Trade Show Shenanigans

A Year Without Vegas: Reports, Rumors, and Rumblings heard from Jewelry Week 2017

Every May for the last five years I went through the motions of preparing my mind, spirit, and feet for what was usually a week or more of schmoozing retailers, cozying up to brands, and/or fighting off the occasional handsy old-timer who thought he was above the law because of his name or status in the jewelry industry. And every year I would return from said week exhausted and oftentimes broken, looking for whatever it was I needed to replenish my drive and rebuild my faith in the career decision I made more than two decades ago; a decision I still don’t regret despite its twists, turns, and occasional turmoil.

This year, however, was quite different. For this year, the closest I came to the Venetian was spending time with actual Venetians in the City of Canals in the country of my ancestors; but that doesn’t mean I didn’t hear about Vegas. I certainly heard a whole lot about Vegas, so while this may not be a “Tales from the Strip” in the traditional sense, I’ve decided to call it “Whispers from the West,” as this year seemed to be a kinder, gentler experience for many, many people.

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“Give me your take on this year’s Vegas in five words or less… GO!”

That was the text I sent out to nearly fifty folks in my contacts list, post Vegas shows, in order to get a generalized feel of how the show went for them. This group included store owners, retail salespeople, designers, wholesalers, members of the media, and PR and marketing professionals whom I’ve known for some time and who rarely, if ever, miss a Las Vegas Jewelry Week. Here is just a sampling of the responses I received:

“Change or be changed.” – Sam Jansen, MBM Diamonds

“Quiet yet productive; always fun.” – Shannon Smith Waters, Hale’s Jewelers

“Groundhog Day with some surprises.” – Michael O’Connor, Celebrity Stylist

“Cautious optimism.” – Alexis Padis, Padis Jewelry

“I did not go.” – Ben Simon, Windsor Jewelers

And yet if I had to combine all the declarations in one pot and call it a meal, I’d probably name it Forge Ahead Soup. The overall vibe I received as a non-attendee was a concoction of zeal and hope created from a base of uniformity with a dash of uncertainty thrown in. “It seemed like there was less foot traffic and fewer buyers but the buyers in attendance were focused and wrote orders,” said one attendee who didn’t wish to be named. “Low traffic/high yield” said another, and one relatively new designer I reached out to said that she had experienced her most successful trade show to date. I also had a well-known retailer come back to me with two variations that he said fit the five words or less suggestion: “no one was buying diamonds,” although there were “price points for today’s economy,” which despite his usually fearful outlook, he accepted as a positive.

Other statements made by a handful of industry veterans I spoke with had to do with the designs on display. While the artistic and often complex level of jewelry creations seems to have reached an all-time high, some retailers are concerned that their buyers aren’t ready for inventive fine jewelry that may not translate well to either their younger buyers who have smaller budgets, or to their conservative customers who may not understand the artistry/price ratio. “There are so many gorgeous designs out there right now,” said one retailer I contacted who has a store in the south, “however, I always have to ask myself… ‘is it sellable? Can my team sell this?’”

But, Las Vegas Jewelry Week isn’t just for new jewelry and gemstone buyers, manufacturers, and sellers, thanks to the focus that has been paid to watches by both the COUTURE show and JCK in the last couple of years. And while Swiss watch exports saw a slight decline (-1.1%) in May in the United States, according to a report by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH, on average, the industry has seen a worldwide increase in their numbers. This year shows a 9% growth from May of 2016. That is good news for brands and boutiques alike, and with more and more companies pulling out of Baselworld for a variety of reasons, those folks running the watch shows in Vegas may have unknowingly found themselves with an opportunity unlike any our industry has been familiar with in the past.

With all this being said, and with all that I learned and heard about the business side of Jewelry Week in Sin City this year, there was and still is the feeling that something was missing.

Oh, that’s right…

Me.

Here are five more words to sum up Vegas according to John Carter of Jack Lewis Jewelers:

“No Palumbo equals no fun.”

That’s not to say that I didn’t do my fair share of drinking during my plethora of visits to wineries across Italy, but come on, we all know that sipping a pour from a two-hundred-dollar bottle of Super Tuscan in the cellar of a 300-year-old winery doesn’t come with quite the same excitement stigma as slamming a shot of whiskey you accepted from someone you may or may not have known, at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of Eye Candy’s dance floor while sweating through your Spanx, now does it? And while both are experiences that – combined – will eventually make up the story of my life (as written by a yet-to-be-discovered, best-selling murder-mystery novelist… you’ll see), it is times like the latter situation that make for the most interesting stories in the end.

