Interview: Ty Pennington talks Make a Difference, Sandy and American Journey

Ty talks with Mark and Theresa about Craftsman “Make a Difference” Tour, rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy and American Journey.

Ty Pennington

Ty:                   I feel like we’re like fighter pilots.

Mark:              We’re back home inside MyFixitUpLife, from Wanaque, New Jersey on the Craftsman Make A Difference Tour with Rebuilding Together.  Who’s fired up?

Ty:                   Yeah.

Mark:              Yeah.  That voice you hear is Ty Pennington.

Ty:                   Yes.  I am fired up.

Mark:              He is here on the ground, and no joke, has paint in his hair.

Ty:                   Yes.

Theresa:          You do.  I like it.  It’s sort of nice highlights that you do.

Ty:                   Exactly, that’s what it is.  It’s really highlights.  I’m trying to bring those back, if they ever went out.

Mark:              No, they never went out.

Ty:                   It’s a primer highlight.  I’ve also got a little sawdust and mucus as well, so that gives you a little volume.

Theresa:          Oh, that’s tasty.  We were actually just talking to Genevieve Gorder the other day at the …

Ty:                   Design on a Dime?

Theresa:          Yes.

Mark:              Design on a Dime, yes.

Ty:                   Sure.

Theresa:          She was saying something about frosted, frosted tips in your hair, to Mark, and he thought it was an ice cream treat.

Mark:              Yeah, I was going to go outside and …

Ty:                   That’s a great marketing idea.  Frosted tips, available now at your local …

Theresa:          There you go.  Paint in your hair.

Ty:                   Well, it gives you that salt-and-pepper look, that distinguished look, I think, the paint in the hair.  It never fails, whenever I walk into a construction site, you know, for anyone.  Whatever wall you’re working on, someone has just painted it and not told you, you know what I mean?  You’re like, “Oh, that’s unfortunate.”

Mark:              Do you open a door and you’re like, “Oh, no”?

Ty:                   Yeah.  Yeah, it’s quite funny.  Imagine how many homes I’ve gone into that, yes, so I’m sort of … that’s my look.  A little highlights, a little paint on the brow, the arm, the hair.

Ty talks with Mark and Theresa

Mark:              Now, what’s your doctor saying about your actual toxicity intake from various urethanes and paints and fumes and stuff?

Ty:                   Right.  Well, it’s too late for that.

Mark:              Oh, good.  Good to know.  Good to know.

Ty:                   I actually painted houses for like years, for like … anyway, it’s a long story, but before all this TV stuff happened, that’s what I used to do, and trust me, I learned at an early age you don’t want to paint a stairwell, you know what I mean, without any windows, because they’ll come to get you for lunch and you’re sort of like, “Hey, wow.”

Theresa:          “Lunch is cool,” yeah.

Ty:                   “You guys look funny.”

Mark:              “You guys are liquid.”

Ty:                   Yeah, “You guys are sort of liquidy.”  Yeah, always good to open a window.

Theresa:          We’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately, and whenever we do a lot of traveling, I think about you and all the traveling that you to.

Ty:                   That’s kind.  That’s nice to say.

Theresa:          Then I think … I dig deeper and I’m like, well, you’re like on a plane constantly.  You’re always in a different city.

Ty:                   I travel a lot.  I travel a lot, yeah.

Theresa:          Then we were thinking …

Ty:                   If they had like a flat version of me, where you just fold it up, you know?

Theresa:          We have a question we want to ask.

Mark:              Yeah.  You’re flying so much, do you literally ever go out to get some cookies or a gallon of milk or something and end up in St. Louis?  Just autopilot to the airport?

Ty:                   A wrong turn.

Mark:              Yeah.  “All right, I’m back.”

Ty:                   Yeah.

Mark:              There’s no answer to that, by the way.

Ty:                   I usually have a destination.

Theresa:          They have cookies at the airport.

Ty:                   Right.

Theresa:          Yeah.  That’s a good place to get it.

Ty:                   Well, let’s be honest.  The airport food is just delicious, especially the pizza.  What’s up with that?

