No more looking Joan Steffend in the eye now that she is headed to the Minnesota Broadcasters Hall of Fame, jokes her husband, Joe Brandmeier.
“I have to text her or send an e-mail,” he quipped. Brandmeier, owner of Moving Pictures production company, said humor is a big part of keeping their marriage healthy. He jumped out of his comfort zone behind the camera to produce the documentary “I Do?” which was inspired by a rough patch in their 28-year union.
There must be lots of pressure being married to one of the nicest people in local TV, meaning Steffend, the former KARE 11 anchor, radio talent and host of HGTV’s defunct “Decorating Cents.” They met at KARE 11, where managers nurtured the romance once they realized they could save money by sending them out on assignments — because they needed only one room.
Brandmeier’s doc was just released on iTunes and Amazon.com and has received an official selection by the Bahamas International Film Festival. “That’s a big one,” said Brandmeier. “Last year ‘I Do?’ took best documentary at the Twin Cities Film Festival and really surprised me. I think it’s resonating with people because it’s simple and there’s so much crazy stuff going on.”
Q: What have you gotten out of making a movie about marriage?
A: I think our relationship is stronger. You would think because of the sensitivity of some of the questions, we might have drifted a little bit, but actually because of her background and my background we worked on it together.
Q: Wendy Williams says marriage is becoming less necessary, maybe obsolete?
A: Joan will tell you the story about us being out with my stepdaughter and then-fiancé when I said, “I just think marriage is stupid.” I got kicked under the table. We’ve been married 29 years almost; it’s not about the ring or a piece of paper. But fewer and fewer people are doing it because they don’t think it’s necessary.
Q: What’s the hardest thing for you about marriage?
A: It is kind of growing together. Sometimes I am growing behind her. If you’re not in sync, nothing works.
Q: Ron Howard, “Opie,” said, It’s about the commitment, the commitment, the commitment.
A: Love him. I did the documentary because I wanted to share joy and misery and find out: Am I the only person who feels this way?
Q: What is the most important element of keeping your marriage healthy?
A: I think laughter. I think humor is huge, even more than romance.
Q: When you have a disagreement, what do you do with the muscle memory of [previous conflict]?
A: That is without question the toughest thing I struggle with: “Well, before … ” Muscle memory is a great way to put it. I hate to be cliché, but just communicate.
Q: Do you remember the toughest fight?
A: Absolutely. It was on this bracelet, she gave it to me: “Better together than we are apart.” That was kind of the basis of the documentary. Somewhere at the 18-19-year mark, exhausted. Can’t do this anymore. I was at the bottom of those steps, bags packed, ready to go our separate ways. She just looked down at me and with that beautiful voice of hers said, “You know, ultimately we’re better together than we are apart.” That brought me back and kept us together.
Q: I know that Joan is a sweetheart, but there has got to be something she does that is annoying or naughty?
A: [Laughs] One of the people we talked to said, When you are dating someone and all those things you think are cute and fun — eventually they drive you nuts. Yeah, there are things and she said sometimes she just wants to open the door and push me out.
Q: What’s the most romantic gesture you’ve ever made?
A: We are kind of anti-Valentine’s Day; we don’t want to be told when to be romantic. But I got her this surprise gift to “Hamilton,” Broadway, New York, for Christmas. You know tickets are impossible to get; they were expensive. You know her background, HGTV “Decorating Cents” — under $500, right? She said, How much? and I said, “I would really like not to tell you.” From that point on she never asked.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.