Tuesday, October 04, 2011

TOP STORY >> Designers snub Civil War buffs

Leader executive editor

Earlier this year, a couple of interior designers from Europe named Simon Davies and Tomas Cederlund came here for an episode of their show “Home Takeover” on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

There was a great deal of excitement when the show’s campy hosts, or the “Lords of Fabulousness,” arrived here in February. But then they disappointed some Civil War buffs who re-enacted the Battle of Reed’s Bridge, which wound up on the cutting room floor.

Davies and Cederlund redid Wanda and Don Cook’s Christmas-themed home in Furlow, which was filled with thousands of Coca-Cola memorabilia. They dubbed their home “50s and Christmas,” where it’s always Dec. 25 and Eisenhower is president.

“I love the Christmas theme and I just love red and green,” Wanda told the decorators, who gave her kitchen a stylish new look in less than a week.

I would have left the place alone and turned it into a museum and built the Cooks a new home. But the show doesn’t have that kind of budget.

Davies and Cederlund are supposed to be Swedish, but they sound British. They remind you of the old BBC cooking show “Two Fat Ladies,” who were much funnier.

“Home Takeover,” which is now on permanent hiatus, didn’t have much of an audience — OWN has one of the smallest ratings on cable television, averaging only about 200,000 viewers on a good day.

Davies and Cederlund made a detour at the Reed’s Bridge Civil War site because Wanda Cook is a member of the American Red Hat Society.

The ladies dressed up and watched a re-enactment, but the scene wasn’t used. (You can see the outtake on OWN’s website.)

Members of the Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society aren’t too happy about that since they were asked to put on their uniforms and invited the decorators to join them in the re-enactment on Super Bowl Sunday.

Instead, the segment included lots of trailer jokes about Arkansas, which is surprising since Oprah grew up poor in Mississippi.

Steve Shore of the Reed’s Bridge Society remembers being called to be on “Home Takeover.”

“At first I was excited,” he said recently. “It was very short notice to get a lot of people together on Super Bowl Sunday for a two- or three-hour event.”

Although there was snow on the ground when the TV crew called, Shore continued, “that did not affect their decision to film ‘a re-enactment of a re-enactment’ in the snow, when the battle happened in the heat of August 1863.”

“I put out the word, and as it turns out, four cannons arrived, along with approximately 60 re-enactors.”

“We knew nothing about what they wanted to film, so everyone was asked to bring two uniforms. Maybe we would film all Confederates attacking from one direction......and then change uniforms and have the Yankees attacking in the opposite direction?

“Who knows? When the film crew arrived, we learned that they wanted to dress up the two television personalities of a TV show that was to be on the OWN Network in April.”

Shore helped Davies and Cederlund change into uniforms inside one of the log cabins at the battlefield. The designers goofed around the battlefield and even played dead. But they obviously couldn’t work the scene into the show.

“To make a long story short,” Shore continued, “the show did not come out in April. In fact, it did not come out all summer. Recently, the episode was aired that we were to be in, but we were cut out of it.
One of our local re-enactors found a link of the event on the OWN Network website.”

“I gave these guys musket training, drill and commands,” Shore went on. “They did not want to listen once we were on the field. I gave them a lot of information about the original battle and the importance of the battlefield.

“I don’t know how this will be accepted by the re-enactment community, but I hope we did not harm the overall perception,” Shore said. “I do know I didn’t appreciate them driving up and making the comment, ‘Here’s a bunch of crazies!’”

There’s a lesson here somewhere: Don’t do Civil War re-enactments for guys with British accents and don’t ask them to decorate battlefields, even if they’ll do it for free.