From: Gever Tulley
Sent: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 12:54 PM
To: + QPD
Subject: Field Report 2 – Low on Content, High on Drama
11-Apr-00 08:12 – Another Breakfast
My exit from Fitzgerald’s Casino is fairly painless. I know what to get at the buffet now and what to stay away from. A good rule of thumb is to imagine that everything you see is actually leftovers taken from a strangers refrigerator.
11-Apr-00 16:05 – The Throbbing Heart of NAB
I devote the day to exploring the big booths on the main show floor. These are the companies that NAB is designed for. Their booths are enormous and have raised meeting rooms that are guarded by bouncers in nicely tailored suits.
I have a secret agenda – I think the best place to capture telemetry is right in the camera and I am here to see if anybody is doing it. This is my quest, and it gives me the purpose that I need to cover more than a million square feet of show floor.
I’m disappointed to discover that none of the pro/consumer gear is being shown. I’d hoped to see what was coming in the world of tiny gadgets. I guess that’s at the Consumer Electronics Show.
Panasonic is in a heated battle with Sony for the hearts and minds of the TV and Movie production people. They have a beautiful HD projection screen that takes up almost half an acre of the their booth. Unlike most of the projection systems here, this one does not need to be protected with blackout curtains. I corner one of the camera specialists and ask about recording data with my video and audio. He misunderstands and says that of course there is time-stamp data built right into the digital format. I clarify, using heartbeat and car telemetry as examples. He looks at me like I am asking about edible shoes. I move on.
The Sony booth exudes confidence and sinister domination. Everything is lit in muted blues and the carpets are so soft it makes marshmallows jealous. I seek out a camera specialist and launch into my data capture problem, followed quickly with the heartbeats and car telemetry example. Maybe you should talk to Haji. Haji sends me to Frank. Frank looks nervous and actually back pedals when he hears my question. For just a moment I think that maybe I’ve discovered some secret project that they thought was a well kept secret. I’m not that lucky, Frank is just a nervous and naturally hyperactive person who hasn’t heard of anybody wanting this before. “What about match-motion cameras for special effects?” I ask. They usually record the motion data on a separate tape, he replies. I suggest to him that a camera with a high-speed serial data input would be a useful thing. He gives me the “yeah, sure, whatever you say, now just put down the gun” smile.
Their booth is mostly notable for it’s amazing lack of traffic. This is the drunken wino passed out on the sidewalk that the opera crowd politely walks around, all the while making tsk, tsk noises. I dutifully enter and I pose my question. The camera guy listens politely, then shows me the top of the line studio camera which, while it does not record telemetry, has five user configurable white balance presets.
I’m easily distracted by the high energy radio transmitter gear. Huge coils made from copper wire the diameter of fire hose, strangely shaped tubes, and diodes the size of bananas. This is the stuff that drives giant radio stations and Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.
Studios and cameras are becoming more robotic. In the future a single producer will run a complete production studio with one or two news anchors. Tests with synthetic actors rendered in real-time have shown audience trust and acceptance levels comparable or better than live news anchors. Watching the video samples I begin to understand why this is – an obvious fake is more acceptable than a good actor.
Speaking of fancy cameras, there are a lot of remote control helicopters here. These scaled-up hobby choppers are gyro stabilized and offer POV flying for the pilot. Most have dual controls; one for the camera operator, one for the pilot. The demo reels show amazing flights through city streets, into office buildings, up the stairwell, and out the top of the building in a single continuous take.
My last stop at the show is a visit to the restroom. As I set down my shoulder bag, my NAB badge comes off. Before I can reach down and retrieve it, someone reaches under the door of the stall and grabs it. “Cool!” I hear him say. By the time I get the door open there is no sign of him. I try to return to the show floor and the security guard rejects me. Is it worth going all the way back to registration to explain the situation? No.
