EAST HAMPTON, NY—Richard Kowalcyk, 36, who for several years has been stalking author, magazine publisher, TV personality, and house-and-home guru Martha Stewart, told reporters Monday that he can barely keep up.
"Today was pretty busy," said Kowalcyk, downing a multi-vitamin and a Red Bull energy drink. "We went from her house in the Hamptons to her midtown Manhattan office, then to a business meeting with the marketing VP of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, then on location to upstate New York to do a segment for CBS This Morning at an organic asparagus farm. Then it was back to her office, out to a late dinner meeting with Kmart executives in New Jersey, back to her office again, down to Soho for a brief appearance at a Russell Simmons party, and then finally home. I put in a full 15 hours of stalking today, and I am wiped out."
"Still, for Martha, this was pretty average," Kowalcyk continued. "You should see me when she's really busy. When I get home after one of her 'crazy days,' my mom says I look like hell warmed over. I can barely get down the basement stairs."
Kowalcyk, who began stalking Stewart in late 1999, said he initially found Stewart's frantic pace "exhilarating."
"I used to stalk this girl who lived a few blocks down from me," Kowalcyk said. "But I got bored after one too many nights watching her watch Becker or do her laundry. After reading an article about Martha, I knew she was the one for me."
"Those first few months following her were incredible," Kowalcyk continued. "One minute, we'd be shopping for an antique Chippendale high boy, and the next, we were at a meeting to discuss her new radio show. After a while, though, the fatigue really starts to set in."
Kowalcyk said he becomes nervous whenever Stewart slows down for a few days, calling it the "calm before the storm."
"Things will be eerily relaxed and then—bam—we're waist deep in a Vermont cranberry bog," said Kowalcyk, punching his fist for emphasis. "Then we're back in Manhattan to do a book signing and to approve prototypes for her new line of wicker baskets, and up to Greenwich for a party celebrating her new dessert book. Then, it's back to the office to scream at a distributor for sending the wrong shade of orange napkins for her Halloween special. She doesn't even take Sundays off."
Though Kowalcyk is still sufficiently obsessed with Stewart to follow her every day, he wonders how much longer he can keep it up.
"I'm not sure I have the energy to do this for the long haul," said Kowalcyk, rubbing his eyes. "Christ, I'm only 36 and I feel 66. How does she do it?"
Kowalcyk has accumulated more than his share of bumps and bruises during his time tailing Stewart.
"This one is from lying face down in her prize-winning rose bushes," said Kowalcyk displaying a six-inch scar on his left leg. "This one is from falling off a ledge while trying to peek into a Martha Stewart Living editorial meeting, and this one is from the time I got into a fight with one of her bodyguards outside her house while I was watching her change pantsuits. Each one is more than a scar; it's a memory."
In spite of his exhaustion, Kowalcyk is proud to say he remains Stewart's most devoted "secret companion."
"Every once in a while, I'll see a new face ducking behind a bench when she's around," Kowalcyk said. "Most can't hack it for more than a few months and drop off, never to be seen again. A lot of them switch to stalking Katie Couric or Kelly Ripa. To be honest, I've thought about forgetting Martha and following somebody else for a while. But once Martha gets under your skin, she sticks to you like wheat paste. I guess I'll keep going until one of us drops. Probably me."
Added Kowalcyk: "Hell, I've outlasted almost every single personal assistant she's ever had, and they're all younger than me. I guess it's true that it takes a special man to relentlessly pursue a special woman."