I just got home three days ago after a long run on the road with a new show for Spike TV, shooting a series of ten episodes for a show that premieres in July. We began in LA for the first two episodes, and then travelled to half a dozen states across the country. This is par for the course on renovation shows, and I have done more than my share; I figured this one would be pretty much like all the rest. The hosts of the show are from New Jersey, and, while I was raised in California, I have Jersey in my blood; my mom was born and raised there. Those kind of roots apparently run deep; I felt perfectly at home talking to and working with these two remarkable, and very vocal, individuals. They made my experience on this traveling roadshow as enjoyable as any show I have ever been on, dating back to my first tour of the country with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition all those years ago. Combined with an incredible art team, the time on the road was as creatively productive as any I have ever spent. However, with all that being said, you still need to liven things up a little…
Deep into one of our makeovers, we were behind schedule; the time frame shifted in the middle of the shoot, and where we thought we were on time, we suddenly were not. The whole production was under an immense amount of pressure to finish the renovation early. Pitching in to help, our co-host drove me, his local friend who was helping on the episode, and my project manager to set in the middle of the night, to a very bad area to make the new deadline. Having someone like him jump in and give a hand in the overnight/early morning sprint made me feel very safe on the set. An experienced construction worker, talented in all aspects of build, he nevertheless stressed that there is one tool more important than all the rest when you really need to get a job done: the radio. I have to agree; there is no better way to crank up your work rate while simultaneously reducing your stress level than dancing through a build.
In addition to an incredible work ethic, our hosts have matching senses of humor; the charisma you will see on camera is not an act. And, like all truly funny people, they can take it, as well as dish it out. With the help of my carpenter, I was able to pull off what I consider to be the greatest practical joke of my entire life. At one of our locations, we found out that there was a basement which had once been used as a stable; it was now reputed to be haunted by the long deceased stable owner. On my phone, I have an app for detecting ghosts – hilarious and and a great conversation starter. When I heard the stable was haunted, I fired up the app, and went through the space looking for ghosts; when I read the findings to the cohost (who will now be referred to as “the mark”), it became readily apparent that he is not a fan of ghosts or devices that detect them. I teased him about it, and waved my phone around, but that was it.
One of the great side effects of my job is that I occasionally find myself in places most people do not go, and those places can be serendipitous. So, unlike most people, it is not unusual to find myself in a costume shop, where, in addition to some of the things I was looking for, I found not only the most incredibly scary unicorn mask, but also the germ of a very great idea. Bought it, wrapped it up carefully an unobtrusively, and brought it back to set.
The lighting in the basement was dim, and the rock walls were divided with ancient posts that used to be connected to stable walls. The spaces between the posts were open, save for one section, which was separated by waist-high stone wall with an opening at window height. I found an old grocery cart, and positioned behind the wall, giving me a little room to move, but also just enough space to be out of arms reach. At this point, it became clear that we needed a lure- someone to bring the mark down to the basement, so we spoke to the show’s host, who was more than happy to get in on the prank. In the course of the shoot, my team was removing a large item that needed to be stored in the basement; I told my carpenter to stall and raced downstairs to get ready. I crouched in the semi-darkness, behind my protective shopping cart, so that the dim lighting would just highlight the white horn, blue eyes, and snout of the unicorn mask. “The mark” was sent through the door first. I will now transcribe what he said as he traversed the room…..the video is dark but the audio is very clear.
The team is carrying a long item that takes 5 people to maneuver into the basement space.
The Mark – “Drop your back end……there you go” then he looks to his left where I am crouched in the shadows wearing a dark jacket and the unicorn mask.
“Look at that horse to your right.”
My carpenter- “What?”
The Mark – “The horse!”
Carpenter ignores comment.
Key PA -”That’s almost too easy”.
The guys find a spot to set down the large cumbersome item.
The Mark – “Lay it against the wall”
My Carpenter – ” Woohoo!”
The Mark – “That f—ing horse is moving!”
I was trying to stay steady in a crouch and had lost my balance. The team ignores his comment completely.
“See that horse?”
Again the team ignores him.
“Who’s moving that f—ing unicorn thing!!!?”
He is shouting at this point and still he is ignored. At this point he is back beside me staring into the shadows when I stand up and lean toward him over the grocery cart.
“Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!! YOU MUTHA F—ER!!!!!!”
At this point, it became evident that although everyone knows you can not kill a ghost, even a unicorn ghost, my Mark was ready to test that theory. I quickly pulled off the mask.
Meanwhile, the key pa (who was not in on the joke) is buckled over saying he may need to barf because he was so scared.
Me – “Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!”
Best prank ever!!!!
