Showing posts with label being martha. Show all posts
Showing posts with label being martha. Show all posts


A Moment With Lloyd Allen

"Being Martha" author Lloyd Allen shares the remarkable tale of Martha Stewart's close encounter with the Grim Reaper on a beach on Hog Island during a taping of her television show. This beautifully penned piece is exclusive to Martha Moments and it's my hope that readers enjoy its literary layers, its beautiful imagery and its importance as a portrait of the domestic warrior we've come to know, simply, as Martha. ~ Andrew Ritchie

Martha as Metaphor
by Lloyd Allen

She was at sea off Hog Island, a small-massed irregular radial lying out on the water off the coast of San Francisco. The day, one of mentionable incredibility, waited for Martha before closing down for the evening. The Pacific Ocean stretched itself out in every direction and had relaxation written all over its languid body in low hieroglyphic whitecaps. Way out, near the edge of the earth, the sun readied for a good night’s sleep, pulling on the cumulus comforters that lie at the bottom the darkening sky, in the process, exposing more rays in more ways than I have the time to go into. Let me just say this: It was nearing “magic hour.” Sixty–– count them ––hydrogen fired minutes of cinematic graphic opportunity. Shoot it or loose it, Seconds were ticking by. She had seen it all before and it excited her. And–– excitement brought her to this place for oysters, Hog Island Sweetwater Oysters.

Martha arrived just in the nick of time for the harvest. Seamen, preparing to go out in their boats waited patiently much like the sun, moon and stars for their errant passenger as she climbed first into her waders, then into one of the boats. The seamen also wished while they waited only to make good on their quota and to return with their vats filled only with the largest of large oysters. Martha’s wishing went way beyond the fishermen and numbered as many as there were whitecaps in all the world’s oceans.

Now look! Out there, on one of the boats, floating around among her whitecap dreams, Martha, gazed ashore for signs of her distant camera crew before leaning overboard. She put herself in the hands of the oystermen, learning what no book could teach her, from unschooled experts teaching unschooled skills, watching and listening, offering a helping hand when they’d let her.

Oysters! Famed fishermen’s tales foretold the impending word of mouth on this fantastic filter feeding phenomena known tacitly, not only for its texture and flavor, but also for its perennially aphrodisiac potential. These primitive provocateurs of love and lust, living up to their virile reputations, ignoring all that science fails to find, abound in legend and lore–– vitally! Down below on the ocean’s floor, placeboes are impossibilities; all mollusks, comers. High above, the clouds came.

The crew was all too aware of the approaching cumulonimbus, and Martha, not failing to take note of daylight’s muting glow, challenged all hands on all decks to heedfully heft every last unsuspecting oyster out of its bed; “lights out” would never be called. No more nestling for you no-good nincompoop filter feeders, no more lounging for you lethargic, but legal, lust pimps; languish no more you salty seafaring pooper scoopers; Yes, sing it, “Hush little oysters, don’t you cry, Martha’s going to make everything all right, because whether you like it or not, back on shore an audience awaits every last one of you.” That said, that done.

On the quick return to shore, Martha considered all the options for the nefariously infamous near do wells. “If only the sun would loiter and linger a little longer,” whispered one of her snowcapped wishes as it sprayed over the bow of the boat. Martha sucked salt through a matted clump of hair as she leaned headstrong into a west-southwesterly wind, wondering if her camera crew was all set and ready to go.

She had planned to demonstrate to the world how to harvest oysters, the preferred packing techniques to properly bring them back safe and sound; how to store oysters in a satisfactory manner, how to shuck them. She had planned a vignette featuring a down and dirty dozen, all shucked, she would lay them out one at a time on shaved ice around a horse-radished cocktail sauce, all the while discussing the nuances of the numerous flavors afforded to the slippery bed fellow. She rehearsed in her head the litany of ways to prepare the saltine sand puck–– Oysters Rockefeller were on the roster of shots, as well as a Creole oyster dish, an Asian oyster dish, saucy oysters and eggs, oysters with almond crème, scalloped oysters, not to mention that preposterous pickled oyster, “I’d have to mention oysters Florentine, and the century-old favorite Calypso Oyster Stew,” she thought out loud. “And I mustn’t forget Grand Central’s Oyster Stew and Brown Derby’s Oyster Brie Soup.” She wasn’t going to forget the garlic baked oysters, and more importantly, “Everyone really should know how to make English Oyster Stuffing for the holidays!”

