Subscribe to the Journal, call 505-823-4400

          Front Page

Experiencing the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" Process

By Lloyd Jojola/
Journal Staff Writer

    "Good morning, Martinez family!"
    The trademark opening line to the television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" was shouted in Albuquerque last Tuesday. And with that, the filming of a weeklong home makeover for the Rev. Gerald Martinez and his family in Trumbull Village was on.
    With nary a peep, the Martinezes are hustled from the Duke City to Disney World until the work is done.
    "We were not allowed to talk to them," says the Rev. Roberto Cuellar, a fellow pastor at Joshua's Vineyard Church in the City. "We just watched them from far away, when they were rehearsing the intro for the program and everything.
    "We kind of waved at them from far away."
When is it on
See ABQ Home Makeover (Friday, 18 January 2008)
MAIN STORY: 'Extreme Makeover' Team Reveals Rebuilt Home to City Pastor and His Family

    By Wednesday, the Martinez home and the area that extends a few blocks around it is a flurry of controlled activity: The streets leading in are blocked off or manned by security guards at entry points. Volunteers and others, like the media, check in and sign waivers to nab passes so that they can move about. RVs, supply trucks and heavy equipment become fixtures in the neighborhood.
    Mayor Martin Chávez drops in for some face time, and talks about the city's own Trumbull redevelopment efforts.
    "It's a perfect confluence of what they do on the show and what we're doing in this neighborhood," he says.
    "Where's the house?" an eager man standing in a long line of want-to-be makeover volunteers asks at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
    Less than three hours later, monster machines chew up the buildings on 404 Grove SE   —   that's where it is.
    An estimated 2,000 construction workers and 1,200 other non-construction volunteers are part of the makeover. Toss in the TV production peeps, support staff, residents, star-searching spectators and anyone else and it makes for a circuslike setting.
    "It has to be crazy in order to build a house in 96 hours," explains Darren Drevik, director of marketing for Atreus Homes & Communities, the lead builder for this particular to-do. "You can't pull something like that off if you don't have a lot of frantic energy and a lot of craziness.
    "This sort of looks disorganized, but it's actually a very organized symphony."
    Organized. That's true.
    Drevik pulls from his back pocket a construction schedule that's planned down to the hour.
    "The best way to get an arm around what we're doing here is one hour in this project is the equivalent of one day of building a house"   —   a regular house.
    But because it's being filmed, there's also a great deal of hurry up and wait that doesn't appear on that paper.

[+] Click to enlarge
Marla Brose/Journal

The ABC-TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" shows the Martinez family their new home during filming on Jan. 22. From top, Gerald Martinez, his wife, Liesa, and their children, from left, Alie, Levi, Maggie-Jean and Bethany.

  • Photos of the Extreme Makeover in ABQ slideshow
  • "Extreme Makeover" Team Reveals Rebuilt Home to City Pastor and His Family story
  • See ABQ Home Makeover Jan. 18 blog
  • When is "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" on? TV listings