After a great week of MIG welding I rewarded my efforts with a little tour of some famous Cleveland sites. My first stop was the Cleveland Museum of Art to reconnect with my creative side. I always love to take photos of paintings and sculptures that speak to me in some way. Next up was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to see if my friend, Peter Holsapple is on the wall yet. It’s $22 to get in and filled with tons of Rock and Roll memorabilia. The current highlight exhibit is The Grateful Dead and I enjoyed seeing Bill Graham’s Father Time robe on display because he had been a neighbor when I was growing up. I finished my day at the “A Christmas Story” house. A fan of the movie bought the house in 2005 in an Ebay auction and restored it to its film condition in 2006. So, with a little culture, a little music, and a little comedy I was primed and ready for week two of welding school at Lincoln Electric.
Just had my first day in TIG welding class. Though I have done a little bit in the field with Jim Bollinger, there is nothing like getting hours of practice in the Lincoln shop. My teacher, Charlie, compared MIG and TIG welding to driving an automatic and a stick shift. That is a great description. There is definitely a rhythm to TIG welding and I worked on several plates today to find it. I found that the hardest part is slowing down after MIG welding but the weld itself is beautiful when done correctly. I have tried singing slow songs in my head, counting really slowly, and applying a word to each movement but the most effective welds came when I just carefully watched the puddle. After numerous attempts ended with my Tungsten tip firmly attached to the plate, the slow song in my head turning into a stream of foul words, and yet another visit to the grinding wheel, I made real progress by the time the ventilation fans were turned off signaling the end of the day.
My friend, Lon Damon, reminded me to always finish a weld in a comfortable position. It sounds easy but I can tell from the curve in the line of my weld I have not yet mastered that either. Tomorrow I will add that to the list.
For many years now I have wanted to really learn to weld. I have welded on set for shows and done plasma cutting but I have never had time to dive deep into the process. That is currently changing. I am fortunate enough to have met some great people from Lincoln Electric while working on Bar Rescue, Kitchen Nightmares, and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Jim Bollinger and Anthony Leone have worked a lot with Lincoln and through them I met Chris Ilicin and Lon Damon. While visiting with Lon at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show this year we set up a plan for me to finally get to Ohio and work on my MIG and TIG welding. I felt like I just got the golden ticket from Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
I got into Cleveland on Sunday to partially sunny skies, no snow, and cool temperatures. At the car rental place I was informed there was a 90% chance of snow for Monday. On Monday I changed that prediction to 100% and bundled up for my first day. Coincidentally the Lincoln Electric facility reminded me of the Wonka factory because it spreads across a huge plot of land, is gated and guarded, and can be seen from some distance by a giant landmark – instead of a smoke stack Lincoln has a giant windmill.
On my first day, after a video on safety, I got to weld! My instructor for MIG, Charlie, let us try welding with all CO2, 80-20, and then 90-10 mix. The CO2-Argon mix really improved the look of my welds but I knew I need a lot of practice. On Tuesday he set me up on the company’s virtual reality arc welder VRTEX and I was able to see where I was having trouble. This was the coolest game I have ever played and it scores your progress. When I went back to the shop my real welds were greatly improved as you can see in the image with two welds. Now if I could just be taking dance lessons at night I could live the whole Flashdance dream. Oh well, one thing at a time.
Watch for more photos and blogs on my adventures in welding…
Recently I was asked to make some duct tape clothing. My kids had been making wallets and hair bows so I had some supplies at home already. To make the outfits I knew I would do a better job with a dress form but I didn’t have one handy. After a quick internet search I found the directions to making one using duct tape. I needed a particular size so I used a model of that size, duct tape, left over plastic grocery bags, and about 30 minutes time. Here are photos of the process.
In 2003, when I went on the road with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, my husband and I took a leap of faith. We agreed that my participation on the show was bigger than both of us, and that good things happen when you get involved and help others. Our biggest hurdle was child care, as I had been a stay at home mom for seven years, working out of the house through my business and raising our three kids. My son was 8, and my daughters were 4 and 2. We decided that it was my husband’s turn to have time with the children. He quit his day job and operated a small independent company from the house while taking up where I had left off.
Jevon was well versed in the day to day needs of the kids as far as meals, activities, bedtime, and school were concerned but, like every challenge he takes on, he was determined to streamline the process when I was not around. A friend gave me an easy cookbook the previous Christmas, and my husband clung to it while he practiced healthy and appetizing meals for the kids. When it was time to get dressed, he mastered the race against my daughters, thus inspiring them to do it themselves with ease. When a boo-boo occurred he was ready with the Bactine and the kisses and a warm cuddle with Daddy. I definitely babied the girls before I went off on the road, and when I returned they were buckling themselves into their own carseats. My son fed the pets and read to the girls often.
