Dreams on consignment
One woman's journey from Cambridge into the weird world of TV home
shopping, and back again. And again.
by Lisa Birk
Victoria Tane stands either five-four or five-two-and-a-half. It depends on
who's asking, which makes sense when you get to know her. Tane, 47, is a North
Cambridge inventor-entrepreneur. She makes her living designing jewelry and
fashion accessories, but her real gift is for transformation.
On her dining-room table is an ornate gold candelabra, which turns out to be
an upside-down light fixture she picked out of the trash. A few years ago, when
her seven-year-old son, Zack, wanted to sell lemonade, she built him a pushcart
from a trash-picked wheeled TV stand and an umbrella. She painted the umbrella
purple and pink and green with yellow lemons, attached it to the matching
painted cart, and speared a plastic yellow squeeze lemon on the umbrella spike.
The result was functional and fabulous-looking. Architects and designers would
stop and ask where he got such a thing.
Now Tane is in the middle of the biggest transformation project of her life:
herself. This is why, on a sultry June morning, she is outside Philadelphia
driving a tinny rented Geo to the television studios of QVC, Inc., the largest
home-shopping network in the country. This is why she is singing to herself, at
5:30 in the morning, after five hours of sleep. "Dunh-daa-da,
dunh-da-da-daaadaaa." The song is triumphal, full of horns. It is the Fox
fanfare, and she sings it ironically and gleefully as she rounds a grassy
island surmounted by towering neon-red letters: QVC.
Over the past 14 months, Tane has flown to Philadelphia six times to appear as
a "guest entrepreneur" on QVC. In slots seven to 10 minutes long, she has
demonstrated and sold a product of her own invention: Headbenz(TM), the
headband that doesn't hurt your head. Headbenz -- a beaded, zigzagged device
that Tane created in her Cambridge apartment -- continues to sell well, but by
now it's last season's product. Today she is here to sell something new:
Jewelbenz(TM), the 2 in 1 Scarf Necklace. Somebody at QVC must have confidence
in Tane and her new product, because they've booked her for the morning show,
traditionally a very good slot for fashion accessories.
After Tane parks in her lucky spot, she picks up her QVC badge at the
front desk. She jokes with the receptionist, seeming relaxed for the first time
in weeks. Getting Jewelbenz, a choker of faux pearls interwoven with a
polyester scarf, manufactured, packaged, and shipped has been one headache
after another, but now she's here and Jewelbenz is here, and all she has to do
is demonstrate it on the morning show and sell, sell, sell.
Tane is a born marketer. The first time her son took his lemonade pushcart out
to the sidewalk, she taught him to ring a teacher's bell and say to approaching
pedestrians, "Would you like an ice-cold glass of lemonade?" Sometimes a man
would give him five dollars for a 25-cent lemonade. "I'll come back for the
other 20 later," he'd say. Zack has his mother's genes. One time he was leaning
out the window when he saw his parents' friends coming for dinner. "Mom," he
said, "the customers are here."
Right now Tane is riding a small wave of success. Her most recent QVC
appearance was her biggest yet: she sold $82,000 worth of Headbenz in 10
minutes. That sounds like a lot until you subtract QVC's cut (half), and her
manufacturing costs, and her agent's fee. Once you do, she's left with about
$10,000 in take-home pay -- not bad for 10 minutes on TV, but not enough to pay
off the credit cards she has been using to finance the next line of
QVC, it turns out, can be something of a treadmill for guest entrepreneurs
such as Victoria Tane. For any inventor, the odds against succeeding are
enormous. Joanne Hayes-Rines, editor of Inventors' Digest, estimates
that just three percent of all patented items become commercial successes. Tane
is doing well to have gotten two products on QVC, but not well enough. Everyone
in the business -- her agent, her buyer at QVC, her manufacturer -- is telling
her she can't be a one-trick pony, that getting off the treadmill depends on
coming up with not just one good product, not just two, not even three, but a
stream of new products.
