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Home on the 'Net With Martha

May 12, 1996|JEANNINE STEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

I have it bad, this obsession with domicile diva Martha Stewart.

I watch almost every Wednesday "Today" show appearance.

I try to catch her weekday Lifetime show.

I own nearly every one of her cookbooks.

I eagerly await each issue of her Martha Stewart Living magazine, lingering over every piddling gardening tip--and I don't even have a garden.

If I could, I'd live in Marthaland forever.

But the scary thing about being part of the Martha cult is that no matter how big a fan you think you are, there is always someone out there who will put you to shame.

Where are they? On the Internet.

A recent conversation with a friend about Martha led us to wonder what kind of representation she has on the Web. What we found was both wonderful and disturbing, a treasure-trove of Marthaness, from personal tidbits to TV show synopses to flaming e-mail messages and, in the interest of equal time, some Martha critics.

It's enough to make your head explode.

There is no official Martha Web site yet--although you can send e-mail to the magazine: mstewart@msl.timeinc.com. Rumor has it one might appear by 1998. But the unofficial site (at http://tear.cybercash.com/kerry/martha/index.html) is awesome enough. It includes bio information, upcoming events, a readers' exchange, TV and radio appearances, recent articles and critiques, and why-I-worship-Martha essays. Some examples:

What kinds of cars does she drive? A GMC suburban (with a driver) and a Jaguar XJ6 (which she drives herself).

What was her divorce like? Messy, allegedly.

How much does she charge per lecture / demonstration? Supposedly $16,000 for an hour and a half, and she's reportedly booked until 1997.

Need to feed that ever-demanding Martha addiction? A reader has started a Martha-inspired newsletter. It's $6 for a trial subscription; contact texastru@flash.net.

The author of this incredibly detailed profile is Kerry Ogata, a 26-year-old archeologist from Virginia whose appreciation of things Martha began with a subscription to Martha Stewart Living. It blossomed when she discovered Stewart's cable TV show, and last fall Ogata began to collect tidbits and Martha links she found on the Web.

"I started adding more and more and I decided I'd put this on Yahoo! [an indexing system on the World Wide Web] and see what happens. I got a lot of e-mail from people who said they'd never seen anything with all the links to the Martha stuff in one place. I called it the unofficial Martha Web page."

Ogata's admiration for Stewart is genuine, but has its limits.

"I'm not going to bake an Easter ham in grass," she says. "On one show she was saying how easy it is to cut up a chicken. So I got this chicken and I'm hacking at it, and then I had to get my husband to keep rewinding the VCR. Here she's slicing through hers, and I'm hacking away, and it ended up looking mutilated. After that, I said, 'No more.'

"I think she's more of an inspiration," Ogata adds. "Some of her stuff I can do--the real simple stuff. But I have a one-bedroom apartment, and I'm not really going to be refinishing furniture on my porch. I appreciate who she is, and I take the rest with a grain of salt."

The truly obsessed fans who live for just an iota of Martha news occasionally surface via e-mail.

"I'll get really weird mail from people who say, 'I'm dying to meet Martha, I'll camp out by her house just to catch a glimpse,' and I'm like, get a life. But most of the mail is very nice."

Unfortunately Ogata has a new job that takes time away from updating the Web page. She's beginning to delegate some of the responsibility to other Martha-ites.

"I'll probably still keep it up," she says, "but if they ever do an official one I don't think it will have some of the weird Martha links."

Ah yes, the weird Martha links.

Like the Home and Lifestyle page from the World African Network at http://www.worldafricannet.com/lifestyle/home/home2.html, which offers an essay titled "Martha Stewart Get a Grip--I've Got Your Mother Wit," which in part states:

"Enough already with this Martha Stewart fascination that America's so suddenly swept up in. . . . We're fed up with her and her contrived, elitist concept of homemaking to the point of declaring 'Get a grip!' . . . Martha Stewart got wealthy promoting her version of cooking, decorating and garden innovations. But let's hear it for the woman of African descent who had much less to work with but rarely failed to get the job done."

On another site, a faux crafts project includes detailed directions on how to make an Anti-Martha Fetish "from someone who washes dishes every three days."

Entertaining message postings in a newsgroup (rec.crafts.textiles.needlework) stir up lively debates while pointing out just how polarized the pro and con Martha camps are:

"I look at her and see a woman who has managed to build a great business! Rah, rah for her."

"My only complaint with Martha is that she makes a big deal--and a ton of money--out of things lots of people have been doing and sharing for years. I'll put my Christmas cookie buffet up against hers any year you name. . . ."

"Well, it would be the MS clincher if she told / directed us on which way the toilet paper should hang. . . ."

"I don't mind when she makes or does or buys things that are beyond my means or abilities. I did have to turn off the TV the other day, though, when she showed us how to make a bed. I mean, really."

"Although I don't like all of her ideas, I think that some of them are very imaginative, and I do think that she is very skilled."

If Martha and her minions ever do get a Web page together, I'm sure it'll be just as fabulous as her magazine and her TV show. But I hope the unofficial site doesn't blip off into cyberspace heaven. As Martha would say, it's a good thing.

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