The Craftsman Make a Difference Trailer

Mark:              That’s nicely played.  I like how you said the opposite.

Ty:                   I think we’re going to … I think that’s … if there’s one thing we could all get together, maybe we could try to improve the airport pizza.  It’s just a small token, but why don’t I tell you about …

Theresa:          We’re here because of Craftsman, Rebuilding Together, Make a Difference campaign …

Ty:                   Yeah.  Yeah, absolutely.

Theresa:          … and that’s being watched today.

Ty:                   Which is a really, really cool thing.  We’ve got … clearly, I’ve been a partner with Sears for a long time, and they were a partner on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition as well, and what’s really great is we’ve worked with some of these organizations before.  Craftsman’s come together, Sears, Heroes at Home, Rebuilding Together, the Craftsman Club, which is a part of the Shop Your Way Network, and all these guys came together and we’ve got this really cool thing where we’re traveling the country in this 36?foot?long truck full of amazing Craftsman tools, and we’re helping out wherever we can.  I think whenever we have a chance to sort of give back to a veteran, someone who’s served our country, we try and do that.

What’s really amazing here is, of course, you talk about Pete Peterson and his wife Millie, along with so many other people in the New Jersey community, just like their homes were devastated and they were part of that.  Being here and hearing the stories of everybody in this community is pretty phenomenal, but what I love seeing, just like on Extreme, is so many people coming out, so many people rolling up their sleeves and wanting to help one another out, because I think that’s the only way you can get out of it, is like when everybody pitches in to help one another.

Theresa:          I love that.

Ty:                   You guys have been on several locations with us, like even in Joplin and all that, so you guys know where to be, which is an awesome thing, and where to lend a hand.  Thanks for bringing your hammers, and your guitarist.  Really it’s a mood enhancer, isn’t it, to work with him?

Theresa:          It is.  You always should travel with your own musician.  You should.

Ty:                   I don’t have my own band guy.  I should have a guy who’s just constantly … like, you know, he’s got a soundtrack, just following behind me.

Theresa:          That’s what I say.  You should have someone narrating your life, in a way, with music.

Ty:                   With music.

Theresa:          Following you around.  I always say …

Ty:                   “He’s getting a cup of coffee, he’s getting inside the car.”

Theresa:          I fantasize that it’s that Antonio Banderas guy, the character on Evita, where he’s just like … he comes in, he’s so sexy, he’s like, “Hello,” and he makes everything sound so fantastic.  I’m following him around.

Ty:                   “She’s now taking some Nasonex.”

Theresa:          “She’s picking up her son at preschool.”   Then it just feels so glamorous, yeah.

Ty:                   Yeah.  I love this, this is great.

Theresa:          Yeah.  You should have that.

Ty:                   You know what, I’m working on it.

Mark:              Would your theme music involve someone who could roll their R’s?  “He is now r-r-r-riding along”?

Ty:                   No.  I think for me, considering I’m sort of like ADD, I think it should be someone who starts a sentence and then jumps to another sentence and then comes back.  The whole story is sort of … it’s confusing, but once you piece it all together, it makes sense.

Mark:              You’ve got a duct?tape song.  I can imagine your song lyrics.  You’re like, “No.  Yes.  No.”

Ty:                   “Shiny object, shiny object.  Ooh, that looks funny.  Oh, gosh.”

Theresa:          You were here, though, a few days after Sandy hit, and then you’re here now.  Have you been back since then?

Ty:                   Yeah.  We went … basically like right after it happened, Sears and I got in touch with each other and we were like, you know, we’ve got to do something, and they were like, “You know, there’s a Kmart that’s in Tom’s River … ”

Mark:              New Jersey, yeah?

Ty:                   … New Jersey,” which is really close to where it hit really hard, and so we were willing to do everything we could by getting water, immediate supplies, batteries, blankets, you name it.  We went, and the Kmart out there was amazing.  They were just like, “Take everything, take everything you need.”  We were going, and we were literally going to drive over to the beach where it was the most devastated, and of course the National Guard turned us back and said that it’s been completely evacuated, everybody’s over at the school.  We went over there to drop off the supplies.  Just seeing that many people displaced, it was really … you just never really see it, especially because it was so fresh, it just happened.  Just the look on people’s faces who just were sort of in shock of like losing everything, and it’s kind of hard to … you saw some of the images.  The roads were gone.