She doesn't know if she'll ever have another good idea. She has inventor's
block. Sure, she developed Jewelbenz, but she didn't invent it. A friend
saw a scarf-necklace in an antiques store and passed the idea on to her. Now,
even before she premieres Jewelbenz, her agent wants to know what's next.
Tane does not know what's next. For now, she just wants this product to sell
because she wants to be rich. She wants to make a million bucks.
For most of her adult life, Tane has made roughly the same money as a novice
schoolteacher. For years that was okay, and then one day it wasn't. She doesn't
remember the catalyst -- maybe it was a midlife crisis -- but all she knows is
that five years ago, she looked into her future, and what she saw was decades
of scrabbling, decades of life in cramped North Cambridge.
So she expanded her jewelry-design business. She exhibited at more craft
fairs, hosted more private sales, but it wasn't enough. Finally, after three
years of intermittent panic and despair, inspiration struck. A Vogue
blurb about the return of the headband got her experimenting with wire and
beads. To keep the beads in place, she zigged and zagged the wire. Turns out
that the zigzags were also really good at holding hair, any kind of hair, in
place. On curly or thick hair, you didn't really see the wire, just the beads.
And, as luck would have it, her new wire-and-bead headband fit an emerging --
but not yet cresting -- trend of rhinestone butterfly clips and necklaces with
beads on invisible strands. Beads were in. Floaty and transparent was in. And
then something important happened: she went to bed and forgot to take off the
The next morning she woke up with the headband on, but no headache. If you are
a man, or have always had short hair, this may seem a small thing. But most
people who wear headbands experience headaches after a few hours, right where
the two endpoints press behind the ears. Tane's headband nestled in the hair
rather than clamping the head, and she realized she had invented an attractive
solution to an irritating, albeit small, problem.
She made up two or three dozen of them for her jewelry booth at Somerville's
ArtBeat festival. People loved them. In two hours she sold every Headbenz she'd
brought, including the one on her head. Tane couldn't believe it. She'd never
seen anything sell like this. Even now, two years later, she still recounts the
story with wonder.
"People said, `You're going to make a shitload of money off this.' And I'd
say, `From your mouth to God's ear.'
"Right then, that Saturday in July," says Tane, "I thought, `Yes, this can
happen. I've got something here.' " It was the first time she saw a way to
pay for her son's college tuition, to have a comfortable retirement, to get
By 5:45 A.M., Tane is in the green room checking out QVC's dressing rooms.
Backstage, QVC is set up like any big-time TV talk show, with a green room and
a supply of coffee and snacks. Tane wants to get her lucky dressing room, the
one she had when she had her $82,000 day.
Rumor has it that TV waiting rooms were originally painted green because green
is a calming color and producers wanted guests to relax. QVC's green room is
not green, but it is large, with two couches, a coffee table, several chairs,
vending machines, a huge TV, and a countertop of computer monitors that track
how many of any given product have sold. Off the green room is an enormous
bathroom, a studio-size kitchen, and three large dressing rooms. Tane has her
pick of dressing rooms: at this hour, there's nobody else here.
She chooses her lucky one, the one closest to the kitchen, and stares at
herself in the dressing-room mirror. It's huge -- QVC seems to specialize in
huge, as if size all by itself equaled glamour. Her hair is wet and stringy and
she has dark circles under her eyes. She was supposed to have an appointment at
the free in-house QVC salon, but it's closed. There must have been a mix-up.
There's nobody at the front desk, either; no free bagels in the green-room
kitchen; and no cups for the free instant coffee. "I guess they left out the
"W" in QVC for welcome," says Tane.
Some people, faced with a TV appearance and no cosmetologist, might panic.
