Wednesday, November 26, 2008

IAAPA Attractions Expo part 4 -- Joan Lunden and the Olympics

During IAAPA Attractions Expo, one of the celebrity attendees was an exhibitor who millions would recongnize from "Good Morning America" and ABC's coverage of the Olympic Games.

Former ABC anchor and reporter Joan Lunden was on site with her husband and daughter, Lindsay, and their team showcasing KinderKord, a new device intended to help families stay together while visiting attractions or just out on the town. It appeared they were getting a lot of attention for this new item, and media outlets like USA Today were checking it out in advance of the Expo as well (thank you, Jayne Clark).

With thanks to Lindsay for making the arrangements, I was able to spend a good deal of time with Ms. Lunden asking her about several Olympic memories from ABC. She had some amazing stories (see video) from Sarajevo's 1984 Winter Games and 1988 Calgary Winter Games on the ABC front, and also some personal family memories all the way back to the 1960 Winter Games at Squaw Valley, Calif. Donna DeVarona, Jim McKay, Charles Gibson and other ABC anchors and reporters (and their shared Olympic reporting duties) were obviously some good times for Lunden who enthusiastically told many cool tales from the Olympic front lines.

Turns out as a youngster, Lunden's family had a home on the same mountain as the Winter Olympic downhill ski runs, and she used to attend skating and ski lessons in Squaw Valley with some of the Olympic coaches and officials in town preparing to host the Winter Games "back in the day."

Lunden also shared fond memories of working with the 2002 Winter Paralypics for several broadcasts, and her trial run using the same ski equipment used by blind skiiers at the event.

Many thanks to Ms. Lunden and the KinderKord team for making time to chat at IAAPA Attractions Expo!

IAAPA Attractions Expo part 3

Last week, working with Edelman client International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008 in Orlando, we met some of the most creative people in the world of theme parks, water parks, zoos, aquariums, family entertainment centers, attractions and cool places where people have fun.

There were plenty of head-turning rides and inventions on site -- one that captivated attention was an import from Tokyo: The Management of Dr. Fish! You may have seen this one on the news back in the late summer -- minnow-sized fish (technically, they are carp) with tiny teeth that will devour your dead skin while you soak your feet, hands or whatever needs "treatment" by the Good Doctor.

Since it was obviously an opportunity to "carpe diem," I asked the management team whether they approached the Tokyo 2016 Olympic bid organization about their treatment (apparently Dr. Fish already has a massive following in Japan and their marketing materials at IAAPA state they had more than $2 million in sales as fish "spas" in and around Tokyo.

Unfortunately, my questions were likely "Lost in Translation" so the International Olympic Committee 2016 selection team and/or Tokyo 2016 teams will have to discover Dr. Fish on their own during a site visit to Japan.

In the meantime, you can check out Dr. Fish here on the video posted with this entry. My colleague, Rachel, took time to try out Dr. Fish with me -- the sensation of being gnawed by tiny carp was interesting (at first, much like having one's feet tickled with a feather followed -- all the while bringing up memories of that great fish film, "Pirhana").

If there are any venture capitalists or other investors out there, drop me a line ... I want to tell you about my business plan for a "Dr. Fish" spa and on-site "Circle of Life Sushi Restaurant."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

IAAPA Attractions Expo, part 2

Hello again from Orlando and the Orange County Convention Center, site of IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008, which is hosted by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions - pronounced "eye-AP-pah" for IAAPA (disclosure: client of my employer, Edelman).

Yesterday we were again in awe of all the creativity on display from more than 1,100 exhibitors filling the convention hall and even part of its parking lot. Back for the Expo are some of our popular favorites, like the triple-decker carousel from Argentina's Felimina Luna Park S.A., and Bob's Space Racers and all their new midway-style games.

New this year (some of which were reported by USA Today and the Orlando Sentinel):

  • Zamperla's "Surf's Up" ride, which is basically a giant surf board-shaped platform on which passengers stand while on blend, frappe or whip speed spin-cycles
  • New from Europe, Haystack Dryers are the coolest and newest full-size (er, family-size) body dryers since the shower scene in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner." When you are at a water park you step inside for a quick session under heat lamps and fans and voila you are dry!
  • Dr. Fish -- those little minnows that gnaw your dead derms while you soak your feet -- is here from Japan (will try that out later in the week)
  • The debut of Guitar Hero Arcade Game (yes, fellow-bloggers and video game gurus, it is here and it is b-b-b-bad to the bone!
Peter Shankman from Help A Reporter Out is still in town and we are about to embark to explore and FlipVideo some more from the show (more to come!).

