Martha Opens Up About Prison – And Why Oprah Never Visited

Martha Stewart visits 'Oprah' (Harpo Productions)

Martha Stewart visits 'Oprah' (Harpo Productions)

Oprah Winfrey put Martha Stewart on the hot seat this week, asking the domestic diva to spill all about the five months she served in federal prison from October 2004 to March 2005.

Stewart proceeded to give her own personal version of ‘Lockup: Raw,’ detailing the deprivations of prison life – including the unavailability of lemons for her tea. And yet, despite the Spartan conditions of the Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, West Va., Stewart emerged from her ordeal unbowed, with her head high.

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“Did you learn a lot in prison?” Oprah asked Martha when the two titans of TV got together on Tuesday’s ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’ “Did it teach you? Did it change you?”

“I’m a very strong person,” Martha answered. “And I found out I could exist without my favorite lemons. I like lemon in my tea! There were no lemons! I could exist without any luxury whatsoever.”

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Oprah asked Martha how she coped with the monotony of daily life in stir. “I’d wake up [every morning] thinking I had my job to do!” Martha said, noting that one of her main tasks in prison was waxing floors. “I could read all the newspapers I wanted. I could read books. I read a lot, Oprah. I thought a lot. I used the time extremely well and I had visitors all the time, very good visitors.”

Such as…? “Rosie O’Donnell came to visit me…. A whole lot of fabulous people came and visited me,” she said, noting that Oprah herself never stopped by. “I knew you were too busy, but, um…,” Martha said, her voice trailing off.

Oprah pointed out that she wrote several notes to the Stewart, whose sentence stemmed from her conviction on charges she misled federal investigators in a securities fraud case involving “insider” information she received from an unscrupulous stock broker.

“Did you get my letters in prison?” Oprah asked. “I did,” Martha said. “I got little notes wishing me well. Thank you.”

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Besides reading and thinking, Stewart said she passed the time cleaning. Among other things, she revealed that the facility’s rugs were “so dirty!” And she was determined to clean them. “That place was sparkling when I left!” declared America’s best-known homemaker.

“Did you feel at that time that you had let yourself down, or let other people down?” Oprah probed.

“No, because I hadn’t,” Martha answered tightly. “When I look back on it, it all seems so surreal – such a [case of] being in the wrong place at the wrong time and it’s over. I am so grateful that I survived as well as I did, that my company survived, that the rebuilding process that had to take place not only for me but for all my devoted employees and colleagues has all taken place. We are recovered.”

After the interview about prison was over, Martha demonstrated how to make really good grilled cheese sandwiches. Clearly, Martha Stewart was back.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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