Thank God Its Monday, once again; and, as such, happy Monday to everyone! I personally look forward to all Mondays, as they’re my 52 Chances a year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with you!
Along with October being, in relation to Mom, National Women’s Small Business Month, National Work and Family Month, Positive Attitude Month, Self-Promotion Month, National Book Month, and National Cookbook Month, among many other things; TODAY is National TV Talk Show Host Day (and Johnny Carson’s birthday).
Mom found much success, promoting her recipes on radio talk shows, first (and last). During her last 20 years in business, that was all in which she indulged, for promoting her latest imitations. But it was the TV talk shows, on which she appeared, during her first 20 years in business, that catapulted her unique recipes nationally and worldwide.
Throughout the first two decades of being the Recipe DetectiveTM, Mom demonstrated her talents for imitating some of our favorite “junk foods” – like KFC’s fried chicken, Oreo cookies, Hostess Twinkies, Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies, and more – on national TV talk shows like the Phil Donahue Show, ABC’s Home Show, CNN News, and PM Magazine.
The first television talk show, on which Mom appeared to discuss her innovative recipe ideas, was a Detroit program called A.M. Detroit, hosted by Dennis Wholley [WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 (Detroit, MI)]. That episode was recorded on November 14, 1974 (my 10th birthday).
From that appearance, Mom was contacted to be interviewed on New Year’s Day (1975) by Bob Hines on CKLW-TV, Channel 9 [Windsor, Ontario (Canada)]. Later, on Christmas Eve (1976), she was also interviewed, at our home in Algonac, by Jack McCarthy of WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 (Detroit, MI).
During the 1980-1981 winter season, while we were living in St. Clair, Mom had another at-home-interview – this time with PM Magazine’s Detroit TV crew. She also appeared on Detroit’s Noon News show, on WDIV-TV, Channel 4 (Detroit, MI) that same winter. Those appearances brought her additional media attention and her fan base quickly and steadily grew.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p.296)
[IN THE BEGINNING]
IT WAS THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME to launch a new business. The unemployment rate was terribly high. There was a newsprint paper shortage. There was a gasoline shortage. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least try to have my own publication.
It was something I had always wanted to do. I couldn’t tell Paul. I knew that! He would have been far too practical to have approved of my starting my own paper, so I enlisted the help of our children. I was taking in ironing at the time, at $5 a basket, and sometimes earned as much as $50 a week.
The money was supposed to supplement Paul’s paycheck, which – as soon as we found could make ends meet – we discovered somebody had moved the ends. So, I took what money I could from the ironing earnings and bought a mimeograph. I kept it in a big box in the utility room under my sewing table.
Paul would hardly pay attention to what I wanted him to think was only sewing paraphernalia. For nine months, I mimeograph, assembled and mailed out about 100 copies a month of my newsletter. Bill and Mike helped assemble it and Debbie help me test the recipes and address the copies.
I don’t know how we ever kept it from Paul for that long, but I couldn’t tell him what I was doing until I could assure him that I could make a profit. All I was doing was breaking even. Then Dennis Wholley, at Channel 7 in Detroit, called and said somebody had sent him a copy of my newsletter.
He was tickled with the crazy names I gave the recipes and the home-spun format. He wanted the entire family to be his guests on his ‘A.M. Detroit’ show on November 14  – which was also our Laura’s birthday.
I couldn’t keep it from Paul any longer, because I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to promote the paper on a popular local television show. He took it quite well, considering the state of shock he must have been in at my announcement.
But we took all 5 of the kids with us across town, in a blizzard yet, with Laura having a bout of carsickness during the hour’s drive there. And, during that experience, we met Coleman Young, the recently elected mayor of Detroit, who was also a guest on the show.
All of Pearl Beach must have been tuned into ‘A.M. Detroit’ that morning, with half of the population gathered at the Pearl Beach post office, watching the portable set there. It brought us many new orders for our newsletter, and it wasn’t long before CKLW’s Bob Heinz asked us to appear on his show on New Year’s Day.
We, again, took the family [to Detroit and] over to Windsor, Ontario – across the Detroit River – for another exciting experience and hundreds of letters that followed, wanting to subscribe to the newsletter.
By that time, Paul was giving me every evening of his time when he came home from his own job at the sign company, plus all the weekends just to fill the orders. My list of ‘Secret Recipes’ had grown to 200 and we offered them, on 4 x 6” cards [that I printed on my mimeograph], at $.25 each or 5 for a dollar.
It was quite a packaging process to fill the combinations of orders, so I put all those recipes into a book. It was going to be our only book on the subject, since most of the recipes were ‘fast foods’ – [as it was considered a ‘fad’ that wouldn’t last long] but, as it turned out, it was only the 1st of a series of, then, 5 books.