Monday, November 17, 2008

IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008, part 1

For the 10th consecutive year, this year my team from Edelman is working at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008, the global gathering of the $24 billion attractions industry hosted by our client the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. Is there an Olympic connection? Absolutely! But I will save that for a post later this week.

To help Peter Shankman of Help A Reporter Out (HARO) -- a guest speaker at the Expo education sessions -- make a point about how quickly FlipVideo shots can make it online, this post includes a video just shot moments ago via FlipVideo at his session on social media at the Expo.

Shankman is making a great point about how handy the Flip is for visitors to theme parks, water parks, zoos, aquariums, family entertainment centers, hotels, casinos and other attractions served by IAAPA. Looking forward to more posts on the great new rides, games, technology, food and park news we will learn throughout the week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Taylor Swift's "Change" for the Olympics

I'm not ashamed to admit that the Taylor Swift P.R. machine has drawn me in hook, line and sinker. She has to be the fastest moving new country star in years.

After reading about the young CMA performer in The New Yorker, USA Today and EVERYWHERE else the last few days, then catching her on-screen quick-change on the CMA Awards tonight (for the catchy tune "Love Story" she transformed from singer to would-be bride), I will soon proceed, zombie-like, to purchase her new CD or tunes online. That is, if ever I figure out this whole "music download thing." (Disclosure: The Country Music Association CMA organization is a client of Edelman, my employer.)

Little did I know that during the China Olympic experience, back home in the USA, the good folks at NBC were airing Ms. Swift's new tune "Change" for their Olympic promos or highlight reels.

According to Great American Country and their August 18 online report, fans could download Taylor Swift's then-preview track of "Change" via iTunes, with funds going to Team USA (I have a call in to ask the U.S. Olympic Committee media relations team for an estimate of how much money was raised -- see update below posted Nov. 13). This song is not quite as catchy as her other hits, but it'll do just fine.

All this country music chatter takes me back to Salt Lake City and the 2002 Winter Olympic Closing Ceremony, at which Willie Nelson took on Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" -- AWESOME! (In Nelson's case, perhaps a good thing the ceremony stars are not subject to the same performance testing as the Olympians.)

So if we got one more country singer for this blog post -- let's say, Clint Black (known for his song "The Strong One"), we now have an Olympic/country music pun ready to go:

With Taylor Swift + Willie Nelson + Clint Black ... Country Music goes Faster, Higher, Stronger (the Olympic motto!).
Nov. 13 Update: The U.S. Olympic Committee media relations office quickly responded, sharing that the AT&T Team USA Soundtrack program generated a $1 million donation to Team USA. Taylor Swift was in good company, joining Sheryl Crow, Goo Goo Dolls and Queen Latifah, among others, for the project. Good stuff!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's Never 'Just A Game'

On the heels of the Lily Tomlin encounter last Friday (it was so cool to meet the Mark Twain Prize winner), today her name popped up in headlines as the 2008 recipient of the same honor, George Carlin, was celebrated posthumously in Washington this evening.

The are dozens of Carlin quotes I've memorized over the years, notable his monologue about the famous "Baby On Board" yellow car window signs of the late 1980s:
"... instead of 'Baby On Board,' how about an honest sign, like, 'Assh*le at the wheel!'? They could give those out free to people who drive Volvos and Saabs."

According to Wikiquotes, it turns out Carlin took on the legitimacy of a few Olympic sports, too. Given today's unfortunate incident involving a downtown Atlanta MARTA police team, Carlin's comments on boxing seem timely:

"Boxing is not a sport. Boxing is a way to beat the sh*t out of somebody. In that respect, boxing is a more sophisticated form of hockey. But beating the sh*t out of somebody isn't a sport, in spite of what the police think. When police brutality becomes an Olympic event, fine, then boxing can become a sport."

On sports, I think he punctuated his thoughts on competition with the notion that, "It's never 'just a game' when you're winning."

Just a few months ago, when George Carlin played a packed house at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, he did not really touch on sports and 'stuff' (unfortunately, his final 20 minute rant was a bit much).
But it was good to see him live, and it will be fun to search for recordings or video of more of his material, like this one my boomer blogger friend and colleague, Marilynn, might enjoy (all in good fun, though in this case, not clean).

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Path of Northern Lights

The chilled nights of autumn inspire thoughts of how to keep warm. One method for consideration: Checking out the info for the 2010 Winter Olympic Torch Relay set to begin in Olympia, Greece, less than one year from now.

According to the VANOC website, the relay will involve 12,000 runners across Canada, blazing "A Path of Northern Lights" along the massive route (I'm struggling to convert the 35,000 km to South of the border figures, but it will take three months to complete the journey).