Victoria Tane goes behind the welcome desk, locates a crate of hair stuff and a
cosmetics case the size of an extra-large tackle box, and sets to work. She
bends over, flipping her hair over her head. "You're watching the
transformation to QVC glam-babe," she says, laughing over the roar of the blow
Minutes later, the producer, Kim Johnson, walks in. She is slender, dressed
in a buttoned shirt and tailored pants, with a walkie-talkie clipped to her
belt. Johnson's work is entirely behind the scenes, but she is beautifully
made-up nonetheless. Soft eyeliner and eye shadow accentuate green eyes. She
wears pale pink lipstick, and her fine blond hair is cut to frame her face.
Tane scrunches her hair. "You're pretty enough to be a host," she says to
Johnson blushes, leans away, laughing. "Someday," she says softly.
In about an hour, Tane's segment will begin. But the first order of
business is her 10-second promo spot, when the off-camera host will tell
viewers that Tane's new product is coming up. On-camera, Tane will smile for 10
straight seconds and repeatedly take off and put on the Jewelbenz. (QVC
specializes in products that require demonstration. This is TV, and TV is about
Johnson leaves to set up the promo, and soon the co-host of The QVC
Morning Show, Kim Parrish, joins Tane in the dressing room. Parrish is a
former Miss West Virginia, and she wears a tastefully understated long skirt
and a top, embellished with jewelry. (Later, when Tane compliments her
necklace, Parrish will swing her arms wide and say, "Four o'clock." She means
that at four, she'll sell the necklace -- as well as the top, the skirt, and
everything else she's wearing.)
Tane is camera-ready. Curls cascade from behind her Headbenz. The ivory
Jewelbenz ornaments her pale-green suit. She lengthens her neck and smooths the
Jewelbenz scarf. "It's a scarf and a necklace," she says.
"Whoa!" says Parrish. Then she fixes on the Headbenz in Tane's hair. "That,"
she says, pointing at the headband, "is soooo cool."
"I have one for you," says Tane, rummaging through a box and emerging with a
"How'd you come up with this?" says the former Miss West Virginia, sliding the
wire headband into place. She looks in the mirror, teases her hair. "Love it,
love it. Little tease, little pouf. Love it."
Tane watches Parrish watching herself in the mirror. Parrish smiles; Tane
"What we'll do," says Parrish, "is we'll go into scenarios: `So you're getting
dressed in the morning and instead of wearing the same old shell, put on a
Jewelbenz.' Or: `You need a quick change for the evening, put on a
"You should do this for a living," says Tane, laughing. Later, she will ask a
visitor, sort of jokingly but sort of not, "Do you think I could be a host?"
QVC was not the first electronic retailer -- that distinction belongs to the
Home Shopping Network -- but it is by far the largest. In 1998, QVC, Inc.
racked up $2.4 billion in sales. In 1999, $2.6 billion. That's double
any other electronic retailer's take, according to Marilyn Montross, QVC's
director of vendor relations.
The 13-year-old network was a winner from the get-go. Its founder, Joseph
Segal, also founded the Franklin Mint, the $750 million company that
specializes in those "collectible" coins and medals and plates that you see
advertised in the Sunday Parade magazine.
When QVC was launched in 1986 -- the letters stand for Quality, Value,
Convenience -- the notion of shopping on TV still seemed far-fetched. Three
years later, in November 1989, QVC had its first $10 million day. Today,
to state the obvious, QVC is really, really big. Broadcasting nonstop every day
but Christmas to 70 million viewers, QVC presents 250 products a day --
91,000 products a year.
To move those products, QVC specializes in the soft sell. Rather than
insisting that you need such and such, the hosts (and the guests, if
there are any) use what's called the backyard-fence approach to selling. That
is, they talk about the product not exactly as salesmen, and not exactly as
your best friends, but as if they were your neighbors, just keeping you posted
on the latest cool thing.
Judging by the on-air phone calls, viewers do feel neighborly. When one host
returned after a six-month leave, he was so besieged with on-air calls from
viewers saying how much they missed him that by the end of the hour he no
longer bowed deeply and clasped his hands in prayer; he just muttered a weak
thanks before moving on.