Damn it! The little barnacled bastard had more recipe options than any sea critter Martha had ever come across and on top of that the ornery oyster demanded whole databases on devoted servers; buckwheat fried oysters and bacon wrapped, not to mention every vegetable around wanted to lay down next to the slippery slime ball; smoking them was also a favorite pastime, and stuffing the silicone blob with anything and everything was sanctioned, and dang, wouldn’t you know it, there was even a recipe for barbequed oysters. Martha had to dig mighty deep to rustle up a vision of what a real cowboy looked like, sidling up to a grub plate full of barbecued oysters, but what reverberated repeatedly in her head were only these two words: “Prairie Oyster,” and it made her smile to herself for some unknown reason. Inside joke, I guess.

Upon landing, the seamen moved quickly to unload their oyster-laden treasure. Out at sea, Martha, in between her concerned questioning about the fate of the family oyster farmer, had also thoroughly informed the seaman on the intricacies of television production, especially the aspects of the art relating to today’s shoot. In her discussion, while laying out the odds of completing all the scheduled shots, she found fearless comrades ready to fight along side her against daylight’s ticking time tomb, grabbing every ray of the magical light, down to dusk if need be, and as one seaman said his seaworthy prayer, Martha made her millionth wish, when, ever so slowly the clouds parted, rousing the sleepy headed sun; now woken and wide-eyed, it raised its curious head above its cloud cover, to look back in encore before settling in for the evening, but not until it had a chance to gaze at Martha one last time.


Film equipment was everywhere: big, bright lights, cameras on track, boom mikes, and a massive crew. This was not her normal New York crew by any means; they were out of San Francisco and they were set, ready to go; Gaphers and electricians, gophers and production assistants, all, in mass.

Martha does a sideways slosh-step off the boat and she’s a total wreck. Make-up everywhere, her hair all matted and surf salted. Despite the elements taking serious advantage of her, she remains as beautiful as ever. I’m beginning to wonder though, about the oyster’s boast, you know, the one about love and lust; could those silver-bellied slime suckers have riled Miss Pacific out of her slumberous state as they were being yanked from there beds? Was it they who prodded the pacification from the sea? Chanting: “Have your way with her! Have you way with her!” Like I said, it makes me wonder.

She still has her waders on, as she pans the crowd for Eva, her hair and make-up artist. Locating her, she begins taking swashbuckling steps through the crowd and equipment, only to mistakenly meet fate, head on. As she moves forward, she unerringly steps on an electrical wire: a live wire. It didn’t help that the plug was separated only the slightest bit from its outlet, and it was neither a good thing that she was carrying a half an inch of water in her waders. Zap! You could hear the sound of the voltage rev like a zillion pissed-off yellow jackets.

“Help! Somebody, please, Martha’s been shocked! Horribly shocked! Did you see that? It threw her ten feet,” screamed Eva. “I was just about to touch her, oh my God!” Everyone rushed to Martha; a few lifted her up from the ground. Martha looked stunned with all the dirt and sand on her face, like a fighter, down for the count, and she kept repeating to everyone, “I’m fine, I’m fine; don’t worry.”

So wow, she must have just missed it. Somehow she “9-lived” what could have been an unfortunate fate. It would take more than high voltage to bring this bitch down, this great white, returning from sea, all oystered out but still perfectly presentable. Bu,t correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t believe great white sharks eat oysters. Well, maybe this one was going to have her oysters and eat them too. That is, if they’re properly prepared; but time’s a wasting.

Eva gets right on her hair and make-up, it didn’t take much time, and anyway, Martha liked looking au natural. The filming began immediately. Determined to shoot the full segment before ole sleepyhead conked out, Martha deftly maneuvers her cast and crew. That tuckered out ball of light wasn’t going to ruin her hundred-thousand-dollar shoot day, not if she could help it, but they were losing light fast; Take 1! Action! Rolling!

