At her annual Bridal Market bash, Stewart put on the wedding of the year
Alex Pelling and Lisa Gant have already had 25 wedding ceremonies in 13 countries, but one specific place was missing from the list: New York City. The ambitious newlyweds decided a little more than a year ago to have a wedding to remember, so they quit their jobs and focused on just that — getting married.
They traveled to Russia, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Los Angeles, and a slew of other spots to get hitched, but here’s the catch — they’re not actually legally married. While they're going through the motions, the couple plans to decide which one of the — gasp! — 50 weddings they plan to have by 2014 was their favorite, and then return to that site to really make it official.
When Martha Stewart and her team at Martha Stewart Weddings got wind of the couple's plans, they thought, why not make their lucky 26th wedding happen at their annual Bridal Market event in New York City? When Martha Stewart Weddings editorial director Darcy Miller and her team contacted the couple, they were all about it, especially since they hadn’t had a New York wedding yet and really, what are 50 weddings without a New York wedding?
The theme for the wedding? Making it as "New York" as possible. From Martine’s Chocolates chocolate taxi cabs to mini black and white cookie favors from One Girl Cookies, nothing was overlooked. What else made an appearance? Mini bottles of bourbon from Cacao Prieto, a three-tiered wedding cake from New York City cake icon Sylvia Weinstock, and a rose bouquet made by Matthew Robins, representing New York's state flower.
At the ceremony, Martha Stewart took to the stage and made her first appearance as a wedding officiant for the happy couple at their super special 26th wedding.
82 Years Ago, Clark Marries His Second Wife…For the Second Time?
It was 82 years ago today that 30-year-old Clark Gable married 47-year-old Maria “Ria” Franklin. According to the press at the time, it was a repeat ceremony because the one that had been performed months earlier in New York was suddenly discovered to be invalid in California. Well at least, that’s the way it was spun to the public…
In many ways, it was easier to be a star back then. The studio assigned you your films, your co-stars, dictated your schedule they covered up your affairs, paid off columnists to shoo away divorce rumors and personal scandals, and made sure the pictures of you that were published were only your very best. You were protected.
On the other hand, you were also shackled—by the studio and by the time period itself. This studio system affected the life of most of its stars dramatically—personal choices that most would take for granted were whisked away. If you were gay, your studio set you up on dates with its newest starlet and planted marriage rumors in the columns. If rumors started flying that you were shacked up with someone or had gotten someone pregnant, you’d better believe wedding bells would be ringing as soon as possible. There was a morality clause in that contract you signed and your studio never let you forget it.
In the first contract Clark signed with MGM in 1931, the morality clause read as follows: “The artist agrees to conduct himself with due regard to public conventions and morals and agrees that he will not do or commit any act or thing that will tend to degrade him in society, or bring him into public hatred, contempt, scorn, or ridicule, or that will tend to shock, insult or offend the community or ridicule public morals or decency or prejudice the producer or the motion picture industry in general.” And that very morality clause is the direct cause for Clark’s second marriage.
Maria “Ria” Franklin Langham, a wealthy Houston socialite, had recently ended her third marriage and moved to New York with her two children to start anew when she happened upon this unknown thespian Clark Gable in 1928.
Ria’s daughter Jana claims she and a friend saw Clark when he was part of a stock company performing in Houston and developed big crushes on him. When the family moved to New York, Jana discovered Clark was there too and took her mother with her to see him in the play Machinal. Ria’s half-brother, Booth Franklin, was an actor as well and offered to take them backstage to meet Clark after the show. It was then that Ria first set her eyes on Clark and decided he would make a nice protégé. Ria fell madly in love with Clark from the start and began to groom him, picking out stylish clothes for him to wear, teaching him social graces. He enjoyed the attention she flourished on him and saw her as elegant and worldly. For the first time in his life he had nice clothes, rode around in a nice car, had a tuxedo with a top hat. He attended society parties and golf outings with the New York social elite. It was a far cry from him and first wife Josephine scraping pennies together to go to the movies. People like to say that young, unpolished Clark used wealthy socialite Ria for her money and connections. I believe that they used each other. He did need money. And she very much relished the idea of being on the arm of this strapping young actor that all the girls were fawning over.
1929 is when the status of their relationship begins to get murky. Ria began to insist on marriage, but Clark was already married–to Josephine Dillon, who kept saying that she did not believe in divorce and would not free him to become a part of what she called a “step up marriage.”
