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To Fee, Or Not To Fee, That Is the Question

This post has been floating around in my brain for some time now along with the title – a direct nod to the playwright of all playwrights, William Shakespeare – however I wasn’t one-hundred percent sure if I could use the word “fee” in the syntax I needed to. Luckily for me, “fee” is also a transitive verb meaning, “to tip,” so it works well with the subject at hand, as you will read about right now.

What makes someone who writes, “A writer?” After all, we all write, do we not? We write emails to our co-workers and lunchbox notes to our kids. We write out Christmas cards to Nana Eleanor and we scribe letters to our neighbors asking them to politely stop letting their Pekingese/Dachshund/Bulldog mix poop in the kiddie pool. We write in heated response to conservative political Facebook posts and we write about mediocre celebrities in one-hundred-and-forty characters or less. We write. We write a lot. So why are we all not writers? Is it the same reason we’re all not chefs? And how much of that reason has to do with money?

A recent entry by my great friend and fellow jewelry blogger, Monica Stephenson, touched on this very topic which fueled my often internal debate about where I want to go with my skill. She wrote “There have been some discussions recently, online and in real life, amongst friends and colleagues who alternately lament–and applaud–this brave new era. Anyone with an internet connection and a publishing platform can say they are a writer. When everyone is a writer, it gives voice to original thoughts that might not have been heard from behind traditional gatekeepers. But when everyone is a writer, words can be cheap.” And yet it seems that even when the content is cheap, there are so-called writers being paid a hefty price for their opinions, which is what is known in the world of marketing and advertising, as the now often present “sponsored post.”

Let me be clear about one thing before I go any further: I do not write for a living, and I have not written a sponsored post for money. I write because I love to write. I write about jewelry because I know about jewelry, and, because I love to write. That doesn’t make me any better than the next writer, or blogger, or social media manager, or even tweeter, but it makes clear where I stand and what my opinions are about writing for money. I’d love to write for money as an editor or contributor for the trade, but I never want my opinions swayed by the almighty dollar. What I think about anything is mine right now. I own it. It belongs to me alone and should I wish to share it with the world I will, through either this blog, or one of my two personal blogs, knowing that when it is shared it is up for debate. You have a differing opinion? I want to know about it. I may even want to challenge you on yours because chances are I feel passionately and whole-heartedly about mine. And my opinion? Well, it’s pure, I can guarantee you that. It’s untouched by money. It’s as true as it gets. This is where I take issue with “sponsored posts.”

Just about every morning I go through a routine which I can imagine is similar to that of most of my blogger friends. I complete my motherly/wifely/humanly pre-coffee ritual before sitting down to the laptop to open my Gmail. There, as I’m sure a fair amount of you understand, is where I find the multitude of marketing emails letting me know about this new collection or that current brand. And man, I love it; I truly, truly do. I get giddy when I think that I’m taken seriously enough to make the lists of those looking for exposure. And I go through every last email – no joke – skimming all the images and reading every quote, and if something strikes my fancy, I file it away for potential future use. But too often between the “To Whom This May Concern” greetings and the “we hope to hear back from you” closings, are bodies filled with monetary offers willing me to say that I like their product and wear their product and believe in their product on my very public forums. While I’m no less flattered at these emails than I am of any of the others, I can honestly say that I’m ethically bothered by them. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the difference between us and them; the ones who do what we do because we believe in what we’re doing, and the ones who revel in the fame, exposure, and money of it all. Maybe, that’s really what makes us the real “writers.”

Recently, another good friend of mine, Monica Bielanko (yes, another blogger named Monica!), who writes for Babble.com among other well-known blog sites wrote a piece on her personal blog, The Girl Who, called, Liberation. In it she explains how she believes that personal blogging has gone M.I.A., and that (her words) “… all the sponsored shit infiltrated everything everywhere.” She continues to express how she believes that personal blogging is all but gone now: “Most of the good bloggers have gone totally sponsored and/or edit what they share to the point of boringness. I went that way for a bit. Shit, I have a couple sponsored posts on here that make me absolutely cringe in horror when I go back and read them. Me, half-heartedly trying to weave my love for Pillsbury into a personal post. Sorry about that. It is what it is. You need to make money to live and suddenly there are people telling you that you can get paid to do the same thing you’ve been doing for years for free and you’re like, why not?”

However, Monica goes on to give several reasons ‘why not,’ with one in particular that reached out from the screen and punched me in my face… You can’t write about what you want when you’re trying to be attractive to potential sponsors and my immediate response was no different from hers…

Yeah. Fuck that shit.

I like my writing. I like the rawness of it and the realness of it. I like digging deep into an emotion and coming up for air just before it suffocates me. I like offering my industry a human side because after all, who here doesn’t love a good F-bomb from time to time? And you know what? You like it, too. You know you can only read so many stories about twinkling facet-patterns and multi-colored stack rings. You know you only have so much patience for dogs wearing tiaras and antique rings from 1953. You know it’s true, and I know you know it’s true, and I’m making you a promise right here and right now that I’ll never, EVER, give you a story, or an opinion, or some bullshit anecdote because some multi-million-dollar company paid me to. What you see is what you get: fuck, shit, boobs, asshole, and all. If those words bother you, there’re a million other fashion/jewelry/style blogs to make up for the tiny void this one will leave in your life. They’re out there, waiting to give you everything that’s fake about this industry. They’re the college football player who dropped out his sophomore year to go pro because he was gonna get paid; who’s now endorsing everything from Reebok to Mountain Dew to Trojan Condoms and Chiquita Bananas (sold separately). Me? I’m the 340 pound player on the O-line that nobody thinks will last more than two years. No endorsements. No one knows my name. But you know what? I’ve got my degree in biochemistry to fall back on when the shit hits the fan, and when the money runs out for that guy, I’ll be content in knowing I played with heart. I’ll be happy as shit knowing that I did it for the love of the game; nothing less, and certainly nothing more because in my mind there is nothing more. No one will ever force my hand because what I think on my own deserves its own place in this business.

feeTHIS POST HAS BEEN SPONSORED BY ME. I paid for this post with years of English classes, hundreds of literary masterpieces read, and a dozen books on the appropriate use of grammar. I paid for it with the hyperbolic blood, sweat, and tears that every *real* writer feels, has felt, and will continue to as they put on paper that which is painful. I paid for it with the words of my friends, the faith of my colleagues, the envy of my enemies, and the honor that comes ONLY from being true to myself.

I am a blogger.

I am a dreamer.

I am a student.

I am a mother.

I am a jeweler.

I am a thinker.

I am a writer.

I AM A WRITER.

And what you’ve just read above is exactly what makes me one.

 

(Mic drop)

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How This All Got Started

The Awesomeness of Thirty, Part 2: This Industry Is FLIPPING RAD!

Way back on August 9th of last year I published my first full-length blog post right here on Adornmentality. “The Awesomeness of Thirty” was my second published post but the first to disseminate my comedic and sometimes over-the-top style of writing. Once it was live it felt like an accurate way to show the blogosphere that I had arrived and planned on staying. Today, on the one-year anniversary of the day that Adornmentality was launched, I give to you my thirtieth published post.

*****

The “City”

The City, to me, is as familiar as it is strange. It represents lotteries won as much as it does deaths in the family. Its tunnels are vacuums sucking me into its temptations. Its bridges, outstretched arms letting me know that it will hold me when I need it to. Its high-rises remind me of both its strength and its vulnerability as they glow proudly in the dawn, yet weep silently in the dusk. The City, is my home away from my home away from home. It’s the taller, prettier, more interesting sister of my native Philadelphia, and it has brought me more joy, pain, ecstasy, and heartache than one should ever be allowed to feel in a lifetime.

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Ear Climbers by Mrs. T at Luxe Intelligence

The City is where I and many others get into trouble. The City, to quote the song “Sea of Love” by The National, is where “Trouble will find me…” and it does, and it has, and it likely will again, but this time the City was nothing more than a platonic friend who asked me out for coffee so that they could talk shit about politics and discuss the latest earring trend being seen on red carpets everywhere. I decided I’d sneak a flask full of bourbon into the coffee shop on 43rd because let’s face it, what’s a little gossip without a little booze, yeah? Yet as I expected, the City brought their own, only theirs was a Macallan 18, in a thermos the size of a fire extinguisher.