About five minutes into it, Eva noticed Martha scratching her foot; continually reaching down into her boot trying to get at her foot until she couldn’t take it any longer, finally, she pulled off the waterlogged boot to take a closer look. There, in the center of the sole of her right foot, was a large red hole. Her reaction is one of startled, but stoic, concern, “Oh my God, is there an insect around here? Something must have bit me! Is it a snakebite? Here, somebody take a look.” And everyone standing around, already pressed mercilessly by Father Time, and, a mother-of-all-shoots on their hands, had no idea what the oozing red hole in Martha’s foot could be. How could they? And guess what else: There wasn’t “a doctor in the house.”

What to do? “Martha, do you want to go to the doctor? Should we cancel and re-shoot? What do we do with all the oysters?” Thinking. Thinking. She decides to continue the television shoot. Go for it! It was long yardage and a short clock; they were down by 10 minutes but she had every sense of confidence that they could pull it off. No measly mundane hole in her foot was going to cancel this Living episode. No way. She had a plan, and as always, it was in her head. There was no time to call a huddle.

Martha winced in pain as she glanced over her shoulder one more time, like a quarterback looking sideways before the snap: Oysters Rockefeller, take 2. Action! Like clockwork she took the oyster, passing it off in a sideways lateral move to one of the stand-in seaman, as camera 2 paned the overflowing vats of oysters, she shrugged off the pain with a silly question concerning the sexuality of the oyster. All the while camera 3, oh yea, camera 3, locked in on the wide shot–– don’t miss that, Martha in all her glory, backlit by a fading sun child, fixated from afar, out in the distance, its triple A’s running lower than low, and yelling “Hurry Martha!”

Despite the great distance between the two heavenly bodies, Martha’s second sense heard her suns call–– all the while, camera 3 pulling a slow focus from the perfectly breathtaking horizon back toward the perfectly breathtaking Martha, and as she slowly came into a crisp focus, the lens caught the detailed whitecap etchings out on the ocean, one at a time.

Everything went swimmingly for the remaining segment set-ups; finished in under an hour! Hell, Martha had been in tougher elements than this and pulled it off. Did you ever here the one about… nah, I’ll save that for later, but what a testament to her strength; a proclamation of her true professionalism. Martha was going to make it through that segment, come hell or high water. Her thinking was, if a running back with torn ligaments and cartilage could sprint 90 yards to the end zone and catch a pass, then surely she could, in the same manner, complete the task that was now behind her.

After being electrocuted, going full on for the camera, finishing the cut-away shots, she’s finally rushed to a doctor. Don’t hurry on my account, boys, was the sense Martha gave. It was only a short wait before she was examined. Martha is informed by the doctor that the red hole in the bottom of her foot was an exit wound, that the electricity from the “hot wire” went up the left side of her body, somehow bypassed her heart and then exited out her right side, out the right foot.

It seems that electricity is fickle, but in between entering and exiting, is a no mans land. What goes in, has to come out, only more times than not, before waving goodbye, the high voltage proceeds to do the Electric Glide all around your heart muscles. You get the picture. Back in Nutley, New Jersey, they called Martha “just plain lucky;” but then, hasn’t she always been?

Reports are that Martha most definitely was in very real pain; that she proceeded with the shoot on one foot, while bending the other leg and kneeling on a box. Others, informed of the event, recalled hearing that the cast and crew had to finally drag her off the set, but not before each and every shot for the oyster story was complete, and it was then and only then, while being treated in the infirmary by the doctor, wrapped up with sterile white gauze, layered with a skin toned bandage–– and I almost forgot, given a crutch ––she was overheard saying the word, “Ouch.”


'Being Martha' Review

Every so often a book comes along that makes me want to turn right back to the introduction and start reading it all over again. “Being Martha” by Lloyd Allen is one such book.

An inside look at the life and times of Martha Stewart, Being Martha is told from the perspective of a friend and former neighbour of the woman the world has come to know simply as Martha. (There really is only one!) Author Lloyd Allen knows Martha personally and has watched her ventures grow from a basement catering operation to one of the most successful and unlikely American enterprises ever built.
The book is filled with personal accounts of Martha’s formative years as a caterer in Westport, Connecticut, as well as exclusive interviews with family members, including Martha’s daughter, Alexis, her mother, Martha Kostyra, her brother George and her sister Laura.

The book emerged as a kind of antidote to all the negative portrayals of Martha that were growing like strangling ragweed in the press during the investigation into her now-infamous stock sale, subsequent trial and jail sentence.

