Those of us who have been going to Vegas trade shows for years and years have many wonderful stories. Unfortunately, few of them are suitable for publication.(“If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you…” was a frequent response.) That said, here are some of the special memories that made it through the censors.
STEWART GOLDEN, TailorByrd: It was Valentine’s Day during the shows and my wife Ellen and I were having lunch at the Grand Lux Cafe with five guys from Prato stores. Guys being guys, they were watching all the beautiful young women walk by in their low-cut dresses, short skirts, high heels and making the typical comments. Getting pretty annoyed, Ellen told the guys that they were being very obnoxious and as a woman, she didn’t feel like listening to such demeaning commentary. So she got up in a huff, went right over to a slot machine where she put in a few coins and within two seconds, she won $4,000. Three minutes later she was back at our table, thanking the guys for making the demeaning comments that made her leave.
DAVID KATZ, Randa: I have one story involving Stu, a specialty retailer, a goat and a showgirl. Should I go on? (The goat underwent treatment for PTSD… The showgirl went on to fame and fortune.)
JARON ROSS, Gant: Last season, I took an 8:45 a.m. flight to Vegas so I could get there early and set up the booth. We ended up being held on the tarmac for an hour and a half. There were about 15 people from the industry on the flight and everyone was getting disgruntled. Finally, we were cleared to take off and just as the plane was about to lift, they turned us around. Apparently, we hit a flock of birds on our way up. We had to go through an hour-long security check before we could take off again. They actually brought the bag of dead birds on the flight to show us they weren’t lying. Finally, we were flying over Chicago and there was an announcement: the bathrooms weren’t working, so we were redirected to New York so we could switch planes! By this point everyone had drank way too much and fights started breaking out. We had to deplane and ended up getting to Vegas at midnight the night of set-up. Luckily Ryan Crenshaw was there with a six-pack of beer to help us set up our booth. It was a crazy flight, but it made for great material at the trade show.
PAUL ROSENGARD, Boston Traders: The first and only time I got to sleep with Karen Alberg was on the last night of MAGIC in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, Stu Nifoussi and Jeff Spiegel joined us…and we were on the floor of the Chicago airport, snowed in and waiting for our connecting flight back to New York. Reality seldom lives up to the expectations of fantasy, but this one was uniquely disappointing.
ALEXANDRE ABITAN, Report Collection: This is going back to one of the very first trips to Vegas with my father. I was a young and innocent kid going to adult La La Land. Leaving the Montreal airport, I went through a routine customs screening. At my turn, the officer looked at my passport, noticed I was in my early teens and asked me, “What are you going to do in Vegas?” As I was clearly not legal to do anything enjoyable in Sin City, I ambiguously answered, “I’m going to hang out by the pool.” On the very first night we went right to the casino and I sat down to hit the slots…within a few minutes a security guard asked if anyone in our party was underage. I was quickly sold out by my surrounding adults and was asked to leave and never set foot in the casino area again. An embarrassing experience that I’ll never forget!
JOHN STERN, Straus Clothing: The President’s Club was a very nice perk for some of us old-timers. Richard Dawahare, Brent Caplan and I would meet for lunch, and then for a drink.The bartender there was an Irishman named Paddy, and we got to know him after a few shows and a few shots. It became a tradition for us to do shots of Patron before heading out for dinner. After about five years, when the industry had a downturn, the Patron disappeared from the bar. But Paddy always kept a bottle hidden for us.
KELLY LEIMBERG, Trybus: Back in 2004, after breakdown, Michael, Brent and I went to the small Mexican place a few feet from the convention floor and celebrated our hard work with a few Coronas. My seat at the table was positioned so that I could see everyone walking by, Michael and Brent sat facing me. After a few minutes, my eyes bulged out of my head and they said “What’s wrong with you?” I replied, “I have never seen boobs that big before in my life!” They said, “Get up! We’re changing sides!” We later learned that a porn convention was moving in!
MICHAEL KOFOED, True Grit: It was nearly 20 years ago and, as usual, we were well over our entertainment budget on expenses, go figure! I came up with the harebrained idea of putting cash down to cover. At the casino, I hit an Ace, and then I hit another Ace, but the dealer was showing a face! You could hear a pin drop when I split the Aces. We now had $1,000 on the table (a fortune for this Nebraska kid) and the tension was high. The dealer passed two cards to the split Aces, then flipped his cards showing a 20. As the dealer hit me: Bam! Queen of Hearts on one Ace, and Bam! King of Clubs on the other… The Ghost of Vegas Past was with me on that day as I finished that faithful August moment able to pay for most of my expenses.