I'm diggin' the Lynda Carter-like female illustration incorporated with the Vancouver 2010 "Look of the Games" on the website. Makes me ponder, "What would Wonder Woman look like wearing a red suit covered with maple leaves rather than the Stars and Stripes?"

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Kicking Myself

I'm kicking myself for missing today's NBC Sports premiere of their Paralympics special coverage. They have a range of special broadcasts taped in Beijing, providing U.S. audiences with more opportunities to connect with Paralympians. Here's a link to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) press release with more details (disclosure: the IPC is an Edelman pro-bono client). Marking calendar now for the upcoming broadcasts.

Anything Is Possible

While researching Alabama media websites for work, a recent report popped up regarding the USA's lone boxing medalist (a bronze, as reported here) from the Beijing Olympic Games. Looks like Deontay Wilder shared a story of inspiration for a school group in his hometown of Talladega, Ala. Good stuff!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fun With Nick & Jane

Georgia Tech's Ferst Center for the Arts (disclosure: an Edelman client) was the funniest place in Atlanta last night, with Mark Twain Prize (and Emmy, and Tony, and GRAMMY) winning comedienne Lily Tomlin playing to a standing room audience.

As a special treat (though not surprising), local star resident Jane Fonda -- Tomlin's co-star from one of the first Beta-tape home video cassettes I ever viewed: Nine To Five -- was in the audience. Jane was seated on the center aisle, on about row 15. My seat was on the front row (purchased online at 12:01 a.m. ET/12:01 p.m. Beijing time, as I was working in China during the on-sale moment, determined to have an excellent seat, and it was, as we could practically see Tomlin's nose hairs whenever she strolled stage left!).

During her 90 minutes of monologue, in-character sketches and even some pantomime and dancing, Tomlin delivered and outstanding array of laughs. Given this week's election news, perhaps Tomlin's best pseudo-impromptu line was her lamentations on how she is "now deeply worried about the future of comedy" in a post-W. presidency. She also described how graffiti in her hometown of Detroit sold thousands of cars:

"Teenagers used to spray paint that four-letter word that started with 'F' on bridges, and overnight the adults would repaint it to read 'BUICK'!"

Tomlin also touched on Hollywood, family and sexuality several times, noting that in her youth, family and society, "no one was gay -- they were only shy."

Following a sustained standing ovation, a couple hundred "VIP" ticket holders joined Tomlin and Fonda on stage for a delightfully informal meet-and-greet session. Everyone got as much time as they wanted to snap photos, ask questions or seek autographs from both stars.

For the sake of this blog, when it was my turn to chat with Tomlin, I decided to reprise my "reporter" role in an Olympic version of "The Chris Farley Show" and ask whether Lily had a favorite Olympic moment, athlete or experience (Tomlin is now the fifth celebrity to indulge my Olympic curiosity after Ennio Morricone, Kelly Clarkson, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and most recently Garrison Keillor).

Tomlin took a minute to think about it, and eventually replied (see the video) that she was amazed by the opening ceremonies in Athens and Beijing, in particular the giant LED "scroll" in the Bird's Nest. A bit later, off camera, Tomlin introduced the topic to her stage manager while we were exchanged e-mail information (Tomlin missed Fonda's departure from the event, and I offered Fonda's G-CAPP manager's e-mail to Tomlin & Co. -- thanks, Ms. Tomlin, for answering my questions and for signing my ticket).

Before she left the venue, I also asked Fonda whether she had ever seen Tomlin perform live on stage. The answer was, "No. No, not ever in Atlanta. And this venue [The Ferst Center and Atlanta] was a great place for this."

On the advice of Fonda's team from G-CAPP, I did not go down the Olympic path of questions, which I now regret. One of Fonda's G-CAPP colleagues said that she did not believe Jane had attended an Olympics, and unsure about the Goodwill Games with Fonda's then-husband Ted Turner.

Today, the morning after, the Web yielded that Fonda DID have at least one five-ringed connection as host of some sort of 1984 televised "Olympic Gala" (with Neil Diamond, The Beach Boys, James Stewart, Paul Hogan, Olivia Newton-John, Christoper Reeve, Dizzy Gillespie, Brooke Shields, Bruce Jenner, Peggy Flemming, John Houseman, Robert Wagner, Placido Domingo, Johnny Mathis, Henry Mancini, Barbara Walters, Andy Williams, Gregory Peck, Gene Kelly, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jack Lemmon, Burt Lancaster and even Prince Charles and Princess Diana -- man, I need to find a tape of this) which presumably took place in Los Angeles before or during the Games of the XXIIIrd Olympiad.

Oh, well -- guess I'll have to ask Jane the next time we cross paths at the Midtown Whole Foods Market.