Mark:              Yeah, the Boardwalk swept away.

Ty:                   The Boardwalk, everything.  Everything that they’d known as their life, their community, their homes, their friends, it just washed away.  It’s a really frightening feeling to see the look on people’s faces and the desperation, but what was really amazing, to see how they relied on each other.  There’s a couple I met at the shelter who were like in their 80s or 90s, and just imagine.  You need assistance.  You need help.  If people aren’t helping one another, it’s … it gave you hope that, when something like that happens, that humanity really shows its good side, but it was just tough to see how many people had lost everything, and what do you do when you don’t have anything, your clothing anymore, your possessions.  You start to realize how valuable heat is, how valuable water is.  It really puts things in perspective.  I think this community is still going through a lot to try and get things … the firehouse down the street still doesn’t even have a working bathroom.

Mark and Ty working at the Make a Difference event

Theresa:          Really?

Ty:                   Yeah.

Mark:              They’ve got porta?potties outside or whatever?

Ty:                   Yeah, exactly.

Mark:              The firehouse?

Theresa:          Firehouse.

Ty:                   The volunteer firehouse.

Mark:              Oh, so they’re on the hook for all this stuff, on top of …

Ty:                   Well, luckily, a lot of … in fact, they also lost … there’s a couple guys here I’m sure you can talk to it about it, because you’ll want to hear the story.  It’s pretty amazing what happened to them as well, because nobody expected … they expected a lot of wind and rain.  No one expected the surge to come this far in, and when it did, the water came rushing in and they started seeing it outside.  The next thing you know, minutes later, it’s literally four feet and then it starts to get six feet.  To save their vehicles, they had to crank them up and get them out of there, but they lost two, maybe three in the process, because the water came in that fast.  The doors of the firehouse were actually holding it back, and once they opened it, it was like coming in, and so they had to move the vehicles immediately to get them out.

One of them they lost completely.  I saw them out … I was talking with them the other day, and they’re stripping whatever parts they can use for another vehicle.  A lot of other fire departments came in, donated a vehicle because they’d lost one, and so they’re … even the supplies they had.  It got … it was just bad.  Now you’re talking about the people that are saving lives, they’re out there doing their best to save other people while their own families, their own homes, are being destroyed, and they just have to let that go because it’s at that point.

That’s what a first responder does, and we’re so lucky we’ve got people like that that are fearless and run into a burning building, or they’re the ones who save your life, get you in the boot and get you out of a catastrophe, meanwhile having to put their own situation in the back of their mind … their families, their possessions … on hold, because that’s what their job is.  It’s pretty remarkable what those guys do, and it certainly makes you realize how important they are to a community.

Theresa:          Wow.

Ty:                   Yeah.

Mark:              Shivers.  I wish that came across better on radio, but I have them.  That is just a phenomenal story, and now that Sandy for many people in the country has become a news story, a blip … you know, this is happening, that’s happening …

Theresa:          “Oh, yeah, I remember that happened,” kind of thing.

Mark:              Yeah, “I remember that happened,” like Joplin became.

Ty:                   Right.

Mark:              “Oh, I remember that, yeah, yeah, yeah.”  Well, Joplin doesn’t forget it.

Ty:                   No.

Mark:              It doesn’t go away here, but you’ve been back since and seen some progress, it seems like.

Ty talking with the homeowners

Ty:                   Yeah, and I think that’s what it is.  When you first saw it, you were like, “Wow, where do you even start?”  The roads weren’t even accessible.  What’s really great about this Make a Difference tour is because we’re kicking off literally on National Rebuilding Day, which is pretty remarkable because they’ve also started the rebuilding process on the Boardwalk at the same time, which is I think really lifting the spirits of people who live in this area, knowing that that’s finally going to be rebuilt, because that’s such an important part of this entire shore, that community.  It’s where families go.  It’s the place where you … you know what I mean?