In February 1929, Clark took a train from New York to Los Angeles to see Josephine. Ria had had her lawyer draw up papers for a Mexican divorce, which was the quickest way out in those days. Josephine refused, claiming that she didn’t trust Mexican divorces. On March 30, 1929, she filed for divorce on her own terms, citing desertion, in California. By California law it would be a year for the divorce to be final.
So, if they had to wait a year, that would mean that the earliest that Clark could have legally married Ria was in April of 1930. But in 1929, Clark and Ria were signing hotel registers as “Mr. and Mrs. Clark Gable”—a ruse just so they could stay in the same room, perhaps? In some places it has been reported that Josephine did indeed sign those Mexican divorce papers after she filed in California, when Clark became angry at the year’s waiting time, and therefore they were married in 1929. But that couldn’t be true, as Josephine’s filing was never cancelled, and the effective date of their divorce is listed as March 30, 1930–a fact that Clark would clearly know. There has also never been a marriage certificate pop up citing a marriage between Clark and Ria in 1929 or 1930. Ria seems to be a very practical woman and would surely keep such a document. Also, no biographer in the decades since has been able to find one in any eastern city. Ria’s own daughter, Jana, admitted later to not even knowing the date. “They were married by a judge or something, in the east,” she said.
Paul Fix, who was a stage actor with Clark in those days, recalled being puzzled by Clark and Ria’s relationship. “I don’t think they were married. He was furious when Ria followed him west. Callous though it may sound, I think that Clark decided he really didn’t need her anymore…he wanted to dump her. But a decent streak in Clark made him feel that he owed Ria something for all that she’d done for him. So he stayed with her and tried to keep her happy.”
Legally married or not, Clark and Ria were Hollywood bound. Hollywood wasn’t quite what Ria had envisioned, however. Instead of being the girl on the arm of the rising star, Clark was vanishing right before her eyes. As his career began to explode in early 1931, he was seen around town with several of his costars and would often not come home to their shared apartment–sometimes for days. He had even already been quoted in a few interviews saying he was not married.
Ria grew more and more irritated as the months wore on and finally decided to take matters into her own hands. She went directly to MGM, where her plight was directed to public relations chief Howard Strickling. She told him, crying, that they had been living together for years and that Clark had promised to marry her but now wanted to dump her. She was devastated at what that would do to her reputation and said that if he did dump her she would be “forced” to tell her story to the fan magazines and newspapers. Strickling, knowing the scandal would ruin the career of his rising star, agreed that they should be married as quickly as possible. Clark hesitated, until Strickling and MGM producer Irving Thalberg waved his contract in his face, which included that morality clause. Living with a woman who was not his wife was in direct violation and if the public found out, his career would come to an abrupt end. Clark had no choice but to agree.
Now, of course the situation would have to be spun–and fast. Up until this point MGM had been pretty mum for the most part on whether Clark was married or not. There was already a lot of gossip that Clark had two or three ex-wives and several children in boarding schools across the country. The last thing MGM needed was a reporter snuffing out that their newest star had they had been living in sin with a woman in an apartment in Hollywood–a widow with two children, no less! Not to mention that Clark and Ria had been registering at hotels as “Mr. and Mrs. Gable” for the past few years. To avoid confusion over the marriage, MGM put out a statement that their publicity department has discovered that when Clark and Ria originally married Clark’s divorce from first wife Josephine was not final, thus their marriage was not legal and they had to get married again.
They were “re”married on June 19,1931 at a courthouse in Santa Ana, California, in the judge’s chambers. Reporters flocked to the scene and shouted questions at them as they exited. Neither answered and solemnly walked to their waiting car together. Ria burst into tears in the car. Not exactly jubilant newlyweds, huh?
Now that the scandal was avoided and the dust was cleared, I imagine that MGM was not too pleased that their newly minted “Hollywood he-man” came with an older, rather matronly wife. I’m sure they would have much rather had him single, and paired him with every new starlet in their roster to boost both careers. But MGM made the best of it. Story after story printed of how “in love” the Gables were, what a doting stepfather Clark was, etc. They even tried to lower the age of Ria and her children, and always described Ria as “beautiful, glamorous and sophisticated.” Any rumors of them separating (and they began nary a month after the wedding!) were quickly squashed by MGM publicity. If Clark had to be a married man, he was going to be a HAPPILY married man, if MGM had their way.