But back to Tomlin. Of several dozen celebrity introductions over the years, Tomlin was one of the most gracious, friendly and genuine. I appreciated her time to talk with so many people and her thoughtful answer to my questions -- some of the best 1x1 celebrity time since working with Benazir Bhutto's media tour at CNN. To paraphrase the interviewer Chris Farley, "That was AWESOME!"

And that's the truth.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Track 29 -- Great Shine!

Odds are good that if your older than 30 or live in Eastern Tennessee and North Georgia, you know the lyrics -- or at least the tune -- that goes, "Pardon me, boy. Is this the Chattanooga Choo Choo?"

My earliest recollection of this Big Band song is from somewhere around age five or six with a brief skit on "The Muppet Show" involving the song. The magic of YouTube made the memory complete a week or so ago, when my boss at Edelman mentioned we'd take a return road trip to Chattanooga to meet a few new contacts and learn more about the city (we visited the city often in 2007 for our client Rock City Gardens and invited media).

It was a delightful day, complete with gorgeous autumn hues in the North Georgia Mountains and outstanding views from all the great lookouts in Southeast Tennessee's growing city with a spirit of "The Little Engine That Could" (and as we learned from some great tour guides today, the ARE making things very special in Chattanooga).

We learned about the Bluff View Art District (which my girlfriend and I visited in 2006 -- it's very cool), stopped by the Hunter Museum of American Art (fabulous), and took in the shops and parks on the north shore of the river that cuts through town. All this was after a delicious local lunch at Niko's Southside Grill (I recommend the scallop appetizer and shrimp & grits) and great coffee and conversation at the Choo Choo site (thanks to our hosts!).

We even learned of Chattanooga's ties to the Olympics through gold medalist Joe Jacobi (I need to explore Jacobi's website and blog to learn more). Looking forward to return visits to Chattanooga -- Woo-Hoo!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Best photo opp ... EVER!

Euphoria! Joy! Relief!

Oh, the wonderful range of emotions of the last 24 hours. Last night was amazing, and I envy all those who were in Chicago in person for America's, and the world's, big party at Grant Park.

It came as no surprise that every newsstand in downtown Atlanta was void of newspapers today -- my colleague John and I trolled eBay and before 8 a.m. there were already dozens of listings for what will become coveted newspaper bits of history. My favorite front page remains the New York Times, the first spotted in my driveway (it is a keeper!).

Watching last night, my favorite moments included John Lewis from Georgia (he was also on NPR this morning), and spotting Jesse Jackson's reaction just past 11 p.m. ET on CNN and WGN's local crews in The Windy City (caught a small dose from Chicago's NBC5 as well). The Daily Show had a few great moments, too. Fox News seemed remarkably subdued. I was pleased with McCain's speech (and actually proud of him -- those who wrote it did amazing work). I was inspired and moved by Obama's wise and timeless words.

Viewing with the public relations practitioner hat on, have been searching all day for photos of the massive media tents overfilled with live cameras rolling for all the world -- what an awe-inspiring photo opportunity with East Randolph Street's gleaming towers including Aon Center behind Obama's victory stage. I've seen some large press conferences over the years, and last night's event was like no other.

By mid-morning Wednesday, media reports started popping up about how Chicago's hours in the spotlight may work wonders for the city's 2016 Olympic bid (from what I can tell, the Associated Press and the LA Times' Philip Hersh earned the scoop on this angle). Just a few minutes ago (about 10:30 ET tonight) the New York Times added their two cents (by Juliet Macur) to outlets reporting on remarks from Japan and Tokyo's bid. It took me back to Patrick Ryan's answer to my question at the Bid Cities press event in Beijing ... I think Mr. Ryan may be able to sleep a bit easier now that Chicago got some limelight, Obama-style.

Some of the wire photos from the big event are comparable to the night shots from the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin, or the evening skyline shots from Beijing with postcard-ready fields of spotlights ablaze over the scene. Check out the Chicago Tribune photos here, then go to these shots from Berlin and Beijing.

Journaling last night as the coverage was winding down (or settling in awaiting decisions on senators like hopeful Al Franken -- hang in their, Al!), I could not help but ponder how amazing it would be to see President Obama declare open the Games of Chicago in eight years. Could be Chicago's only way to top last night for "best photo opp - EVER!"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What I'll Miss About ...

During the home stretch days to the election, Atlanta's Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich came to mind thanks to The New Yorker magazine's two-page spread titled "What I'll Miss About George W." Hilarious! (and fitting!)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a great gallery of Luckovich's work for the 1996 Olympics and each Games since. Some remain as true (if not more so) now more than 12 years later. Enjoy!

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