Here – in no particular order – are some of the events and occurrences that either happened during past Jewelry Weeks, or that may have happened at this one, which made my missing out all the more difficult:

  • High-fiving Chaka Khan during her performance of “I’m Every Woman”
  • Duck-facing with WJA Awards for Excellence Nominee, Wendy Brandes
  • Hating Michael Schechter
  • Running a 5K for charity, past prostitutes at 6:00 a.m. on Las Vegas Boulevard
  • Spending way too much money on the shittiest martini I’ve ever had
  • Eating M&M’s for lunch and knowing that’s the only nutrition I’ll get all day
  • #TallGirlClub
  • Being recognized as either “that blogger” or “that blogger who throws alcohol to the crowd during speaking engagements”
  • A concert in a pool
  • Any night with any member of the Asscher family
  • Liking Michael Schechter again
  • Struggling to get proper lighting for watch shots
  • #OriginalVegasGems
  • Taking a full glass of Scotch into the cab and knowing no one would have a problem with that
  • The Oris Party
  • Glow-in-the-dark phallic symbols
  • Bobby’s Burger Palace
  • Visiting my AGTA FAM (looking at you, Bindra clan)
  • Partying with my AGS YTH FAM
  • Hanging out with my WJA FAM
  • Having dinner with my actual FAM FAM (because my Uncle lives in Vegas)
  • Seventeen-dollar Starbucks cappuccinos
  • Sharks, and I’m not talking about the ones at Mandalay Bay
  • Singing frogs, dancing fountains, gambling celebrities
  • Wondering if my feet can make it another four days

Here’s hoping that those of you I haven’t spoken with who did attend Jewelry Week this year had a wonderfully successful show, in whatever way that means and whichever way that occurred.

Let’s hear it for cautious optimism.

Let’s hear it for forging ahead.

Let’s hear it for watches and jewelry.

Let’s hear it… for Las Vegas.

 

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Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART FIVE: Le Gemmes de Vegas Trois/Raising the Bar (Which Was Closed)

What night in Vegas am I on? Friday? Friday. Yeah, I think Friday.

For the last three years, a group of women with some connection to the written word has gathered in Vegas for what we call our annual #VegasGems get together. Our organizer, from moment one, has always been designer and blogger, Shamila Jiwa, and this year was no exception. Shamila came up with the idea that instead of starving ourselves in front of an animated, oversized reptile like we’d done the two years prior, we should instead sit down and do this thing called “aet.” No wait, “e-e-t” I think it’s spelled. Wait, maybe it’s “e-a-t.” Yeah, EAT. That looks right. It’s a foreign concept to most of us during Jewelry Week so we all agreed to try it out both out of curiosity and in the spirit of adventure seeking. And boy, oh boy, what a treat!

#VegasGems Take Jaleo! Photo by Brittany Siminitz

#VegasGems Take Jaleo! Photo by Brittany Siminitz

Little by little we arrived at our destination, skipping this year’s COUTURE awards in order to keep the tradition going. Shamila had made reservations at JALEO at the Cosmopolitan and assured us we’d have the best seat in the house.

I could continue this story by doing a roll call of names of those who are part of our Vegas Gems group, but this year, after the years of having shared many experiences with these women individually, I’m going to give you a breakdown of who they are, as well as who they are to me, starting at the top, with my mentor-in-chief.

Peggy Jo Donohue – Yes, her résumé in the jewelry industry and in the writing world is long and impressive, but it’s who she is when she’s not broken down on paper that’s special to each of us in attendance. There is no greater cheerleader of your life than Peggy Jo Donohue, but there’s also no better person to sit your ass down and make you take a long, deep breath. Many a ledge has been avoided in my life because of her, and with a new gig on the horizon, it was fascinating to be seated alongside PJD for a large part of the night. Cheers, my friend!