This 1932 article calls for sympathy for Mrs. Gable:
The story behind the scenes was far from the portrait MGM painted. Whatever relationship Clark and Ria had before their forced marriage, it was strained to say the least following the ceremony. Clark was angry at what she had done. I suppose he understood her reasoning in a way—I think he did realize that perhaps he “owed” her the marriage, but that didn’t make this cornered bear feel any better. Clark had new fame, new money, an exploding career and Ria was like an anchor he had to drag around on a chain behind him. He dutifully appeared at film premieres with Ria on his arm, waving at crowds. He did interviews with fan magazines, always mentioning Ria only delicately, giving her credit for being a good wife occasionally, but never oozing with love and adoration. Meanwhile, Clark and Ria were sleeping in separate rooms, across the house from each other. He was always staying late at the studio or not coming home at all. Hidden from the fans by a protective press, Clark was carrying on several affairs with co-stars: Anita Page, Marion Davies and Elizabeth Allan, to name a few. Not to mention the notorious affair with Joan Crawford that everyone in Hollywood knew about…but kept quiet.
The whispers surely hit Mrs. Gable’s ears, but Ria was a proud woman and did them no mind. She enjoyed being Mrs. Gable and all the perks that came with it. Ria and her two children even took a train around the country, waving to fans of Clark’s. She gave interviews depicting their perfect family life and sharing recipes for the things Clark liked to eat. To the American public, the Gables had a perfect marriage, and Ria was confident that, despite what he was doing all those nights he wasn’t at home, that he would always return to her.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was Clark’s brief fling with Loretta Young in 1935 while on location for Call of the Wild. It wasn’t too long after Clark learned of Loretta’s pregnancy that he finally moved out of the Brentwood home he shared with Ria, and into the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Loretta’s condition was kept secret (for about 60 years!) but the fan magazines fed fans a steady diet of “oh no, how could this have happened to such a wonderful couple who were so perfect together” stories following the Gables’ separation. Ria felt vindicated by these stories, knowing the public was on her side.
This rather ridiculous article, written by Adela Rogers St. Johns ( a friend of Clark’s who knew full well of his numerous affairs) tops the charts as far as syrupy eulogies to their marriage.
The parting of the Gables makes my heart ache a little. I think it does yours, too. Because they were in love with each other, those two. And I know that they expected to live out their years side by side, with love and laughter and courage. I’ve listened to them, in the serene and lovely home Rhea Gable had created, planning things they were going to do, places they were going to see, books they were going to read – always together. Now they are planning to go separate ways and you can see the heartbreak in Clark’s eyes. Because even with all the other women there are in the world, even if a man were the screen’s great lover, it would be dreadful to wake up in the morning and think you’d lost Rhea – because there aren’t any other women like Rhea, at least none I’ve ever met. Why? Why did it have to happen? Why did two such swell people, both of them real, both of them fine, both of them deserving of happiness, have to come to the end of what seemed to all of us who knew them well, all of us who’d been close friends, an ideal marriage? I’ve been sitting here looking out at trees that are bare, but that will be green again in the spring, at lilac bushes that today are brown twiggs but that in April will be fragrance and beauty and color once more, and trying to figure it out. You see, it was like this with the Gables – you felt a wholeness of self when they were together. You felt that they presented a united front to the world and therefore they were safe. I’ve so often noticed them at parties. Maybe they’d be separated the length of a room, the length of a dinner table. Maybe Rhea, stately and elegant in black, would be playing bridge and Clark would be spinning yarns with a gang of men. But every once in a while their eyes would meet in an exchange of sweet understanding, a moment’s greeting, that said, “I’m having such a good time because I know you’re here, in the same room, that we see little things, and laugh over little jokes that belong just to us, and that when the party is over, we’ll go home together to our own home. That’s what really makes everything so nice.” They weren’t sentimental or gushing. They were too modern for that, too casual, as is the fashion nowadays. But your heart felt a little warmer because they were joined in their own way, and the world is often a lonely place and men and women were meant to be one, so that loneliness would roll back like a wave and stand trembling at the command of love. Now the Gables are parted, there’s going to be a divorce.
That was Adela, doing her job, giving the public their fluff and biting her tongue. I have always wondered if the American public bought the whole thing. Probably not.
All that changed when a certain Miss Carole Lombard entered the picture the following year. Fans went nuts for this pairing of Hollywood’s favorite screwball beauty and it’s favorite He-Man. Clark and Carole were pictured everywhere together: the circus, the MGM picnic, premieres, at the horse races, at parties. And these weren’t the somewhat stoic premiere pictures that Clark and Ria had posed for—these were lovey dovey puppy love shots of them arm in arm, often gazing into each other’s eyes. Much to Ria’s surprise, the public turned on her. She was no longer the “poor Mrs. Gable who was left by her loving husband”—she was now the stubborn older wife standing in the way of Clark and Carole’s true love.
