I awoke with a start. Ohmigod! Harry Reasoner is coming, and my living room is a mess.
I didn't want my dustballs showing up -- in living color -- in homes across America.
I showered, dressed, fed the kids, straightened the living room, vacuumed and made a pot of coffee. I was ready for Harry . . .
It had all begun when Style Plus published some articles I had written on my experiences as a househusband. I heard from a lot of friends and even got a couple complimentary calls from strangers.
One Friday afternoon in early April, my phone rang.
"Mr. Martin? This is Libby McKee. I'm a production associate with the '60 Minutes' television show in New York. We're working on a story about what seems to us to be an emerging life style, that of the married, female breadwinner. I read your article . . . "
I thought she was putting me on. This was a joke.
Anyway, after about three weeks, it was arranged: McKee and Jim Jackson, a producer, would film us Monday and Tuesday, April 27 and 28.
We were going to be on "60 Minutes." And not only that . . . Harry Reasoner -- in the flesh -- was going to be in our living room.
When we saw him on TV we'd practice: "See ya in a couple of weeks, Harry" . . . "Hey, Harry! What do you take in your coffee?" . . . "What are you going to ask us, Harry?"
My 14-year-old was dying to ask Harry if he'd heard the joke about what you get when you cross a computer with a gorilla. I shuddered when I found out the answer: "a Harry Reasoner." I vetoed. The 9-year-old was bored with it all.
Monday morning Jackson and a film crew met my wife -- an accounting supervisor for Safeway food stores -- in her office. With a wireless microphone hidden inside her dress, a producer with clipboard, cameraman and assistant, soundman and lightman, following her for about an hour, she went about her business.
Jim Jackson and crew filmed me at the supermarket: leaving my car, entering the store, buying milk and yogurt, checking out and leaving. Yessir. Just your average shopper with a film crew trailing around behind him.
They filmed me carrying groceries into the house. They wanted, Jackson explained, everything as realistic as possible.
"What kinds of things," he asked, "would you normally do around the house?"
"I'd put the groceries away."
"Fine. Do it. But wait till we get the lights set up."
Fifteen minutes later -- camera rolling -- I put the groceries away.
"What about cooking? Could you cook something?"
"How about the zucchini casserole we're having tonight?"
"Good. Do it. But wait till we re-arrange the lights."
Ten minutes later I sliced vegetables for America.
"Okay. Great! What else would you do?"
"How about vacuuming the carpet?"
"Excellent. Do it. But wait till we move the lights."
Ten minutes later I sucked up dirt for CBS. The cameraman moved high, low, left, right. I vacuumed the same 6-foot square for five minutes.
"How about cleaning the bathroom?" I volunteered.
"Good idea," said Jackson.
"Okay. I'll get the cleaning stuff while you change the lights."
I was catching on.
The cameraman thought scrubbing the bathtub would make a good shot. He scrunched down inside the tub. He filmed; I scrubbed.
Jackson decided they had enough film footage for the "voice-over" commentary.
The film crew was instructed to return the next morning and be set up for the interview by 11 a.m. -- when Harry was due.
I was curious about what Harry would be like. The film crew said he was a very nice guy. He and Mike both.
"You mean," I asked, "Mike Wallace, Firebrand?"
"A pussycat . . . very considerate, very easy to work with. No temper tantrums. Does what he's told."
So much for that image.
The film crew arrived at 10 a.m. They adjusted lights on tall stands, moved furniture, plotted camera angles, took light readings, set up the camera and loaded it. They were ready for Jackson and Harry, who came in the door shortly after 11.
I had expected Harry to be the twinkly-eyed, kindly grandfather of TV. He wasn't . . . yet.
The soundman put small mikes on us and asked us to say something for a sound-level check. We counted; Harry began the Gettysburg Address. There, suddenly, was his TV voice.
The camera was placed behind Harry's left shoulder, aimed at my wife Linda, and me. A list of questions was on Harry's lap.
When the lights came on, so did twinkly-eyed, kindly Grandfather Harry. Many of his questions were ones Jackson had asked earlier. We were given no advance warning about anything new Harry asked.
When the film ran out, the lights went off and the cameraman's assistant re-loaded the camera. Harry lit a Pall Mall. When the lights came on, the cigarette went out.
Funny, but I had never thought about whether Harry smoked or not. It wasn't a big deal one way or the other, it's just that one rarely links a famous face and mundane things like smoking, eating, and so on.
Harry's questions dealt with how I became a househusband, what I liked and disliked about it, family adjustment to Dad being home, my wife's attitude toward her work and my being home. We talked about the advantages to our sons having a full-time dad, our love life, whether we would recommend our life style to others and how long I would be a househusband.
The interview took less than an hour. After Harry had asked the questions with the camera behind him, the cameraman moved behind me and shot Harry's face over my shoulder. As the camera rolled, the producer re-read all the questions to Harry who then re-asked them all.
We were supposed to answer each question again, but with only a sentence or two. In New York, they would cut the film so it looks as if the camera sees Harry ask a question, and then cuts to us answering it.
Next they moved the camera back to the first position and asked us to look at Harry and not talk, to act as if we were listening to him. He had done his mike check of a line or two of the Gettysburg Address and had admitted he probably didn't remember all of it.
Now as we sat and looked interested, he started Lincoln's speech again. After several sentences Harry's look at the producer and cameraman said plainly he thought they'd filmed enough of the Martins looking interested. It also said he wanted to stop reciting. They ignored him and let him keep on going. We started grinning. Harry started sweating. He got to within two sentences of the end when everyone burst into laughter.
The last thing they recorded indoors was 30 seconds of room noise; every room has different acoustic characteristics. If, when editing the film, they need a pause in the sound track they use some of the recorded room noise.
After about 2 hours, Harry and Jackson were gone.
The segment we were filmed for was entitled "Mrs. Breadwinner" and aired Oct 25. We spent 7-8 hours doing the filming. We appeared on the TV screen 2 minutes and 51 seconds.
I hope, if anyone was looking for my dustballs, they looked fast.