My First Video Produced in 1988

Wednesday morning, a new series of YouTube Videos will start to appear both embedded on the blog or directly from YouTube. I will also post each segment to alert you that a new video has been added to YouTube and it will be linked to the posting. Alternatively, you can go to the left of the blog home page and just under the search box, under the "about me" listing at the bottom you will be able to click on Video of Rose on YouTube.Several years later, I wrote about my experience making my first video, Cookies, Pies, and Cakes for the LA Times Syndicate and am reprinting it here:

A CAKE TO DIE FOR Creative genius often comes along with the sort of temperament that engenders either love or hatred in others. Lee Kraft, a renowned photographer, leading jazz agent, record producer and a pioneer in the video “how to” market, was an exception in that he inspired both emotions at once. My first view of him was as a crass, insulting egomaniac who questioned my authority in my field. He ultimately became my greatest champion, calling regularly over the years with creative suggestions as to how my publisher could and should do more for my books.

In the end, I saw his sardonic, sour side as a veneer which hid an exquisitely tender soul. Indeed, Kraft stormed against mediocrity and stupidity but when encountering something of quality and excellence, he would lay down his life for it. When Kraft first approached me to do a video on baking, I conferred with colleagues who had done videos with him. To a person, they warned me that he shouted demoralizingly during production, so I agreed to work with him only on the condition that he would never shout.

He was true to his word, technically speaking; rather than shouting, he whispered insults in a grim tone filled with venomous scorn. Not having slept for two days due to preparation requirements and stage-fright, and feeling my blood chill, I suggested that I might give a better performance with a little positive reinforcement. But Kraft, so high strung with the anxiety of a perfectionist persuaded of the fact that no one else could possible care as much as he, just couldn’t manage the requested encouragement. Others had told me that during their tapings he would swig directly from a bottle of Pepto Bismal. Since none of the pink liquid was in sight, I figured things weren’t going all that badly. Kraft’s attitude, however, really got to me and made me determined, above all, not to let him get the better of me. The more nasty he became, the more cheerful and smiling was my response.

I never thought I could act but looking at that video, I’m proud to say that nothing betrays my desire to strangle him. At the end of the 18 hour day, much to everyone’s relief, Kraft pronounced the immortal words: “it’s a wrap!” and strode out of the room with what seemed like disgust. The crew immediately formed a reception line and silently and with obvious respect shook my hand. One said: “You are the only one who didn’t scream or cry; I don’t know how you took it.” And I knew that my not breaking was their victory too.

Part of what had helped me was the little voice in me repeating over and over “never again.” And we never did make another video together, though we did become friends. What won me over were two things: that the video was of excellent quality, and that Kraft confessed that my chocolate cake had changed his entire attitude toward food. Prior to this experience he had looked at food as nothing but a prop, and had eaten only mass-produced cakes. He said that my cake, though three days old by the time he tasted it, was an epiphany for him. The way in which he talked about that cake revealed a passionate, open, appreciative side to the man where before I had seen only a hostile though talented tyrant. Again, out of character, he humbly begged me to make another cake for him. I was so moved before 2 weeks had passed I baked him my favorite yellow butter cake. To my surprise he was openly disappointed and not even tactfully grateful. Oh, he accepted the cake, but proclaimed that it was the chocolate one he had been craving. I told him that someday I would bake that one for him too.

Seven years later I got a call from Kraft from his hospital bed. I’m dying! he proclaimed in his usual right-to-the-point, demanding directness and I want that chocolate cake you promised. You can’t refuse a dying man’s last request!he continued laughingly. But I knew him well by then, so I lost no time making the cake and messengered it right up to the hospital. He never thanked me personally, but mutual friends who talked to him afterwards reported that he ate it and shared it with great enjoyment. And that was reward enough. Lee Kraft died six months later. I know that it was only his ornery fighting spirit that kept him alive that much longer. He needed the time to ensure that his video business would be taken care of and that the videos would live on.