“This book gives a fuller portrait than we have seen before of a complicated and fascinating woman. My hope is that by reading this more complete view of Martha you will have a better understanding of who and why she is,” Lloyd writes in his introduction.

And his hope is fulfilled.

Not only does the reader come to understand the “who” and the “why” of all that encompasses the great Martha Stewart, we understand, too, what it is to live life to the fullest – with the fullest vision, the fullest desire, the fullest appreciation of all that is alive and green and good.

It is no coincidence that her magazine and company are entitled “Living.”

The stories and anecdotes in Being Martha span a breadth of history, most of it undulating in the kitchens of Turkey Hill – Martha’s now-famous home in Westport where her ventures originally began. There is a chapter about the author’s visit with Martha at the Alderson prison and still others about her growing empire: stories from her television studios are especially revealing.

What we see through Lloyd’s eyes is a woman who is driven by a passion for life and energy to create. We see a woman who is compelled to live as fully and artfully as possible and come to understand why she is this way. We get an understanding of her childhood life with tales from her mother. We see what she is like as a mom through Alexis’s comments.
We also see a woman on a mission. We see a woman who is impatient and temperamental but always forgiving in the end. We see a woman who draws people to her through a magnetism rarely seen in the annals of human history and who harnesses the energies of those people with sheer inspiration and, perhaps, a few commands!

And we see a woman with regrets, with some degree of sadness for what she lost on her climb to the top and with an ability to cry and be reflective in private moments. She is not a woman of steel.

Reading “Being Martha” will inspire you. It is about Martha Stewart, yes, but it is also about life and the process of living. It is about human nature, too.
Once I had finished it, I got in touch with Lloyd to tell him what I thought of the book and he agreed to answer a few questions for me about Martha and some of his recent activities in promoting the book.

Lloyd recently visited Alderson prison to give a lecture and sign some copies of his book. Here are his answers to my questions:

1. Describe your recent visit to Alderson! In detail!

Even though it is a 10 hour drive, I decided to drive to Alderson, West Virginia to give 2 lectures and do a book signing. Thoughts of the beauty of early spring flowering trees and shrubs and the landscape of the Shenandoah Valley convinced me that taking a plane was a no-no. I was there at the behest of John and Betty Alderson. It was the Alderson Store's 120th Anniversary and Betty invited me to "come on down" and stay for a few days and involve myself in various events. There is nothing like Southern hospitality.

It was my birthday and I left early on April 6th, arriving at 4:30 in the afternoon. I knew the house I would be staying in because when I visited Martha during her stay at Alderson Federal Prison, Betty had offered up one of the family homes. No sooner had I pulled into the driveway, than Betty and John were parked behind me. I brought my bags in, I washed my face and we were off!

I was given a tour of the town and then we went to their house where I met Mary, one of 2 daughters. After some wine and cheese, I found myself back in the front seat of the car heading into the countryside. Remember, I'm in the Appalachian Mountains on positively the most winding road I have ever been on with the most idyllic scenery passing me by. We arrive shortly at a wonderful 2-story red brick home to pick up a friend of the family, who just happened to be the 2nd warden of the prison. She was 90 years old but sharp as a tack. We were then off to dinner. The warden entertained me the whole evening with stories of way back when. When she had been the warden the famous prisoners included Billie Holiday, Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally and the wife and daughter of Machine Gun Kelly. Her stories were non-stop.

When the discussion turned to Martha she asked me, "Lloyd, what did Martha think of Alderson?" I replied, "Well, the women and Martha didn't like the warden." Everyone got a big laugh, and this is no reflection on the woman that I was sitting across the table from. Our banter about Martha continued, but being that this was a small town and everyone knew everyone, well, I was introduced to the lady whose husband was charged with the responsibility of shining the light in the prisoners’ faces every night to make sure they were in bed. She said to me, "Martha hated that!"

So this was the beginning of my 3 days in Alderson. The following day I gave a "Martha Lecture" inside the prison to a women's community group followed by lunch and then a book signing back at the Alderson Store. Betty had a brand new T-Shirt she was selling that said, "I spent time in Alderson." This was a follow-up to other classics such as, "West Virginia Living is a Good Thing" and "London, Paris, New York, Alderson." I am planning on giving Martha the new T-Shirt next week. I think she'll get a big laugh out of it. I'd like to see her wear it on her show.