TONY MADDOX, Norton Ditto: While living in Vegas, I’d gotten an invitation from a VIP host to come out and help entertain some British bankers who wanted to have a Vegas experience. The host had set them up with a fantastic table right behind the DJ at 1 Oak in the Mirage hotel. As the place started to fill up, a group of guys wearing western clothes had taken the table next to us. What we were unaware of was that it was Ashton Kutcher, who was performing at the Country Music Awards the next night. Once the group had gotten settled into their table Ashton kept looking over at me, tilting back his cowboy hat and saying, “What’s up?” After he had repeated this motion several times I turned around and replied “What’s up?” The next thing I knew, Ashton and four of his guys are at our table. He grabs me, hugs me and said, “Man I haven’t seen you in a long time.” To which my response was “I know it’s been like never…” After several moments of shaking hands, the group returned to their table and our host came up to me and asked why I didn’t introduce him. To which I replied, “I don’t know the guy.” Later that night, in a cab headed home, I posted on Facebook: “Ashton Kutcher’s going to wake up in the morning and say when the hell did Bruce Willis get so fat?” I told the story to a group of industry friends in NYC and a woman next to us at the bar (who was from LA and worked for Madonna’s production company) overheard the story, turned to me and said, “I know who he thought you were: the producer Michael Becker. When you walked in, I thought you were him. You just happen to be a better dresser.”
GARY LOWY, Sales Rep: It was back when I was VP at Marzotto USA and we hosted a dinner and theater event for our reps and retailers. Since Guy La Ferrera was a cost-conscious wine chooser, we asked that he select the wines for the table. About three-quarters of the way through dinner I was told there was a fire at the Las Vegas Hilton theater and that 30 or so invitees needed to be contacted that we would not have a theater event that evening. I was beside myself, very distraught at having to disappoint so many. Then I called for the check which was about $5,000. I started to perspire and called over the waiter who explained that the wines ordered were very expensive. I could not believe that Guy would do such a thing and handed over my American Express. It was only then that I saw the hysterics around the table: The check was $1,300 and the theater event was intact. The joke was entirely on me.
ROSS GERSHKOWITZ, Alpha Design Group: Do I have Vegas stories? I worked with Marty Staff for several years: of course I have Vegas stories, none of which I can share.
MICHAEL DAVIS, Agave: My then-boyfriend was drinking by the hotel pool before one of the MRket shows. He came back to the room and said he made a new female friend whose husband turned out to be a major buyer at one of the top U.S. retailers. I asked him to behave because you never know who you’ll meet in Vegas. That night, we ended up partying with this couple; the woman and my boyfriend got very intoxicated, dancing on a table at one of the industry parties. Her husband got mad and stormed out of the club; I sent my boyfriend back to NYC the next day. What happens in Vegas sometimes must leave Vegas.
SEBASTIEN SCEMLA, Sebastien James: After one MRket show, we were out to dinner with friends and clients. We sat down for dinner and a very attractive woman sat across from me. After my first drink I looked up and caught her staring at me. I smiled, feeling a bit embarrassed as she continued to stare. The strange thing was that she was there with her husband and I was uncomfortable, especially since I’m a faithfully married man. Finally, after dinner, the woman and her husband backed me into a corner and asked if I’d come back to their room. “We’re swingers but don’t worry: you don’t have to have sex with my
husband; he just wants to watch.” I quickly declined and hurried back to my room like a good husband. Then at 3 a.m, I thought I heard screaming so jumped out of bed and ran outside to see what was going on. The door slammed behind me and there I was: alone in the hallway in my boxer shorts (which happen to be pink) and no room key. It took 15 minutes for security to arrive: two large men, looking at me like I was the trouble maker and asking me for ID. I replied, “Do I look like I have any ID on me?!” They let me into the room, but didn’t leave until I showed them my license.
MICHELLE BROWN, MR magazine: It was several years ago and with one of our MR salesmen (who was testing me to see how cool I was), I ended up at a late-night party hosted by OutKast. First of all, I had no idea who they were—I knew they were showing a clothing collection at MAGIC but had not a clue that they were a famous hip hop group. Nor did I imagine how wild and crazy their following would be. Needless to say, it was an outrageous party, everyone was beyond wasted, and I was the only middle-aged suburban mother there, wandering around with my camera taking pictures and trying to get people to tell me their names and business affiliations. (I don’t think anyone there had a business affiliation.)