After ‘Book One’ took off and became a very good seller, I did a Bicentennial American Cookery book, as a limited edition, and was pleased when the Henry Ford Library at Greenfield Village (in Dearborn, Michigan) ordered copies for their bicentennial collection. That was July 1976…
Nevertheless, it was her FIRST appearance on “The Phil Donahue Show” (July 7, 1981) that brought her world-wide attention. Our small family business was inundated with over a million letters requesting her free recipes and ordering information for her books and newsletters.
For months, following Mom’s 1981 appearance on the Donahue Show, the episode re-aired around the country and around the world and we were slammed with mail. Our small, family operation had to bring in a lot of extra help, including some of my high school friends, to assist with the extra mailings we had to prepare and send out.
Mom’s friend and radio talk show host, Dick Syatt [RKO-Radio (Boston, MA)], once told her, in regard to the tremendous response we received from that Donahue Show episode and the diabolical toll it took on our family: “Hell is God giving you what you thought you wanted!”
We mailed out hundreds of thousands of Mom’s “free recipes and product-ordering information” sheets, in exchange for the hundreds of thousands of self-addressed stamped envelopes that poured in, per the offer announced on the show. We also were mailing out thousands more newsletter issues, from all of the new subscriptions that soon followed.
As chaotic as it was, in the end, Mom recognized that the Donahue Show opened a lot of doors for her that might never have happened, otherwise. It brought her unique style of “copycat cookery” to the attention of MILLIONS of new eyes, worldwide, fairly quickly (and that was before household internet). She felt very fortunate and grateful.
Mom’s small, family business boomed but the experience nearly crushed our household and the cottage-style dining room table operation of Secret RecipesTM. All parties involved eventually survived. However, Mom swore she’d never do another national TV show again.
Nevertheless, in February 1988, Mom appeared on ABC’s Home Show with host, Rob Weller; as it was set up by her friend, Carol Duvall, the famous crafter. The show surprised Mom, with having her meet Wally Amos, in-person, during the episode! Her SECOND appearance on the Home Show was three years later, on March 19, 1991.
Over 33 years ago (Memorial Day, 1990), a CNN News crew came out to our St. Clair home to record an interview with Mom. Later that year, in October, Mom appeared on the Kelly & Company show [WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 (Detroit, MI)] with the hosts, husband and wife team, John Kelly and Marilyn Turner. Her SECOND appearance was May 8, 1991.
In 1993, Mom was invited back to the Donahue Show. She and Dad agreed, only if the show would NOT share their contact information. Inadvertently, because of that, the show received more requests for the transcript than for any other episode, obliterating the previous record. Regardless, people found us and we were overrun again with mail.
Mom also agreed to do an infomercial as the Recipe DetectiveTM, in 1993, with Guthie-Renker Corp. It was set up like a TV talk show, called ‘Ask Mike’. It was similar to Phil Donahue’s and Rob Weller’s interviews and cooking demonstrations, and included an appearance by Wally Amos, too.
But they wanted to change the look of her available books (and there was other drama, as well). It turned out to be a big disappointment and a really unpleasant endeavor for, both, Mom and Dad. The whole thing was produced and directed by Positive Response Television. The family was given copies (on VCR tapes) but it never aired, publicly.
Afterward, Mom refused to do anymore TV talk shows; accepting only newspaper, magazine, and radio talk show interviews. She never regretted that decision, turning down offers from big TV talk shows like The Rosie O’Donnell Show and The Late Show, with David Letterman.
And, as much as she loved Johnny Carson, Mom even turned down an appearance on the Tonight Show. However, she did become friends with fellow Michiganders, Pam and Ed McMahon… And never regretted her decision.
In honor of TODAY, being National Boston Cream Pie Day (and it’s still National Dessert Month), here’s Mom’s copycat recipe for “Boston Cream Pie Ala Fast”; as seen in one of her first few, self-published cookbooks… The Second Helping Of Secret Recipes (National Homemakers Newsletter, Pearl Beach, MI; July 1977, p. 8).
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
The month of October observes a lot of things, including… Eat Better & Eat Together Month, German-American Heritage Month, Halloween Safety Month, Italian-American Heritage Month, National Apple Month, National Applejack Month, National Arts & Humanities Month, National Bake and Decorate Month, National Caramel Month, National Chili Month, National Cookie Month, National Fire Prevention Month, National Kitchen & Bath Month, National Pasta Month, National Pickled Peppers Month, National Pizza Month, National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, National Pork Month, National Pretzel Month, National Reading Group Month, National Sausage Month, National Seafood Month, Pear and Pineapple Month, Polish American Heritage Month, Rhubarb Month, Spinach Lovers Month, Tackling Hunger Month, and Vegetarian Month!
Today is also… National Mole Day!
Wednesday, October 25th is… National Greasy Food Day!
October 28th is… National Chocolate Day! Plus, as the fourth Saturday in October (for 2023), it’s also… National Make A Difference Day! Additionally, as the last Saturday in October (for 2023), it’s also… National Trick or Treat Day!
Sunday, October 29th is… National Oatmeal Day!
…43 down and 9 to go!