Trading Spaces Episode #42
Laurie Smith and Frank Bielec
By Holly Baber Smith
IN THE BEGINNING
We talked incessantly with each other before our shoot began. How could we avoid it? Each time we mentioned to someone that we were going to be on “Trading Spaces” out came a flood of, “You must be really brave or nuts,” and, “Did you see the one……” We found our bravado and excitement waning at the onslaught of the opinions and stories from others. Everyone who is any type of fan of the show has deeply rooted feelings about each and every episode, and everyone wants to share.
I cleaned our house as much as I could. We all delivered our pets to boarding houses and sitters. Rick and I forewarned neighbors. We stocked our refrigerators with beer for each other. We had our lawns clipped and cleaned. Not knowing exactly where different scenes were going to be shot, we prepared our houses as though they were going on the market. Hindsight now tells Rick and I that we should have straightened our garage more because Laurie and Tracy made that Roman shade for what seemed like a third of the program. Did everyone notice the spare blue litter box on a shelf? And the bag of bird seed? Had I only known I would have draped one of my grandmother’s handmade quilts along one of the dingy walls.
Early (I’m talking early) on what the call Day Zero [the day of setting up and doing local television interview, etc.], I walked by our front door at 7:50 am only to see a van parked in the driveway. I squawked down the hall to wake my husband.
“They’re here! They’re here already! I thought we were supposed to meet at noon! Get up!”
I hurdled myself into the shower while Rick struggled with clothing and all the while the caterer, who’d gotten the times wrong, was waiting to bring food in! So, the true beginning of our Trading Spaces shoot was one of pandemonium.
Tracy’s job requires her to travel at an almost brutal schedule at times; therefore, she needed a room that was low maintenance in her absence and is comfortable and inviting in her presence. She suggested a Southwestern theme, but wasn’t insistent on it. Her ONLY request for her living room was that we change her fireplace and not use pink. Her fireplace had an admittedly “flame broiled” look to it and I remember seeing Frank in Tracy’s living room the day before our shoot, looking at the walls and fireplace and rubbing his bearded chin thoughtfully.
“Frank,” I interrupted his reverie, “I feel a whipping and a hurtin’ coming on with these walls,” I said because I’ve seen the show. I know all about Frank and his rooms of many colors and intricate wall techniques that were destined to give me nightmares. Happily that was not the case.
Tracy’s partner Jeff is a designer, hence his extended knowledge of “wavy hems” and such. Jeff and Tracy are friends through Jeff’s wife, and Rick and I are friends with Jeff through Tracy. In the opening sequence when the four of us are sitting in a swing at Tracy’s gazebo, Jeff is telling us about just getting back from doing some runway shows in Europe. That scene was very uncomfortable because you try to converse all the while hearing, "Uhm, be more comfortable. Say something funny. Okay, look at each other."
Rick and Holly, the newlyweds. We married in October of 2001 and had been in the house about 2 years, going room by room and redecorating. Sure, we’d tried paint and border and trim, but found ourselves unhappy with the results of the kitchen. In fact, Frank and I had a whole conversation about what I explained as normal, everyday people’s fears of redecorating. I reasoned that when decorating doesn’t come naturally, regular people either don’t make enough of a change to a room and are unhappy, or we go overboard and are stuck with an ugly color on our walls for a year until we have the money and time to repaint. It’s unfortunate this segment was edited out as I was privileged to hear a truly great “Frankism” when he turned to me and said, “Honey, I’ve painted my walls such ugly colors that Poison Control brought busloads of people over just to throw up on them.”
PERSONALITIES, IDIOSYNCRASIES, AND “WHY’D THAT HAPPEN?”
Jeff’s hats. Jeff wore different hats throughout the two days as a running joke, but what everyone saw was not the series of hats but merely a lanky guy trying too hard to be funny. Not true, in fact Jeff is very funny, a fact not reflected on the show. He does a convincing Ty impression that didn’t air, either.
Why didn’t Rick speak? My husband isn’t a quiet person. Did you notice that on Day Two, Frank asked me how I was feeling? And then referred to me as their “rock”? Throughout much of Day One, we made constant references to the fact that both Frank AND Rick were under the weather. Frank’s voice was gone, but my poor husband had a fever. At every break, I would give him aspirin and cold tablets while he ****ed up liquids. There were references on camera such as everyone (including Paige) clearing out their throats in unison and me giving Frank and Rick cough drops. All this was edited out. (I did contract a raging cold three days after the shoot.)
Why did Frank call me a “rock, our goddess”? Strange and arbitrary if you weren’t there. As we began on Day One Frank made sure of the particular names we wanted to go by. The conversation was, “Rick? Do you go by Rick? Okay. Holly? What do you want me to call you?” I told him I preferred to be called Goddess of Light and Air. He gave a grizzly chuckle, and then remembered that on Day Two.
Did we have any fun at all? I answer this one a lot. We had much more fun that it looked like, I promise, with ample opportunity for cutting up and acting silly. For instance, I knew that Jeff was doing a Ty impression so I countered with my Laurie impression. By the middle of Day Two it was requested! I threw in such lines as, “Give it a punch of color,” and, “Oh, this is such a sad moment.” What came of all that was a tiny portion at the end of the show during what we might call outtakes……you see me getting up from the vegetable cactus sequence, fluff my short hair, say, “I’m the designer,” and flounce out a lá Laurie. After the show wrapped, Rick and I thanked her and I told her that I impersonated her out of love and fun. She grinned ear to ear and asked me to do it for her because it might get edited out of the show. Rick and I shook our heads (naively) and said, “There’s no way they could edit it all out! They made me do it on camera three separate times.” Oh, but they did.
