Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Elaine Hardman, Tin Tinker on The Chew

NEW YORK: I don't watch much daytime TV. Daytime, for me, is for riding bikes, working in the garden and making pottery.
          Still, when I saw that The Chew was looking for people to do a segment on handcrafted work, I sent photos of my earrings upcycled from tin cans and a note telling them of my vast TV experience. I've been on AM Buffalo 3 times.
          Maria, the production assistant called and asked if I could teach Clinton how to make a simple pair of earrings in 5 to 8 minutes. "Sure," I said, "I was an elementary teacher for 35 years."
          She laughed and said she’d send a booking sheet. "Great!" I told her, though I’d no idea what a booking sheet was.
          Later the show’s producer called to give me details on time and address – building 24. She said to walk up to the side door like I belonged there and my name would be on a list. I should wear my regular makeup and be ready for a touch up. I didn’t mention that I don’t own any make up.
          What to wear? Kymberli said to wear bling. I keep my bling with my makeup. Eileen, Allison and Meredith said to wear a solid color. My new striped silk blouse was out but Allison lent me the blouse we got at a thrift store.
            Rick said I needed a new belt so we went shopping for belts the day before I left - right after I had quality time with the dental surgeon dealing with my root canal.
          My mouth was hardly swollen and I thought Clinton Kelly would like my newest shoes so I worked on my lesson plan, chose my materials and selected a platoon from my army of pliers and cutting tools. Time for a tiny television career.
        I drove to my friend’s house in New Jersey. Norma always welcomes me and gives me a place to leave the car and a place to stay in the city. We took the train in. (Honestly, I love when they shout all aboard and blow the whistle.)
         New York is hectic with people moving head down into time as if pushing into a strong wind. Helping someone pick something up earns a person a threatening glare that softens into disbelief and then a crinkle-eyed grin.
        My daughter Emilie met me for dinner and a very short visit and came to the show with me for support.  
        The ABC Studios are in a massive building. I never got a booking sheet and my name wasn’t on the list but nobody asked me for identification. Rather, Emilie and I followed one person who handed us off to another threading through narrow halls with uncountable arrays of electric wires.   
          We passed the ABC nightly news desk. It’s inside of glass room so that it looks almost like a museum exhibit. Then we entered the part of the building that is The Chew.
          The while building teems with people. For someone not aware of the big picture, it feels chaotic. It takes 142 people to put together The Chew and on Thursday they tape both the Thursday and Friday shows so it’s really busy.  
          We had to wait for the first audience to leave before we went to the green room. (These are NEVER green.) Maria offered us water, coffee, tea and snacks - the food prepared during the first taping.  
          Here’s some of the behind-the-scenes scoop on creating a daily cooking show like The Chew. There’s a rehearsal. A comedian comes out with a hand held microphone and whips the audience to a frenzy of shouting, singing and clapping.
          They record a 30 second segment of clapping and hooting (some people really get into this). The comedian says that it’s a warm up but the production people told me that if the actual applause isn’t good they splice the best whatever seconds on the clapping rehearsal into the show.
          Ditto for 30 seconds of laughing on demand. It’s a back up recording just in case they need it.
          Emilie was in the midst of the hooting audience when the makeup artist arrived. She said that half the guests she works on have no makeup. She applied lip gloss and called me done.
          In the rehearsal the cooks chop and stir the air saving the actual food to use during the taping. They use a teleprompter. Every word of their natural conversation and banter is scripted and marches past in all capital letters, 2 or 3 words on a line matching their reading speed. How can they read so naturally? The comedian uses has hand signals to encourage the audience to applaud or laugh.
          My part was short. I introduced myself to Clinton Kelly and talked briefly about making tin can folk art earrings. If I may brag, half the audience laughed at my joke without being told to.  
          Then Clinton talked with the other 3 guests and their projects. Diane stamps floor tiles with permanent ink and uses them as trivets. Susan staples chicken wire on picture frames to make an earring hanger and Sue ties plastic six pack rings together to make flower-like decorations.
          Clinton chose to stamp on the floor tiles saying it looked the easiest and I applaud his choice. They were all able to do this project in the very short time period allotted. I couldn’t have worked with 5 people.
          The main focus of The Chew is to help people make fast and easy meals. That’s reasonable. We all need the occasional fast meal. But I can’t work fast whether I’m making pottery, tin can folk art sculpture or jewelry, my mind is says slow. (My cooking is slow too and often starts with the growing part.)
          Clinton Kelly and Carla Hall came to the green room after the show and both seemed warm and interesting. They invited me to come back to the show with them for a longer segment this summer. I don’t know if anything more will happen. I’ve had my 15 seconds of fame on national TV.

 photos: Elaine on the set of The Chew
A sheet that blocks out the segments of Episode 153 of The Chew
Carla Hall peeking out and then Clinton Kelley and me in the blouse I got for Allison at the Goodwill store but she lent it to me.

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