Commentary by Art Vuolo, Jr.
After having written nothing since November of 2013, this is my second column within the past 30 days, but I have more to say and also offer my observations of the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show out in Las Vegas where a comfortable pair of shoes is mandatory!
My regular schedule has me in Sin City for "Media Day," which was Monday January 6th, the day before the trade show opens officially. It is always packed with huge crowds. The CES draws more people than any other confab in Las Vegas at over 150,000 attendees jammed into some two million square feet of space visiting a fraction of the 3,200 exhibitors! On Media Day you get to wait in lines that rival those at Cedar Point on the 4th of July so you can squeeze into rooms that are almost always standing room only and hear about the newest innovations from mega-companies like Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Dish Network and LG. Factoid: LG does NOT stand for "Life's Good" which is just a marketing term. LG was formed by the merger of two Korean companies; Lucky and Goldstar. Lucky brands were primarily sold overseas, but Goldstar was a player in the VCR wars of the 1980's. Now you know! Dish Networks gave away the most goodies, but most remembered was when film director Michael Bay walked off the stage, in a huff, at the Samsung presser because his teleprompter failed. It's not known if the man who hired Bay was reprimanded for his actions, but most of us felt he should have received a promotion, since the event drew more publicity than anything else at the 2014 CES Media Day.
Tuesday at 10 am the show opened, the stampede began, and the price of hotel rooms more than doubled! My room at $29 Sunday night jumped to $49 Monday night and the day the show opened skyrocketed to $199 plus tax. Yikes! Why do they do that? Because they can. In four days you simply can not see it all. We in the press are treated well with places to get online with complimentary Wi-Fi service and a decent box lunch is provided each day, but the time simply flies by. What I liked the most was the opportunity to speak to key representatives of large companies who you would never be able to interact with outside of this venue. Personally I made many invaluable contacts.
Along with the comfy footwear, you need to have an ample supply of business cards. There are enough members of the Jewish faith to warrant several kosher delis, plus my estimate is that clearly 25 to 30% of the attendees are Asian and a multitude of foreign languages permeate the event. It truly is a very International gathering. You also see hundreds of brand names that you never seem to see in stores, but there they are at CES every year. A newish brand, now known by many more thanks to a huge "free promo piece" they received on 60 Minutes last November, is the Go-Pro Camera developed by billionaire Nick Woodman. He was at their booth which was almost as big as the crowd that packed the area to hear him speak. Sony was also showing off a tiny video camera to compete with the Go-Pro.
Every year the electronics industry feels a need to bring out something new and innovative that will, in theory, have everyone buzzing about. This year it was 4K TV which was originally dubbed as Ultra High Definition television. The picture is billed as four times the resolution of today's HD-TV. The majority of households throughout the United States seemed to convert from CRT (cathode ray tube) sets to HD flat screens almost overnight. It was much faster than the changeover from black and white to color TV, or vinyl records to CD's, or videotape to DVD's. Now, they expect the consumer to make another expensive leap to 4K but there's one major problem, or as we say today...issue. No TV stations are broadcasting any programs in 4K. So, get ready for another tug-of-war similar to back in the 1950's when the makers of color TV sets, like RCA, were screaming to the TV networks for more shows in color, while the networks, like NBC (oddly enough related to RCA) were demanding the production of more color TV sets, which by the way were very expensive. When radio stations, late as the mid-1960's) gave away a color TV as a prize, it was a very big deal! Some of these new 4K sets also featured a curved screen, almost Cinerama-like. My feeling is that most people are very satisfied with today's HD-TV, but I've been wrong before. In my next column I will have more news from the CES and what to expect on the electronics horizon.
In local radio news, hats off to Classic Hits WOMC-FM (104.3) for managing, in concert with Kroger stores, to raise a staggering $1.5 million in cash and food for Gleaners Community Food Bank! WXYZ-TV did a fine job of collecting over a half million dollars for the Michigan Humane Society...but don't ever say radio can't hold up against TV. It can and it does repeatedly, especially in the Detroit area.
Do not forget to donate to the annual Salvation Army Radiothon, heard on WJR-AM (760) on Friday February 21st. Both Michiguide webmaster Mike Austerman and myself hope to be out at The Oakland Mall in Troy at some point during the fundraising effort. From 4 to 8 p.m., there will be a chance for all of us to see one of Detroit's most loved radio personalities as Dick Purtan emerges from retirement for this worthwhile cause so near and dear to his heart. He'll be joined by former Purtan's People contributors Al Muskavito and Jackie Purtan. WJR's very popular "Hall of Fame" morning host, Paul W. Smith will anchor the event in this its 27th year! The Radiothon starts at 6 am and runs through 10 pm and will be video streamed on www.wjr.com.
If it's not deemed too overly self-serving, my presence on YouTube has ballooned since last we shared this space. Back on Saturday, February 8th I was privileged to have a guest spot on a talk show over KDKA in Pittsburgh, long regarded as the nation's first commercial radio station! Other than a few technical issues, it went well. A video of that program is available on YouTube if you simply use this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyzrC8vUCZ8. Switching channels, the memorial tribute to Chicago's Larry Lujack has garnered a phenomenal 3,500 hits and I hope you will want a copy of the full version, so I can make a significant donation to his favorite charity "Save The Children." The tribute is on the home page of www.vuolovideo.com. Also on YouTube, I just posted (now that I know how to do it) one of my earliest tributes to WGN Chicago's Bob Collins. His untimely death came as the result of a plane crash in February of 2000 and it's worth watching (just 4 minutes) if only for the powerful on-air eulogy broadcast nationally by the iconic Paul Harvey. The tribute can be seen at this link: youtu.be/OGvnu1fCBc4.
Before flying from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for the CES, I was invited by former Detroit radio DJ, Kurt Kelly to guest on his Hollywood interview show on his Live Video.com. Kurt was a personality at the old WTWR (Tower 92) back in 1980. Today, he is a successful voice-over talent in La-La Land! My voice was gone and I looked terrible, but if you feel you can take it, the 38 minute video can be seen via this link: www.kurtkelly.com/watch/art-vuolo-sits-down-with-host-kurt-kelly-on-actorse-chat. If there's a next time I promise to be more prepared.
Proudly, what started out, five years ago, as just six people getting together for lunch in the L.A. area between Christmas and New Years, has turned into an annual reunion of radio junkies now known as The Radio Dream Lunch. If you're still tapped into YouTube there's a video of the latest gathering which, while being wildly entertaining features a few names and faces you might recognize. Use this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI_Egrrzuqc.
Contact Art Vuolo, Jr. via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org