The QVC set extends the neighbor metaphor. Executives have devoted 8000 square
feet of the company's new headquarters to the "studio home" -- a stage set
roughly eight times the size of Tane's real house. Every product is presented
in the appropriate room: lawn mowers in the garage, grills on the deck, fashion
accessories in the bedroom, computers in the home office, cookbooks in the
(fake) kitchen (meals are prepared in an off-camera real kitchen), jewelry in
the foyer. The studio home is equipped with two working fireplaces and a
doorbell. All the windows are fake. Every sky behind every window is blue.
Victoria Tane loves this.
On the set, waiting to go on for her 10-second tease, Tane points at the set's
two kitchens: the TV kitchen where food is presented, and the real kitchen
where food is actually cooked. "I like the presentation," she says. "I like
pulling all the pieces together to put on the show. I like," she says,
referring to her makeover in the dressing room, "how scattered and frayed I
look and then how polished and professional. It's the woman behind the woman
behind the woman."
As long as she's inside QVC headquarters, she feels expansive, hopeful. QVC
is a dream factory, where guest entrepreneurs are mini-celebrities with
dressing rooms and free bagels (usually), and callers buy faux glamour with two
easy payments of $109 for a 14-carat Diamonique ring. When Tane looks at QVC,
she sees hope. In the cafeteria, she sees bounty. On the set, she sees
ingenuity. Somebody invented the robotically operated cameras trained on
the "studio home."
A half-hour before Tane's segment, we walk down a long, wide white hall
drinking juice. Tane uses a straw so that she won't mess up her lipstick. In
this 14-acre building, not a single other person is visible. We reach the heart
of the QVC building, where four hallways, each wide enough to be a single-lane
highway, converge. They meet at the foot of a glass staircase with a glass
banister, which ascends into a dome of skylights. At the foot of the stairs is
an inlaid circle the color of lapis lazuli; gold letters embedded in the blue
read TRUE NORTH. And on the perimeter of the circle, workers have inlaid silver
letters with QVC's eight mottoes, which include: PIONEERING SPIRIT. FUN ALONG
THE WAY. COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE.
We climb to the top. Tane looks down at the wide, wide white halls and the
blue circle of True North. "When you stand here," she says, "you think about
big things. You realize that you're a speck.
"But someone, a speck, visualized this, built this," she says with a sweep of
her arm. "Here, there's a chance for a speck to be grand."
Or at least a chance for an enterprising mom from Cambridge to get her
products onto thousands and thousands of heads and necks. In her first QVC
appearance, Tane was on TV for seven minutes and sold 3004 headbands. The next
two times, she sold several thousand more, and on May 31, her best day
ever, she sold 9474 headbands in 10 minutes at an "introductory price" of
$17.31 a pair. That's 16 headbands per second. As Tane says, "Where else
can you meet several million people in a few minutes?"
Tane rests her elbows on the banister and looks down at the Logan's
Run-esque hallway. "Yesterday, I was crammed in the subway at rush hour. I
saw the stains on people's clothes. I smelled people. If they were here
in this building, they'd look more put together, less unglued.
"In small spaces, all you want to do is get out."
For some people, QVC really is a way out. In Tane's genre, hair accessories,
there are two legends, both of them, at least briefly, millionaires. The first
and richest is the TopsyTail(TM) lady, Tomima Edmark, from Dallas. In the late
'80s she was working for IBM and, according to her press kit, "pressed up
against the glass ceiling."
She and her mother went to a movie, where they saw a woman with her hair in a
French twist. That night, Edmark went home and experimented with knitting
needles and masking tape. She thought she could create a new style by turning a
ponytail "inside out." In time, she designed TopsyTail, which looks something
like a crochet needle and, wielded deftly, can create dozens of hairdos. She
patented it, and in 1992 she made an infomercial that went international. So
far, she's grossed $100 million, according to her former agent, Joan
Lefkowitz at Accessory Brainstorms, in New York.
Edmark, being first, is an exception. She sold $100 million worth of one
product, but that was the first time anyone had thought to make an infomercial
for a hairstyling tool. To hair-accessory entrepreneurs, Edmark is a goddess.