In the story of the Clark Gable-Carole Lombard romance, Ria is often painted as this villain who would not consent to a divorce just out of sheer bitterness. Sure, maybe Ria was a bit bitter, but I don’t think she was a villain. She had a husband, a famous one, and she didn’t want to give him up. I think by the time of the divorce was granted in 1939, Ria was probably not really “in love” with Clark anymore, but it was more of an issue of “this is my property and I have earned it.” Ria was also a woman who had made a career out of marrying wealthy men (see also Clark’s wives #4 and #5) and so she wasn’t going to let go without what she considered he owed her. Once she knew that Carole had taken over Clark’s heart and he wouldn’t return, she at least wanted money as she shuffled out of the picture.
Clark and Ria were finally divorced in March 1939 (after Clark was able to pay Ria off with a bonus he received from signing on for Gone with the Wind) and Clark swiftly married Carole Lombard a few weeks later.
As for Ria, she stayed around in Hollywood for a while, even dating George Raft for a bit. Then she retired to Houston, where she died in 1966.
This is a beautifully photographed and well-rounded cookbook. It includes a lot of variety, except for one thing: NO SPICES. Everything is seasoned with salt and pepper. Sometimes it is salt and pepper and garlic, sometimes salt and pepper and oregano. But that is pretty much it.
I happily followed the recipes and added my own seasoning when necessary.
Another downside is that there is no cook/prep time, which is frustrating.
My favorite section was the vegetable sides (most of the reci 3.5 stars
This is a beautifully photographed and well-rounded cookbook. It includes a lot of variety, except for one thing: NO SPICES. Everything is seasoned with salt and pepper. Sometimes it is salt and pepper and garlic, sometimes salt and pepper and oregano. But that is pretty much it.
I happily followed the recipes and added my own seasoning when necessary.
Another downside is that there is no cook/prep time, which is frustrating.
My favorite section was the vegetable sides (most of the recipes we tried were from this section) and my least section was the party-planning section.
My favorite recipes were the brownies (these are the CLOSEST I have ever gotten to replicating a box brownie mix with a from-scratch recipe. My sister and I baked brownies twice a week one winter trying and never succeeded. Most brownie recipes are closer to cake) and the butternut squash with pasta (I added garlic, Italian seasoning (mainly basil and oregano), and a splash of vinegar). David's favorites were the butternut squash pasta (and he doesn't even like butternut squash very much) and the frittata.
One other annoyance is that this cookbook professes to be for a "newlywed kitchen" and to have recipes designed for 2-4 people. However, all of the desserts served way more than that. What I am supposed to do with six lemon custard cakes?? (Eat them for breakfast the next day, apparently.) (I'm not complaining about having extra brownies though.)
This was a fun cookbook to cook through, and overall it was a good experience. I would not buy it, but I'm glad that I got it from the library!
Spinach and soft-boiled egg on toast (pg 53) (soft boiled eggs are almost my FAVORITE THING now because of this recipe)
chicken potpies (pg 61)
roast chicken with broiled-vegetable-and-bread salad (pg 64) (so disappointing way too much work for something that didn't taste that great)
spicy-sausage and lentil stew with escarole salad (pg 86) (I added cabbage because I had some and basically made accidental-borscht)
pasta with butternut squash and sage (pg 110) (THE. BEST.)
honey glazed carrots (pg 126) (I added vinegar and reduced it because they were turning out way too sweet. The apple cider vinegar added a pleasant complexity to the taste)
lentil salad (pg 127) (we were not fans, which is sad because I love lentils)
frittata (pg 129) (David's favorite--we made it more than once!)
crisp potatoes with rosemary (pg 135) (these are the best potatoes I've ever made blanching them first makes all the difference and it's worth the extra work)
chili-roasted sweet potatoes (pg 138) (sadly and surprisingly bland. Bake them with pears instead)
lemony braised broccoli (pg 139) (delicious, but broccoli and lemon is a match made in heaven)
lemon custard cakes (pg 154)
double-chocolate brownies (pg 160) (absolutely amazing)
caramelized brussel sprouts (pg 278) (good because it's brussel sprouts, but not the best brussel sprouts I've ever made) . more
Wow. Great pictures. 100 recipes! And my own litmus: Recipe books must. have. the. pictures. Pretty pictures!
Despite the name of the cookbook, I recommend this collection of recipes for newlyweds and "oldyweds&apos like me (25 awesome years but I was married at 4 years old, whatever. do the math) For the beginner and expert alike, this one should be a given in your cookbook library.