One of the hardest challenges, familiar to single parents the world over, was when the flu struck our house while I was working on an Extreme house in Purdys, New York. I called home to check in after pulling another all night build/paint project. Apparently my daughters were both very ill, and consequently sleeping with their daddy. During the night, one of them threw up in the bed. My husband got them out of bed, stood them up on the rug and stripped off their wet nightclothes. He then gathered up all the sheets and blankets and headed to the bathtub to dump the mess for the morning. When he turned to head out of the bathroom, the nausea hit him like a freight train and he promptly spent the next 5 minutes throwing up. By the time he returned to redress the bed and our girls they had vanished. He walked into their bedroom and found them curled up together in the older one’s bed. My daughter told him that the little one was okay; she had dressed her sister and was taking care of her. My husband, sweating from a fever and wiped out, kissed them both tenderly and went to bed. When he told me this I knew how far away I was, how helpless I was, but how loving my children and husband were toward one another. It was terribly sad and tremendously beautiful at the same time. As I worked on the house I was reminded of a family in Suffolk County whose mother died very young of cancer. I was getting a glimpse of the fallout after a mom is gone but I was so grateful my absence was only temporary and my husband was pulling all the weight of our child rearing with such grace.
But my favorite story from Jevon’s early Mr. Mom indoctrination came when I was home and picking up the girls from preschool. Their teacher shared the attached photo with me. I brought it home and asked my husband about the day it was taken. He said it was Dad’s day at the school and he was reading to the girls in the classroom. It was June and I was curious as to why they were in ski hats. ”Oh that”, he said, “I couldn’t get a brush through their hair, so we decided it would be a perfect day to rock the beanies. If you say that we are going to rock something, instead of just wear it, the girls will put a ham sandwich on their head and be happy about it”. I always smile when I see this photo.
Recently I was invited to check out the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) trade show in Las Vegas with Lincoln Electric “the welding experts” and my friend, Lon Damon. Vegas is only a four and a half hour drive so I hopped in my car and headed out Thursday afternoon. As I was not scheduled to check in with SEMA until Friday morning I made plans to see my friend and former graphic artist for Bar Rescue Season 1, Joey Ungerer. Joey now is a graphic artist for the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas and they are lucky to have him. You can see his wonderful logos on the first season episodes. Joey is thriving in his new job and I am really happy for his success. It can be tough to make a living in art and so many great artists are forced to walk away from their talent to make ends meet so I am a huge fan of success stories like Joey’s.
Friday morning I headed to the Las Vegas Convention Center and met up with Lon of Lincoln Electric at the SEMA show. SEMA gathers automotive specialty products from around the world and Lincoln Electric had one of the best booths I have seen at any trade show. On display they had a robotic welder, a virtual welding machine that scored visitors welding skills, an incredible c and c plasma cutter, mig and tig welding demonstrations, tons of welding gear,
special guests Chip Foose, Jessi Combs, Brian Fuller, and a fantastic team of Lincoln Electric specialists to guide attendees through their top of the line display booth.
I can say that the 9 hour round trip drive in 24 hours was more than worth it to meet up with friends old and new and be part of the amazing culture of cars. My dad was a mechanic for 40 years and walking the isles, seeing the classics, meeting mechanics and artisans was like going home.
AFTERBUZZ TV, Bar Rescue edition, is a weekly “after show” for fans of Spike’s Bar Rescue. The AfterBuzz TV Network is a new media platform, created by Extra Host Maria Menounos and filmmaker Keven Undergaro, designated to producing live and recorded “after-show” webcast and podcast content for TV series of all kinds. When TV fans finish watching episodes from select series, they can go to afterbuzztv.com to watch or listen to an after-show where hosts, celebrities, personalities, and industry professionals, break down that night’s episode. An episode may include calls from fans and guest interviews.
If you agree to be an organ donor on your driver’s license, I am your biggest fan.
There are memories that I have of my father that almost didn’t happen. In 1994 a motorcycle accident claimed the life of a young woman, a total stranger to me and my family. She had checked the “donor” box on her driver’s license. As she lay on the table, they harvested her lungs and put one of them into my father; and in so doing they handed my father eight more years of life.
