March 4, 2005

Martha leaves prison.

This morning, I'm checking out the TiVo'd coverage of Martha Stewart being released from prison. One of my favorite talking heads, Nancy Grace, has taken over the Larry King show. She's got a panel of experts and a reporter at the prison gate. We're told the federal version of house arrest does not let you go into the yard, so no gardening for Martha -- though I can just picture her cultivating an indoor garden and stressing the importance of interacting with plants, perhaps especially for those who are unable to leave the house.

The reporter on the scene is all excited. The clock has struck midnight! Martha could be walking out at any time!

Susan MacDougal -- who went to prison to protect President Clinton -- does an interview with Nancy Grace. MacDougal notes that Martha has 48 hours a week to leave the house and go to work, and she could use some of that time to work in her garden. Yes, it's hard to find the line between work and puttering around the house and garden when you're Martha.

The on-site camera is trained on the gate to the prison. We're told a private plane awaits her. Everyone's all atwitter! We see all the cameras lined up. The Martha Stewart website is mentioned: there's going to be a message over there! Let's check it out. Oh, there's our Martha, cradling a hen in her arms. Who wouldn't, after months in prison, want to cuddle a chicken?
Someday, I hope to have the chance to talk more about all that has happened, the extraordinary people I have met here and all that I have learned. I can tell you now that I feel very fortunate to have had a family that nurtured me, the advantage of an excellent education, and the opportunity to pursue the American dream. You can be sure that I will never forget the friends that I met here, all that they have done to help me over these five months, their children, and the stories they have told me

A panelist on the show says that for the next two years a parole officer can drop in to check on Martha at any time. Nancy Grace says to see what -- a completely meticulous house?

Slate reporter Henry Blodget is asked how prison has changed her and he says what most of us would say: it's humanized her. But can she maintain that warmth? he wonders. And I wonder: how will warmth go with her characteristic coldness? Possibly a sort of hot-fudge sundae effect.

Susan MacDougal relives her own experience of leaving prison. It was surreal, she says, a really surreal moment.

Martha is not going to make a statement as she emerges from prison, we're told. It's not part of the "careful orchestration." She's got to be careful not to do something that critics can say is in bad taste. Susan MacDougal says it's important to be "'umble." MacDougal opines that Martha Stewart's "downfall" was "the love of money" and that she needs to work on her relationships, care about people, and perhaps find herself a man. (A bit heteronormative of MacDougal, there, don't you think?) Now, MacDougal is bragging about how prison made her "'umbler."

Amidst the studio blather, suddenly something is happening at the prison. A big man in a black coat walks out for some reason. False excitement. Back to the blathering panel. I succumb to fast-forwarding. More prison officials come out. A paper leaflet is distributed. We see some cars drive out of the prison. We learn Martha Stewart has already left, presumably in one of the cars. Quite a non-spectacle! So she didn't walk out of prison for us. Finally, CNN can take a commercial break.

Back from the break, the cameras now show a private plane. The studio panel is wowed by the plane. "This is some ride she's got going on." They kill time talking about the plane. It must be stocked with her favorite foods, don't you think? Looks like they washed it for the occasion.

And the TiVo'd hour runs its course, with still no sign of Martha. Chris, who watched the doings live last night, told me that eventually we do catch a glimpse of her, and that she's dressed in jeans and wearing a shawl. [ADDD: a poncho, actually.] Ah, yes, here's a picture. Her hair is super-glossy. The color chosen for her clothes is a very 'umble blue gray.

Good luck, Martha!

UPDATE: I had a feeling Manolo would have something to say about that poncho. And here's the video of Martha hopping onto the planed, borne aloft by the power of the flapping poncho. The video link comes via Jackson's Junction, via Gawker, where I went in search of more poncho mockery. Found none, unfortunately. Where is the best blog mockery of the poncho? Is it a Manolo monopoly?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's Henry Blodget's piece in Slate about Martha:
What has Martha learned? One thing, everyone hopes. Perhaps, after a graphic trial and five contemplative months, Stewart has recognized her one truly unattractive personality trait: a penchant for treating the help and the little people like dirt. (If I hadn't heard this directly from people who have worked for her, I'd be inclined to dismiss it as the usual carping, because I've never seen it myself.) Prison is a humbling experience for everyone, and probably was even for Stewart. Reports from Alderson have described apologies to other inmates for "bossy" behavior, microwaved apples for Valentine's Day, donated linens and comforters, yoga lessons, and deep empathy (and public support) for first-time offenders clobbered by mandatory sentencing guidelines. Martha as mensch—that would be a truly formidable businesswoman and celebrity.

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