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I’ve lost count of how many of these we have now

Wendy Brandes – Writer turned designer (yet still a writer) turned duckface maker, Wendy Brandes, adds a unique layer of fabulousness to our group gatherings. Always dressed in something remarkable, up to and including her beautiful jewels, Wendy’s stories of rap concerts, famous people, kinky couples, and Paul McCartney have us transfixed in amazement and green with envy. When she gets going, it’s as if someone mentioned “bomb” on an airplane, as in, no one makes a sound, clenching their butt cheeks, waiting for the bass to drop. I adore you, WB. May we never not duckface together ever.

Brittany Siminitz – If Paul Rudd’s ANT MAN suit was real, and I could find it, steal it, and make this JCK Marketplace Manager wear that shit, I would. I would make her put it on and shrink herself so that she could climb into my pocket or my wallet or my lipstick holder and be with me all day long, every day. Then I’d make her life size again whenever I needed my Brittany fix. It’s a dream, but what is life without dreams, right? Brittany is truly an underrated yet extremely gifted writer, but beyond that she’s genuine, and positive, and a joy to be around. PLUS, it was her birthday, so, double awesomeness.

Shamila Jiwa – OHHHHHHHHHH, how I LOOOOOOVE me some Shamila Jiwa! Shamila is so tiny that she doesn’t need Paul Rudd’s Ant Man suit to slip into my pocket, but she did claim that it was a little tight in there, prompting me to go paleo ever since. Shamila is a talented jewelry designer, wonderful writer, hilarious storyteller, and all around awesome human being. I also recently got to spend some time with her, one-on-one, during her summer trip to Atlanta, which is hard to do in Vegas even when you’re out on VG night. Shamila, thanks so much for eternally being the organizer of this. Love you to bits!

Cheryl Kremkow – I’ve always been in awe of Cheryl Kremkow’s ability to spot a pair of earrings or a necklace from a mile away and know who the designer was immediately. Ever follow her live tweets at red carpet events? You should. It’s mesmerizing. Cheryl is inspiring and even more importantly, she’s greatly experienced in the written jewelry word and so when she speaks, I listen, and when she writes, I read. She’s a blessing to every jewelry blogger who exists right now, and her support of me and what I do is so very much appreciated. Thank you, CK. Muah muah muah.

Erika Winters – This one, oh I could just smoosh her face, it’s so damn pretty. Erika has genuinely found her calling as a jewelry designer and we #Gems could not be prouder of her. Her gorgeous engagement ring and wedding band lines and the even more beautiful images of each that she takes herself have a social media following all on their own. She still writes on her blog which can be found on her website and still manages to tackle other genres in the creative world, daily. To me, however, she’s simply my good friend who I’d be happy for regardless of what she was doing. And I’m very happy, Erika. Extremely.

Monica Stephenson – The recent WJA award winner for Excellence in Editorial Media should probably get her own table next year so that the multitude of fans who will want her autograph will have a place to sit. It’s okay. We know what’s up. We’ll just yell the jokes across the room to her and have the champagne brought over on the back of That Kid From Ritani. She’ll still have fun. We promise. All kidding aside, I am so very proud of this woman who I love with the wholeness of my heart and I’m thrilled I got to spend so much time with her this year on a week that is usually sporadic and batshit crazy. I bow down, OH QUEEN! May you reign in this industry for years and years to come!

So, now that you know a bit more about each Vegas Gem (other than me, since, my life is obviously an open book) I will go ahead and get into the night a little, cool? Cool.

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Omi Gems Party. NAT!!

We were at dinner FOR-EV-ER. I mean it, I’m pretty sure we were into our third or maybe fourth hour and sixth bottle of wine by the time Jen Heebner and Tanya Dukes arrived (which, by-the-way, brought the *awesome writer* vibe to “danger zone” levels).

We shared glorious latin-inspired tapas and sank a good amount of wine, all while giggling like University of Alabama sorority girls and bitching about what is wrong with our industry. We talked gems and sex and food and travel and sex and wine and mining and sex. Or maybe that was just me talking about sex. Or maybe I was only thinking about it but wasn’t really talking about it. I can’t really remember because wine. I do reminder talking about wine. Or I guess I could have just been drinking it while thinking about it. Wine that is. And sex.

I’m thirsty all of a sudden.

OH, I do recall that I finally got to spend some real time with Jessica Neiwert, however. And I had no idea that Charlie Herner of The Rephinery was her boyfriend, so, total bonus! This a JEWELRY POWER COUPLE, yo! Seriously, keep these two names on your radar and watch them become something magical in this world. I’m betting my next three paychecks on that happening, that’s how confident I am that it will. (Shoutout to Erika’s husband Peter, too!)

