Posts Tagged ‘showmanship’

Right Place Right Time

July 13, 2014

Friday July 11th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

One of the few standout highlights of my childhood that has successfully stood the test of time is my extreme love of professional wrestling. It wasn’t so much the actual wrestling itself as the dynamic personalities and charisma of the wrestlers. I was fortunate to have seen some greats.

Wrestling was a regional attraction for much of the 20th century until Vince McMahon Jr. took over his father’s promotion on the east coast and graduated it to a national and then international stage. Like it or not – and none of the old school promoters did – McMahon changed the game.

The star attraction he used to build his empire was Hulk Hogan, and together they created a big splash not only in the wrestling world but in mainstream American culture of the ‘80s. Hogan is the only professional wrestler to date to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated and that says a lot.

Hulk Hogan became a household name during that time, and Vince McMahon became wealthy beyond belief. Most casual fans of wrestling accept as fact that Hogan was the greatest of his era, but in fact he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. That’s the recipe for success.

Hogan’s wrestling abilities have never been stellar, but that doesn’t matter. His look combined with his persona and charisma were exactly what the public was buying at that time. He nailed it. It was just like the Colonel finding Elvis. That was another example of right place and right time.

For every Hogan or Elvis that hit pay dirt there are countless others that never find the winning combo and are destined to languish in either relative or total obscurity. One of those in wrestling was my childhood super hero and fellow Milwaukeean Reggie Lisowski – aka “The Crusher”.

The Crusher was the Midwest Hulk Hogan, even though Hogan got his first big push working for Verne Gagne’s AWA based out of Minneapolis. That was a major promotion in that era, and all kinds of great talent came through there – and through my little black and white television set.

Wrestling on TV then was basically a one hour commercial for live matches, and it worked. It got me to spend my money, and I loved every minute of it. The Crusher was my favorite, and the favorite of everyone else in Milwaukee. He was the original bad ass, way before Chuck Norris.

The Crusher was born on this day in 1926, and was nearing the end of his illustrious run just as Vince McMahon was starting his. Crusher and so many others that earned it never got to taste the mainstream adulation that Hogan and many that came after him did. That’s just luck of the draw.

The Crusher wasn’t born at the right time, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that. It’s an unfair world, and some things are beyond our control. Another great that got screwed in that way was “Superstar” Billy Graham. I used to watch him as a kid, and he turned wrestling on its ear.

Vince McMahon Jr. admits that if he were in charge instead of his father that Superstar would have been Hulk Hogan ten years earlier. But he wasn’t. And now Superstar Graham lives alone in obscurity, wondering what could have – and should have – been. Life is what it is, and trying to figure it out only causes frustration. The Crusher and Superstar are still big stars in my book.

The Crusher flexing one of his '100 megaton biceps'. He was a classic, but never made the big money. What a shame.

The Crusher flexing one of his ‘100 megaton biceps’. He was THE attraction in wrestling when I was a kid. “How ’bout dat?”.

"Superstar" Billy Graham was ahead of his time, and even Vince McMahon admits it. Read Superstar's autobiography "Tangled Ropes". He was Hulk Hogan before Hulk Hogan.

“Superstar” Billy Graham was ahead of his time, and even Vince McMahon admits it. Read Superstar’s autobiography “Tangled Ropes”. He was Hulk Hogan way before Hulk Hogan, but never got paid like it.

Flea Flicking

April 21, 2014

Sunday April 20th, 2014 – Wilmot, WI/Caledonia, WI

I was up early this morning, but not to look for Easter eggs. The weather was perfect and this is the unofficial start of flea market season. The one I went through yesterday was a small one close to where I live. It was indoors and not that great. Today I ventured farther north to Wisconsin for a run through an outdoor one in Wilmot and then north to Milwaukee for an indoor/outdoor mix.

I have to say, I was sadly disappointed with both but I did learn a lot. I shut my mouth and tried to observe as much as I could on every level. I watched the sellers and the buyers to see how the interaction took place, and I also made a point to see everything that was for sale and how it was presented. Most of it was displayed poorly, and that alone was an important lesson immediately.