Mark:              Yeah.

Ty:                   It’s the fun place, and I think that’s what was so too, that that place that had so many memories of good times looked completely devastated, like nothing they’d seen before.  It certainly put a damper on things.  I think now the weather’s warmer, and that’s why it’s also really important to be here now too, because it’s been cold up to this point, which is bad because for a while there were people out of power.  Now, whenever moisture’s around, you’ve got to get that drywall out.  Once it starts warming up, that mold is going to just like [sound effect], and so that’s why you’re seeing so many people rebuilding, getting new drywall in.  I’ve been amazed at how many people have been helping one another out, just doing what they can to get their homes back in a somewhat liveable space.

Mark:              Is it almost like … and I use this word cautiously … is it almost like a pastime?  You go to work, you come home, you suit up and you boot up and you go help your neighbor, because everybody’s got to pull together?

Ty:                   Yeah, that’s what I’m hearing from different people in this community, is that’s what they’ve done.  They just sort of like, “You help me, I’ll help you, then we’ll go help them and they’ll help us.”  It’s a sort of barn?raising happening everywhere, really.

Theresa:          Well, it’s just like I was saying earlier, that I was planting flowers with a woman named Amy, and she was helped last year with Rebuilding Together on this day, so she’s here helping this family today, doing the same thing.

Ty:                   Awesome.

Theresa:          It’s such a good thing.  Once you’re a part of it, you just keep … it all helps.  Once you get a taste of helping, it’s like …

Mark:              It is kind of infectious.

Theresa:          It’s contagious in a good way.

Ty:                   Well, that’s what was amazing about Extreme Makeover: Home Edition too, is we focused the whole story on the family we were helping, but I wish we had a lot more time on television to really dive into the local stories, because some of the people that are volunteering also sort of went through something that’s similar to, maybe, the family that we’re helping.  You’re like, “Oh, my God, and yet you’re helping this family even though you lost everything.”  We ran into that in Joplin as well, people that are volunteering, that they had lost everything.  Those are the stories that just like are so inspiring, that are so motivational, and those are things you want to share.

What I think is really kind of cool too about my new job on HLN American Journey, to finally be able to go back and meet some of these people in communities who are doing amazing things, who are trying to live the American dream.  I think it is about, no matter what comes your way, figuring out a way to keep going.  I think that’s what’s happening here in New Jersey, is they’re figuring out a way to keep going, and they’re realizing that they have to do it together.  That’s what the Craftsman Make a Difference Tour is too, is we’re helping out wherever we can.

Theresa:          Who are you featuring right now on HLN?  Who’s your … what story are you telling?

Ty:                   That’s a good question.  We’re actually here talking about this … about this story here you chose as well.  This will be a story as well, because it is about rebuilding and trying to live the American dream.  What’s amazing about Pete and Millie is, it’s funny, this guy, he was in the Air Force, literally in the military in the ’60s.  He’s an engine mechanic, he like worked on airplanes.  If you can fix an airplane, you’re probably pretty good with tools.  It’s funny, I asked him a question, when he saw that wall of water coming, when he saw what was happening on his house, when you see the water like rushing and all his possessions floating, and to see every neighbor he knows being evacuated, someone who has been able to fix everything their whole life, seeing something and realizing he can’t fix that.

I was like, “What is that like, because every other thing in your life, you’ve known you’ve been able to fix?”  I think when you see something like that, you’re like, “Wow, where do you start?”  I think seeing this out here, seeing everybody here, you realize it takes time, but it takes people wanting to get out there and make a difference for somebody else.  That’s what’s so cool about the volunteers here.

Theresa:          We saw your interview the other day about this and the Make a Difference campaign.  You said, “What’s more American than doing it yourself and DIY?”

Ty:                   That’s true.

Theresa:          I want to know, what do you think about the Harley-Davidson/Craftsman partnership with the new toolboxes?

Ty:                   Well, I think it’s pretty … let’s see.  I don’t know what I can say on the radio, but I want to say it’s bad?ass is what it is.

Theresa:          Yeah.  You can say that.

Mark:              Or you can swear your head off.