As the night was winding down (to Jennifer Dawes, we’re so sorry we missed your gathering!) we realized that several of us had been invited to the OMI GEMS birthday party at The Wynn. We gathered our things and headed through the Cosmo toward the exit, with our fearless long-legged leader clearing a path for the rest of us to follow.

I loathe the Cosmopolitan. It’s like amateur night in that place. Everything one can hate about Vegas is usually walking stumbling drunkenly through the corridors of that godforsaken casino. As our large group tried our best to form a double-file line toward the exit, a cumulus-cloud-sized gathering of gentlemen idiots holding beer bottles and wearing baseball caps headed in our direction. One particularly beefy guy, not paying attention as he was oogling the breasts that were headed up the escalator, slammed full force into my left shoulder, knocking me off balance, as I exclaimed, “OW! Are you serious, dude?”

His beer muscles kicked in, of course, because knocking a woman over is *totally* when they should…

“YEAH, I’M F*CKING SERIOUS, ARE YOU??”

But before the twenty-two-year-old Philly girl living inside of me was able to cock her fist back and land it on his disgusting face, two hands grabbed by shoulders, moved me out of the way, and yelled “Yeah, we’re serious too, asshole!” To which he replied by walking away.

Look, there’s only one other person I know who’s crazy enough to welcome confrontation, but I’m not going to say who that woman is. I’ll only state that her name may or may not rhyme with Shmeggy Flo Clonoughugh, but I can’t say for certain.

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A picture of a picture of us piled into the limo

After seeing that the cab line was as long as the guy who knocked me down’s monthly phone sex charges, Monica disappeared for a moment only to return with a big, black… limo. (Gotcha!) Half of us piled in (and on one another) and we headed toward to Wynn hoping we could arrive at the Omi party in time to celebrate with even more awesome jewelry industry people.

The event was nearly over when we walked in, but we were still able to chill out with Natalie, Niveet, Mando, and many other folks who had been invited to one of the week’s best parties. It was a great way to end our annual group dinner and before long, I called it a night and headed up to my room.

Thanks, my crew, for such a memorable evening. And we really missed you Jessica and Katrina! I look forward to this every year and hope it never stops.

Next up, the last leg of the journey.

Until…

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#jewelrypeople, Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART TWO (b): The Password is “Miami”

Him: (Flustered) “You can’t wear that shirt.”

Me: “WHAT?? Why not? I’m not on the show floor. Myriam said I could even wear midriffs as long as it wasn’t during show hours.”

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Matty and me. I wore the shirt.

Him: (Looking down at my… um… *shirt*) “You just… (now, blushing) you can’t wear that.”

Me: “Hey, after two kids, I’m proud of these suckers (no pun intended). I’m wearing it.”

The above conversation was between my co-worker, Chris, and me, right before we stepped out for the evening on the first night we arrived in Vegas. Let me give you a little back story on him and us, though…

Chris is my twenty-four-year-old colleague, friend, accessory, and sometimes confidant. Over the last year we’ve worked together, we’ve developed a fantastic relationship. Mind you, I’m eighteen years his senior, so it’s sometimes like an “older aunt to younger step-nephew” relationship, but he’s a funny guy and he’s new to the industry, so he’s not jaded like so many seasoned salesmen I know.

I can pretty much guarantee that on any given night I’m going to get a text from Chris with a picture of him at the pool, or him on a golf course, or him with a hot woman, or him saying “I just made a $50,000 sale!” or him exclaiming “NEW YORK IN FIVE WEEKS, BABBBBYYYYYYYY…. YEAHHHHHHH!” Never once am I annoyed, or disappointed, or bothered. I like Chris in my life. He keeps me young, but if I’m being completely honest, he’s not the only one of his kind who does.

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Christopher and I headed to Parasol Up to grab a drink before I was to head out for a “gals only” dinner at Giada De Laurentiis’ new restaurant at the Cromwell. A quick visit to Parasol Down to check out the scenery led to a run-in with Neiman Marcus’ Larry Pelzel, as well as my personal faves, the beautiful and personable Lita and Mike Asscher.