I love you, City. I’m so happy to be in you. I don’t want to be anywhere else in the world right now. 

***** 

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Andrea Hansen in the background. Mrs. T. Caviar Rings up front

If you haven’t had the privilege of spending a couple of hours with WJA President Andrea Hansen in her LUXEIntelligence showroom on West 45th, you’re missing out on the kind of experience that stays with you long after the buzz from the bottle of Chardonnay that the two of you killed while there has worn off. This is how I spent the first few hours of my Saturday in New York. So many jewels to gawk at/rings to try on/questions to ask/answers to ponder/grams to Insta. She’s a gift to our industry, this woman, like many before her and many beside. And if you’re a designer looking to publicize your brand, I suggest making LUXE your first stop as you consider your investments.

New York Jewelry Market Week is nothing like Vegas. That’s not to say that shenanigans weren’t or aren’t had. New York is the Mecca of the U.S. jewelry industry and every year thousands of buyers flock to the two major summer shows (JA-NY held at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, and JCK Luxury Prive held this year at the Waldorf Astoria) in the hopes of getting their holiday orders in before it’s too late (What are you waiting for, people??? I’VE GOT MOUTHS TO FEED!). Also held the same week are some major industry events, including the AGS Circle of Distinction Dinner, and the long awaited and always anticipated, WJA Awards for Excellence Gala.

Last year’s post, “The Awesomeness of Thirty,” largely focused on the Women’s Jewelry Association’s 30th birthday that was celebrated grandly at the Awards for Excellence event. This year’s gala marked the WJA’s 31st year, yet the event was no less spectacular and not without surprise. Gala chair Natalie Humphrey of Forevermark blew the eventually uproarious crowd away with her live (hear that, Lana del Fake? LIVE. As in, ‘not pre-recorded for studio audiences’) piano-accompanied rendition of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Not to be outdone, Platinum Guild president Huw Daniel led an all-male striptease act (a-la “Magic Mike”) that included guest appearances by Darwin Copeman, Kevin Reilly, and a surprisingly – shall we say, (ahem) gifted – Matthew Tratner.

WRITE!

WRITE!

(I threw that last part in to see if you were paying attention. Clearly no one stripped while at the event. I cannot speak for what Mr. Copeman does in his spare time, however. I’m just sayin’. I’m pretty sure I saw him pay for his drinks in damp one dollar bills.)

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Half of the #VegasGems seated at the GUMUCHIAN table

The 2014 Awards for Excellence winners included Heather Moore, Michelle Graff, Chana Regev, Kim Adams, Cathy Calhoun, Amy Jackson, Jennifer Peck, Desiree Hanson, Rosanna Doherty, and Fran Pennella. The Lifetime Achievement Award, (in case you’ve been living in a swan’s nest and this is the only industry blog you read) was given to the AGS’s Ruth Batson, and the Ben Kaiser Award was given to Jewelers of America President and CEO, Dave Bonaparte. Richline (not to be confused with Richemont or Rich People Who Only Wear Brands By Richemont) received the Corporate Award, just to prove, yet again, that Corporations are indeed people. Wait… what?

As usual, my ladies – the #VegasGems – were representin’ at the event with every one as gorgeous as the next. Also representin’ were my boobs, but that’s for another blog post, entirely. I spent a large part of the evening hootin’ and a hollerin’ from my table for my favorite nominees which eventually enticed Jeff Post to lean over from his table to remind me that I wasn’t at a Flyers game. Sorry err’body. I blame the pinot grigio.

Left to right: Yours Truly, designer Wendy Brandes, and A4E nominee Monica Stephenson of Idazzle.

Left to right: Yours Truly, designer Wendy Brandes, and A4E nominee Monica Stephenson of Idazzle.

This year’s massive dessert spread and after-party were sponsored by the consumer-facing, uber-popular World Gold Council initiative, LoveGold. (***EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS POST IS NOT SPONSORED BY LOVEGOLD. HOWEVER, MATTHEW TRATNER DID GIVE ME TEN BUCKS TO ALLUDE TO HIS ANATOMIC GIFTEDNESS. I REPEAT: LOVEGOLD HAS NOT SPONSORED THIS POST IN ANY WAY. FYI THAT TEN DOLLAR BILL WAS ALSO SORT OF DAMP***) At this time of night there’d been more champagne passed around than a Kardashian in a frat house so everybody was having themselves a fabulously lovegoldelicious time. One particularly fun part of this event the last couple of years has been Rio Tinto’s “Diamonds With a Story” photo booth which by this late hour had a line longer than the Starbucks inside Javits at 8:50 a.m.

The WJA A4E gala is my favorite jewelry industry event of the year for several reasons. Mainly, I get to spend time with women I adore and network among some of the biggest names in the biz. I’ve never felt as if I wasn’t among peers at this event… I’d even go so far as to say that I feel even more as if I am among family. Ever have someone tell you something positive that was so unexpected you actually felt a shift in your life take place where you stood? That happened to me at A4E. Someone pulled me aside and said “You’re like the Dorothy Parker of jewelry. Keep going. Make your mark.” And I haven’t been able to will the moment out of my skull. Nor can I stop laughing at Mrs. Parker’s famous quote when asked to use “horticulture” in a sentence…

“You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

Man, I would have loved to have hung out with her. Maybe because I see similarities between us. Maybe, if Dorothy Parker lived today, and wrote a blog, and was who she was back then, now, she’d have celebrated her one-year anniversary in the way that I suggested I wanted to celebrate mine… by letting everyone who has ever read it flip her a big’ ole middle finger. So many innuendos. So many hidden meanings. And so much of her personality in this one, simple, inappropriate gesture.

You gals (and guys)… y’all are something else, I’ll tell you that. Thanks for taking part in my little #birdsforwords experiment and for letting me enter your lives over these last twelve months. Let’s keep this thing going, yeah? And lastly, let’s take a look at the #birdsforwords that are now and forever part of the internets.

Smooches. On to the next year!

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip: Part 5 – Those Are Definitely Not The Words To That Song (aka – The End)

Time was quickly ticking away. The days flowed into the nights with as much ease as the booze flowed at the overly packed bars, and for many of us, this would be our last night in Las Vegas, which meant only one thing…

We better make it a good one.


Sunday is often a busy day for the JCK show. For folks driving into Sin City from local jewelry stores, Sunday is the day that their shops are closed, and if they’re not in a position to come for the entire week, it’s a good opportunity for them to visit the vendors and designers who they can only see here and nowhere else.

Sunday was also the only other day that you could pick up tickets for the Rocks the Beach party with Ron Thompson of Matchbook 30 (or something), being held at Mandalay’s Wave Pool. After learning from the mistakes of past RtB’s (raise your hand if you waited in line for hours to see Adam Levine last year only to be told you had to settle for his she-male impersonator on Fremont Street), JCK Events had the bright idea to set up ticket booths in a few select locations throughout the show. The concept was simple: you show up with your badge, they punch it, then give you a ticket. Once they were out of tickets, well, then no Rod Thomson for you, but at least you didn’t have to wait in the sweltering Nevada heat while standing directly behind that hottie who watched you lick salt off of the bartender’s fingers last night after your fourteenth lemon-drop shot. Awwkwaaaard.