Ty:                   Oh, can I?

Mark:              Go ahead.

Ty:                   Let’s open up the door.

Mark:              Yeah.  I mean, you can just … hoo, yeah.  All of a sudden …

Ty:                   That’s awesome, though.

Mark:              … we bring it to the gutter and they start cheering.  There’s four people over there who are asleep, and one guy over there is checking the text messages.  “Wait, he’s going to swear?  What?  Yeah.”

Theresa:          Have you ever driven a Harley?

Ty:                   Yeah.  Well, interestingly enough, we did a show out in Reno, Nevada and we were … and there was a biker gang that was actually helping.  One of the family members was part of a sort of … you know, guys that did really good things in the neighborhood, but they were also sort of a Harley gang and they were really cool dudes.  Of course, you know, in the process of that week, I got to sort of … I had to be initiated and join the gang, right, but they had to give me a name, and they found out that I collect … I have Vespas, and I have one with a sidecar, so of course I have to be different.  They’re like, “Oh, you’ve got a scooter.”  I was like, “No, no, no, no.  This is … it’s a Vespa.”  They’re like, “Well, we found out your new name,” so my new name was Scooter.

Theresa:          That’s so cute.

Ty:                   Yeah.

Mark:              Meanwhile, this guy’s got tattoos up to here, right?

Ty:                   Yeah, yeah, exactly.  Yeah, yeah.

Mark:              The whole thing.

Theresa:          I have to ask a girlie question, because I know we have like a minute left, but Scooter, I want to know about your fabrics that you’re designing.  Is there anything new that’s coming out soon?  Are you still like creating that, while you’re working on tools and driving around the country?

Ty:                   Yes.  Isn’t that funny?  Yeah, it’s sort of like here I am, the guy with sawdust and glue and all that, but the thing is, I went to art school for graphic design.  It’s something I’m really pretty good at, and I think that as a designer, those instincts, that training … I have an eye, let’s say, but yeah, it’s really interesting.  I design patterns that become fabrics, and I try and do a lot of things by hand.  What’s interesting about that is that, instead of just designing something on my computer, just like anything, I try and make it even more difficult.  No.  I’ll come over [inaudible 00:18:13] and I’ll actually …

Theresa:          This boy needs to sleep, right?

Mark:              Yeah, he does.

Ty:                   Even like [inaudible 00:18:17], I’ll … instead of just like designing a pattern on the computer and be like, okay, there it is, I’ll actually come up with shapes and I’ll cut them out in wood, turn those into stamps, then stamp them into a canvas or whatever so it gets a really organic feel, and then take pictures of that, then put it in the computer and then repeat, so that when you come out with a pattern, it actually looks handmade.  I put, yeah, a lot of effort into things that I design.

Theresa:          You really literally hand-create them, using wood and …

Ty:                   Yeah.  Real texture, real depth.

Theresa:          That is fantastic.  Do you have any video of that, of you doing that whole process, because I want to see it and I’m sure people follow you around all the time, videoing everything.

Ty:                   See, that’s so weird about the modern world, right, is like this Facebook thing.  How many people really enjoy like, “Oh, I should take a picture of myself doing this”?  It’s like … well, see, you guys have your own guitarist who follows you around.

Mark:              We also have that we can just put our phones out on a stick and just film ourselves everywhere we go.

Ty:                   That’s where we were coming.  It was like, “Oh, I should do a selfie.”  I’m like, I should do that in private.

Mark:              Well, from circular saws to sewing machines and everywhere in between, check out Ty Pennington on HLN,

Ty:                   Don’t forget the Craftsman Make a Difference tour.  We’ll be coming … we’re going to 20 different towns literally all summer, across the nation, including Sturgis, where the Harley?Davidson …

Theresa:          Yeah.

Ty:                   Yeah, it’s going to be incredible.

Theresa:          Follow Craftsman on Twitter @craftsman, and go on their website to check out where they’re coming next, and we’re going to break.  We’ll be back in just a minute for MyFixitUpLife.

Check out more interviews with Ty Pennington.

Read more interviews with Mark & Theresa.

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