“You really do know everybody,” Chris said to me, and as I turned and winked at him I said… “My love, you have *no* idea…”

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Handsome Sam. Where’s your wallet?

As we hopped the escalator to head back up, we saw the frighteningly gorgeous Sam Jansen (it’s true; I’m actually afraid of him, he’s so damned good looking) while also running into beautiful Rebecca Boyajian, who coincidentally, was part of the group of women I’d be joining for dinner. The four of us grabbed a spot at the bar and ordered our drinks – two Proseccos for the ladies, and two whatevers for the gentlemen (I don’t really pay attention when men speak. Sorry. It’s the “manly” side of me.) What I did realize, however, was that the bartender thought we were a bunch of dipshit millennials (clearly the guy didn’t spot my grays) and tried charging us SEVENTY DOLLARS for the Proseccos. Dude… this is when I gained a whole new respect for Chris Matty. Before I could open my mouth, Chris went BATSHIT on the asshole man for clearly trying to take advantage of us, so as I went to take my first sip of bubbly, the bartender literally took the glass out of my mouth.

Good times.

Once the four of us finished our spirits (and Sam realized he had misplaced his wallet… OOPS!) Rebecca and I headed off in a cab to join our WJA sisters for dinner.

Upon our arrival we were greeted by our host, Brandee, and took our place at a fittingly round table with a fabulous view of the Strip. Brandee almost immediately turned to me and said: “You realize you’re not allowed to blog about any of the conversations that happen here tonight, right?” To which I replied, “I can only make that promise if you and everyone here says that whatever they say is ‘off the record.’”

Brandee (without skipping a beat): “Off the record.”

Des: “Off the record.”

Fran: “Off the record.”

Monica: “Off the record.”

Rebecca: “Off the record.”

Kristie: “Off the record.”

Me: (In my mind) “Y’all suuuuuuuuuck so badly.”

So, that’s pretty much all I can share about the dinner. Can you believe how stupid I am? I gave them the out and they took it and I can’t share a damn thing. I hate me.

OH! I will say this, though, since it’s super important to the rest of the story. As the dinner was ending, Brandee went ahead and checked her phone and said, “Okay, so, we’re going to a speakeasy now, is that cool with everybody?”

For me, she may as well have said, “Hey, I’ve got these five trash bags filled with hundred dollar bills, chocolate, and naked pictures of Paul Rudd that I don’t know what to do with. Can you help me by taking some of them?”

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The Speakeasy.

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Brunettes for days. Photo courtesy of Jen Cullen Williams.

As we waited for taxis to arrive, I began a texting frenzy to a couple of my twenty-something male cohorts to try to get them to meet up with us there.

“Okay, so, a bunch of my middle-aged smokin’ hot friends and I are headed to a burlesque venue called ‘1923’ at the back of Mandalay Bay. It would be nice if we had some eye candy for a change.”

“No, we’re not going to Eye Candy.”

“Yes, I know that’s also at Mandalay Bay.”

“Christ, do you want to go or not?”

“Okay, it’s called ‘1923’ and when you get there, the password is ‘Miami.’”

“Yes, you need a password.”

“Yes, I’m dead serious.”

“Yes, I know you love Vegas.”

“It’s burlesque, not a strip club.”

“You really need to get out more, man.”

And so it was that as our group walked up to the bar and gave the doorman our password, a bookshelf became a hidden passageway into a dimly-lit room with go-go dancers and hipster bartenders. There were people everywhere – three deep at the bar, yet whose was the scruffily-bearded, English face I saw first in the crowd?

“BABS IS HERE!”

Voila. Instant eye candy. Thank you, oh, thank you, you wonderful speakeasy gods.

What… a… CROWD! The jewelry industry’s best and brightest apparently all got the memo – or at least, got the password. Amanda Gizzi, and Jen Cullen Williams, and MY FRIENDS FROM HALE’S and Danny Chandler, too! Lecil and the Henderson crew were there, as was Ron Saltiel, and, no surprise, Raymond Hak. There were beautiful performers (that brunette?! Wowsa.) and the drinks were free as long as you tipped your servers. I felt like I had died and gone to single-malt-scotch heaven, down to when my eyes caught Lucking and Chris Matty doing the bump for a small audience of women.

I FREAKING love this job.