11-Apr-00 18:39 – Strange Bedfellows
I make my way to the airport in the afternoon and board a crowded plane. I share the row with Sylvia, both of us are bound for New Orleans via Salt Lake City. We chat for a few minutes about my work and then, with a flip of a pretend dress, she lets on in sotto voce that she is an exotic dancer. What do you do in this situation? My first reaction is to pause, and she notices this. Later I will come to learn that she told me all this as a strictly professional gesture. She is networking; at this moment she is Sylvia the business professional at Rick’s Cabaret in New Orleans.
But I don’t know any of that now. I am a naturally gregarious person and we talk about her snowboarding in Utah, and life in New Orleans. We don’t talk about Rick’s Cabaret, but before we get off the plane in Salt Lake City she will give me a napkin with the name of the club, her name, and the note “Please Comp.”
She confides that Sylvia is her stage name, and then proceeds to tell me her real name. I get her to recommend some restaurants. She prepares an exhaustive list with notes about which places are for lunch, which for dinner, and what, specifically, to order. Our plane begins it’s descent into the land of the Mormons. Sylvia distrusts this place, complaining that the liquor is too expensive and the people are too uptight.
11-Apr-00 20:25 – The Athlete’s Voice
We share a row again on the next flight, in retrospect it seems clear that she planned it. She is reading Hammacher Schlemmer, I open my mystery novel. After a while the seatbelt light turns off and she makes a visit to the restroom. When she sits down, she doesn’t open a magazine, she just sits and then lets out a sigh.
“You seem like a nice person,” she says.
“I’d like to think so,” I reply, ending the long pause that ensues with the boldest question I can manage, “If you don’t mind me asking, how did you get into the whole dancing thing?”
She is happy to start at the beginning.
“My childhood was normal, perfectly normal. I had the most loving family. I still live with my Mom. We have some properties in New Orleans. It’s a lot of work, all of the yard work and leaves in the gutters.”
Does your Mom know that you are a dancer?
“Oh no, she has no idea.”
This statement makes me nervous and I reveal my naive interviewing skills by changing the subject – what about college?
“I graduated from Loyola Jesuit Catholic School – a BA in Communications with an emphasis in Advertising and a minor in Philosophy. I did an internship during my junior year at an Advertising firm. Those are the slimiest people, you know? The receptionist was sleeping with the Vice President and she got promoted to Head of Traffic. Head of Traffic, can you believe it? It’s proof that it’s not what you know, but who you know.”
She notices my note taking and adds, “Her name was Bridget.”
So you went back to school and finished the degree even though the Advertising world held no attraction?
“Yeah, I couldn’t change the major. That would have required more money and more time. Besides, with an advertising degree you can do anything anyway.”
She waves her hands and says that chasing dreams is just for dogs. She immediately regrets this. Dreams are good, she amends, you just have to be careful with them.
“I moved out to LA, and then up to San Francisco to work at the Ann Taylor shop on Union Square. I liked the job because you got to meet lots of people, and seemed like it might turn into a career. But the people at Ann Taylor were so boring and anal, and no pizzazz. So I had the opportunity to move to N.Y. I love to travel. I’ve traveled all my life. So I went. I stayed for four and a half years. I started working for an Art Gallery. Really nice people.”
Our snacks arrive and she grabs a sandwich in a package that has ballooned up.
“I love to pop these and then yell ‘Oh! The wings!’”
She is grinning mischievously. When the package gives out with barely a puff, she is genuinely disappointed. The food cart moves on and we return to life in New York.
“The work was okay, but it’s hard to make it on commissions. So my friend at the Gallery suggested that I dance at this club near his house. Oh! Wait, I forgot, I worked as a waitress in this topless club in New Orleans when I was in college. I didn’t dance there because I was too afraid someone from town would see me. But that’s where I was exposed to the industry. I saw those dancers there and I thought – in some countries people wear less clothes to the beach.”
