I have so many funny and remarkable stories about attending CES over the years that it will take a little time to remember all of the shenanigans. The one that sticks out the most is when my PR agency, HWH PR, represented a company called Intelegen , a small cap public company (a penny stock). Intelegen was going to introduce a new type of TV that was supposed to be better than high definition. Two women out of Silicon Valley headed up the company and wanted to put a special PR spin on the introduction, so they claimed they found the technology in Area 51, a secret military base. They spent a million dollars building a look-a-like military base structure in the parking lot just outside the Las Vegas Convention Center for a press conference to show off the new technology.
I asked Jenny, the CEO, to see the new technology hours before the conference. She gave me some tap dance answer that it was still being unwrapped in the shipping area of CES. Not to worry. We lined the entrance to the structure with folding chairs for the press. About 100 members of the media showed up. Jenny kept them waiting a half hour until some of the press folks started yelling out for the press conference to start. Still no Jenny. It got so bad over the next 15 minutes that a few of the older members of the press started to yell out obscenities. “What the f**k is going on?” was one of the familiar ones. It continued to get much worse. Finally, an hour late Jenny appeared. She got booed immediately. She just smiled. She babbled for 15 minutes about how she got in to Area 51 (all fictitious) and why the technology was so advanced. She was boring everyone. Then the bedlam started. “We want to see the TV! Shut up already! We have been here for two hours! Stop the BS! Show us the goods!”
Then the unthinkable happened. Jenny told the audience that the product never arrived. The grumbling was more than my ears could handle. All of a sudden, I felt that I was transported from Earth to another planet. While I felt bad for myself repping this fraud, I felt worse for my young staff who I imagined were quite demoralized given the looks of shock and dismay on their faces. If I were one of them, I would have felt like I needed to look for a new job because HWH just got a bad rap. To this day, there are one or two press people around who remind me of that event.
If that was not bad enough, we also had another client who was not exactly faithful to his wife. He was having a long term relationship with one of the young gals who worked for CES management. When I first met him, he was a rather large guy. Then he lost 75 pounds and discovered that he had some sex appeal. Most of the time when I visited his company, he would ask for alone time with me to share photos of his escapades. I would give him all the right reactions to make him feel special (his monthly retainer was huge for the time), and then I would actually meet with his staff to make sure HWH was actually involved in important work so we couldn’t get accused of any CEO personal favors. My relationship with the number one guy forced us to do double the work load just to secure our relationship.
The CEO, Joseph, used to sleep in the same hotel room with his girlfriend during CES. One year his wife showed up on day two of the show. Luggage in hand, she called him from the lobby of the hotel announcing her surprise arrival. He went into full panic. He immediately called me. I had to go downstairs to the lobby, explain that he was in a meeting, and take her to lunch. The girlfriend moved her stuff into my room and I was stuck with her for the remainder of the convention. The things I’d do for our clients.
The owner of the publication I worked for many years ago almost strangled me one morning at the show because I had stopped the presses the night before when I noticed the pagination of our daily magazine was out of order. Most of it was written in advance. We kept page one and a wrap-around for daily news. I was at the local Vegas printer proof reading the draft when I noticed the mistake. I was editor-in-chief, so I could make the call. My boss didn’t agree and was furious that the publication was late to the show floor. I would have called him when I saw the mistake, but he was busy entertaining some broad in his room. How would I have known that? He told me he didn’t want to be disturbed when I had last spoken to him. So be it.
Then there’s the time I got an urgent call at 10 pm to go to the CES hotel suite of the CEO for a major Asian company. Many of you own this company’s TV sets. Lucky for me, I was located at the same hotel. When I arrived at the suite, the head American executive was sitting on the coach with a swollen red face. I found out that they had had a fist fight after some screaming had gotten out of control. I have no idea who threw the first punch. I was called to the suite to settle the argument about why the American guy was getting more editorial coverage than the Asian chief. The truth was the Asian exec was really shy and the American guy had a huge ego. The American did offer his boss several opportunities, but he had declined. They really were both jealous of each other and probably wanted to use their fists to settle the score. I told the truth and eventually got fired after a 17 year relationship. The American executive got bounced, too. Ironically, the Asian official was called back to Korea (oops, I gave away another clue) six months later. I haven’t represented this company for seven years. Since I left, they have hired and fired eight agencies.
Okay, I am filled with hundreds of stories, but I have to end this somewhere. The one last story is about two reporters who were dating. They were very well known in the consumer electronics industry. They denied the relationship until she got pregnant. Only a few of us knew the situation. They decided to get married during CES in one of the Vegas wedding chapels. They left the press room at noon and were back by 2 pm, hitched. I was giving a press conference at 3 pm. They both attended. We announced the marriage over the microphone, and the press conference turned into their wedding reception. Everyone still remembers that day. They lasted about 12 years.