Martha Madness

March 4, 2005 10:39 a.m.

Anyone who thinks this is a glamorous job should have hung with me and my crew outside federal prison camp Alderson where we've been covering Martha Stewart’s release.

First of all, it's freezing here — so cold that the field that was pure mud Thursday afternoon was completely frozen by Thursday night. Standing by the jagged, rock-hard moonscape, my toes became ice cubes by the time Martha was set free. Second, while I had a hotel room booked, I never saw it. We did live shots virtually nonstop for 24 hours and then hit the road home.

It’s not easy getting to this scenic stretch of the Allegheny Mountains. I took a very shaky plane ride on a puddle jumper from New York to Roanoke, Virginia, then drove two hours up and down windy mountain roads (trying to save time, since the highway route was less direct) straight to the live location, steps from the prison gates. We began doing live shots about an hour after I arrived, beginning with "Studio B" at 3 p.m. ET and going almost straight through the night.

Then, since we had another shot booked at 6 a.m. and the hotel was at least 20 minutes away, I got in my rental SUV and dropped the seat back and drifted off sometime after 2 a.m. Just as I was falling asleep my buddy Hollywood (former audio engineer, now our newest FOX photog) asked if he could sleep in my truck too. He did, and when I woke at 5 a.m. he told me I was snoring like a chainsaw.

Martha’s exit was anticlimactic, to say the least. We waited all day and night knowing full well that when she drove out the gates she wouldn't stop and chat. But the worst part is we didn't even know for sure which vehicle she was in, since she apparently rode in the back seat and may have even ducked her head to avoid the cameras. To insure we got the video, we had a mini DV-Cam set up on a light stand pointed at the gates, hardwired to our satellite truck, where we constantly recorded on a 60 minute tape. We re-racked and re-recorded every hour until she was confirmed gone. Photographer Rob Ginnane provided a second angle with a wireless handheld Betacam that was also being remotely recorded. I was live on a third camera with another of our cameramen, Mayor Dubinsky. All three shots were within five feet of each other, but all served different purposes, and all were available to FOX on the bird (satellite) so they could pick and choose which view they wanted up live at any time.

As it turns out, we WERE live on FNC when she rolled past us just after 12:30 a.m. ET. As I was reading the paper statement handed out by prison officials explaining her release, every one of our cameras captured the image. Again, not all that exciting, but I’m glad we didn't miss it.

Thankfully, we're not going live all day Friday. Instead, I’m driving the four hours to D.C. and catching a shuttle flight back to the city. Next stop: my own bed and my own shower.

* * *
One more thing... for the record, Shep is my buddy. Some people seem to think he went overboard during my appearance on "Studio B," when he was pressing me on what question I planned to ask Martha on her way out and giving me a hard time for correcting him on the name of the town we were in. It was all good-natured fun. He messes with me, and I do the same to him. If he got the best of me Thursday, well you know what they say about payback. And I’ll make him pick up the next bar bill, too.

E-mail Rick!

[Ed. note: Click the video tab in the upper right to watch Leventhal's reports.]

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Dear Rick:

Your live shot on yesterday's "FOX and Friends" was absolutely hysterical. Thanks for the laugh!

— Laurie

Hi Rick,

I loved your Snow Appreciation article so much I printed it and put it on my work board here in our office for all the snow haters here. I especially loved the "present from above" line towards the end. Thanks again for your well-worded article!

— Sara (Tallmadge, Ohio)

Could not agree more. I am like a little kid when it comes to snow storms. Good thing, since I have three daughters to build snowmen with (none have asked to build a snowwoman yet, but the teen years are coming!) Keep up the great work. Hope you get to spend a lot of time with those girls!

— Caroline (Manchester, NH)


I enjoy your blogs and appreciate the work you're doing for FOX. You have to get on the air more often. I think you've been away breathing foreign air too long because snow isn't as fun as you claim it to be. Come and live in Minnsnowda for a few years and I'll train you to use my snow shovel. After a few years I'll let you read your current blog and you'll see that it was a bit over-the-top. Keep doing your stuff with the excellence you show all the time. I'm a FOX Fan to the end.

— A.F.A. Minnesota