In 1980, I finished my third book – Backyard Roughing it Easy. A pitch was made to the show for me to kick off my summer media tour on “Today.” I was soon booked for two more segments, and off I went to New York to work on my dream. For the first time, “Good Morning America” was catching up in ratings with “The Today Show.” “Good Morning America” had Julia Childs, Joan London and many others doing specialty segments.
I was not sure how it could get on “The Today Show” as a regular, but I was going to do everything I could to prepare for the opportunity. The appointed day came for my segment, and I was on the set ready to go. I was always the last segment on the show. My plan was to show Tom Brokaw how to improvise a backyard barbeque.
This was the segment that led to eight happy years on “The Today Show.”
In the middle of the stage was a metal wagon filled with dirt and then covered with foil. Charcoal was placed over the foil. This idea was for families to sit around the wagon while roasting hot dogs or just enjoying an evening together around a small fire that could be build on the foil.
I also demonstrated how to speed up the lighting of the charcoal by using a hair blower to blow air over the coal and ignite the flame.
Then I pulled out a new flat-nose shovel that was covered with foil and had hamburgers on it. Tom held it over the coal, and the hamburgers began to cook. While he was doing that, I pulled up a new pitchfork that had five hotdogs on it – one on each prong, just perfect for the family barbeque.
As we came to the end of the segment Tom turned to me and said, “What would happen if your friends came over the sat on the wagon?” I thought for a second and said, “Don’t worry about that Tom – you will just have rump roast.” The crew and the staff broke out in loud laughs.
By now, after my many appearances on the show, I knew all the talent on the show. Tom turned to me and said, “That was great!” Jane Pauley and Willard Scott both came up to me and said, “You win for the best performance today.” It was like landing on the moon. I had given the performance of a life time and I knew today was the day that I was to ask for a job on the show.
I was glad that I had long pants on that day, because my knees seemed like they were knocking as I went up and asked Tom if I could talk to him in his office. He seemed pleased to have me come on down. I told him I could do holiday segments, back yard parties, and fun cooking segments.
He said, “Can you get me a proposal by tomorrow? If you can, I will share it with the executive producer.”
With an incentive like that, I got the proposal to him the next day. In a week, the long-awaited call came, asking me to be a regular guest on the show. So for the next eights year I flew back about every other week to New York and did segments for the show.
This experience taught me that all it takes is a little talent and some perseverance, and I can do anything. You can, too.