Did I mention 100 recipes? I&aposve used several of these recipes. All good. Reminded me of America&aposs Test Kitchen&aposs cookb Wow. Great pictures. 100 recipes! And my own litmus: Recipe books must. have. the. pictures. Pretty pictures!
Despite the name of the cookbook, I recommend this collection of recipes for newlyweds and "oldyweds' like me (25 awesome years but I was married at 4 years old, whatever. do the math) For the beginner and expert alike, this one should be a given in your cookbook library.
Did I mention 100 recipes? I've used several of these recipes. All good. Reminded me of America's Test Kitchen's cookbook for two, published a few years ago. Although, this has a little something extra.
Sections in the front details tools of the trade, be it stock pots, spatulas, nesting bowls. Or serving essentials, baking pans, rolling pins, and must haves. even down to dishware, glassware, and linens. Stewart continues with setting up your kitchen with the basics in storage, pantry staples, and organization.
I'm not a big Stewart fan but, I do enjoy good food made with tools to ease the work. Its been about 12 years since Stewart came back to earth with recipes and methods for everyman, not solely those churning their own black-spotted, rare goat butter or imported heirloom tomatoes from a remote, ancient, Italian monastery for a red sauce fit for a President. Im glad to see the change. I've been very impressed with Stewart's cookbooks, especially as of late.
Overall, the perfect cookbook for anyone preparing weekday meals and occasional weekend entertaining. 100 deliciously, no-fail recipes, pictures, and organization. You dont even have to be a newlyweed to agree: it's a good thing. . more
Snoop Dogg gave Martha Stewart a contact high
In 2018, Snoop Dogg referred to Martha Stewart as his "homegirl" on The Howard Stern Show, before sharing an interesting tidbit about their early friendship: he accidentally gave her a contact high while filming that Justin Bieber roast. Oops! "By the time she gets up there to tell her jokes, she's whacked out of her head . [and] high as a motherf**ker," Snoop said. "And she went up there and killed it." Don't believe him? Well, Stewart admitted as much was true during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers.
The rapper, of course, is famous for his love of marijuana, which the cook fully supports. Telling The Hollywood Reporter that she's "never been a prude," Stewart remarked, "So someone smokes marijuana? Big deal! People smoke cigarettes and die from cancer. I haven't heard of anybody dying from cannabis. I'm quite egalitarian and liberal when it comes to stuff like that."
While Stewart isn't a smoker, she is known to wet her whistle from time to time . but Snoop admittedly isn't much of a drinker. "She knows how to set up a drink," he told Us Weekly. "I'm not a drinker. But whenever I'm in the presence of Martha, I just somehow, someway get a glass of vodka or some sort of drink." During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the titular host asked, "So Martha will get you a bit drunk, but it doesn't go the other way?" To which Snoop jokingly replied, "We're working on that."
1. The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution
Emphasis on simple. Alice Waters teaches home cooks how to plan delicious dinners (and pack lunches) with the help of basics like mustard, cheese, capers, and olives. Expect plenty of fresh ingredients, too. Waters is known as the chef behind America&aposs return to local, organic produce.
Buy it: The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution, $25 Amazon
Martha Stewart's daughter doesn't speak with her father
If Alexis Stewart's relationship with her mom sounds strained, it's nothing compared to the relationship she's had with father Andy Stewart, Martha's ex-husband. At the time of 2008's New York Magazine profile on Martha Stewart's daughter, Alexis and Andy hadn't spoken in over 20 years — not since 1988. Andy himself admitted to the outlet that both he and Martha were "completely immersed in other things" when Alexis was born, saying that neither of them had a lot of time for their daughter. He said something similar in an interview with People, stating, "I think we did a poor job as parents."
He also said that not talking to his daughter was "a source of tremendous pain" for him, saying, "I think of her every single day, many times." Alexis, however, doesn't seem to feel the same way about her father. "He was a d*** in many ways," she told New York Magazine. "Monetarily. Emotionally. And he was creepy to me. He's just creepy." Andy told the outlet that he doesn't fully understand why Alexis wouldn't speak to him anymore, though he assumes it has to do with him having left her mother.
Martha Stewart’s Reign of Relevancy
A few weeks ago, my mom handed me an envelope from Martha Stewart Living Magazine.
“It’s on sale,” she said. “I thought you might want it.”