The second hair-accessory millionaire was Denie Schach. Schach had been a
hairdresser in Texas for 25 years, and even had her own salon for a few years,
before her husband got laid off. They closed the salon, and she went to work
for someone else. Nights they stayed up, wondering how they would pay the
bills. Their car was repossessed. They had to borrow money to pay the
electrical bill. They were desperate.
Schach began teaching hair classes. She specialized in showing long-haired
women how to put their hair up. One day she thought, Wouldn't it be great if I
could give them some tool, kind of an 11th finger to wrap the hair around?
Using a thick, foamy fabric and wire, she sewed a few prototypes of what would
become Hairdini(TM). Everyone loved them. She found a manufacturer and an agent
-- Joan Lefkowitz again, the same one the TopsyTail(TM) lady had hired.
Lefkowitz helped get Schach slots on QVC and the Home Shopping Network, and,
all told, Schach sold 20 million Hairdinis for $19.95 each. Schach claims
that because of a bad deal early on she made just 60 cents off each one sold.
Still, 20 million at 60 cents each adds up to $12 million. "For about
two months I was a millionaire," she says.
She bought a house on a lake and a Nissan 300ZX and a new 4-Runner.
She bought a sailboat and a motorboat. She bought a diamond tennis bracelet and
a ruby necklace, and for everything but the house, she paid cash. "The best
part of that situation," she says, "was that you could breathe, you had some
money in the bank, you could pay your bills."
Then the IRS came along and took its share, and she won't say what else
happened -- she's just settled a lawsuit out of court against one of her
investors -- but she lost most of the money. That was a year or two ago, but
she's boomeranging back. She's got QVC appearances lined up for Mighty Big
Hairdini(TM), Teenihairdini(TM), Poofdini(TM), and Clipdini(TM). Once this
lawsuit is over, she plans to be a millionaire again.
Tane aims to be the third hair-accessories millionaire. Maybe lightning will
strike three times. She's got Joan Lefkowitz as an agent, which is promising. A
good agent can get clients on QVC. She can also manage their expectations.
Tane is realistic. She knows her million might come slowly, if at all. "This
isn't high tech, where the profits are just phenomenal," she says. "This is
manufacturing. This is an item." Whether or not the item sells, Tane owes her
vendors and her manufacturers. In the end, if she makes 10 percent on any
given order, she's doing really well; meanwhile, she's already maxing out her
credit cards to manufacture the next order, which often costs two, three, or
four times the profit of her last order.
Even if she always did as well as her best day, it would take 40 appearances
to make a million dollars. Averaging four appearances a year with a $10,000
profit, she'd make a million in 25 years. A million spread over 25 years is
$40,000, or just about a mid-level teacher's salary.
Tane's no bumpkin. When she laughs it is a heh-heh-heh laugh, dark and deep.
But even cynics dream. When asked what motivates her to keep maxing out her
credit cards, staying up nights trying to think of What's Next, she doesn't say
the urge to create, or preventing headaches in millions of women, or making the
world a more beautiful place. She comes right out with the bottom line:
"Money," she says, and laughs that heh-heh-heh laugh. Tane is blunt, sardonic,
funny, and nevertheless totally smitten with QVC.
Tane's 10 minutes on air go almost as expected. Parrish runs the scenarios;
Tane demonstrates that Jewelbenz, made with memory wire, easily conforms to any
neck; the model wearing the navy Jewelbenz smiles; and three callers go on the
air to extol Jewelbenz. There's just one deviation from the norm. Parrish asks
Tane how she came up with such an unusual product. "Thanks," says Tane. "Well,"
and she pauses.