Since some of the folks in my booth weren’t sure if they were attending, I took all of their badges and scored seven tickets to the show. Did I personally need seven tickets? Hell no. I didn’t even want to see Rahm Tomás once, let alone seven times, but whom I did want to see were my friends and my customers, so if for some reason I heard that they couldn’t get a ticket… BOOYAH! I’m a heroine and my popularity rating skyrockets. This worked out great, too, because all seven tickets were given out by the end of the day.

part5111

“Mom Faces” by Monica and me

With a mere thirty-six hours left in Vegas, I started to seek out the people in my jewelry life who I had yet to run into on this trip. I visited with the Oscar Heyman crew and had a nice chat with Tom Heyman about my blog and my Oscars post I had written about his brand. I saw Barry at Picchiotti and we exchanged information since he also lives in Atlanta and we have a lot of people in common. I swung by Omi Prive and FINALLY met Natalie Weisiger (who is AWESOME!), since we had only been social media friends up to this point. And then, I went to seek out my biggest fan…

Pretty much from moment one of this blog, Novell Design Studio’s Marketing Director, Rick Mulholland, has supported it. He’s Facebooked it, Tweeted it, posted it to LinkedIn, and even made it a part of the blog he writes. Without ever having met me, Rick has been more of a cheerleader than certain writers in my own field have, and it was time to finally put an actual face to the… well, Facebook profile picture face, I guess.

Novell’s booth, while being massive in its own right, seemed miniscule in comparison to its next-door neighbor, LeVian. Rick was behind one of his salespeople when I walked up, tapped him on the hand, and introduced myself.

Me: “Good to finally meet you in the flesh.”

Rick: “I know! It is. I’m sorry. My lips are chapped.”

Me: “Thattt’s okaaay? I hadn’t intended on kissing you, so, it’s all good.”

After embarrassing Rick by telling him that was the weirdest first line, ever (sorry, bro… it’s just too awesome not to share) we spoke for a few minutes about the show and how nice I thought their booth looked. If you know Rick, you know he’s a total hands-on guy in what he does. Not only is he talented from a marketing standpoint, but he is a tremendous writer and I encourage him to do it more. If I didn’t tell you there, amigo, thanks for being so positive about Adornmentality. I’m hoping you’ll join me as a guest blogger here in the future at some point.

With the clock counting down to the end of the show day, I started getting excited about who I’d be spending time with in a few short hours. Our Rocks the Beach experience from the year before resulted in a cabana photo that was all but used as the official beach party picture. This year, however, more of our Gems were coming, and more Gems means more laughs, so let’s get down to what you all came here to read about…

The Shenanigans. 


part5a1

Ready for the beach (avec shorts!)

The vain a**hole that I am decided I would wear heels to the beach. You know what, that’s not really fair. I’m not that vain. I just like being tall, and if there was a chance I’d be standing next to Glamazons #1, #2, and #3 (aka Stephenson, Winters, and Gizzi), there was no way in heck I was going to allow myself to be referred to as “the short one.” I decided on wearing some killer strap booties with an Urban Outfitters feather-patterned dress and scalloped black shorts underneath. Yes, I said shorts. Just like when I was in Catholic elementary school. There, the shorts were to save yourself the embarrassment of the student body seeing your Strawberry Shortcake panties when Christopher Ranieri decided to lift up your uniform. At the beach, you do the exact same thing only the panties are Elsa from Frozen Victoria’s Secret and the boy is Dallas Selsey. I arrived when there was still a line though I didn’t even realize Erika Winters and Wendy Brandes were three people in front of me until about twenty minutes in. Wendy, in my opinion, is the sole reason that JCK Events will ALWAYS hold a concert in a pool. I never saw someone so excited to see such a mediocre well-known musician while standing in chlorine.

Wendy: “I don’t care who’s on the stage, IT’S A CONCERT IN A POOL! All concerts should be in a pool! Why do my friends not appreciate the awesomeness?”

I love this woman.

part5f

Heels in sand.

Once inside the gates, all of the normal people grabbed their Effy bag supplied with flip-flops and headed toward the beach. Erika Winters and I, still heel-clad, stumbled like morons walked as gracefully as ever across the sand to the big, bright, JCK sign where, along with Wendy Brandes, we created this year’s badass beach photo. After several poses and takes by our personal photographer, Peter Walberg, we were off to find the WJA cabana to grab ourselves some well-deserved spirits. Along the way we ran into the adorable Brittany Siminitz, the lovely Idazzle, (which of course, prompted us to pose for a Charlie’s Angel picture) and then another beautiful woman: WJA’s Colorado chapter president, Manon Crespi. If you’re wondering why, at 41, I’ve decided not to cover my gray hair, this woman is the reason. The first time I saw her was last year at Fana’s booth and she absolutely took my breath away. After being on the fence about whether or not I’d go the route of “Silver Fox,” this sealed the deal for me, and I told her as such the moment I saw her.

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Kelly, Jill, and Sabrina

Brittany led the way to JCK which conveniently was directly next to WJA. (Rhyme much?) Holy. Freaking. Crap. I hit the industry-maven jackpot. At this point I’m going to just do a roll call of the “who’s who” standing before me in this tiny section of beach: Brandee Dallow, Jen Heebner, Mark Smelzer, Fran Penella, Lita Asscher, Diane Warga-Arias, Dallas Selsey, Craig Selimotic Danforth, Matthew Tratner, Victoria Gomelsky (and her twin sister, Julia), JEN CULLEN WILLIAMS, Amanda Gizzi, Natalie Weisiger, Andrea Hansen, Bernadette Mack, Mike Asscher, and the always dashing, Sam Jansen. Seriously, Sam Jansen? Why are you so damned good looking? I feel like Crest toothpaste needs you pay you $300 every time you smile. When you laugh I hear a “cling” sound effect like light reflecting off of a crystal champagne glass in a Cascade dishwashing liquid commercial.

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I can always count on Jen Cullen Williams to play along

The night was already out of control by the time the cucumber-sized glow sticks started getting handed out. Whose idea was it to put one of these in my hand? Are you insane? You can’t give me a toy that looks like this! Inappropriate jokes are INEVITABLE, people! Sigmund Freud could have written his senior thesis on these things. Are you serious? Oh, wait, is Rab Thumas even on the stage? Ugh, okay… I guess I’ll go attempt to watch.

As a child of punk and early alternative music (think The Smiths/The Cure/The Ramones/Depeche Mode), and a young adult fan of all things grunge (Pearl Jam/Mother Love Bone/Mudhoney/Alice in Chains), I don’t really do “rock light” or “pop” when it comes to music. I either want to hear Chris Cornell scream at me until he busts a vocal chord, or I want to watch The Decemberists play a rock opera start-to-finish at Austin City Limits. They seem extremes and yet, they are not. What they are, however, is not popular, and so it’s fitting that I would like them, and that they would represent me.

part5g

At the JCK cabana

As Ron Thomas Rob Hummus Rob Thomas belted out his most notable (yawn) songs, there was one he started singing that I actually did somewhat recognize. It was the tune he made with Carlos Santana, so I began swaying to the guitar solo and singing along with what I believed were the lyrics…

Me: (Singing “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas) “Man, it’s a hot one/Eleven inches and my baby is done/I’m eatin’ ice cream and it melts… onto my tongue/But it tastes so cooooool.”

Matthew Tratner: “Those are definitely not the words.”

Me: “Sure they are!” (singing again) “My fried fajita/My Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa/I’m a pleasin’ it’s the seeeeeeasonnnn/So get in my poooooll.”

Matthew Tratner: (now laughing his ass off) “THOSE ARE NOT THE WORDS!!! What are you SAYING??”

Me: “Sing it with me, Matthew! (chorus) “And it’s just like the ocean/Under a tree/But it don’t matter if I’m in it and I need to go peeee-eee/You’ve got the kind of toaster that I like to see-eee/Make a Pop Tart, make it real, or else fughettaboudit…”

I’m fairly certain Matthew had to find a bathroom immediately after that.

part511

Say “DRINK PASS!”

Once that song was over I needed to sit down. I was feeling overwhelmed by all of the musical mediocrity, and the cabana had a nice little area with cushy seats which is where I planted my posterior in order to catch my breath and tweet. The always gentlemanly CSD suggested that I pull my dress down as it was creeping upward toward my happy places.

Me: “No, it’s cool. I’ve got these on just in case (showing him the shorts).”

CSD: “Oh, shorts! Smart! With this group, you never know when you’ll need them.”

Me: “So true. Plus, I can do this if I want to…. (lifts right leg up over head)… See!? Thirteen years of ballet wasn’t wasted.”