I opened the envelope. It held an offer for a one-year magazine subscription, in print and online, discounted from $49.90 to $10. Tucked with the paper, Martha sent a few gifts: A pocket sized calendar, a recipe for chocolate frosting, a sewing template for “tight, uniform stitching,” and a “Stain Removal Guide,” covering the removal of wax, gum, chocolate, vinaigrette, ball-point ink, and felt-tip ink from delicate fabrics.
I thought: Is Martha Stewart still in business?
Yes. She is. At 79 years old, Martha Stewart launched a CBD gummy brand. She published her 97th book. She debuted a new HGTV show. Her flagship magazine Martha Stewart Living, owned by Meredith Corporation, touted 12 million digital readers and 7 million print subscribers in 2020. Her audience is still buying what she’s selling.
Her brand—perhaps the most famous linear commerce business centered on a single individual—is the original blueprint for Substack writers and TikTok teens today.
“Media leads,” Stewart says. “[I] started writing books first, then a magazine, then television and radio, then product. Media leads and merchandise follows. You build up an interest, a curiosity in your readership and a desire for things, and the merchandise follows.”
But this is not an essay about the creator economy. You can read 15 great Substacks about the business of creators. This is not one of those.
This is a look at a more delicate ingredient in the linear commerce recipe: Relevancy. Martha Stewart has, over the course of a 50-year career, with mystically perfect timing, refashioned herself from Wall Street stock broker to Connecticut catering chef, from the U.S.’s first self-made woman billionaire to a yoga-teaching inmate in federal prison, from a scandal-tainted villain to renewed brand icon, and from the picture of propriety to Instagram’s latest thirst trap.
What explains the unending appeal of Martha Stewart? How is it that no matter what decade we’re in, she still feels relevant? That’s Stewart’s greatest skill: An uncanny ability to do the opposite of what’s expected—just before everyone else does it. It’s also a framework anyone can use.
Appetizers & Hors d'oeuvres
In 1982, Martha Stewart published her first book, “Entertaining.”
She was 41 years old, the mother of a 17 year old daughter, and in her sixth year of operating a catering company in Westport, Connecticut. Before catering, Stewart spent several years as a stock broker at Monness, Williams and Sidel, on Wall Street. Stewart started the catering business in 1976 with a partner, Norma Collier. But the pair split in less than a year.
“I was happy doing parties for 10 or 12,” Collier told New York Magazine in 1991. “If it wasn’t 1,000 it wasn’t good enough for Martha.”
It was at one of these parties, hosted by Stewart’s then husband Andy Stewart, a publishing executive, that Martha met Alan Mirken, the president of Crown Publishing. Mirken was “so entranced” by the catering (according to Martha) that he asked her to write a book on the spot.
But it was soon Mirken opposite Martha’s ambition: “When the Crown staff added up what it would cost to produce Entertaining, the lavish book that she proposed, they balked,” according to New York Magazine. It was a 10 chapter, +300 page book. It was expensive. It included recipes for hors d'oeuvres like cherry tomatoes stuffed with sour cream and red caviar, but it also included sermons on the “reason, type, and time” to host a party. There were four pages on table dressings alone. (If you were curious, “A ruffled pillow sham is a charming table cover for breakfast.”) Nearly every page had big, glossy photography.
Mirken wanted to cut costs. He suggested cutting the book in half. Martha said no. Crown suggested printing the book in black and white instead of color. Martha said no. Crown proposed printing 20,000 copies. Martha told them to double that.
“I didn’t not expect it to be a hit that was the funny thing,” Martha said in 1991. “I think that sort of bothered people.”
Lo and behold, it was a hit: It sold out immediately. In the decade that followed, Entertaining sold over 500,000 copies. But more importantly, with the book’s success, Martha found herself at the helm of a newly minted media business.
“I became an expert overnight,” she explains. “That’s what a book does.”
And she kept going. Just a year after writing her first book, Martha published Martha Stewart's Quick Cook (with 200 recipes) in 1983, Martha Stewart's Hors D'Oeuvres (with 150 recipes) in 1984, Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts (with 100 recipes) in 1985, Weddings in 1987, The Wedding Planner in 1988, and Martha Stewart’s Christmas in 1989. The list goes on.
“I was prolific,” Martha says. “I could write a book a year, to great advantage. I kept writing, and writing, and writing, gradually becoming well known.”
Like any good creator, she also diversified her business.
In 1987, Stewart signed a five-year consulting agreement with K-Mart, earning a million dollars a year to consult on new designs and promote products. She taught classes: 35 people at a time would visit her home in Connecticut for $900 per person, coming to look and learn. In 1990, she gave 30 lectures for $10,000 each, according to New York Magazine.
