May 15, 2020, was a sad day, considering the passing of one special person who graciously added to my portfolio of work as a celebrity journalist. It remains my favorite interview, and I’ll never forget meeting larger-than-life Frank and his lovely wife Judy. We featured him in the suite of Lifestyles & Homes magazines, and the meeting was as fun as you might imagine! But it also showed a sweeter, deeper side of Frank — the loving husband and stepfather, and his opposition to snobbism. Whether working as a florist or in front of a TV camera, he was the same Frank, focused on creating something out of nothing.
I just loved him — Frank the designer, Frank the prolific author, and Frank downhome, aww-shucks celebrity.
In the interview, he mentioned his many years on TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” and was quite content to retire from the show, along with the entire cast and crew, in 2008. However, he left the door open in case it ever resurrected, and sure enough, 10 years later, it was back on the air. All of the designers and carpenters who appeared in the original run were in our living rooms once more.
Frank and Judy Bielec: TLC, Mosey ‘n Me, and a New Decade
The Bielecs met with Lifestyles and Homes for a rare catch-up interview at a favorite haunt. “I planned the first six seasons of Trading Spaces at Starbucks,” says Frank, who appreciates his time on the wildly popular TLC cable network hit which filmed from 2000-2008, even though Frank believes production should have ended sooner. “They took a perfectly wonderful little show and beat it to death, slowly, with a lead pipe.” What started out as a great idea about relationships evolved into a much-copied mega-hit home design show that eventually spiraled into a drama. Judy, who appeared twice on air, managed the couple’s business and, by default, Frank’s career. “Judy has an organized, neat working style,” says Frank. “And Frank operates by accident,” responds Judy.
LIFE WITH TLC CELEBRITY JOURNALIST
People may assume the Bielecs’ home is full of gingham with lacy curtains. “Not so,” says Judy. The couple is quick to quash preconceived notions and favor spartan furniture.
Frank stays in touch with the TLC cast but keeps fellow designers Hildi Santo-Tomas, Doug Wilson, and Carter Oosterhouse on speed dial — and don’t mess with Hildi. Frank loves her!
“She’s a lovely, sweet person who wanted to open up the possibility of unique design. ‘Don’t you get what I’m doing?’ Hildi would ask, genuinely puzzled when people didn’t.” Interestingly, Doug is a life-long top 10 4-H’r and a great animal supporter. Once Frank walked through Dillards and was surprised by a huge (but familiar) image… Carter was featured in an enormous ad, so Frank made a quick call.
“I didn’t know you were a Nautica man,” he said, not realizing a saleslady was staring at him in disbelief. “Were you just on the phone with the man in that poster?” When Frank confirmed, she exclaimed, “I’ll pay you ANY amount of money for his phone number!” Carter was also a spokesman for Rooms To Go and shot commercials at their location just outside of Katy.
Out of hundreds of adventures, one stands out. “I flew out of Boston unaware that 9/11 was happening,” says Frank. “Shooting wrapped early so I took a flight which was suddenly diverted to Greenville, South Carolina. The pilot announced something about air traffic control, and then said ‘If you have anyone you love call them right now.’ I’ll love Continental Airlines until the day I die because they really took care of us.
“I ended up in a hotel next to a Filipino wife, her husband and their little boy who was three. The four of us decided to get something to eat… and we heard an odd scuffling sound on the way back to the hotel. We were being followed, but by what? I turned around and saw huge guinea pig-looking things chasing us. Good Lord, were they Chupacabra? We ran through the hotel doors and reported the incident, only to be told the creatures were woodchucks. Yes, South Carolina woodchucks in the middle of 9/11. And by the way, Doug Wilson could see the World Trade Center from his apartment — he was that close.”
WORK ETHIC AND KATY LIFE
Frank and Judy were both born in September a day and a few years apart, which makes one a Virgo and the other a Libra… not that either follows astrology. What Frank and Judy both believe is that work is a good thing. “Everyone does what they need to do to make a living, and we’re no exception,” says Frank. “A job is a job and it’s pathetic that people cling to status like it’s a religious relic. Case in point: Frank hates the way some people treat waiters. “Be nice… especially to people who have power over things that can end up in your food!”
Frank earned master’s degrees in both Art and Education and is a former first grade teacher. “He’s received awards in teaching… ” says Judy, who is quickly cut off. “Let’s not talk about that,” says Frank. “No one should get an award for doing their job.” Ignoring him, Judy continues, “He also received a PTA award as a teacher.” For all his humor and wit, it’s obvious that Frank is a modest man and Judy is his cheerleader. “People assume that Frank is just what they see on TV,” says Judy. “But he’s layered and complex.”
The couple, so diverse in style, strengths, and personality, share some common ground: They are both genuine homebodies. “We still travel for speaking engagements, classes and shows and I’m usually mobbed. For some reason, Asian people in airports love me,” says Frank, “But the people in Katy give us our space. Our favorite vacation destination is… home.” They are decompressing and welcoming a new decade by devoting themselves exclusively to the projects and people they love.
MOSEY ‘N ME CELEBRITY JOURNALIST
Floral design, painting, greeting cards, cross-stitch patterns and needle felting (sculpting with wool roving) are all part of the enterprise. The couple’s arts and crafts business, which was in full production before TLC ever entered the picture, came into being in 1989 and continues to this day. “I lost my daughter, Melissa, when she was just three in a fatal car accident. Unfortunately, a drunk driver was the cause,” says Judy. “Her nickname was Mosey. When Frank registered our business, he surprised me by naming it after Melissa — Mosey ‘n Me. It is his way of keeping her a part of what we do.”