After the paramedics revived CSD, I looked around and noticed Mike Asscher – yes, THE Mike Asscher… of the Royal Asscher family – looking at me, frighteningly. I mouthed to him “Did you just see me do that?” to which he nodded his head “yes” before I crawled into a hole and died.

part5j

“Are you LEGGING UP?”

In a nutshell, the cabanas were the place to be. Monica called me out for “legging up” which resulted in a fantastic picture with us, Amanda Gizzi, and Jen Williams, (who, by the way, is ALWAYS good for revelry and ridiculousness. Love you, Jen. Wish we had more time together.) And at one point, a person in our group (who shall remain nameless) handed me a stack of drink passes. Now, let’s be real, here. I’m probably the perfect person to hand a stack of drink passes to because I grew up in blue-collar, Democratic Philadelphia, and I believe that the wealth should be spread.

Me: (channeling Oprah Winfrey) “YOU get a drink pass!!!!!!! And YOU get a drink pass! And you! And YOU! AND YOU GET ONE! YOU GET A DRINK PASS! AND YOU GET ONE! Here you go! And you and you and you! You all get a drink pass!!!!”

The saddest part of this entire story is that the night was only half over at that point…


As we made our grand exodus from the beach to Eye Candy, a young Amerasian man (or as I like to refer to him… my next victim) was waiting on the path to invite us to a nightclub as his (his words) “personal guests.”

Young Amerasian Man: (speaking to Brittany, Jesse, Erika, Peter, Monica, Wendy, and me – all of who are clearly not ladies.) “Hello Ladies. How was the concert?”

Us: “Great/Fine/Terrible/Good.”

Young Amerasian Man: “Ladies, my name is Mike, and I would like to invite you all as my personal guests to… “

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Oh how we’ll miss those Eye Candy nights

Before he finished his sentence, I feel that someone in the group – likely someone on the soberish side… maybe Monica – had this thought… “This poor kid. He has no idea what he just stepped into.”

Me: “Wait… you’re MIKE? As in, *the* Mike??? Oh my God, Mike, we were looking for you! Where’ve you been, Mike? It’s been centuries!”

Young Amerasian Man: (blushing and clearly flustered) “Well, um, thanks (uncomfortable giggle) Yeah. So, ladies, I’d like to give you these passes to join me at club…”

Me: (still walking with my group toward Eye Candy and as obnoxious as I’ve ever been in my life) “OH MY GOD, GUYS! MIKE WANTS TO GIVE US THESE PASSES!!!!! Mike, you’re the best, buddy! You’re so… you’re just… Mike, where were you all night? Were you with Ron Thompson on the stage? We were looking for you! Guys (turning to my crew), weren’t we just saying that we hoped Mike showed up with the passes to that awesome club as his personal guests?”

This went on for about another five minutes until good ol’ Mike got the hint. Leave us alone, junior club promoter. We’ve got people to see and drinkies to drank.

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This actually isn’t a real picture. It was taken from one of CSD’s dreams.

Once inside, the bubbly started flowing and the dance floor became our second home. There’s Alexis Padis! And look… it’s one of Craig’s Girls! And more of Michael Schechter, Raymond Hak, and that stumbling drunk girl who was here last night and will be tomorrow! Eventually Monica and I found a nice spot in the corner to sit ourselves down and take in our surroundings. It was wonderful to breathe this experience in; to watch the interactions of the various walks of industry life. Designers laughing with manufacturers. Editors doing shots with PR people. Retailers chatting with wholesalers. And us – two very tall, happy bloggers – toasting our lives and our friendship with two glasses of Vegas champagne.

I slept contently that night. I fell asleep happy in my own skin. I feel for people who don’t love what they do; who loathe getting up and going to work every day. I feel for those who can’t find happiness in their field, or their relationships, or even within their supposed friendships. I drifted off feeling our warm industry’s arms around me, holding me just tightly enough to let me know they were there, but loosely enough that I could still change positions when I needed to.

To all those mentioned in this and every “Tale” and the many names I wasn’t able to list, I thank you. You play a part in my world, and you make Vegas fun, year after year, and moment after moment.

To all those who read these recaps and especially to those who reached out to me about them, I am ever grateful that you’re smiling because of them. I enjoy the hell out of writing this blog, and knowing that you’re reading makes each post even more special.

To Vegas, don’t ever change. Stay just as Sinny and as Citiesh as you ever were, ‘cause I’ll be back, whether you like it or not.

And this, my friends, is what’s referred to as… The End.

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip: Part 4 – “Happy People Are Spendy People”

10:34 p.m., Saturday

Phone: “(Ding)”

Me: “ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”

Phone: “(Ding)” …….. (silence)…………. “(Ding. Ding. Ding.)”

Me: “ZZZZzzzzzzzz………… ZZZzzzzzz………… Zzzzz…..wtf?” (muffled yelling at my phone through the pillow) “Ssstop it. Texting meeEE…… mm’SLEEPIN’….. shhhhh!!!!”

Phone: “………………………..… (silence)…………………..……………”

Me: “………… (silence)……….… (drooling)………….Zzzzzzzzzz……zzzzzzzzzzzzz………..”

Phone: “…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. (Ding.)”


If you’re staying at or anywhere near Mandalay Bay, you pretty much know that everyone in our industry is at the club in the middle of the casino floor on any and every night of the Luxury and JCK shows. If you’re an exhibitor, it’s your chance to breathe and relax. Here, that smile that you started to believe had been tattooed to your face can be replaced with genuine laughter and even a little snark, if need be. Your friends are here. Your colleagues and co-workers are here. And yeah, while you still have to be “on” just in case a retailer shows up, you know you don’t really have to be ON, on, because if you do something silly or stupid, you can always blame it on that sixth martini. However, if you’re a buyer, you just hit yourself the “sh*tfaced from alcohol” jackpot (which, by the way, will likely be the only jackpot you hit in that casino). EVERYBODY wants to buy you a drink, amigo, so sit back and relax, because you’re about to be as funny and as interesting as you’ve ever been in your life.

Speaking for myself, I look forward to blowing off a little steam every night during Jewelry Week. But on this particular night, I really just wanted to get a full night’s rest. That is, until, my evil nerd twin started texting me when I was two hours into what was going to be an AWESOME night of dreams about the bartenders at Parasol Up.

part 4 Mike in scarf

I believe the line was… “you’ll recognize me by my scarf”

There are a few people in my life who I find that no matter how mad I get at them, or how much they tick me off, I just can’t stay that way forever. Michael Schechter is one of those people. Can he be an ass? Absolutely. Does he have a filter? Rarely. But for some God forsaken reason, I *get* him, and so when it’s his texts urging me to join him at Eye Candy, I really can find no excuse to tell him “no.”

The dangerous part about Michael and me together is this: we are a different breed of geek. We’re not the wannabe “I watch Game of Thrones so that makes me a nerd” nerds (because we all know, those aren’t real nerds). And we’re not entirely the ComicCon/ DragonCon/ ShowUpInYourBestIndianaJonesCostumeCon nerds, either, though I will admit I’ve donned a super-heroine costume once or thrice in my life. We’re an amalgam of tech, high I.Q., and useless information geek combined with the smartass quick-wittedness you might find in a popular person. All of this really only means one thing to you: don’t flub if you’re in our company. Don’t slur. Don’t fall. And don’t say something dumb, because we’re never going to let you live it down, and you’re going to hate us before the night is over.