To toast? Or not to toast? At the end of Day One, Frank hands Rick and I two small bottles “from some special occasion” which were bottles of champagne from our wedding rehearsal dinner. At the end of the show, we all have champagne (all but Paige as the bulletin boarders were quick to point out). We did indeed sip though much was discussed on the bulletin board as to why that wasn’t on camera. I do not know the rules regarding alcohol consumption on cable television, prime time television, or any other genre of television, so I cannot address this to anyone’s satisfaction.
KNOWING THE UNKNOWN
Since my husband and Tracy both work at the same demanding job, they were required to wear their pagers, or at least take them for the shoot. At the end of Day One, we began bouncing messages back and forth. We remained true to the rules and didn’t reveal any pertinent information, but rather seized upon the opportunity to worry each other about the theme and shape of the rooms, i.e. “I hope you guys like a windmill theme!” and “How do you feel about monkey fur?” and so on.
Day Two ended for Rick and I around 2:00 PM. So we sat around in the fumes and waited for the reveal. And we waited. Rick took some medicine. I took a nap. Frank took a shower. And we waited. Tracy paged us around 4:30 PM.
WHERE DO YOU GUYS KEEP YOUR YELLOW PAGES?
I panicked. Why? Why do they need our phone books? Rick paged back:
WHY? WHY DO YOU NEED OUR PHONE BOOKS?
DUDE. BIG DRAMA OVER HERE.
That was the most unnerving part of the entire shoot for us. We speculated about all of the things that could have happened. Someone ripped the wiring loose from our refrigerator. A piece of china was dropped. The glass top to our kitchen table was dropped. A light fell over and started a small fire. Our list was endless.
Never NEVER EVER could I have imagined that BOTH our toilets had been clogged up and a professional was called in! Even as I type this, I am still grossed out. Much ammonia, bleach, and scrubbing has surpassed.
Afterward, the four of us speculated as to whether or not the Trading Spaces powers realize that pagers could potentially ruin the magical reveal; however, the same can be said for telephones, email and even just walking to the house at night. They don’t leave a production assistant at each house to screen phone calls and make sure that no one is telling the other owner what is going on. The honor system must prevail for the Christmas morning-like reveal to be preserved. Ironically, the reveal is the ONE part of the show that cannot be scripted. The human, gut reaction will make or break a show in the end, and if you’re a homeowner, you might as well buy into the entire concept to get the most out of your time.
Other unknown aspects that I remember were Ty and I climbing into the armoire once it was delivered, and I believe he suggested using K-Y Jelly to pry me loose. Tracy, Jeff, and Paige turned up the music and (supposedly) danced all over the kitchen with Paige even standing in our sink and using the retractable sink sprayer as a microphone. I was hustled outside at one point and told, “Go be funny with Ty.” The only weird shot that made it was our (Ty and Holly) shrugging our shoulders, looking at the camera, then at each other. What didn’t make it was that I told Ty he has a “Ty face” that he makes when a designer talks about painting wood.
“Because you’re such a naturalist,” I said.
“Actually, I’m a For Real-ist. They tell me they’re going to paint natural wood, and I say, are you, for real?”
Rick, Tracy, Jeff and I all watched our show together with friends. Afterward, we felt a bit let down by the final cut. Knowing how much fun we’d had, the actual episode was somewhat flat to us. But, we also know that it isn’t “Laugh-In, Sutton Court Style.” Editing choices are made based on what moves the story along and gets the audience from beginning to ending of each project. Still, after investing so much time into the show, to look so uninteresting was disheartening. To live through a month of, “That didn’t look like you guys at all!” from friends and family didn’t help. I suppose all homeowners have a litany of defenses for their episodes as well, and this, too, is part of the process you must accept before you begin. You lose control of this aspect.
IS REALITY LIVABLE?
Tracy still loves her theme room and has designs to update her kitchen. The paint job was never perfect and she’s touched up. She changed the hinges on her armoire doors because she had a limited view of the television with the way it was. The pieces of leather sewn on her throw pillows are beginning to pop off. The birch branch lamps aren’t always turned on, and storage has been a challenge. Her dog Hershey doesn’t wear costumes every day, only special occasions, so please, no calling PETA on her!
Our china display cases, much to the dismay of a large portion of the bulletin boarders, are perfect for us. We never wanted to display every piece of the china. And, they were based on another piece of collectible art Rick and I already own, so it’s a perfect blend of the two. The wall and cabinet paint colors are, indeed, one shade deeper, and both required touch ups. We bought the rugs that were returned which make the room so much better. The chair covers are stained, but what did anyone expect with silk? We extended the design theme into our adjoining laundry room.
Admittedly, none of us have watched the show as regularly as we did before we were a part of it. We feel lucky to have been part of Season Two, when things are still resh and the momentum is on an upswing. One day we’ll be like old Saturday Night Live episodes, part of the good old days. Our television experience, scripted and unscripted, was enjoyable and our rooms are still adored.