Glenwood Sherry was still new to the Public Broadcasting Service and still unaccustomed to being a celebrity.
In the frozen food isle of the Winn-Dixie in the north Hillsborough County community of Lutz, a woman pushed her grocery cart around the corner. She halted abruptly in front of Sherry. Her eyes widened and she blurted out in astonishment, "You're the guy who . . ."
Words failed her.
Mouth agape, she lifted her hand in a sponge-painting motion. Then she hurried away embarrassed.
"It was hilarious," recalled Sherry, 45.
It also was a testament to the quick popularity of Sherry's television show and another signal that the script of Sherry's life had been suddenly rewritten.
Now, Fresh Paint, Sherry's weekly PBS instruction on decorative painting, has run its course after four seasons and a book. Only reruns will air. Sherry is planning more books, and he has moved to the more lucrative Home and Garden Channel in Decorating with Style.
Sherry has been an artist since childhood, gradually developing a specialty in interiors and furniture. But his career in television may be one of the most impromptu ever.
Active in Tampa's social and charitable circles, Sherry became a regular volunteer at WEDU, the public television station. One day five years ago, he was teaching crew members how to decorate a set for a new show.
Sherry's clear, glib instructions impressed a producer, who asked: "You have enough information or ideas to do a show?" recalled Richard Delaney, now a senior producer at WEDU.
Sherry replied, "I have enough for a hundred shows."
A 13-show season was born.
The first show, offered to other PBS stations as a pilot, won enough acceptance to take Fresh Paint national.
Delaney admits there were rough spots. Sherry had to learn television terminology, had to relax on camera and had to discard arcane painting language that viewers might not understand.
But Delaney said Sherry was a natural at the most important requirement of a how-to show: allow no periods of silence, called dead air. "Glen is blessed with the ability to basically talk forever," Delaney said.
Sherry's home in Lutz's Crystal Lake Manors became a frequent studio. In one show, he replaced the dining room wallpaper with an art-deco design. A den became a Victorian parlor before the camera. He painted a sky and hot-air balloons in the bedroom of his daughter, Isabella, now 8. The bedroom of son Chris, now 21, became an Egyptian tomb. Sherry and his wife, Peggie, chose a deep gold for their master bedroom.
It brought their household fun and fame, but not fortune. Instead, Sherry's income has come chiefly from decorating work, particularly painting eye-teasing murals in homes for up to $8,000 apiece.
On PBS, show hosts get a small percentage of the underwriting fee, which is paid by a sponsor for a single announcement at the beginning and end of the show.
And finally, Fresh Paint's underwriter, Anchor Glass Container Corp., didn't renew.
Heather Mudrick, vice president of corporate communications at WEDU, said underwriting a local show for a 13-part season can cost $100,000 to $500,000.