As a (now) blogger and (always) vajayjay-haver, spirits are not often far from my fist at the bar, which means that by about 11:30 p.m., I was feeling fairly, shall we say, joyous? Schechter and I had separated in order to give the world a break (you’re welcome), and I suddenly found myself in the middle of some of my favorite folks, which is where my real skill comes in: getting people together with people.  “Oh, hey Barry! How are you? Great to see you. Good show so far? Hey, have you met my friend, Michael Briant here from Atlanta? Michael, Barry lives in Atlanta, too. Barry, Michael is my security guy. He owns the Skydas Group, which is the company I wrote about in my kidnapping blog post. Y’all should get together.” … “Raymond, meet Jim O’Malley. Jim and I met at the Prestige Party yesterday. He’s a master craftsman and goldsmith. Jim, Raymond is a designer. What’s that you said, Raymond? HA! Yes, yes, he is the token Irish one, yes.”… “Hey Shannon! Get on over here! Yes, I’d love to meet your friend Rick. Oh, Rick’s a buyer for a chain in the Midwest? How interesting. OH MY GOD, RICK, THAT WAS A SUPER FUNNY JOKE! YOU’RE HILARIOUS AND HAVE FANTASTIC TIMING!!!!! Here, let me buy you drinks all night and forever.” And this goes on and on and on until I find a moment to step away and watch what is happening in front of me. Only at this particular moment, being that I was standing roughly 6’4” in the heels I was wearing, what was happening was not really in front of me but rather about twenty feet across the room: Schechter looking right at me, pretending he had glow sticks, dancing like a raver.

We have GOT to take this show on the road.

Eventually the two of us found our way over to the dance floor bar where Michael introduced me to big, huge, manly person, Sean Moore of Borsheims. Damn, bro… you tall. They must grow them differently in Omaha. Oh, and look who else is here… It’s Matthew Tratner, again! Just in time to see Schechter throw me onto the dance floor, hoping I would fall. Oh, Sketch. Sketchy, Sketchy, Sketch. You’ll never learn. I land on my feet, babycakes. I always, always land on my feet. “You’re like a cat.” Yes, Matthew. I am like a cat. Now get out of my way… there’s spraying and hissing to be done and I’m only three scotches in.

part 4 coral number and hugo boss t-shirt dress

Day and night, night and day. A coral number followed up with a Hugo Boss t-shirt dress.

As far as day two of the show goes, it was fabulous. I know I usually start these posts with a breakdown of how the show went and what I was wearing, so, here… it went really well from an orders standpoint and I was wearing a coral dress that took thirty-five minutes to get into and a half-stick of butter to get out of. Happy now? I kid about the butter, but the rest is all true. Prestige does a wonderful job of making sure that our customers are well-fed and half-lit have plenty to quench their parchedness. I mean, do YOU want to spend several thousand dollars on an empty stomach? I know I don’t, and you know the old cliché… “The way to a buyer’s heart is through their stomach”… or is it, “The way to a buyer’s wallet is through their pot-brownie-induced haze”? I seriously can’t remember. I’m terrible with old sayings. Either way, the bottom line is that people are happiest when they have food and drink, and happy people are spendy people; you can quote me on that.

With that said, Part four comes to a close. If you haven’t read parts uno, deux, and drei, then, well, you suck, frankly. I recommend catching up before I post the fifth and final part of this series, which may or may not talk about the moment Mike Asscher caught me attempting to put my leg over my head at the WJA cabana on Sunday night. No spoilers. Just sayin’…

Hope you’re having fun reading. Until next time, my lovelies.

****************

Footnote:

Shortly after I originally wrote this post on Sunday, I found out that a very good industry friend of mine had suffered a massive heart attack at the age of thirty-nine. She had been hospitalized and in a medically-induced coma and I decided it was best to wait to post it until I received further news of her condition. Sadly, today, at 2:53 p.m., Stephanie Harris left this world, and a void in the hearts of all who knew her.

My first job in the industry was working with Steph. As was my third, and eventually, we’d work together again years later at a nightclub bartending for extra cash. She was a great friend, a smart woman, an incredibly hard worker, and the world’s best laugher. She was funny, beautiful, unafraid of consequence, and filled with life. And she was proud of what I was doing, which is why I decided today – on the day of her death – to keep doing it.

I dedicate all of the posts in this series to my dear, dear friend who loved a good joke better than anything else in life. If there truly is a heaven, I imagine that it is similar to a big casino bar in the sky. I hope you’re there drinking a martini, reading, and laughing along with me. And I hope you know just how much I’m going to miss you here on earth.

In memory of Stephanie Ann Harris: July 28th, 1975 – June 17th, 2014

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip: Part 3 – The Vegas Gems Ride Again

Voice Recording: “This is your wakeup call for Friday, May 30th, 2014. To receive a call in fifteen minutes, press the….(click).”

Five hours sleep. Could be worse. Oh, G-d, it’s only the first day. It will definitely be worse before this week is over. My apologies, liver. Please just know I never meant to hurt you. Or you, skin. Or even you, feet. Just chalk it up as something we have to do for the greater good. I promise that when we’re in our seventies, sprawled out on the beach somewhere in Sicily, you won’t remember any of this. Probably because I’ll have dementia at that point, but regardless, that’s my promise to you. No need to get into specifics. So, whatya say? Let’s get up and get going, shall we? Let’s show Sin City just how it’s done…


Mirror selfie with my Carmen Marc Valvo batwing dress

Mirror selfie with my Carmen Marc Valvo batwing dress

Day 1 was a special day. For one, it was the first day of the JCK show, which meant that it was my first Vegas show with GUMUCHIAN, and we got to introduce to the world the new “B” Collection that I spoke about in my pre-show post about who and what to see. I was stoked as heck about this line, namely because the idea behind it is to do something good; to help the environment. “Jewels with a cause” someone dubbed it to me, recently. I liked the sound of that, and I was ready to play my part.

Clad in a black Carmen Marc Valvo dress with sleeves that I referred to as “bat wings” throughout the day, I left my room an hour before I needed to be at the booth so that I could check out the “Mimosas and Manicures” Platinum Guild event going on at the press lounge (See?? I told you we get to do the cool stuff!). I was greeted by Communique’s Rebecca Moskal who exclaimed as I arrived… “We’ve got our first blogger, everyone!” which of course made me as giddy as a twelve-year-old (circa 1985) getting to meet Robbie Rosa from Menudo. I snapped pictures of the platinum product on display and chatted with my much taller friend, Amanda Gizzi, about how I hate it when she walks into the room.

Me: “I mean, do you really have to be in the same places I am? I’ve got so much game until you walk in. You and Monica Stephenson both p*ss me off. It’s weird not being the tallest woman in the group.”

Amanda: “Ha! I know. And it’s not like I wear flats, either.”

Amanda and me right before the killing

Amanda and me right before the killing

Me: “Thanks for the reminder, Amanda. Here… (taking a sharp, metal nail file from the manicure table) go ahead and shove this right into my heart, will you?”

After dying briefly from multiple stab wounds to the chest and being revived by the paramedics, it was time for me to make my way to the Prestige pavilion, but not without first walking through the Plumb Club to say hello to my colleagues at Honora Pearls.

If you’ve never had a reason to visit the Plumb Club, you’re lucky. No offense, JCK Events, but that’s the most f**ked up layout I’ve ever had the displeasure of experiencing in all of my years of show attendance.  Why are booths 800 and 100 on the same row? Who thought that quadrants with rows travelling at both forty-five and ninety-degree angles, with the occasional north to south and east to west rows thrown in, was a good idea? It’s like if Barney the Dinosaur decided to open his own theme park consisting of one big corn maze and no rides. I needed a show floor map just to find the station that handed out the show floor maps. It was a living, breathing, purple conundrum, and after ten minutes of circling what I found out was the same row three times, I gave up on finding my friends and figured I would just run into those drunk bastards fine gentlemen later that evening at the hotel bar.

Ray Somebody from "The Voice"

Ray Somebody from “The Voice”

The first day of the show was a great success, and being located near the Starbucks meant that everyone who wanted a legal pick-me-up came into my line of sight. Not only did I get to speak with some of my favorite retailers, but many of my editor/writer/blogger friends also stopped by to say hello. A highlight for me was getting to chat with INDESIGN magazine EIC, Trace Shelton, and being humbled by his compliments on my writing style.

The show came to a close with the Prestige cocktail party topped off with a mini-concert by none other than mega-superstar singer, Ray Boudreaux. (I’m sorry. I’m forty-one and apparently live in a paper bag. WHO?????????) Allegedly, this is the kid who was the runner-up on last season’s reality singing show, The Voice. I have no idea because I don’t watch crap T.V. singing shows. I only watch award-winning television dramas, like American Idol. Side note: YOU WERE ROBBED, JENA (pronounced “Gina”) IRENE! And with that, I was off to celebrate the SECOND special part of the day, which entailed “getting the old gang back together.”