I showed up dressed in a pair of jeans and a short sleeve button down shirt with a pocket full of ‘I (heart) Uranus’ book marks to give to anyone who may have noticed my ‘King of Uranus’ ball cap. I’ve worn one in public before, and throughout the day a few people usually laugh and make a comment like “Hey, I love your hat!” I figured this would be a good place to practice my pitch.

Sure enough, I wasn’t in the place more than thirty seconds and one of the vendors laughed out loud and pointed it out to everyone around her. I smiled and gave her a book mark, and I saw her face light up as if she’d just won the lottery. She made a big deal of it, I could tell she meant it.

That made me feel like my day wasn’t wasted, and I kept on walking. It happened a few times more, but not more than ten. Still, I’ll count that as a big win and I’m glad I was prepared with a giveaway item. I don’t have a website up yet, but I did tell everyone about my @UranusTweets Twitter account which is also printed on the book mark. It was a great way to spread the word.

Other than that, I just wanted to see who the winners were that looked like they were actually making a buck. There was a Middle Eastern guy with a turban that had a big display of colognes and perfumes. He looked like a pro, and had a tent set up with sturdy tables holding all his wares.

There was also some family selling produce, and I’d seen them last year. They looked like they were moving some merchandise also. Unfortunately, I don’t want to push produce or perfume if I have anything to say about it. I want to develop a display of Uranus items to sell in character.

It would obviously have to be the right flea market in the right area, but I could see myself with a professional looking display of merchandise doing a well presented slick and funny pitch every half hour to an hour as a crowd gathered. Adding showmanship to the mix would blow the doors off of anyone I saw today. Most of those I saw were desperate looking sorts hawking pure junk.

A few people had some interesting setups, and there were some specialty booths that I thought were well presented as a whole. Other than that, it was a bunch of toothless mooks wasting their time with a mish mash of mostly garbage I couldn’t see anyone paying for. Maybe they do a lot better than I think, but if they do they sure don’t spend their profits on clothing, soap or a dental plan. None of them would be my competitors in the least. I don’t want to do what they’re doing.

I want to SELL, but be entertaining doing it. I didn’t see much entertainment going on at all in Wilmot, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth my trip. I also saw how poorly most booth people treated potential customers, and that blew my mind. Didn’t anybody want to make any money?

One guy had some old slot car racing sets from the ‘70s. I used to love those when I was a kid, and he had some still in the original box. The box was a bit tattered, but it was the original. I was patient far longer than I should have been, but I wanted to find out what he was asking for them.

I had no intention of buying, but I wanted to strike up a conversation and see how much he was able to tell me about what he had. For all he knew, I could have just won the lottery and wanted a price on everything he had. Instead, he kept on blabbing with some other goof, and he never even acknowledged my presence. I hate to say it, but no wonder he’s making a living at a flea market.

Maybe he’s not making a living at all. I should talk, as I’m looking into setting up myself. I am not going to be one of the people I saw today though. If I do it, it’s going to be a SHOW, and it’s going to turn some heads. None of what I saw go on today would happen in what I was doing.

Milwaukee was a lot different than Wilmot. Seven Mile Fair is the largest flea market in all of Wisconsin, or at least that’s what their advertising says. I have been going there most of my life, but it’s really changed over the years. It’s a lot slicker now, and there isn’t as much older stuff.

One thing that really turned me off was a $2 admission charge. Wilmot was $1, as are most of the admissions I’ve ever seen. $2 is a potential deal breaker, and it will be for me because I don’t see myself going back there any time soon. It just wasn’t the place that would fit what I’m doing.

For one thing, very few of either the vendors or shoppers spoke English. That’s fine, but it isn’t the audience that would buy what I would be selling. I’d sell funny Uranus t-shirts at first, along with anything else I could think of that was related. How could I make a sales pitch if they didn’t know what I was talking about? That would be a major problem, but again I just went to observe.

I did see the typical guy selling kitchen knives and wearing the headset microphone, but he was between presentations so I didn’t get to watch him work. He had a pleasing display, and was elevated to make sure he could be seen by a larger crowd. Eventually, I could see myself doing exactly that.