Frank often tells audiences to pay attention to the little things. “Spend an extra couple minutes with your children,” he advises. “Read them a book.” Judy chimes in, “We all assume this week that there will be a next week. But there may not be.” Frank responds, “That’s why daily planners are stupid things.” He pauses, then adds, “Actually, daily planners are a statement of faith that you’ll be present. I wish I had Judy’s faith — she’ll jump believing the net is there.” Judy comments, “Frank is just the opposite. He’s cautious.” Frank concurs. “Television taught me to dig my heels in.”
Frank has been called the King of Country, but that moniker falls short. “It’s taken me a lifetime to unlearn enough to do primitive work, which is my specialty. I call myself a folk artist,” says Frank. People often buy multiple canvases or watercolor paintings, and he was once informed that a couple were battling over a collection in a divorce.
He’s been in floral design for over 20 years and also creates bridal bouquets. His monster paintings are the inspiration for his line of Paper so Pretty greeting cards and invitations. Frank is also an expert at hand-hooking rugs and needle punch. He designs 3-dimensional art and his buttons, which are licensed to third parties, are sold to needle workshops. Maggie & Co. is licensed to reproduce Frank’s drawings on needlepoint canvases. In short, his work appeals to an eclectic audience.
Judy is a well-known sculptor with some of her creations appearing in Art Doll Quarterly. Her exquisite needle felted pieces are popular with specific buyers. Rabbits, Santas, pumpkins, bears, sheep, dogs, and more are among her creations. Judy is sought after as a needlework and needle-felt instructor and flies to classes across the country.
When asked about their books, Mosey ‘n Me the Book and Mosey n Me the Sequel, Frank and Judy exchange glances. “Let’s just say it’s difficult for me to stay put long enough to write,” says Frank. Creating art comes naturally, but writing about it does not. As for a biography, Frank rolls his eyes. However, he and Judy have hundreds of hilarious anecdotes… and you never know.
Frank grew up Catholic with a Czechoslovakian-Russian surname in the small community of Wallis. “Everything was a mix of Czech and Polish including the stores and radio station,” says Frank. He had a happy childhood but remembers catching a whipping. “The nuns talked in vivid detail during Easter about Jesus’ crucifixion, and the tradition was to remain silent during the Holy Days,” he remembers. “Being an imaginative child, I took my cousin’s doll, decorated it with moss and a diaper, and nailed it to a tree — really, a sign of reverence in my mind. My very devout grandfather and father didn’t get upset that I crucified the doll… they got upset that I made noise while I did it.”
Frank married into a ready-made family. Judy’s son, Matt, was 12 when Frank entered the picture. “Matt’s a lot like Frank,” says Judy. “No, Matt’s a lot like his mother,” replies Frank, and they both seem pleased to take credit. Early on Frank asked Matt’s dad to sit down and talk about co-parenting, enforcing rules and raising Matt as a team. He’s glad he did, because Matt grew up to be a wonderful young man with a family of his own. Matt’s marriage to Summer in June 2007 eventually introduced Frank and Judy to a new role in April 2008: Grandparenting.
“Our grandson, Mason, calls Frank ‘Grandpa Sugar Puss’,” says Judy. “Frank calls Mason ‘Moo Moo’.” Frank writes and illustrates books for his grandson. “I grew up with a love of fantasy and still believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy,” says Frank. “So I draw pictures of Moo Moo and Grandpa Sugar Puss taking walks in a whimsical world.”
Frank and Judy have counted dogs, cats, and a dozen sugar gliders as family members. Gus was their last and lived to be 14. “He was the Methuselah of sugar gliders,” says Frank. “Like Lazarus, he kept coming out of the tomb.”
Sadie and Owen are a well-known pair of Judy’s rescued cats (admittedly not Frank’s favorite species). When Owen crossed the Rainbow Bridge, Frank quipped, “So many cats, so many recipes … ” and adds, “Only true fellow animal lovers will appreciate the joke.”
Molly, Gracie, Milo, Lola and Lucy are all part the Bielec clan, past and present. They especially miss Molly, Frank’s special dog. “Dr. T at I-10 animal clinic had to deal with blood transfusions and a spleen removal, after which Molly blossomed into the most gorgeous dog,” says Frank. She seemed lonely, so they brought home Gracie, “ the Anti-Christ of Wire Fox Terriers.”
“We should have named her Squeaky Fromme, but Molly loved her,” says Frank. Molly’s lymphoma eventually took its toll. “To overcome the loss, we added Milo, then two years later another rescue — Lucy, The Blind.” Like Gracie, both are Wire Fox Terriers. When asked how they care for their animals with such a heavy travel schedule both agree that the pet-sitters and boarding kennel at Privileged Pets make absences possible.
Frank and Judy are still busy — but it’s a different kind of busy. Their lives no longer revolve around someone else’s schedule. They look forward to weekends with Mason when he visits from San Antonio. They enjoy Home & Garden shows, speaking engagements and adding inventory to Mosey ‘n Me. “I might consider another TV series if the right one came along, says Frank. “But, honestly, I’d be just as happy if that never happens.” He has the freedom to sit and paint for hours while Judy creates her cross stitch and needle felt pieces, answers emails, and fills website orders. A life off the air is good. They are an inseparable and creatively content couple. c
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