“I used to do catering,” Martha told David Letterman. “Now I do consulting.”
Next came the magazine. In 1990, Martha Stewart and Time Publishing Ventures launched Martha Stewart Living as a quarterly magazine. Then, in 1992, Martha Stewart Living TV launched as a weekly half-hour syndicated show. The massive distribution of cable TV did what cable TV does: The flywheel became unstoppable.
Martha wasn’t the only person writing books in the 1980s. She wasn’t the only person making TV in the 1990s. What made her uniquely relevant? What did she see before anyone else?
It’s important to consider the context. Martha Stewart graduated college from Barnard in 1963. At that time, the labor force was changing. “The civil rights movement, legislation promoting equal opportunity in employment, and the women’s rights movement created an atmosphere that was hospitable to more women working outside the home,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor.
Things were changing for women. In 1965, married and a mother, Martha was no longer interested in posing for swimsuit catalogs, as she had in the 1950s. It was a new era. She was interested in business. Stewart strode out the apartment door and went to work on Wall Street.
“I loved it,” Stewart said of her years as a stockbroker. “It was very aggressive, and the money you made was amazing. I was making about $135,000, which was a lot.” (That’s $1.1 million today)
Stewart was early to the professional class of women in 1965. But by 1970, things exploded: “Between 1970 and 1980, the labor force participation rates of women in the 25–34 and 35–44 age groups increased by 20.5 percentage points and 14.4 percentage points, respectively. No other labor force group has ever experienced an increase in participation rates of this magnitude in one decade,” according to the BLS.
It was a tectonic shift in the labor force. It was also a tectonic shift in American culture. Working women became mainstream, no longer fringe radicals burning bras. What did that mean? The economic implications of the 1980s became the cultural implications of the 1990s: Sex, marriage, dating, kids. Decades of draconian tradition, gone. The guard rails were off. The rules of the game were suddenly very unclear.
“It was a time when we were supposed to be newly empowered,” writes the New York Times’ Taffy Brodesser-Akner. “We were ’90s women. The battles had been fought we owned property and voted. We worked and talked endlessly about things like balance. The women’s magazines encouraged us to take initiative, to ask the guy out. We were on the pill. Colleges were giving out condoms, not just to the men but to the women. There were so many mixed messages, and the women I knew were at war to maintain their independence but also still traditional enough to think about the families they’d been engineered to want.”
In the late 1970s, after leaving Wall Street for the Connecticut countryside, Martha must have felt the ground shifting. In those years, while renovating her farmhouse, tilling the ground for vegetables, raising her daughter, growing her catering business, applying the same ferocity to her fruitcakes as she did her bond trades, Martha’s ambition never waned. But a question arose: In all this ambition, who was being left behind?
What about the women who still had to pack school lunches? What about the women responsible for cooking Christmas dinner? What about Martha’s neighbors, the other mothers at school?
Was anyone paying attention to them? Didn’t they have ambition too?
The job of full-time, professional homemaker “was floundering,” Martha said in an interview with Charlie Rose. “We all wanted to escape it, to get out of the house, get that high-paying job and pay somebody else to do everything that we didn’t think was really worthy of our attention. And all of a sudden I realized: it was terribly worthy of our attention.”
Here’s some context from Nora Ephron. “Lots of women didn’t feel like entering into the workforce (or even sharing the raising of children with their husbands), but they felt guilty about this, so they were compelled to elevate full-time parenthood to a sacrament.”
A sacrament. That passion, that need to prove value, to prove the worth of something underestimated by the broader market, is exactly what Martha spotted. She identified not just the trend, but the countertrend.
Mark Penn, the author of “Countertrends Squared,” defines the concept this way: “For every trend, there is a countertrend. It is human nature in the Information Age: every move or desire in one direction seems to inspire a countermovement by another group in the opposite direction.”
As information and choice proliferated, American culture began to no longer move in one direction at a time, but two. In the 1980s and 1990s, professional women were becoming an increasingly powerful, important demographic. But in equal and opposite measure, homemakers were important too. They had hopes. They had dreams. They had ambitions. And no one was paying attention.
“It was about filling a void,” Stewart said. “Every time I wrote a book, it was to fill a void that I and my friends had to have filled. When I wrote a book about hors d'oeuvres it was because there wasn’t a great book about hors d'oeuvres.”
How many categories—the hors d'oeuvres of 2021—are we overlooking today by following the trends, but not their counters?
