Archive for the ‘video’ Category

The Day I Met George Romero

When I learned of George Romero’s death, it reminded me of the day I met him.

In 1977, I was working as an on-air personality at WKTQ-AM (13Q) in Pittsburgh. My friend, Patty Bernesser was serving as an associate producer for a new George Romero movie and one afternoon she invited me to visit the set of “Martin”,    the story of a teenager who believes that he’s a vampire. The set was George’s mother’s house.

Of course, I knew who George Romero was. “Night of the Living Dead” had scared the crap out of me. I was especially haunted by the scene of the little girl eating her dead father’s arm. It was chilling.

When I moved to Pittsburgh, I lived in an apartment complex in the North Hills off of Cemetery Lane across the street from the cemetery where some of the zombie scenes had been filmed for “Night of the Living Dead”. Such was the power of that movie that on certain nights, when the clouds were scuttling and the moonlight was bright, I’d feel the hairs on my neck stand up as I drove down Cemetery Lane.

I found George Romero to be a laid back, gracious guy. He was easy to talk to and was amused when I told him about my Cemetery Lane experiences. I don’t recall the specifics of our conversation but I think he addressed his concept that his movies weren’t about the zombies but more about how ordinary people reacted to the situations.

As it turned out, one of the subplots of “Martin”, the teenage boy who feared he was a vampire, was that he made calls to a local talk radio host and anonymously shared his concerns. Given that I had on-air experience, Romero asked me if I’d like to play the role of the talk show host in the movie. Wow!  Never, in my wildest dreams, had I ever thought I’d be offered a role in a George Romero film.

Unfortunately, due to commitments I had with my full-time job, we weren’t able to coordinate recording and filming schedules.  Someone else ended up with the role of talk radio show host. So, I blew my big shot at being in the movies.

But,  I’ll always have Pittsburgh!  And fond memories of George Romero, the man who was not only nice enough to offer me a movie role but who also lodged that frightening image in my head from “Night of the Living Dead”.

May he rest in peace.






Marketing Doesn’t Have to Be Evil


A recent Scott Adams cartoon shows a marketing team member complaining that engineers are paid more than marketers. Dilbert’s responds that the pay disparity might be explained “Because engineers designed and built every important part of modern civilization and all (marketers) did was misrepresent it”.

Unfortunately, the idea that marketing is synonymous with lying and that members of the marketing profession rank somewhere near or below used car salesmen, lawyers and congressmen is quite prevalent. And, of course, the TV series, “Mad Men” didn’t help.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

My sense is that part of the problem comes from the notion that marketing is a sales function. From my perspective, marketing should be the next logical step after product development. Its function is:

1)    To make potential customers aware of the product/service’s existence.

2)    To make potential customers aware of the product/service’s merits

3)    To position the product/service in the potential customer’s mind in a positive light relative to the competition.

Problems arise when marketers become disingenuous and create blatantly misleading messages about the product/service. Today’s consumers have sophisticated BS detectors So even if you fool them once it’s less likely that they’ll be fooled a second time. Exaggerating about a product’s/service’s benefits or, worse, downright lying about them simply exacerbates the problem.

A recent article in the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School’s magazine, ONE discusses how companies have begun using neuroscience technologies such as fMRI and PET to observe how the brain functions during the decision-making process. The best way to utilize this data is not to employ it as a tool to manipulate people’s purchase decisions but instead to use the information to make a brand’s marketing more selective and to increase a campaign’s effectiveness by being better targeted.

I don’t mean to be Pollyanna-ish about this but, in the end, the marketing profession will be much better served if we can forego the temptation to be deceitful and instead make an honest attempt to put the product or service we represent in the best light possible without resorting to exaggeration or deception and let the chips fall where they may.


Game Of Thrones

Game of Thrones cover OK, I admit it. I don’t get the Game Of Thrones phenomenon. Can someone please explain it to me?

Although the show has just completed its third season and achieved its highest ratings to date, I’ve never watched it. But I keep hearing references to it. Mostly, on TV. Although I did see a young guy reading a Game Of Thrones paperback the other day.

So, is it a demographic thing? Is the audience for Game Of Thrones essentially the under-30 crowd? I gather that the show contains a lot of sex and violence so is its appeal primarily to young males. Is it to males what the Twilight series is to females? Or is the series more mass appeal than that and the attraction is its study of impact of power, sex, and violence and human relationships?

