like the Twilight Zone had taken over the 605 Freeway. I veritably flew toward the downtown area.
I reached the L.A. Times building in record time, but then I hit another glitch. I was supposed to park in a nearby lot, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find it. I drove around the very dark and deserted block a few times, but no luck. I pulled over to the side of the road to call one of the Studs to see if he had found the place when I saw a car approach slowly from behind, then stop a few feet from my back bumper. I quickly looked around. There was no one else in sight. My heart started beating faster. In my head, I suddenly heard the voiceover man as he described a bad slasher movie: “Alone. On the dark streets of L.A. In a van loaded with muffin ingredients, he attacked her with her own muffin tin...”
I took one last look out my side door mirror as I watched the car door behind me opened. As a large figure stepped out, I threw the car into drive and prepared to gun it. The figure walked into the light and a split-second before I peeled out of there, unwilling to be on the Morning News for the wrong reason, I recognized the face of one of my models, who was equally lost. It was either that, or slashers are getting much more handsome.
Together, we drove around and eventually found the parking garage. Then, like synchronized Studs, several cars full of hunky models converged almost simultaneously into adjacent spaces. I did a quick head count, and everyone was there and willing to help me haul all the baking stuff to the kitchen. It’s sure nice to have a half-dozen or so strapping young men handy.
We all piled into the one elevator to take us to the test kitchen. As the door was closing, a voice called out to hold up. It was cute Allie Mac Kay, who was dwarfed by all the hunky guys. She commented on how she didn’t mind being in this kind of cramped elevator. I wholeheartedly agreed. Stud sandwiches are nice.
I quickly set up for the first baking demonstration in the lovely L.A. Times Test Kitchen. Allie then suggested that I take some of the muffins to the TV studio, a few miles away, so that the on-air people could sample them as we did the live broadcast. So, back into the early darkness I went, now driving strictly on verbal directions. It was a little intimidating, as downtown LA is not my turf, but I was very proud of myself when I saw the gates of the station loom in front of me.
After I gave the muffins to the guard, I headed back to the Test Kitchen. By now, the sun was just rising on a crystal clear, newly rain-washed city that was starting to come to life. As I drove, I passed the beautiful Disney Concert Hall, an incredible structure of reflective surfaces that shot the morning light in all directions. It was gorgeous, and I remembered thinking how incredible it was that I not only got to see that, but that I was minutes away from another unbelievable opportunity that this book had afforded me. We were going to be on live TV! It boggled my mind at that moment. Also, I was equally boggled with the fact that I was navigating downtown L.A. without the voice of the GPS. Just little ol’ me, the sunrise, and pure joy.
The segments went flawlessly. They were full of laughter, double-entendres, and kind words of praise from Allie and the in-studio talent (Michaela Pereira, Frank Buckley, Cher Calvin, and a hysterically uncomfortable Mark Kriski.) And the Studs were amazing. You would have thought they were all seasoned TV actors, as they baked, chatted, and flirted through the baking demos. I am so fortunate to have these wonderful men involved in this project, and I couldn’t have been prouder of them!
I also had my fifteen seconds of fame, although I honestly didn’t think I’d be on camera, as the focus was on the Studs (as it should have been.) I was off to the side washing the baking dishes when Allie suddenly pulled me into one of the segments for a brief interview. I looked like a deer caught in headlights, as I stood there with wet, soapy hands. I think I said something coherent, and then I ducked out again to still my pounding heart. I’ve decided I’m much happier behind the camera, even if it means dishpan hands.
It had been a long morning, but it ended all too soon. Before I knew it, I was back on the freeway, this time in daylight, and heading east. By the time I made it home, fatigue hit like a truckload of muffins. I turned on the DVD player, crashed on the couch, and watched the taped Morning News until I drifted off to dreams of starry nights, giant muffins, glistening sunrises, and handsome slashers who morphed into hunky bakers. Yes, it was a very sweet dream.
HORN-TOOTING - Here's a nice review of my book Lessons From Lucy, which will be published October 23.
21 hours ago