We live in a world of diametrically opposed forces: The U.S. isn’t just more conservative, it’s more conservative and more liberal. The wedding industry is bigger than ever, and at the same time, more Americans than ever question the institution of marriage. “One group seeks more technology, another wants to sit in the Amtrak Quiet Car,” Penn writes. “Some can’t sit through a six-second commercial others spend hours and hours binge-watching TV.”
Taking the inverse of existing trends can be fertile ground for finding underserved audiences.
Put another way by Sari Azout: “The opposite of a good idea can be a good idea.”
“For example, there are two great ways of welcoming people to a hotel,” Azout writes. “One of them is highly automated and impersonal, the other is highly elaborate and involves large degrees of obsequiousness. There are two ways to win in e-commerce. You can give people infinite choice (Amazon) or you can reduce the burden of choice.”
But it’s not as obvious as you may think. One of the best examples I see of countertrend positioning today—following precisely in Martha Stewart’s footsteps—is Simon Sarris.
Sarris, a software engineer, is also a renaissance man. He makes fires. He bakes bread. He spends time quietly writing and reading about philosophy, brewing coffee, taking walks through the snow with his wife and child. He does not live in San Francisco. He does not wear Allbirds. He does not race to answer Slack notifications. Instead, he lives a quiet, calm life, one grounded in commitment and devotion.
It’s directly counter to the Travis-Kalanick-Superpumped-hustle-grind-win-scale-growth-hack tres-comma-club narrative men in tech have been swimming in, wittingly or unwittingly, for the last decade.
“What if you didn’t have to blitzscale to be happy?” Sarris asks with every post.
It’s worth asking why we marvel at his photos. Simon’s life is not that unique: Millions of Americans without Twitter accounts enjoy quiet mornings with their babies every day. They have done this in states like Wisconsin and Iowa and Texas for generations.
Why is a photo by the fire so stirring? Because in a feed full of growth hacks and fundraise announcements, it's not more of the same that is compelling—it’s the inverse.
Therein lays Martha Stewart’s greatest skill: To see both sides of the coin and flip between the two.
Being written off as old and outdated? Get high with Snoop Dogg. Finding yourself the face of misguided anger after becoming the first self-made woman billionaire and falling from grace? Knit a poncho in prison. Being told you’re too frumpy? Post a thirst trap. For Martha, this strategy gave her the rarest value a brand can have: Longevity.
“I have survived the rigors of time, of marriage, of childbearing, of building a business from scratch,” Stewart said in a November interview. “I have survived very nicely, and I think I make the most of it.”
What comes next?
Today, the era of Martha is ending. Things are speeding up. The world is no longer moving in just two directions at a time.
As linear media (cable TV, magazines, books) are replaced by exponential media (TikTok, Twitter, Reddit) trends aren’t bifurcated, they’re moving in every direction—all at once.
Take this analysis of the GameStop phenomenon by Ben Thompson:
There have been a thousand stories about what the GameStop saga has been about: a genuine belief in GameStop, a planned-out short squeeze, populist anger against Wall Street, boredom and quarantine, greed, hedge fund pile-ons, you name it there is an article arguing it. I suspect that most everyone is right, much as the proverbial blind men feeling an elephant are all accurate in their descriptions, even though they are completely different. What seems clear is that the elephant is the Internet.”
No longer are there equal and opposite reactions to GameStop two different lenses through which to understand the conflict. There are an unlimited number of lenses.
Unlimited choice, proliferated by the Internet, is why “everyone has a story about what happened with GameStop, and why they are all true,” Thompson writes. “The 2019 story was correct, but so was the summer 2020 story, and the fall 2020 story, and the January 2021 story. None of those stories, though, existed in isolation: they built on the stories that came before, duplicating and mutating them along the way.
Think about the most powerful movements this year: GameStop, Bitcoin, $DOGE, Free Britney Spears, QAnon. All decentralized, all vastly open to interpretation, all offering an unlimited number of lenses.
Will there be a time when audiences don’t want to follow a celebrity just for their advice—recipes from Martha Stewart or career plans from Sheryl Sandberg? A time when we ask not for explicit instructions, but for a treasure map?
The Martha Stewart of tomorrow may not look like a single person. It may go even farther than AI influencers like Lil Miquela. It may be a loose collective, a single idea with a million fragments, a trailhead with innumerable paths to wander. It will look less like a cookbook, and more like a choose your own adventure novel.
I often think of this quote by Walter Kirn in Harpers Magazine in an essay on QAnon:
The audience for internet narratives doesn’t want to read, it wants to write. It doesn’t want answers provided, it wants to search for them. It doesn’t want to sit and be amused, it wants to be sent on a mission. It wants to do.
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