Susan
The Amazing Adventures of Sara Corel
A novel by Toomey


The Man In Black

        Last night after I sent you my last e-mail, I started thinking about the obnoxious guy dressed in black (except for his white socks) who made part of your journey unpleasant. It reminded me of someone I had the misfortune of tangling with about a month ago.
        My band was booked to play an awards banquet for some company's national convention, the culmination of three days of sales presentations, meetings, motivational sessions and (mostly) drunken revelry. Our part involved dinner music, followed by walk-up music for the awardees. Sparing no expense, the company hired some hot-shot producer from LA to manage this extravaganza. What a jerk! He was like some B-movie caricature.
        First of all, he had no idea how to communicate even the simplest concepts of what he wanted to us Houston 'yokels' involved as local vendors for music, staging, lighting, sound, follow spots, video, camera operators, props, costumes, etc. (about 80 people altogether). He may have had some brilliant ideas, but no ever found out what they were. We were just unbelievably stupid if we couldn't guess exactly what he wanted without even the slightest coherent clue from him. So it was mostly trial and error.
        Come on, we may not be Hollywood, but we've all been doing this kind of thing for years. Probably more shows than he's ever done (or is likely to do in Houston again). The guy said 'fanfare' when he meant traveling music; he said 'jazz' when he meant rock; he hadn't the slightest idea of how many transitions were involved or how long they would last; I had no cue sheet at all; as soon as we worked something out that was usable, he changed it.
        You would think that the very first resume item for a producer would be communication skills. Maybe not in LA. Anyway, it got much worse when the lights went up. I was on the ClearCom circuit so I could get music cues. It was utter chaos. First of all, he was working off a laptop that was supposed to be able to manage a lot of the electronic events, such as the video screens (using PowerPoint, I think). Crash city I'm betting operator error. Paper backup was way up in his hotel suite, and that had been changed in ways he didn't know about. There were manual backups for everything, but his instructions to the various operators were pure gibberish, accompanied by screaming fits of profanity. He spent more time personally insulting every member of the crew than he did directing them. His assistant quit half way through and evidently went back to LA on the next available flight.
        So we stupid Houston cretins finally just did what we had to do without him. There was the brief sound of a couple of dozen ClearComs hitting the floor, and then the show went on. We figured out our own cues. Music started and stopped in perfect sequence. Videos rolled. Cameras zoomed and panned, dissolving from one shot to another in complete harmony. Slides, uh, slid. Mic gains were adjusted, lights went up, down and all around. Lasers twirled, confetti cannons popped, pyrotechnics blasted. One of our local celebrity news guys (a weatherman, actually) crumpled up his now useless script, adjusted his hair helmet, cranked up his neon smile and winged it perfectly. The crowd never knew anything was amiss. Of course they were so plastered by now, they couldn't have noticed anyway.
        The evening was a complete success. Guess who got all the credit? Yup, Mr. Producer Guy.
        That's why he gets the big bucks.


Proper Waffles
Table of Contents

Patrick Hill, 2000