Designer, blogger, and #CatInTheBowl owner, Wendy Brandes, describes our little gal group as such: “The Vegas Gems are wimmin I know through social media, including designers, journalists, bloggers, sales reps, buyers — anyone who has anything to do with jewelry is welcome.”

Dynasty Gems - no caption needed other than that

Dynasty Gems – no caption needed other than that

Last year, we had our first ever #VegasGems get together – a term that started as a hashtag but quickly became so much more. Since then, our gathering has sparked spin-offs such as blog posts, YouTube videos, and one now fairly infamous work of Photoshop depicting the Gems as characters on Dynasty (by yours truly, thank you.) The thing about us is that we give one another support, in whatever ways we can, and however often it’s needed. Got a new design? You can guarantee that your Gems are the first to tweet about or include it in a blog. Written a post about your documentary experience in the gem mines of Africa? Consider it spread like wildfire on Facebook. We have realized – whether because of our age, sex, or experience – that we are not alone in this industry. That as women, we need our sisters, and being the Lone Wolf may get you to the top of the mountain swiftly, but once there, it won’t protect you from the pack of coyotes creeping up behind you. We are all different, and all talented, and we all love us some sparkly jewels, stiff drinks, intense conversation, and above all… good laughs. Example:

Me: (taking out my Samsung Galaxy Note phone) “Okay, Katrina and Erika, get together for a picture…”

Katrina Kelly: “Holy hell, what kind of phone is that? That thing is HUGE.”

Photo grid of the #VegasGems in various position. Oh, and chips.

Photo grid of the #VegasGems in various positions. Oh, and chips.

Me: (Looking at Monica Stephenson, who is trying not to laugh because she’s already heard me utter this line once today) Why, thank you. Yes. Yes it is. It’s to compensate for my incredibly tiny vajayjay.

See what I mean? You get a bunch of women together, throw in a margarita or six, and it all comes down to vajayjay talk, no matter what the original subject matter. What’s that, Peggy Jo Donohue? You and Cheryl Kremkow are discussing the security of the TRTL 30×6 jewelry safes? You know, once I considered putting a combination lock on my very own vajayjay.

Okay, for those considering leaving this blog, probably never to return, I promise that I won’t discuss the “V” word any more. Sometimes I get carried away at the fact that I’m my own boss on this publication and take liberties I probably shouldn’t.

 

………………………..(silence)………………………..

 

 

Vajayjay.

 

 

The #VegasGems are growing!

The #VegasGems are growing!

After being serenaded by the world’s largest stalker-frog at Parasol Down, the Gems and I broke off into groups and discussed everything from camera lenses to #leaningin to the magnificence of the craftsmanship of the many pieces we had all feasted our eyes on that day. Shamila Jiwa and Monica were in deep discussion while Wendy, Katrina, and Erika Winters were looking at Wendy’s new Taxi Cab Maneater ring. I, however, was transfixed by the talk being had between the two group mentors – Cheryl and Peggy Jo. I couldn’t pull myself away. To listen to these women who have been, and frankly still are, where I can only aspire to be one day in terms of respect and admiration, discuss where this industry is headed, I was filled with pride. Pride at being a woman. Pride at being a writer. And pride, knowing that I was just as much a part of their life story as they were of mine. I really do love all of these ladies, and want nothing for them but success and happiness.

I was sad that two of our Gems were missing that night – Jessica Cohen, and the birthday girl, Brittany Siminitz, who was at dinner with her JCK family. But as the night lingered on, I excused myself from the group and headed back to Mandalay Bay to try to see Britt before turning in. Luckily, that magical place we all wind up – Eye Candy – didn’t let me down. There I found Brittany and the JCK/TMG crew, including Jen Heebner, Andrew Hanelly, Britt’s husband Jesse, and my FAVORITE person in the world to annoy…. JCK Senior Editor, Rob Bates.

In my mind, Rob Bates hates me. Does he hate me? Probably not. Does he strongly dislike me? I really have no idea, but it’s fun to think that he does because it makes me do outrageous things to try to get on his nerves. First, I have a *Rob Bates dance* that I do, which is similar to a Roger Rabbit combined with a Cabbage Patch, but all the while I’m singing his name super loudly over and over and over, in the most asinine of ways. “Rooooooob BAAAATES. ROB BAAAAAAATES! Rob Bates. Rob Bates. ROBBBBBBBBBBBBBYYYYYYYY BAAAAAAAAATES.” And all he ever does… I SWEAR TO GOD, and I think it’s why I continue to torture this poor man… is look at me briefly with this confused expression before shaking his head and looking in the other direction. I. Freaking. LOVE his reaction. My goal is to get this guy to just break down and laugh at me… JUST ONCE… and until that days comes, he can consider himself Bates-Bait forevermore.

Raymond Hak said to me on Facebook after our return… “You seriously have too much fun in Vegas, Barb. You should be made to pay some sort of ‘Fun Tax’ or something,” and he was absolutely right. I don’t gamble. I didn’t shop. I don’t get super drunk. But what I do do, is laugh. And man, I did a lot of that in Vegas, which you can read more about in parts one and two of this series, and of course, parts four and five, coming soon.

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip: Part 2 – Russell Simmons and The Book of More Men

One can learn so much from taxi drivers. Often enough they are folks who have lived for years in the cities they travel. They know history, and back roads, and the best places to find some decently priced Thai food. They’re hardworking and no bullsh*t, and I’m the passenger who, like it or not, usually strikes up a conversation with them.

Me: “Mandalay Bay Convention Center, please.”

Disgruntled Cabbie: “You here for da Jewelry Convention?”

Me: “Oh, heavens no. I’m currently writing an erotic coffee table book about the country’s most promiscuous convention attendees. I’m calling it… ‘The Book of More Men: A Lady’s Guide to Multiple Partners at Trade Shows’ and, well, I need to do a little *research* if you (giggles) know what I’m saying…”

Disgruntled Cabbie: “…………………………………………………((crickets))…………………………………………….….”

Me: (clears throat) “Yes, actually. Yes. I’m here for the jewelry convention.”

Disgruntled Cabbie: “Okay, so what you want to do is tell whoevah is drivin’ da cab to not take the strip if you’re gonna be goin’ back and forph between da Wynn and da Mandalay, ya got it? Tell ‘em to take Industrial. Dey gotta take Industrial or else you’re gonna get stuck, ya got it?”

Me: “Okay. I Got it.”

Us: ((silence for a good four minutes))

Me: “So, um, where’s the best place to get cheap Thai food around here?”

DC: “Okay. Here we go, Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Good luck wit dat coffee house thingy. Swipe your card. Have a good show.”

Me: “That’s what I thought.”


When I got to the newly renovated Prestige pavilion, our team was hard at work. The booth, thanks to Jodi, Myriam, and Tatiana, was already looking splendid. Our new West Coast AE, Chris, arrived shortly after I did and we continued to work like busy little bees (pun intended) until the cases were set up and the line was prepared. The countdown to JCK 2014 was officially on, and I had a big event to get to and forty-five minutes to prepare.

Prior to my arrival in Vegas I had received an email from Rio Tinto’s North American VP of Marketing, Brandee Dallow. Brandee asked if I was available to attend the Diamond Empowerment Fund’s “Diamonds in the Sky – Las Vegas” gala at the Four Seasons on Thursday evening, as she would like me to come as the guest of Rio Tinto. After reluctantly clearing my schedule which had been previously filled with “nothing” from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., followed by “boredom” from 7:45 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., I graciously accepted the invitation and then danced around my bedroom like I’d just found out that my real parents were Kennedys.