On QVC, the host almost invariably asks the guest entrepreneur how she came up
with the product. There is a reason for this. QVC's genius is that, along with
its products, it sells a story. That's why Edmark, Schach, and Victoria Tane go
on-screen. Because what QVC is selling is not just a headband that doesn't hurt
your head, but a dream. The dream that ordinary you and ordinary me, with
ordinary knitting needles and masking tape and wire and beads, can at the worst
moment -- a dead-end job, bankruptcy, despair -- get inspired. And maybe even
Even people who will never invent a thing seem to get a vicarious thrill from
those who have. Tane and her friend Raelinda Woad, an Arlington storyteller and
jewelry maker, have noticed that wherever they exhibit, people are intrigued.
"At craft fairs," says Woad, "people say, `Good for you.' People are thrilled
you're doing this. It's almost as if they bumped into the 19th century, into
someone riding a horse. Everything's so corporate now. It's as if you're
breaking the rules when a single funky woman comes up with something and is
QVC capitalizes on that sentiment -- literally. So Tane is prepared for the
host's question. But she also knows her Jewelbenz story isn't the compelling
up-from-the-depths story that Headbenz is.
"Well," says Tane. "A friend saw it in an antiques store." And then, she says,
she developed it. It works, but it's not as good as her other story.
Parrish moves on smoothly. There is talk of the day-to-evening transformation
possibilities. Fold it up, put it in your purse. After work, tuck the scarf in
your suit over your shell, and voilà, an evening look.
Tane's standards are high. As she walks off the set into the green room, she
says, "I think I bombed. I think I was stiff."
Back in the green room, three computer monitors are running real-time displays
of product sold. Tane skirts a half-dozen chattering people and hunches over a
monitor, squinting. The ivory Jewelbenz numbers rise: 603, 604, 605. The navy
isn't doing as well. It sticks at 497. Tane watches the screen closely. Of the
1875 units she shipped to QVC, she has sold 1102 so far.
QVC buys the first half of every shipment wholesale, and the rest is sold on
consignment. Beginning with Jewelbenz number 938, whatever does not sell, Tane
eats. At this moment, she's contemplating eating 772 Jewelbenz, which could
make it tough to cover her costs.
"I don't know if it's going to sell out," she says, and retreats to the
dressing room. But she comes out again right away and phones her husband and
son. "How'd I do? Did you get it on tape?" she says.
Tane has to press one hand against her ear to hear the answers. Sprawled on the
couches and chairs in the green room is a crowd of people talking loudly,
mostly to each other, but sometimes frantically into cell phones. It's the Red
Devil Grill team.
The Red Devil Grill people, pushing a product for their publicly traded
company, e4L (Everything 4 Less), are on the other end of the entrepreneurial
spectrum from Tane. Many of QVC's 91,000 products come from big corporations
such as Kodak, Nintendo, Warner Bros., Corning, and Home Depot. But often even
these products are demo'd by one individual, personably, just the way Victoria
Tane does her Headbenz and Jewelbenz. This is still the backyard-fence
approach; it's just that some "neighbors" are backed by a multimillion-dollar
company and an on-site marketing team.
Even so, the Red Devil Grill people are worried. They have six 10-minute slots
today, and in their first slot they sold just over 500 grills -- about 1000
fewer than QVC's projections. To sell the remaining 8000, they will have to
persuade viewers to buy, on average, two or three grills every second of on-air
The Red Devil Grill looks a lot like a Weber grill, only it runs on gas, comes
with accessories, and -- when you break it down into two suitcase-size bags --
is portable. During the segment, Australian developer Mick Haste demonstrated
the Red Devil's versatility on a half-dozen grills arranged around QVC's
outdoor deck. On one grill he stir-fried shrimp; on another he fried eggs. "Do
yourself a favor, folks, don't try this at home," said Haste. "I did a birthday
cake on here the other day. Caused a sensation." He moved to the next Red Devil
Grill, this one covered with a domed top. "Let me show you this, I gotta show
you this." He lifted the lid to reveal a golden-brown turkey nestled on a bed
of rice, garlanded with potatoes and carrots. And when the host cut him off, he
was pulling a lobster from a deep black pot set on yet another Red Devil
But all of Haste's effort may have been wasted.