After a couple of brown liquors and an inappropriate offer or two from a handful of overly excited patrons, I decided it was time to get my arse in a car and head back up the Strip to the Wynn. I slipped out of the side door and headed for an exit, walking past the Eye Candy bar and hesitating for a split second on whether or not I should peek in… “Naaaaah. Nothing could make this night any better” I thought, so off I went into the neon madness, with not much more than the next day’s events on my mind.

Tune in to Part THREE to check out how the opening day of the COUTURE show went and what really went on at the “Power of Blogging” panel! (Spoiler alert: no one was maimed but blood was definitely spilled.)

 

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#jewelrypeople, Trade Show Shenanigans

Tales From the Strip 2015, PART ONE: “She Came In Like a Wrecking Ball”

The time has come, y’all…

I toyed around with several different titles for the first post in this year’s “TFtS” series, and thought I had narrowed it down to the following:

“Tales from the Strip, 2015: Speakeasies, Speeches, and Everything In Between”

“Tales from the Strip, 2015: How to Throw Scotch and Sharp Objects At Innocent People”

“Tales from the Strip, 2015: The Devil Wears Whitestrips”

Then, my friend Jen Cullen Williams, without realizing it, gave me the perfect title, because goddammit, it’s true… “She Came In Like a Wrecking Ball”… and of course, she was referring to me.

For those who may not know, I’m a bit of a mess. Well, not always… I mean, even with my crappy upbringing on the streets of inner-city Philly, and my newfound reputation as an industry “troublemaker” and “controversial blogger” (I mean, really???), I can promise you that I likely still have better table manners and more decorum than even the darlingest of industry darlings out there. But, there is the fact that when I walk into a room, everyone is aware of it – usually because I’ve knocked over a plant with a loud crash – which is precisely where Jen’s “Wrecking Ball” reference comes from.

My Vegas experience started long before I ever stepped foot on that Delta jetliner heading west. I spent weeks scheduling appointments with my Gumuchian customers as well as preparing a presentation for the JCK Talks blogger panel I was asked to take part in. But I was excited for all of it – every bit. This was to be my first time ever as a COUTURE exhibitor, as well as my first experience taking part on a panel during Jewelry Week. I was stoked, and even though I was informed that “several people questioned” my place on the blogger panel prior to it ever occurring, I was confident, prepared, and determined to make the people in attendance remember who Adornmentality was (if they didn’t already know) and, for all the right reasons. Indeed, my friends… I Came In Like a Wrecking Ball… and I’m not ashamed to admit it. More on how the panel went will be written about in an upcoming tale.

Vegas Shoes

#VegasShoes, or, as I call it, the reason my luggage broke.

For now, let’s take this experience all the way back to the beginning, shall we? And by beginning, I mean the shoes. If you’re a reader, friend, or fan, you know that I’m referencing the #VegasShoes hashtag that had everyone from Peggy Jo Donahue (and her black Reebok sneakers) to John Carter (and his three pairs of man shoes) instagramming what type of footwear (and how many of them) they’d be transporting to Sin City. As for me, I went with fourteen pairs of heels and one pair of flats because I don’t intend on being able to walk without a cane past the age of forty-six. Am I an idiot? Naturally. But I’m a tall idiot with killer calves and tight buttocks and I intend on living in the present, so, whatevs.

Now, the downside to packing the left half of the shoe department from Neiman Marcus in my luggage is the cost. Meaning, I stepped up to curbside check-in, put my bag on the scale, and had to perform CPR on the Skycap because he had heart failure after laughing so hard. Don’t worry, he was totally hot and it was worth it. I mean, don’t worry, he survived after multiple attempts. (Did I actually type that first part? I meant to think it.) Thankfully, I’m a professional packer, so I pack an extra bag in my bag, allowing me to remove the *several* extra pounds and to walk away, fee and carry-on bag free. GoooooooOOOoooooOOOOo Medallion Miles!

Corn Porn

Corn Porn? WTF, Hartsfield-Jackson?