I’m not kidding myself though. Putting together a presentation like that would cost BIG money to get started. I’d need display tables, banners to say who I am, a supply of merchandise ready to be sold, and probably a sound system of some sort eventually. I am not looking to put on the suit and stand in the sun to sell the typical flea market fare. I would want to take it a whole lot higher.

If nothing else, I can’t believe any other comedian is thinking of this. If they are, I doubt if they could pull it off. I think I’ve got it all to myself, but in the right scenario I could see merchandise selling like crazy. Maybe it wouldn’t be a flea market but rather an art fair or something like that. I’m going to keep tweaking this idea, and come up with a line of products to test out sooner than later somewhere. It won’t be where I went today, but it wasn’t a waste. I learned by showing up.

I went to some flea markets today to look for ideas on how and what to market. www.7milefair.com.

I went to some flea markets today to look for ideas on how and what to market. http://www.7milefair.com.

Would you buy a funny bauble or trinket from this man?

Would you purchase a funny bauble, trinket or doodad from this man?

“The THING”

January 3, 2014

Wednesday January 1st, 2014 – Tucson, AZ/Roswell, NM

A new year begins with a new attitude and new direction. I couldn’t feel any better about all of it, but I still can’t figure out why it took this long to get in the game. It did, but I’m here now and that’s all that’s important. I have a lot I want to do this year, and sniveling about the past isn’t it.

I’m glad I went to Tucson, but now I have to make the long drive back to Chicago. Apparently there’s going to be a lot of snow for the next several days, so that’s going to be interesting. All I saw in Tucson was sunshine, and that’s what I’m seeing on the inside too. I want to keep that up.

I feel like I’ve been dropped into another person’s body or something, and I’m growing to love it more with each passing day. I’m thinking clearly, and am in a stellar mood. There are still idiot drivers on the road for example, only now I don’t flip out like I used to. I’M the changed entity.

Rather than question, I need to just let it happen. I know I’ll have bad days and make some bad choices, but those will be the exception rather than the rule. I feel like I’ve established a winning vibe, and right now it feels like I can keep it indefinitely. If I have my way, I’ll never get rid of it.

My focus for 2014 is going to be marketing, showmanship and improving everything having to do with business. I plan on keeping immaculate tax records, and making it a weekly maintenance task rather than an annual stress fest trying to untangle it later. I am making rock solid decisions.

I’ve got a list of the first dozen books I want to read this year, and hopefully I’ll get to a whole lot more than that. I am also making time to exercise daily, if nothing else just a 30 minute walk. These are all things I’ve done off and on forever, but this is the year it all needs to become habit.

There’s a Sweet Tomatoes salad buffet restaurant a block from the hotel, so I stopped there for my first meal of 2014. It never hurts to run some roughage through the pipes, and I did just that. I then stopped at a grocery store and bought some water for the trip so I can start drinking more of that as well. It’s something we all should do, but my kidney stone of 2013 converted me for life.

As I drove east on I-10 I saw signs for a tourist gimmick I stopped to see years ago called “The Thing”. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but they advertise it for miles on billboards. The $1 cover charge is never mentioned until one enters the building, but by then curiosity has been aroused.

I had to pay another buck to see it again. I wanted to study how they handled it as marketers to see if I could reallocate any concepts for whatever I might be doing in the future. I thought their display was mediocre at best. If that were my attraction, I’d shine it up a lot more. But that’s me.

Apparently they know what they’re doing, even though I was the only sucker that forked over the buck out of all the people in the gas station. I know it’s a holiday but there were some drivers on the road. None of them had the desire to see “The Thing” except me, but I’m still glad I did.

The most important observation I made was that it’s not really important what the product is if it gets promoted strongly enough. That’s going to be the continuing theme for 2014 and beyond. I made it to Roswell, NM, and got an expensive cheap motel. This is another operation to study.

"The Thing" is an attraction at a tourist trap at Exit 322 on I-10 in Arizona.

“The Thing” is an attraction at a tourist trap at Exit 322 on I-10 in Arizona.

There are signs advertising it for miles in both directions.

There are signs heavily advertising it for miles and miles in both directions.

After all that hype and $1 later - this is what it is. Welcome to the wonderful world of extreme disappointment.

After all that hype and $1 later – this is what it is. Welcome to the wonderful world of extreme disappointment.