With short notice and an emptyish wallet, I opted to pack and ultimately wear a tea-length Donna Ricco red halter dress that had been hanging in my closet, unworn, for a year. With ten minutes gone and no time for a disco nap, I did my best impersonation of a refreshed woman who had taken a shower, before heading down the elevator to walk the smoke-filled casino path from THEHotel to the Four Seasons, praying, all the while, that my both my deodorant and my eyelids would hold up.

I had two invitations with me. The first was for the actual event, and the second was a private pre-event for guests of Rio Tinto as well as VIPs. This was cool. I figured I could get there and settle myself in first. You know… relax, make friends. Do what I was comfortable doing… networking. That is, until I started to get closer to the ballroom, and realized that everyone in front of me was either in a tuxedo or a ball gown. Ummmmm, what did I miss here? I’m underdressed! WTF!? I’m NEVER underdressed. Holy crap holy crap holy crap. I can’t turn back now, there are people behind me. People I know! They’ve already seen me. Holy crap, uh, okay. Keep calm. OH, there’s a guy. He looks nice. He’s middle-aged. He’s in a tux, but he seems real. OKAY. HE MADE EYE CONTACT WITH ME. Okay. Okay. I have no choice now. I’ll talk to him. Here I go. I’m going over to this nice man now. Walking over. Here I go. Almost there. Aaaaaaaannnnnnd, speak.

Me: “HI!!!” (That was way too loud, nutcase.) “I mean, hello. Hi. Could you tell me where I need to go for this (shoving what is now a slightly wrinkled laser jet printed invitation into his hand), please?”

part2 dress

Dress by Donna Ricco. Photo by PHOJOPHOTO.

Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman: (smiling. Because OF COURSE HE IS) “Yes, yes, no problem. Just follow those folks right there, and then make the left. The VIP room is the first door.”

Me: (a little more calmly) “Okay. Thanks very much. Thank you. I’m a little nervous.”

Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman: “It’s all good. You’re fine. You’re just fine. Don’t be nervous. Have a good time.”

Me: (Walking away) “Thank you. I really appreciate it.”

(Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk…..walk………walk……walk more slowly…..slowly……. stop…. turn around….. walk back…… walk back…. walk back, walk… back, walk back, walk back, walk back, walk back, walk back… back to the Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman.)

Me: (Whispering) “Hi. Me again. Um… how do I look? Do you think I’m underdressed?”

Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman: (Whispering back) “Not in the least. You look fabulous. Go enjoy.”

And with those words I felt completely at ease in my skin, until, of course, I made the left turn where I was supposed to and almost walked into rap icon and media mogul, Russell Simmons. This… this is going to be a long night. I knew I should have taken a shower.


The room was small and filled wall-to-wall with men. Men in tuxes. Men in suits. American men. African men. Asian men. Indian men. Men of all shapes and sizes, and very few women. I usually like it when I stand out, but the bright red dress and heels I was wearing made me a 6’3” crimson-colored distraction. There was a bit of an E.F. Hutton moment when I first entered the room, and man, I have never felt so out of place in my life. I scoured the pack looking for even the slightest hint of a familiar face, but nothing. I had nothing. So I found a table in the center of the room next to a woman who was clearly a photographer. I felt like I’d be safe there for a moment, at least long enough for me to text to my husband that I almost ran over Russell Simmons.

(texting)

“Babe….. I… wish…. you…. were…. here…. right…… now…. I…. feel…. so…. intimidated…… oh…. and…. Russell…. Simmons….. is….. here….. in…… a…. tux…. why….. did…. you…. let…. me…. wear….. that…. red…. dress…… I…. knew….. I….. should…… have…. gone……. with……”

(interrupted by sudden pain)

Woman Who Stepped On My Foot: “Oh, I’m so sorry. Are you all right?”

Me: “Oh, no, I’m fine. It’s fine. I have big feet. It happens all the time.”

(back to texting)

“…… okay……. Jaime……. King…… just… stepped…. on… my…. foot…. and…….. it…. hurts…. but…. she… apologized…. to….. me…… who…..the…..ef…. am…. I…. right… now……???”

As I finished my text I noticed that the photographer was staring at me, probably because I was the only idiot rude enough to be on my telephone, texting.

Me: “Sorry. I know this is rude. I just was texting my husband to tell him that I’m in the same room with Russell Simmons. You know. A little star struck, I guess.”

Uncle Russ and me. Photo by Patty Long.

Uncle Russ and me. Photo by Patty Long.

Photographer: “I’m not star struck. You want to text your husband a picture of you with Russell?”

And before I had the chance to even respond, she called him over and said “take a picture with this young lady so she can send it to her husband.” Russell graciously obliged, nodded, and carried on with his Simmonsly duties.

Photographer: “Who else you want a picture with? Did you meet Dr. Ben? Dr. Benjamin Chavis, former Executive Director of the NAACP and prominent civil rights leader? Here, let me get him for you. (Calling across the room,) Dr. Ben! Dr. Ben! Come meet this young lady…”

And walking in my direction was none other than the kind-faced Lovely Tuxedoed Gentleman who I had naively asked earlier if I had been underdressed. I was ashamed of myself that I didn’t recognize the man in front of me, but he, because of the type of person he is, didn’t let it bother him. We spoke for a few minutes until he was whisked away to do more important things, and that’s when I decided it was time to mingle amongst the non-VIP’s, as I didn’t think my heart could handle any more.

Craig and number five of his nine tuxedos

Craig and number five of his nine tuxedos

Billy Furman! OH, THANK G-D, that’s Billy Furman! I have never been so happy to see that tiny man in my life. And there’s Mark Smelzer, and Diane Warga-Arias, and, oh, there’s Andrea Hanson, again. And my good buddy, Craig Selimotic Danforth, in a tuxedo, of course… I’m pretty sure he wears them to bed. He must own like nine of them or something. There’s Natalie Bos, I recognize her, and Matthew Tratner, m’kay, that’s cool. AMANDA GIZZI!! She looks gorgeous. Okay, whew, now I feel at home. My people are here. I can breathe once more. Man, I needed these faces. I am thrilled out of my mind to see these faces.

part2 table

Table 17, courtesy of Rio Tinto

By the time I had set my sights on Brandee it was almost time to be formally seated. Since Rio Tinto was one of the three main sponsors of the event, their table was fairly close to the stage. As I walked past many of my friends and colleagues to get to table 17, I could hear Bob Uecker’s voice ringing in my head…

“Oh. I must be in the front rowwww…”

I’ll be honest… it made me laugh to myself. And after one or four scotches, I was feelingly final like I was (hiccup) relaxing down.

Seated to my right was Ben Lewis, Rio Tinto’s Antwerp-based Customer Accounts Manager, and I’m pretty sure that he was strategically put there for my enjoyment because he and I had a buh-last all night. Across from me sat JCK’s Victoria Gomelsky (whaddup, Vic!) as well as Melissa Bernardo, and of course, the lovely Ms. Dallow was seated to my left. The event itself consisted of an awards ceremony wherein the Global Diamond Industry Achievement Award was presented to H.E. President Ian Khama and the Government of the Republic of Botswana. It also had a live auction and concert by none other than Grammy Award-winning artist, Chaka Kahn. The event – the first of its kind on U.S. soil – raised over one million dollars and will benefit the “Diamonds Do Good” mission.

It was an evening that I won’t soon forget, and I am ever grateful to my hosts, Rio Tinto, for allowing me to represent the blogger community at their table. More about Rio Tinto’s “Oculus Rift” technology introduced at JCK will be talked about in an upcoming post, but for right now, I’m going to keep the people stories going before I get into the brand and product posts down the road.

And with this post as well as yesterday’s, the stories of day 1 in Las Vegas come to an end. I ate. I danced. I high-fived Chaka Kahn. I mingled with super models and rubbed elbows with heads of state. I took selfies, met dignitaries, and wore beautiful jewelry by the wonderful GUMUCHIAN. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it, and my wish is for you to stick around longer so that you can see where the rest of the week took me.