So what did we gain by adding eight years to the life of a 62 year old man? My father saw the last two of his six children get married, welcomed seven new grandchildren, sold two homes, inspired the lung transplant staff at UCSF with his courage and conviction (thus being dubbed “Lazarus”), spent time teaching his grandchildren to fish, entertained with my mom, mourned for his three sisters, laughed out loud and often, exchanged jokes with his two brothers, told us amazing stories of his life and work in San Franicisco in the 1950′s and 1960′s, celebrated many more Thanksgivings, playfully teased his mother inlaw, helped fix our cars, reminisced about his childhood when I cut his hair, warmed any room with his smile, transferred his love of nature to my son, always offered encouragement, held my hand, endured the tough times of a transplant patient with strength and grace, teased his cat Skipper, with diminished lung capacity and a walker flew a couple weeks after 9-11-01 to meet his grandchild, and above all he was here and part of our lives when he wouldn’t have been without the gift that anonymous young woman gave him and us.
I spent a lot of time with a lot of troubled families when I was the Art Director on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and they all touched me in some way, however, I remember one of our families had lost a boy in an auto accident. His organs were donated. During the reveal of the finished new home a young girl came to visit. She was the heart recipient. The energy in the room was emotionally charged as the boy’s mom greeted her. Watching the mom embrace a girl who was able to stand there because of her son’s gift was both heartbreaking and awe inspiring. At that moment I couldn’t help but wish I could thank the family in person whose daughter/sister gave my dad a lung. But would they be angry, sad, resentful, and/or happy to meet me? At a friend’s funeral recently I struggled with the awkward moment when you are joyful for the reunion of old friends at the gathering but depressed for the reason you are reuniting. I imagine a meeting with my dad’s donor’s family would be very similar but I’ll never know.
If you check “yes” on the donor box on your license, though it may cause you to confront your own mortality, I can only tell you from someone who has been on the other side, how precious a gift you might give.
Bar Rescue was called so I got to work re-designing a bar in Laguna Niguel called Rocks. It was once a cigar bar but when the legal loophole finally closed up they were forced to lose the advantage they had over all other non smoking bars and thus business dropped too. The exterior was connected to other small businesses in a strip mall but the name of the place was the smallest part of the sign. Inside the walls were deep burgundy and the worn out smelly carpet made you feel sticky when you stood on it. The bar itself matched the walls and on the edge were name plates of previous customers. This automatically made a new customer feel like they were trespassing on someone else’s turf and the staff just reinforced the head trip. The DJ booth was on a raised platform beside the dance floor and consisted of a table draped with table clothes, a frosted glass sneeze guard, and whatever equipment the current DJ lugged in. Video games were scattered through out the bar and the pool tables were set very close to one another. There was an abandoned kitchen hood gutted of its fryer, gas lines, and sink. It had become an unused storage space visible to patrons and stuffed with broken tables and chairs. Above it was lettering larger than the bar’s lightbox name advertising a local drinking club. Jon Taffer asked me to create a “caution high energy” vibe to attract a younger clientele and encourage a larger dancing scene. Elation lighting and MGR helped out with cool effects, Collin Taylor did the new practical lighting installation, and my team battled to remove carpet and glue and refinish the concrete main floor and wood dance floor. By relocating the DJ booth to the abandoned kitchen area and dedicating the raised platform to nice booth seating, I was able to create a better focal point from the entry door that conveyed what the venue was about within the first three steps of entering the bar. My team and I enhanced energy for college-aged clientele per Jon, created a better DJ booth for music, cleaned and arranged the bar for better delivery of spirits, and improved the space and entry for dancing. The exterior was dressed to attract attention with a steam effect, great architectural heaters, and an entry door that prepared the customer for a power plant themed experience.
While renovating this bar I lost a very close friend. She was all about energy, dancing, love, and life. I marked one of the stage benches reserved for her so she would always have a VIP seat. I love you E.
We did a bar in Fairfield, OH for Bar Rescue. The building was very large and the original decor was only tied together by semigloss red walls. The tables and chairs were blond wood and drew your attention away from the bar itself. The back bar was really just a storage space of spare glassware and electrical cords. The stage reminded me of the back of a neglected 1970′s RV. The air conditioning ducts were partially obstructing the view of the stage and the kitchen needed some cleaning. I really wanted to help the owner, Barry. He came from restaurant management and knew what needed to be done but it seemed his partner and he did not have the same management priorities. After scouting the location and brainstorming with Jon Taffer – we came up with a design game plan. Here a few before and afters of the transformation. It was important for me to brand the back bar on Barry’s behalf. Lincoln Electric sent me some equipment to use and a great welder, Ben Koons. Barry’s military service was my inspiration for the steel eagle mounted to the backbar. Anthony Leone built the backbar and my team Libby, Jordan, and Steve worked through the night to complete the makeover. With help from Select Blinds, Worldwide Graphics and some awesome local production assistants Win, Place or Show became America Live in 36 hours.