“So I started dancing when I was 26. Kind of late to start, but I had had lots of experiences by then, traveled all over the world. It’s hard for the younger girls to figure out how to save, what to do with the money. It goes up right up their noses or straight into expensive cars and clothes. I’d had lots of jobs and my own business by then. A cocktail waitress, baby sitter, house cleaning, food waitress. I started Sunshine Cleaners with my Mom. ‘Students cleaning for a brighter future’ was our motto. I would sneak into the apartment buildings and slip flyers under the doors. Which I could only get away with because I was young and wore tight shirts.”
“With every thing I do, I get the best out of it. You work for the money. It’s about how much money I can save for travel. That’s what I work for. Who I am now? I’m all of my experiences and travel. Well, 40% of who I am is from my mother. How can you put percentages to these things? But I’d say 40% mom, 10% school, and 50% travel. Other cities, other people, learning things.”
She stares out the window for a moment.
“It’s better to go out there and make money instead of marrying a rich man, you know, like Bridget. It’s the oldest profession, you know.”
“I thought prostitution was the oldest profession.” I reply. She responds with a completely ambiguous look.
“It’s like this; you want eggs in the morning sunny-side up, or scrambled? Women don’t have the same desires and drives, we’re all about nurturing and care.”
This doesn’t help either, but I don’t really want to press the point. She pauses again, trying to remember something.
“Oh yeah, back in New York. Of course I was nervous on my first dance. But after I saw the money I could make in one night compared to what I was making at the gallery… I never looked back. I have no regrets. None. I lived frugal in New York. Saved all my money for travel. I even took the subway sometimes, not often, but you know, when I could.”
How was the money? I know she’s not going to tell me any real numbers.
“It’s a lot of money. What I didn’t spend on travel, I invested. You work your way up in the clubs. So I quit the gallery. I was dancing on Tuesday night and then I was going to go to work on Wednesday morning? For what?”
Life in New York ends for some reason that she chooses not to share.
“I moved back to New Orleans. I didn’t tell my Mom what I was doing, but she’s old enough now that I don’t have to worry she’ll find out.”
Why did you give me the napkin?
“So you’d come to the club. You’re a guy, traveling. If I get you now then I don’t have to convince you when you come to the club. It’s networking. You make connections. It’s only business. The healthiest way is to just look at it as business. You can’t get caught up in the ‘he said, she said’ stuff. I love what I do.”
How is life in New Orleans?
“It’s much more laid back than New York. I have the ideal job here. I can run away at the spur of the moment. It suits my lifestyle, and I enjoy people, really enjoy talking to them. Where else can you go and really get to know someone with no judgement? People tell you everything because you will never see them again.”
My mind reels at the idea of a job where strange men tell you *everything*. She changes the subject again.
“A lot of girls don’t stay in shape at all. I stay in shape, not for the job but for me. You know the dancing is not all that hard. It comes naturally. Some girls can’t dance as well as others, each girl is different. I mean we all know the positions, but we each have our ways of getting there. Sometimes we get to pick the music. It depends on the crowd and the time of day, and how good a friend the DJ is.”
So, what’s next?
“I’ll work some more. Till I’m thirty-three or four, then my butt will start to fall. I’m thirty now, can you tell?”
Honestly, I thought she was older. But I shake my head and say no.
“You can still do it when you are thirty-five, if you have a nice bottom. Even if you watch what you eat, it starts to fall. Some men like to talk to a woman, not a girl. But really, what would a fifty year-old guy have to say to a twenty year-old girl? Something like ninety percent of businessmen visit strip clubs, they’re just ordinary people.”
I get the feeling that I don’t really know what she means by ‘talk’.
“Then I want to get married and have a family, I’ll work part time.”
Do you mean dancing?
“No, charities or social work. Maybe with homeless animals at the SPCA or the maybe the Peace Corps. I thought about going back to the art world, but those people are slimy. I could work with blind people and abused children.”
She says all this in the most sincere possible manner. It is her special dream. One that she tells only to herself and strange men that she will never meet again.
“What does anybody want? To find that one person to be your best friend forever.”