Dean Johnson - Famous Serial Monogamist

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On the House | Marking two decades of no-frills home how-to
By Al Heavens
Inquirer Columnist
I'd always assumed that Dean Johnson's TV persona was the same as his real-life personality: the knowledgeable next-door neighbor who helps you drywall the family room and will accept nothing more than a beer for his work.
And after spending part of a day with the Hometime host, including dinner at which we had to forgo the beer for a couple of glasses of wine, my assumption proved more than correct.
Come January, it will be 20 years that Johnson, 53, has been hosting the show, a coproduction of his company, Hometime Video, and WHYY-TV (Channel 12). Its ratings have never approached those of This Old House in that show's heyday. Neither has Johnson succumbed to the screaming-meemie syndrome of such shows as Trading Spaces and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Instead, Hometime has preferred to stay just below the radar, sticking mostly to its home base of Minneapolis-St. Paul; staying away, for the most part, from This Old House's multimillion-dollar makeovers; and regularly participating in Habitat for Humanity projects instead of sobby giveaways designed to boost ratings.
But Johnson is too nice a guy to criticize the other shows.
"Russ Morash [This Old House's producer emeritus] always maintained that his was not a how-to show," Johnson said.
Hometime is a how-to show, however. Like the 24-hour convenience store, it's there when you need it.
"I know most people haven't been watching us every week for the last 20 years," Johnson said. "But we do know that when they are interested in what we are doing, they tune in."
Then there are the Hometime videos, which Johnson acknowledges are very popular. I learned to tile from one of them, watched many, many times.
Of course, as Johnson also acknowledges, these videos deal with standard situations. When I had to install and grout tile under an impossible-to-move cast-iron tub, I was pretty much on my own.
"I'll have to look at that video again," Johnson said, "just to see if it has to be updated."
Of course, he was saying this as he laid 12-by-12 tiles in a Habitat kitchen in North Philadelphia, his notched trowel creating perfect swirls of adhesive, and every tile perfectly spaced.
(The aforementioned bathroom-tiling project was my first, and noticeably flawed. My next project was the bathroom at my brother-in-law's house, and it looked so good that his general contractor offered me a couple of other jobs. My brother-in-law would have had to come, too, however, to stand over me and tell me whether the tile was straight.)
I learned to drywall by watching a show called Do It Yourself, which I thought Johnson also had been involved in.
"Wow, what a memory!" he exclaimed. He added that he was not in the show - it was Avian Rogers, who was briefly his Hometime cohost when the show began in 1986.
Was Rogers the first of his TV "wives?"
"We now refer to them as partners," Johnson said.
The latest is Miriam Johnson (no relation). The others were, in order, Peggy Knapp, JoAnne Liebeler, Susanne Egli and Robin Hartl.
As we sat in an Old City restaurant, his real wife, Kathi, was seated across the table from us. She's probably used to the "wives" stuff, so I didn't ask her about it.
"JoAnne [Liebeler] can be really exuberant early in the morning," I said.
"How do you know this?" Johnson asked, a puzzled look on his face.
I quickly explained that she had hosted a 7:30 a.m. function at the International Builders Show a few years back and didn't really need the microphone.
He laughed.
"JoJo is a lot of fun," he said.
Liebeler and the rest of the Hometime cohosts had been featured in a five-minute bloopers clip earlier in the evening at Channel 12.
"We've sold some to NBC for its 'Bloopers' show," Johnson said, adding that a lot of the outtakes on other shows and at the end of movies look contrived. "Even after 20 years, we don't have enough for an entire show."
Will there be a big 20th anniversary Hometime celebration in January?
"We're not planning one," Johnson said, sort of surprised that anyone would suggest it. "We're just going to continue doing what we've been doing."
Which, I guess, is celebration enough.
On the House | ONLINE EXTRA
Alan J. Heavens answers questions about real estate and home improvement in an online forum at http://go.philly.com/askheavens . Join him for a live discussion at 3 p.m. Tuesdays on the PhillyTalk link at philly.com.
http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/classifieds/real_estate/13294187.htm
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
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Tom Watson wrote:

