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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

THE TIGER DIARIES, PART THREE

Today’s blog comes to you FROM VEGAS, as promised. I Twittered this picture on my arrival, but Twitter ATE IT. So I want to put it here so you can see just how awesome it is:



Aw HELL yeah!


From my window, I can see a fake Manhattan skyline, real desert mountains, the Eiffel Tower, and a pirate ship that periodically explodes. I think I’ve misjudged Vegas . . . this is MY KIND OF A PLACE.

And now, part three of the hastily written TIGER DIARIES . . .

DAY THREE

The morning of day three began with the Secret Service locking us in rooms and generally hassling us left and right while we tried to work. [The former President] was speaking to a group of the executives and signing autographs and rubbing their shiny bald heads or something. This is when I heard the exchange about the tigers over my walkie talkie.

I was tired and hungry. I’d just had the cold coffee with the curdled milk. I was working on three hours of sleep. I noticed that my personality had deteriorated sharply.

The conference itself was starting that day, which meant that long with my hours of prepping the presentations, I had backstage work to do, starting at 10 AM. Which is why I needed to DUDES with the GUNS to let me out of the CLOSET.

The biggest conference room had been transformed overnight. An eight-hundred square foot stage had been assembled there, with an twenty-foot proscenium, three rear-projection screens . . . Once the tech platform with its tables of light and sound control panels and its monitors is up . . . once the room is rigged floor to ceiling with cable, the microphones and amplifiers are in, the lights are hung, the spotlight has been wheeled in . . . once two banquet tables filled with computer equipment are set up behind the stage, and the screens are flashing with test patterns and music is pumping to test the speakers . . . then, it’s not just a conference room. It’s a theater.

Behind the screen, in a pitch-black tangle of wires, platforms, and computer equiptment, there was a table. MY table. On the table was a small red light. I soon got to know the red light intimately, as from that afternoon onward I spent most of my time looking at it. Whenever there was a presentation going on (which was about ten hours each day), I was there. When they needed to change a slide, they were to click their clicker. The clicker was connected to the small box that sat in front of me. When they clicked, a little light on my box turned red. When the light turned red, I clicked the mouse and the slide advanced.

Red light. Push button.
Red light. Push button.
Red light. Push button.

That was my job.

My table looked very fancy. It was heaped with computer equipment, most of which I neither touched nor knew what it was. I worked on two laptops simultaneously, running the presentation on one, and looking at it in outline form on another. On one, I managed the feed to the screen with the red light/push button method. Should that computer have gone down, I was to ask for a screen freeze, which would hold the last image. Then we would disconnect my computer from the feed line, reconnect my second computer to the live line, switch it to presentation mode, and resume the show with no one in the audience any the wiser. (This is pretty much the same technique used in suspense movies, when a photo is taped to the videocamera, or some videotaped footage of the vault is fed in, and the person watching the monitor has no idea the robbery is actually going on.)

So, on day three, I did that for about eight hours, on top of the five I’d put in that morning. The open secret of the evening’s proceedings was that the sales awards would be reveled. Not the recipients—that was coming the next night. Just the awards would be seen. The reps were buzzing with anticipation over this. Every salesperson in the winning region, along with top salespeople from every region would get one of these mysterious prizes. Attendance was going to be good at this evening’s presentation.

I knew what the awards were because I’d seen them coming in through the loading dock. They were arranged neatly in the room next to ours, which had been rented just for this purpose. The party planner, [name redacted], was responsible for arranging the presentation—my boss had only to give the cue to pull back the accordion divider that separated the two rooms, and all would be revealed. We’d heard that the party planner wanted to add to the mystery of the presentation by veiling the prize room with smoke. This meant that the smoke machine had to pump for an hour or more before the reveal. We were getting strong wafts of it backstage, and we were starting to sneeze and cough.

After making the reps sit through the boring technical presentations, the signal was given to reveal the surprise. The wall was opened. Set free, the pent-up smoke overtook the room. If you could see through it, you would have noticed the entire room of new Jaguars. Not live Jaguars, like the live tigers, but cars. About fifty of them.

The smoke kept coming in heavy waves. It filled the room, so the crew opened the doors. Then it snaked along the halls, and began to creep upstairs to the casino. It entered the room where the tigers were still resting and caused a panic. It set off the smoke detectors.

Over the headset I heard my boss say to the party planner, “You told the fire department about this, right? You know you have to clear smoke machines with the fire department, right? So that they know the building’s not on fire, right?”

The answer to all of those questions was no.

So we sat and watched the firemen come and everyone being evacuated. We stayed behind, hidden in the smoke and the wires. We heard the coughing and the mayhem and people yelling things about tigers. Then we watched the party planner get fired. And then we saw ourselves being hired to take over all the entertainment . . .

. . . which may not SOUND like a big deal, but realize that something like a million bucks had been budgeted, and everything was already booked, and we had no real idea WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN at the big show on the next night because the party planner stormed out of the building and refused to tell anyone what he had set up. We only knew we were running it, whatever it was.

Two other facts were soon brought to our attention.

Originally, [a famous comedian] had been hired to perform at the close of the conference the next night. But when [the famous comedian] sat down with the president of the pharmaceutical company that afternoon, his material had been found objectionable. He refused to change a word. By the terms of his contract, he was to be paid no matter what. So his services was deemed unnecessary, and he received his [extremely large sum of money, in the six digits]. This left a huge hole in the schedule. The final act was missing. We had to find a new famous person, probably someone in Los Angeles, to come to Las Vegas THE NEXT NIGHT. This on top of everything else we had to do.

We also learned that the theme of the closing night was circus. A team of chefs and designers were had long been at work. Cirque du Soliel had already been booked, and they would be performing throughout the evening. We had absolutely no idea when they were coming, what acts they were doing, how long they were staying, or what we needed to secure. We got a hint of something about “many explosions,” and then we were left to figure it all out.

Around one in the morning, as I sat working in the now-empty room, I watched a team of handlers pushing the tigers back down the halls. They were followed by another team driving a steady stream of Jaguars down the hallway, out through the service doors, taking the last of the smoke with them. My boss was on the phone to someone in LA and was more or less have a nervous collapse in front of me. I was already feeling the effects of no sleep, but I knew that tonight, there would be none at all. I would be doing the 48 hours straight, and they were probably going to be the most unlikely of my life.

I began to feel extremely underpaid.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Hans said...

Ach! *leans forward excitedly for the next part*

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Katiekat said...

There's a store near me where you can rent machine guns. It makes me both GIDDY and AFRAID.

8:53 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

Oh the suspense is killing me. I want to know what happens next. And that gun store is slightly frightening.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Kristy Colley said...

When you posted that photo on twitter, I knew I'd seen it somewhere before. Then you mentioned Vegas. The pieces clicked into place.

6:47 PM  
Anonymous blissfullydazed said...

MJ, you are now dangerously close to the desert wasteland I live in. Just a few hours away. Can you FEEL the waves of misery emanating from the trapped souls living here?

When I last went to Vegas, it was a spontaneous trip that was formed and initiated at 1am...we got there around 5am. Let me tell you, Vegas is much more fun when you're delirious and slightly insane from lack of sleep. And by the looks of your AWESOME, gripping LV Memoir, you know what I'm talking about.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Nadia Murti said...

Poor college MJ.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous Raelyn said...

lol me and my mom saw that gun picture in the airport. like, seriously? the airport? somehow that seems a bit off. it was a nice welcome tho ;)

5:04 AM  

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