Until then…

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip: Part 1 – The Beginning

The great Lewis Carol wrote a line uttered by the King in Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland that read simply this:

“Begin at the beginning… and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

I started and halted writing my first of what might turn out to be several post-Las Vegas blog entries more than once this week. There was so much going on in my brain; so many stories to elaborately tell, yet I couldn’t figure out a way to get the ball rolling in the tone that these pieces deserved. That is, until my four-year old daughter chose Alice in Wonderland as her bedtime movie… then, I knew what had to be done. I needed only to begin where Lewis Carol had suggested was the best place to do so…

the beginning.


Me: “Are you sure there are no window seats available?”

Delta agent: “No ma’am. The flight has been overbooked. You can fly standby on the next flight to Vegas if you really can’t sit in the middle seat, or if you’d prefer, you could…”

Me: (interruptingly) “No. That’s fine. I’ll just take the middle and hope to Jeebus the person next to me gets caught in traffic.”

Delta agent: (snickers) “Well, it is Atlanta. I say your chances are pretty good.” 


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A Room with a View – The Strip from THEHotel

I have no urge to make movies. I mean, I know people who make movies and these are some talented folks (side note: go see Dan Schechter’s “Life of Crime” out in theatres on August 29th), but I doubt it’s a skill I could possess. However, if I were ever to consider writing a screenplay, I’m pretty sure I would make it about the various gates in airports around the country temporarily housing those en route to Las Vegas. It would be written as a series of individual short stories with the characters arriving at McCarran roughly all around the same time. There would be Joe – the childless, three-time divorcee heading out to meet his elementary school buddies and their dads for a weekend filled with strippers and scotch. And Alan – the post-middle-age/pre-elderly gentleman carrying multiple containers of freshly-made Georgia cornbread in the hope of selling his wares to a now booming restaurant city. There’d be Karla – a tanned and toned unnaturally tall blond woman who was in my jewelry security class back in January, and there’d be Anita – the suburban “best girlfriend” mom chaperoning her daughter, Chelsea, and Chelsea’s three cohorts who are all headed to Vegas to celebrate their 21st birthdays. But these characters wouldn’t even scratch the surface, because the flights to Vegas contain the most magnificent walks of life. From transvestites to retirees, my Boeing 757 was like a dollar store can of tuna. Meaning, if you cracked that sucker open, sure, you’re bound to get some actual tuna, but you and I both know that there’s a bunch of other stuff in there that shouldn’t be, and neither one of us is going to try to figure out what that stuff is.

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Segment of Andrew Hanelly’s presentation on content marketing

Finding myself sandwiched between Joe the TTD (three-time divorcee) and Alan the CCC (cornbread container carrier) for the duration of the four-and-a-half hour flight, I thought it would be a good idea to try to get some work done. To my surprise I had a message from Andrew Hanelly, SVP Strategy at McMurry/TMG, asking if he could feature Adornmentality in his JCK seminar on content marketing done right in the jewelry industry.

Andrew: “I’d also love a quote on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to jewelry marketing. Have anything provocative?”

Me: “I can give you a quote but in terms of ‘provocative’ I’m still on the plane to Vegas. I’ll need three hours and three martinis.”

Andrew used this very blog in his section on how evoking emotion and telling stories helps build your audience. The slide consisted of my logo and a screen shot of the piece “How to Not Get Kidnapped” because that title alone is what grabbed hold of most readers. To date, it’s my most clicked-on post, as I explained to Andrew via email from the air. To know my blog would be used as an example was a proud moment for me. That, combined with the genuinely nice conversations I had with my seatmates, as well as a landing that would have earned our pilot a gold medal in the Aerial Olympics, gave me the warm and fuzzies about what the next five days was going to be like.

I had finally arrived in Las Vegas. I was ready. I was determined. I was prepared. But mostly…

I was still martini-less. Bartender!


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Yours truly avec badges. Photo courtesy of Robyn Hawk.

The GUMUCHIAN product wasn’t arriving until 2 p.m., so I specifically took the early flight in order to try to squeeze in an hour or two at the COUTURE show before heading off into the JCK sunset. If you’re an exhibitor you know that we rarely see the sunlight. Jewelry Week is a whirlwind no matter which end of the buying process you’re on, but for me, for the first time, I was also registered as a member of the press. Yup. A MEMBER OF THE PRESS. Me. The thought made me giddy. Don’t believe me? Then check out this photo that Robyn Hawk of The Daily Jewel snapped of me in the press room, clad in badges. I was like a sixteen-year-old who just bought beer with a fake I.D. and got away with it. Look at my face! I don’t exactly know what I thought being in the press room meant other than it was a room I could never get into prior to this trip, but dammit, I was excited to get in there! I could meet up with my friends and mortal enemies fellow jewelry bloggers and we could discuss the current trends or the posterior of that handsome kid from Ritani privately without worrying about some petty little “designer” or “celebrity” hearing us. WE ARE PRESS! WE ARE THE ELITE! WE GET SWAG, B*TCHES! BRING ME MY SWAG!

((WHACK!))

(That was the sound of my conscience snapping me back to reality via a slap across my overly-smiling and pathetically happy face.)

Okay, (ahem) so, back to my experiences…

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The Wynn Casino – heading to COUTURE

I was a Couture show virgin. In all of my years (eighteen!) in this business I had never stepped foot into any other Vegas show besides JCK. But like my earlier post explained, I was over-the-top happy about getting to see what the show was all about and getting to visit with some of my favorite designers. And who do I run into the moment I arrive? None other than the incomparable celebrity style expert, Michael O’Connor, and the incorrigible celebrity aisle expert, Craig Selimotic Danforth. What a perfect way to start this experience. Here stood two incredibly handsome, smiling gentlemen willing to direct me as to where to go, and next to those guys, were my friends Michael and Craig. We kissed. We hugged. We sang Kumbaya. It was weird, and nice, then I realized the clock was ticking, so I left. Off to the Latour/Lafite ballrooms!

Look everybody! It’s WJA president, Andrea Hanson! And there’s adorably pregnant designer Zoë Chicco! Oh, hey Josette from Mark Patterson Jewelry! And OH MY GOD, THAT’S ACTUALLY LYDIA COURTEILLE!! Wait, what? I get to shake your hand and tell you in my worst French imaginable how much your work inspires me and how I love it, or, at least, that’s what I thought I said but maybe I actually told you that my favorite meal is wagons, I don’t really know? I could die. I could just lie down, right here, right on top of Vicente Agor’s cases, right now, and just… freaking… die. WHY DID NO ONE WARN ME OF THE AWESOMENESS OF COUTURE? I blame you, Michelle Orman. You and your “under-the-radar” Couture Musings. You really need to be out there a little more and stop keeping this show such a g-damned secret.

So right after picking up the pieces of my exploded head, I thought it best to rest my feet and quench my thirst with a visit to the Press Lounge, which sadly, I found empty of humans, but filled with other goodies. By “lounge,” of course, I mean “stage”… and by “goodies,” of course, I mean “comfy pillows and power strips.” I will admit it was a little strange to be sitting on a stage in a ballroom while everyone wondered who the heck I was and why I was up there by myself. But, hey, this is Couture, and they do things differently here, and that wedgie didn’t need picking anyway, am I right? If anything it gave some definition to my buttocks, so… up side!

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“The Humble Man” in the flesh, Atelier Minyon salon at Couture

Before leaving to head back to Mandalay Bay, I had the privilege of spending some time with Alp Sagnak of Atelier Minyon and meeting his lovely wife. And yes, I did get to wear “The Humble Man” just as I had hoped, while running into a few fellow jewelry bloggers in the process. I was also fortunate enough to see the CJDG crew including Vicente Agor and the talented Malak Atut from Zaiken Jewelry, and, on my way out, even bumped into my minutes-younger friend, Mark Mazzarese. As far as experiences go, it was a short one at Couture, but it was filled to the brim with both sustenance and joy.

If you came to the end of this first segment expecting tons of pictures of fancy product and cool new designs with carat weights and back stories, then I hope your disappointment isn’t too grand. This series is about my stories from the trip. They’ll be about the connections and the events and the people who were a part of my five days in Sin City. But each segment will be told in a way that you will likely not have read before… and on that promise, you can bet. It is Vegas, after all…

Next segment… the first days at JCK!

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