Game of Thrones … Peter Dinklage as Tyrion.

What exactly am I missing?

Thoughts On Thomas Jefferson And Making History Come Alive

I’ve just finished Jon Meachan’s biography, “Thomas Jefferson-The Art of Power”. It reminds me of the inadequate job that our education does in making history interesting and engaging for the teens in our school systems.

Did you know that there were people who wanted to impeach George Washington? That Jefferson received letters with death threats while he was President? That Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis & Clark originally was an aide for President Jefferson prior to being sent on the famous expedition and many years later reportedly went insane and committed suicide (or was murdered)? I didn’t.Thomas Jefferson The Art Of Power

As I listened to the audiobook version of Meacham’s book, I kept thinking how much more I would have taken away from my history courses in high school and college had my instructors explained the stories in context with events that were going on in the world at the time rather than on the this was the date/ this was the event/ this was the result approach.

I was also thinking about how great it would be if HBO reunited members of the cast from its John Adams series to recreate the same roles in a mini-series version of “Thomas Jefferson-The Art of Power”.

MTV Memories

Flattered to be acknowledged by Martha Quinn in the new book, “VJ:The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave (No)”

MTV VJ Book-Martha Quinn story about REB

[Minor inconvenience: You have to click on the picture to actually read the story. (Insert sheepish smile)]

It’s not quite how I recall it. But, close enough.


Sebastian Junger, author of “The Perfect Storm” and “Restrepo”, has created a documentary in tribute to the photography, Tim Hetherington who filmed the video for the documentary version of “Restrepo”. Hetherington was killed in 2011 while accompanying a band of rebels in Libya. Junger’s documentary, “Which Way Is The Front Line From Here” is currently showing on HBO.

While being interviewed about the documentary by Terry Gross on her NPR show, “Fresh Air”, Junger spoke about how he had been at home in Massachusetts when the bombs went off at the Patriot’s Day marathon. He described how he was having a conversation about the attack with a friend when, all of a sudden, he zoned out and his mind transported him back to a vivid recollection of battle scene which he’d witnessed in Afghanistan. The tastes, the sounds, the smells, the emotions of that battle washed over him as though he were actually back at that place at that point in time. The experience lasted for only a few moments and then Junger snapped back into reality.

As I listened to Sebastian Junger describe his experience, I wondered how many other Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans were in Boston that day or in Watertown during the Friday morning shootout, if they experienced similar reactions and, if they did, what the impact of those reactions might be on their lives and the lives of those with whom they live.

Oscar, Yes. Promotion, No.

Jessica Chastain won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the CIA operative whose obsession with al-Qaeda’s network of couriers led to the discovery of Osama bi Laden’s hideout in Pakistan. Chastain in Zero Dark 30
However, it might surprise you to learn that the woman on whom Chastain’s character is based was denied a promotion which would have earned her an extra $16K per year.

Apparently, the real-life Maya (not her actual name) is, shall we say, “assertive” and as one of her colleagues explained to a reporter not Miss Congeniality. However, another colleague pointed out that jerks are not in short supply at the CIA so the woman’s abrasive personality shouldn’t be an impediment to promotion.

The CIA says that she received a financial bonus after bin Laden was found but the agency was reticent about discussing why the operative’s promotion from GS 13 to GS 14 was denied.

Here’s the Washington Post story:

You’ll notice that this story was published in early December and it did get some press coverage then. But, as Charles Peters observes in The Washington Monthly, it’s odd that this story hasn’t received much wider media attention. Especially, following Chastain’s Oscar win.

Seeing The Song

I love Billy Joel’s music and I respect him as an artist. But I have to disagree with him on his generalization that “Before MTV music said LISTEN to me, and after MTV it said LOOK at me.”

I’d argue that pre-MTV rock music artists like Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Who, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper and KISS were very much visual as well as music acts. Fashion and attitude have been part of Rock N’ Roll culture since its inception.

During MTV’s early years, our team of researchers surveyed MTV viewers in those markets where the channel was available in order to learn their reactions to the songs we played. We used a methodology common to radio where the respondent was asked to rate a song based on how familiar they were with it and their level of positive or negative reaction to it. Early on, we were trying to determine a way to factor the visual variable into the equation and we found that the MTV viewers we spoke to frequently responded “I’ve seen that song”. Consequently, we changed the language in our survey to ask “Have you seen this song?”.