  •     Case in point: At 8:40 a.m. Thursday, the "Braveheart March" takes place   —   that's where, before the TV cameras, all the project volunteers gather and symbolically cheer and storm the castle to be razed and rebuilt.
        Thirty minutes later, the group walks back to the starting point and they do it all over again, this time greeting the show's stars, Ty Pennington and his team of designers.
        Truly, some people are here only for a glimpse of the show's staples, particularly spiky-haired Ty.
        "We came all the way from Vernal, Utah," Cecilia Couey says, pausing from pressing the button on her point-n-shoot. Her son, Rick Crawford, is working on the project's plumbing and heating, she says.
        "I want to meet Ty so bad. I'm going to be 70 in two weeks and I said, 'Oh, that would be my birthday present, just to meet Ty,' know what I mean?"
        Couey isn't the only fan.
        "That's why we're out here today   —   we love the show," says spectator Christine Paulsen of Sandia Park. "It's an awesome thing to have something like this happen to Albuquerque. And also we know the people (the Martinezes) and how they have been such a blessing to the community.
        "They deserve this."
        Patrick Massengale of Rio Rancho and his wife watch the show, which is famous for tugging on the heartstrings just enough to force a good cry, every single Sunday "without fail."
        "Well, as I say, you've always got to have that box of Kleenex with you. So it rinses out your eyes real good, you know?" Massengale says. "It's just heartwarming when you're watching the communities come together and the things they're able to accomplish, and not just for that family.
        "Typically, it's families who do a lot for other people in the community."
        That's why Massengale walks up at 8 a.m. to volunteer, despite it being 13 degrees out.
        "I actually went down to Wal-Mart last night ...and bought some caps and gloves and stuff so I could come down here this morning.
        "Hey, do you want some hand warmers?"
        A cold snap messes with the makeover itinerary, and results in some not-so-typical construction maneuvers.
        Concrete for the building slabs is poured early Friday morning   —   we're talking 3 a.m.
        A special concrete with an accelerant in it to make it dry faster is used, and it's heated, too, Drevik says.
        "Now, one of the challenges is the concrete plant is way up in the northwest part of town," he says. "So the Albuquerque Police Department was nice enough; they're actually going to have a police escort for our concrete trucks so that we can get them here faster before it cools down, so we can pump it.
        "Every building has unique challenges, and one of the challenges here is the cold."
        Maybe it was more of a challenge than initially thought.
        Tunnel heaters   —   the type you see aimed at football players on the sidelines   —   are pointed at the concrete Friday morning to help dry it.
        Workers arrived to start building the wooden frames by about 8 a.m. Friday, but it doesn't start until about noon.
        For now, no one's sweating it.
        "The trick is not to get too far ahead or behind because we've got everybody timed exactly as to when they arrive," Drevik says. His company has been the builder in two other Extreme Makeover shows.
        "The working conditions were way too cold," says Keith Tso, a framer with Magnum Builders, who comes off the job site at 7 p.m. Friday after arriving at about 3:30 a.m. "By this morning, it was probably like 14 degrees or something, with a little bit of wind chill. Ooooo."
        The duplex is up, as is the frame and sheets of wood on the first floor of the new Martinez home. But framing is ongoing on floor No. 2.
        "Physically," Tso says, "it was like you don't really want to move because all the air blew through your jacket."
        For Kyde Crawford, a Plumb Mechanical and PMI Heating & Air worker, the glue kept freezing before it would take to the pipe, he says, "so it caused little hiccups in the process."
        He's been there for three days   —   he's among the hundreds with builders and other volunteers hustling about. "You wouldn't typically see this on a regular job site."
        What makes it interesting and worthwhile is "because of who and what we're doing it for," Crawford says.
        "My mother watches (the TV show) religiously. What made it important to us was, because my father owns the plumbing company, is he just went through a huge medical procedure and he thought that he was destined to do it.
        "So he got all of us that work for him pumped up for it."
        "The Sheetrock will be done today," Drevik says Saturday. "The stucco work will be done this afternoon."
        Inside, in go some of the plumbing fixtures, and work starts on the tile and such. Then Sunday, there's landscaping and interior finishing work to be done, he says.
        A plea for a peek inside, once completion nears, is refused.
        "Actually," Drevik says, "I won't even let you look now.
        "ABC won't let anybody inside the house other than the folks working on it. They want the show to air and it to be a surprise to everybody.
        "There's volunteers later today who will get to go in and do some cleanup and stuff. We'll of course swear them to secrecy and threaten to kill them."
        Mom and daughter team Debra and Angela Infante, respectively, show up to volunteer Saturday morning.
        DI: "Because we watch the show."
        AI: "To be a part of what they're doing."
        DI: And this is wonderful, it really is."
        AI: "It's a very awesome experience."
        They initially didn't have much to do   —   work at the site goes in phased waves   —   but the city residents do some security, man the snack tent, perform some cleaning...
        "And we got a T-shirt," Debra Infante says proudly.
        "Oh, I saw this, I was inspired," says Cindy Rienhardt, who watches from the designated spectators gallery on Grove Street's other side. "I just think this is a great thing for the community in this area. They're doing it for the people. . . to clean up this area for the people. That's great."
        Sheila Reed of Albuquerque, behind a fence that separates spectators from the work on Sunday, beckons to Michael Moloney   —   one of the show's star designers   —   and asks for a photo. He waves in passing and says he'll oblige, and sure enough, comes out of the home minutes later.
        "I've got a picture at work of you and my twin sister in North Pole, Alaska," Reed tells Moloney while they pose for a snapshot next to each other.
        Anything for the fans ...
        ... but the press?
        Asked by a Journal reporter standing next to Reed what was unique about this particular build, Moloney eyes the "MEDIA" badge and hand-held recorder and says: "I can't do that unless I am approved."
        While most of the show's design team is in place, the show's star, Ty Pennington, is not too visible right now.
        Here's why, Drevik says: "They film two shows at the same time. They were just finishing up one in Nevada. So the way it works is, he knocks on a family's door in Nevada and is there for three days. And then he flies here and knocked on the Martinez's door on Tuesday and stays here for three days. Then, he flies back to Nevada for the reveal ... the move the bus moment in Nevada. And then he comes back here for the last couple of days and to move their bus here.
        "The remainder of the design team stays in place, like Paulie and Ed and Paige and Michael. They've been here all week."
        By mid-Monday, in the midst of the home stretch, the site's teeming with blue shirts and white construction helmets: the Extreme Makeover uniform.
        It's about noon and work is a few hours behind schedule. The keys to the home will be given to ABC by about 4 to 8 p.m., Drevik says.
        He likens the interior work to the mayhem in the Marx Brothers movie, "A Night at the Opera."
        "There's that scene where everybody keeps piling into the stateroom and it keeps getting more and more people in there and finally someone opens the door and they come piling out.
        "That's exactly what's going on inside that house right now."
        Painters, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, tilers, muralists ... they and others fill the house. Final color is being put on the main home, a concrete driveway is being poured and landscaping is among the exterior work going on.
        Brian Fields, along with other Community Emergency Response Team members, is one of the volunteers.
        While watching Monday morning he's asked if he tunes in to the show.
        "Oh, yeah," he says.
        Was it as you expected?
        "Oh, no. Far from it. Of course, that's the beauty of television. They make it look like it's so simple. But when you actually get out here on the site, you look at all the (equipment and materials) on the street and you look at everybody, like a bunch of ants on sugar.
        "It's crazy, but at the same time it's all worth the effort."