At the gate, just past the phallic-looking and clearly excited corn sculpture, I ran into my wonderful friend Rachel Jackson from The Knot. Rach helped me with a quote for that day’s Fifty Women of Jewelry pick, which just happened to be our colleague, the uber-talented Erica Courtney. Rach is my homegirl. We’re about the same age (I’m older [weeping on my keys] by a few years) but we’re both of Italian descent and totally get one another when it comes to how we deal with morons people and why we don’t put up with the bullshit that this industry can sometimes dish out. Rach had a first-class ticket (because, have you met her? I mean, obvs) and I, naturally, was seated back in crap class. But because she’s Rach, and because she’s the raddest of rads, she smuggled food to me. I mean, we’re Italian. Smuggling food is a national pastime. Ever been to an Italian baby shower? Yeah, you should totally hire security to check our EXTREMELY OVERSIZED handbags at those things… in them there are definitely about two dozen mini cannoli and a pair of fancy salt and pepper shakers that we swiped from the restaurant. We Italians stick together, too. (TAKE NOTE OF THAT, READERS. THERE ARE LOTS OF US.) (But please don’t take that as threatening.) (Not true… I have to say that for legal reasons, but you should definitely take it as threatening.) (P.S. I’m in the mafia.) (P.P.S. That’s not true. Or is it?) Where in the f*ck am I going with this story? OH! THE PLANE, BOSS! THE PLANE!

After an uneventful flight and getting my bags in a timely manner, I walked outside of McCrappen McCarran airport and through the cigarette-smoke-filled haze to the taxi stand line, which, without exaggeration, already had about four or five trillion people in it (I counted). As I moved around the cattle chute with my seventy-pound bag of shoes in tow, I saw a plethora of familiar faces that I was sure I’d likely see again at some point, yet as I nevertheless went to say hello to one of them in particular, I noticed that my bag suddenly became much, much, MUCH lighter.

I was afraid to turn around as I was sure that whatever had just occurred was going to cost me even more money than I had already spent on this trip that hadn’t technically begun yet. And, naturally, I was correct. The weight of the bag – the BRAND NEW Samsonite Bag, mind you – had caused the body of it to pull away from its handle, smashing it to the ground while making the retractable handle itself snap off, sending the springs flying into Las Vegas oblivion. “She came in like a wrrrrrrecking baaaaaall… “

And all I could think was, “for the love of big baby Jesus, please… please don’t tell me that the week is starting off this way…”

But it did, and frankly, that’s cool, because that was probably the worst thing that happened all week.

because fun

People love me so much it hurts, just ask Roger Dery who bled because of this pin I gave to him.

The cab ride to the Wynn was amazing. Whoa, wait… HAVE YOU EVER HEARD THAT SENTENCE UTTERED IN YOUR LIFE? The cab ride was amazing, Barbara?? Seriously? What the hell could make a cab ride amazing? It’s a CAB RIDE! The driver would have to have had flying squirrels in batman suits jump out of the glove compartment and give me a back massage and pedicure in order for me to describe it that way, right? I mean, you know me, and I don’t just give “amazing” away for anything. It has to be truly special. But, in reality, it really was. My driver’s name was Jorge, and he was so kind and empathetic and left me with such a good feeling about how the rest of the week was going to go. Jorge had lived in Vegas for over twenty years after moving there from Mexico City. He shared these detailed stories with me about how the city is changing every day and about how this week was going to be “my week”… and that the broken luggage would be the worst part. He said, “Vegas is your best friend, Miss. I promise you. It’s going to be there for you this week. This is a little bump. You’re going to have the week of your life. Trust Jorge. I am never wrong. I know my Vegas. You’re going to shine this week. Look at you. You’re shining now, Miss. You’re as bright as the strip at night. You’re a diamond. Trust Jorge. A diamond.”

While what Jorge said was likely a ploy to get a good tip (and he got one), I felt it in my bones. The man called me a diamond, for Pietro’s sake. He had no idea what business I was in. It was a sign! This was going to be the best Vegas week yet, from a professional and personal standpoint, and I could feel that he would be spot on. If you’re out there, Jorge, and you’re reading this, yo soy un diamante! Estás en lo correcto, Jorge! YO SOY UN DIAMANTE!

I’ll end this first tale there as it will serve as a good start to how the rest of the tales will go.

Tune in to the next installment to read about the first night in Vegas, which may or may not feature a bunch of middle-aged women, kissing Michael O’Connor and practically getting him pregnant, a speakeasy, a burlesque show, and “that kid from Ritani…”

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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.” 


tales - begas

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.

andrew

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!


tales - press

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…

tales - wynn

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!

tales - humble

“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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