During my four years as MTV’s Director of Video Music Programming, it was my observation that the video component might have created some initial interest in a song but, if the music didn’t strike that responsive chord with viewers which catapults a song into the level of viable hit, the video was going to provide the necessary momentum to save the song.

It’s always been about the music.

Image may attract attention but, in the end, it’s the relevance of the music and the emotional connection it makes with the listener that really matters.


Steve Jobs- My Reaction To Walter Isaacson’s Bio

I realize that Steve Jobs is revered by his disciples but he must have been a horrible boss.

I know that, despite how he treated them, most of his former employees say positive things about Steve. But that reminds me of a guy I once worked with who embraced a Marine bootcamp approach when training new employees. He first took every opportunity to publicly humiliate them. Then, once their self-esteem was at or below ground level, he would feed them the occasional compliments so that they came to rely on him for their sense of self worth. I’m not accusing Jobs of being that consciously manipulative but the results of his behavior seem similar.

Giving Steve is due, the guy was an astute visionary and an amazing salesman. He understood how to be a messiah to his geek constituency and he did set the bar high for the rest of us.

All of that said, I don’t want to give the impression that I have a negative attitude about the guy. As his wife observed, he was a flawed and complicated man; at times cruel and hard-hearted, at times teary and vulnerable.

Some of the quotes and insights which I jotted down while listening to the audiobook:

*Stand at the intersection of humanities and science.
*The various religions are different doors to the same house.
*Form follows emotion
*The journey is the reward.
*Today isn’t liberal vs. conservative. It’s constructive vs. destructive
*One way to remember who you are is to remember who your heroes are.
*Prune to keep the tree strong.
*If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying. (Bob Dylan)

Full disclosure: I’m a PC, not an Apple (Although, I do now use an iPhone). So, I until I read this book, I didn’t know much about Steve Jobs except for his legend. Like most, I was saddened when he died and I got emotional when I watched the YouTube clip of his 2005 Stanford commencement address.

But this was not a warm & fuzzy guy.

Steve Jobs was a guy who behaved like he believed he was a chosen one. And, because he had a genius for design, an ability to intimidate (he used that intense stare you see on the book cover to great effect), and a gift to persuade, we enabled him.

That’s a cause for mixed emotions about the man but Steve Jobs’ positive impact on society is undeniable.

RIP, The Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb

I was saddened to learn of the untimely death of yet another member of the music community, The Bee Gee’s Robin Gibb. Robin and Barry had been the two survivors of the four Gibb brothers. The youngest brother, Andy, died tragically at the age of 30. Robin’s twin, Maurice, passed away in 2003. Now, of those four talented brothers, only Barry remains.

My only personal encounter with the Bee Gees was in an elevator at 30 Rock. I was then working at WNBC Radio. The Bee Gees were the musical guests that week on Saturday Night Live in the wake of their huge success with the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack. One afternoon, I was heading back down to the radio station on the second floor from the seventh floor commissary and, when I stepped into the elevator, found myself alone with the three Gibb brothers.

Fortunately, I was feeling more glib than shy at that particular moment so, as they looked at me and I at them, I smiled and asked: “Are you boys all behaving yourselves?”. They seemed to enjoy the engagement and we all laughed and bantered a bit during the brief five floor elevator ride. I immediately liked them all. Despite the fact that they were, at that point in their careers, huge and wealthy stars (and not yet the objects of derision by the tragically hip), they were unselfconscious and very likable.

For some reason, I felt the strongest connection with Robin. It might have been his eye contact or something that he said. Whatever it was, although I was favorably impressed with both Barry and Maurice, my reaction following that five floor 30 Rock elevator ride was that I liked Robin Gibb best.

Although I still enjoy hearing “Stayin’ Alive”, my favorite Bee Gees hits tend to be the early ballads. I’d never given much thought to who sang lead on their songs so it was a little surprising to learn that Robin Gibb had sung lead on some of my favs, “Gotta Get A Message To You”, “Massachusetts”, and “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”.

I was impressed with this report aired on NPR’s “Morning Edition” following the announcement of Robin’s death:

R.I.P, Robin Gibb. Thank you for your music and the memories.