"It was upside down," he groans in the green room, sitting alone
on a sofa.
Demonstrating the grill set-up, host Kim Parrish goofed. All she had to do was
unzip the bags and set up the grill. How hard could that be? Haste had done it
a million times: unfold the tripod legs, screw on the propane tank, set the
drip pan on the center spindle, spin it like a top, set the grill on the pan
and the dome on the grill. Voilà. But when Parrish spun the drip pan, it
wobbled and nearly fell. She had to do it several times. And, like all QVC
segments, this was filmed live. The set-up took minutes, an eon in TV time. And
when the camera pulled back, the Red Devil Grill was upside down, its little
feet stuck up in the air, and the dome was still sitting on the grass. In front
of thousands, maybe millions, of viewers, the former Miss West Virginia
demonstrated that assembling the Red Devil Grill is a pain in the neck.
Now, in the green room, a fidgety Red Devil PR lady perches on the back of a
couch, alternately checking her beeper and punching numbers into her cell
phone. Two lunkish male food stylists pace. Red Devil's vice-president of
retail sales frowns from a deep armchair.
Next to the PR lady is Jane Rudolph Treacy, coifed host of the next show.
She's more spiritual than the others, and looks to the ceiling a lot. She's
thinking ahead to the next segment.
"I want to start the sell," says Jane, looking dreamily up, "with the sight,
the sound, the smell of summer."
"That's what I haven't heard yet," she says, "summer." And she pats the PR
lady, who's talking on her cell phone, on the shoulder and walks out.
Haste brightens. "We'll start with the typical summer grill, hamburgers, dogs,
then we'll go to the breakfast."
The PR lady looks at her beeper, nods.
"We build to the turkey," says Haste.
A Nordic-looking food stylist, wearing shorts and a beeper, straightens.
"You'll have the best sell of the day," he says.
No one on the team asks whether a portable gas grill is desirable; whether a
two-suitcase grill is really portable; or whether, when you're done cooking and
you return the greasy parts to the nylon suitcases, you'll ever use the Red
Devil Grill again.
They don't know it now, but by the end of the day, at least 8000 people won't
ask those questions either. The Red Devil Grill will sell out. For now, the
last few orders for Jewelbenz are trickling in. The grill people clear out, and
Tane cleans up her dressing room. She returns the crate of hairdressing
supplies and the tackle box of cosmetics to the welcome desk.
She seems happy, a little reluctant to leave, even though she won't get off
the treadmill this time around. Still, she's already lined up an autumn
appearance on QVC to demo the new fall line of Headbenz. And Denie Schach, the
Hairdini lady -- they met in the green room last time -- wants to join forces,
maybe develop a product or two together.
Tane shoulders her suitcase, glances around the now empty green room. The door
swings open and Len Czabator, director of custom events, promos, and marketing,
stops by the green-room kitchen.
"Are you a millionaire yet?" he says.
Tane lowers the suitcase to the floor and joins him. "Everybody asks me that,"
she says and leans on the counter near the door.
He slathers a bagel with cream cheese and tears off a bite with his teeth. "So
how's business?" he asks.
"It's growing," she says. "It's diversifying. But QVC is my big bad sugar
daddy," and she laughs, heh heh heh.
Len takes another bite, leans in real close. He pats her on the shoulder on
his way back to the set. "Just make sure he's gentle," he says.
When Tane was eight years old and living in Lexington, she took some vegetables
out of the refrigerator bin and sold them door to door.
When her stepfather came home, he was furious. Not because she'd sold the
family vegetables, but because she'd made money.
"I earn the money here," he said. He was prone to bad tempers and edicts.
That year, her mother enrolled her in the local 4-H sewing club, the Prickly
Pins. Tane designed her own dress pattern. It was a simple shift, two pieces,
front and back. She sewed a bunch of them, figured the cost of her time and
materials, and sold them door to door.
She made a profit.
Lisa Birk is a freelance writer living in Cambridge. Her last feature for
the Phoenix was about dream theory.