WHAT??!!!!!!!! ALL OF THIS TIME I'VE BEEN IDOLIZING A LIAR??!!!!! MAN, I'VE WASTED HALF OF MY LIFE TRYING TO BE LIKE DEAN!!! HOW CAN I EVER EXPLAIN THIS TO MY OLD SWEETHEART? THE ONE I WOULD HAVE MARRIED LONG AGO, if I hadn't been trying to emulate my idol and keep one chick or another coming around to jobsites and telling me all of the things I was doing wrong and acting like she was helping but really just distracting my attention from the jobs at hand. So now I guess I'm just supposed to drop everything and start my life over and settle for one woman who will stay at home or at her job all day and leave me alone while I get my jobs done without distraction. Right? WELL,, BRING IT ON!!!!! Imagine how much quicker I'll be without having to explain myself or what I',m doing every 5 minutes! Or having some one who looks like Robin Hartl walk by in a tool belt. O.K. I will miss that, but that alone has costed me thousands of hours of sitting on the floor just trying to keep from drooling all over the place.

Oh, BALONEY!!! A guy like Dean must have_hours_of bloopers laying around! He must just not be letting them go. If you came on one of my jobs and video-taped my guys for just a few hours. You could fill an hour long bloopers show before lunch.
.02 from a new guy
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They're from Minnesota. Humor is illegal there.
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Hey! That's not funny! ;-)
[No, I'm not from Minnesota, but I have friends from Minnesota :-) ]
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Kevin Craig wrote:

of humor, I'm gonna send Mark and Juanita over to beat you up.     humph,     jo4hn
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Why don't you send Robin Hartl instead? <G>
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Kevin Craig wrote:

YEAH!!!, Send her to my place too!! I neeeeeed an attitude adjustment.
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On Tue, 06 Dec 2005 01:18:32 -0600, with neither quill nor qualm,

HER BUTT'S - M I N E - !!!
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It does present a certain "spankability", doesn't it? MMMmmmmmmm....
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ROBIN !!!!,,,, I'M THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU !!!!!! Pleeeeeeeeeeeease!
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snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net wrote:

    :-)     jo4hn
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Hah! He's probably trying find a place to hide in his store right now.
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On Tue, 06 Dec 2005 14:07:54 -0600, with neither quill nor qualm,

Ayup, and as an old Southern gent (friend of mine) used to say
"I'd bite her on the butt."
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Bite her on the butt? If she's really a guy , I'll not be biting. Maybe I should reconsider JoAnne. She was really doing all of the work when she was on Hometime, wasn't she?
Tom in KY, wishing you guys had told me earlier that Robin might be a guy!
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On 8 Dec 2005 08:29:21 -0800, with neither quill nor qualm, snipped-for-privacy@bellsouth.net quickly quoth:

Tom, Robin Hartl is a very feminine woman who can handle a tool as well as any of us. Robin Lee is a guy who runs Lee Valley Tools. I wouldn't bite Robin Lee on the butt even if he promised me a year's shopping spree at LVT.
Hmmmm, wait a minute...
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LMAO. You guys...
Greg G.
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In this age with cross dressing,sexually confused, morally bankrupt, against the system yo-yo's running around everywhere, and where a man has to be careful to not be confused with the wrong crowd. I'd just like to say.
ROBIN_HARTYL_!!!! YOU KNOW I'M THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU!!!! PLEEEEEEEEEEEEASE!!!
Tom in KY wishing I was following that gal with the tool-belt that frames that perfect,,, jewel!
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that's more like it...
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On Thu, 15 Dec 2005 23:55:37 -0500, with neither quill nor qualm,

The things we'd do for tools... <sigh>
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Because he is cruel *and* Hartl-less. *groan*
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