2. What is your favorite "Martha Moment?"

I have so many moments with her from long ago that touched me deeply but my favorite moment at this time in my life was my visit with her in prison. Now, understand I was 3/4 way into the book, I knew she would make a comeback and here I was going to see a woman I adored, a famous woman that millions adored, and I was going to visit her in prison. This is a story you tell your grandchildren! I wrote a whole chapter about my visit in Being Martha. Many have asked why I didn't interview others for the chapter, like fellow prisoners. I just wanted to write a chapter that described the event of the visit. Yes, I threw in a bit of background that I was aware of, from talking to family and Martha herself, but I think I got across a "Martha Moment" in the chapter.

And this reminds me. My recent visit to Alderson assured me that the town has been changed forever. It will never get over the fact that Martha came and put the town on the map. The world knows Alderson and perhaps one day it will become the tourist attraction it once was back in the days when people visited the area for the healing sulfur springs.

3. Do you know if Martha has read the book and what she thinks of it?

Martha has read the book. I have not discussed it with her. This is not Martha's way. I received the heads-up from various people that work for her. There were a few girls that worried what Martha might think about their remarks in the book. Everyone at MSO was nervous before it came out, but after reading it and seeing the book at Martha's home (I had one of her brothers-in-law hand deliver it to her), they all breathed a sigh or relief.

4. What do you consider to be Martha's greatest achievement?

Martha's greatest achievement is a work in progress; you can't put a finger on it. She is a great female for all women to look to for inspiration. Her inner strength is unmatched and you will never meet a more focused individual. Martha has gone where no other woman has gone. She has opened the gate. She has conquered and taken no prisoners. She has legions of followers and a skilled army of artisans and business personnel that ensures her continued success. Martha is one of the brilliant minds of the 21 Century. If I had to pick her greatest achievement I would say that is the most apparent one: that Martha persisted with her message of home and the importance of domesticity. In the face of jokes, parodies and criticism she was undaunted and unwavering in her passion for life and to send that message to all that wanted to listen.

I have a story that came to me too late to make it to print. Take yourself back to the day of 9-11, take yourself back to the tragedy of it all and you will understand what I am about to tell you. A daughter phoned her father, he was living in New York City, had seen it all and was trying to recover, find some solace, some peace. His daughter asked him what he planned on doing. He simply said, "I'm going to pour a glass of wine, sit in a comfortable chair and open my Martha Stewart Living magazine and take it all in.”

Telling? I think it speaks volumes about Martha.

I wrote a number of passages that never made it into the book. Here is one. In it I tried to get across the mythic proportions of this great person as I thought back to early events in her career. This has to be a memory I have from early Turkey Hill. I wanted this little piece at the front of Being Martha, but of course, I was over-ruled. In America, you don't write a book, you "put it together," as there is no time to completely write a book; the market can't wait. Bear with me...

Long Ago…
Strewn about on the white flour-dusted counter top of her kitchen, even the Polaroid photos glimmered - insufficient super-glossy attestations of what was still to come. Nearby, a galvanized garbage can, the lid lifted and left leaning like a discarded female gladiator’s shield, played coliseum to the felled remains of the day’s Photographic Gastronome Games, a veritable PGG tournament if you will.

Apples cored and quartered, peaches pitted, the paired skin of carrots apparent, while plenty of potatoes bore signs of being skinned, halved and scored. Down in the garbage, tightly tied throngs of lily of the valley, every head turned down, stood segregated and sad against the 20-gallon rotund walls, while pompous pink peonies regaled the daisies and foxglove with their stories and lofty observations of the day’s barbarism. The worldly and wizened wisteria prophesied fantastic apocalyptic fairy tales, proclaiming, “It’s never over as quick as it begins.”

All this living matter, tragically wasting and in the process becoming slowly immortalized (so to speak); this organic shrapnel held the only real clues to understanding Martha, her past and future, but to try and “put all the pieces back together again,” was a greater scientific challenge than dealing with poor old Humpty Dumpty’s predicament. So barring any unforeseen miracle or dark magic, these pieces of proof will lie like discarded mythic tales and unnoticed tea leaves and serve us little as we try to piece Martha's life back together again.