The Sad State Of American Manufacturing

Maybe it’s not slave labor in the traditional 19th Century America sense, but it’s the 21st Century equivalent.

There was a long article in Sunday’s New York Times, “How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work.” It’s pretty sad because it’s really about manufacturing in general and our inability to compete in the world market.

Since the story was published I’ve seen some references to the ability of foreign companies to be flexible–turn on a dime to fit changing production needs–as the story’s takeaway.

“The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.”

Red herring! Aggregating vendors around a production center could happen if American manufacturers wanted it. Unfortunately few really want to manufacture here.

Here’s why we’re losing business. Americans aren’t willing to set our way of life back 100 years. Take this story of Apple’s production change for iPhone glass screens:

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

Americans don’t want to compete if competing means living in dorms, eight strangers to a room while making pennies an hour! Maybe it’s not slave labor in the traditional 19th Century America sense, but it’s the 21st Century equivalent.

We (and by we I include me) encourage this race to the bottom by buying totally on price. I am morally disturbed every time I think of it, but I have no idea what to do.

I make the situation worse with each piece of Chinese produced electronics I buy. Without the Chinese today there is nothing.

How sad.

The New York Times Gets “Punk’d” By The Onion

The New York Times has joined the worldwide list of publications fooled by The Onion! That’s what happens when your satire is firmly based on the truth!

Kudos to Mediate for catching this one. The New York Times has joined the worldwide list of publications fooled by The Onion! That’s what happens when your satire is firmly based on the truth!

A series of pictures last Sunday of covers of the magazine Tiger Beat, with an article about how the original teen-girl tabloid has remained virtually unchanged since its inception in 1965, erroneously included a parody cover, produced by the satiric newspaper The Onion, that featured a picture of President Obama.

I should mention, Mediate has become a daily stop for me. If you enjoy reading about the media this is the place to go.

Richard Blumenthal’s Vietnam

Tall, thin, each remaining hair strand placed for maximum effect, he seems the consummate nerd–a guy too straight to be corrupted by politics.

My Facebook friends are incensed. After I posted a link they commented in droves. I am incensed too after tonight’s New York Times revelation about senatorial candidate Richard Blumenthal:

[W]hat is striking about Mr. Blumenthal’s record is the contrast between the many steps he took that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, and the misleading way he often speaks about that period of his life now, especially when he is speaking at veterans’ ceremonies or other patriotic events.

Sometimes his remarks have been plainly untrue, as in his speech to the group in Norwalk. At other times, he has used more ambiguous language, but the impression left on audiences can be similar.

I know Dick Blumenthal a little because he shows up at so many public events I’m at… certainly more than any other politician in Connecticut. No one else even comes close. If there’s such a thing as a ‘retail politician’ it is Richard Blumenthal.

Tall, thin, each remaining hair strand placed for maximum effect, he seems the consummate nerd–a guy too straight to be corrupted by politics. He avoided running for higher office until Chris Dodd announced he’d vacate his seat.

Let’s cut to the quick. We all exaggerate from time-to-time. Blumenthal is accused of lying. There’s no other way to interpret what he said versus what the Times uncovered.

It’s not just the lying. It’s that he lied about service in Vietnam.

Unless you were around you may not realize the level of anger Vietnam produced. Hawks and doves regularly fought it out. Usually it was verbal. Sometimes it was worse.

Returning Viet Vets were harangued and vilified. It must have been difficult for a soldier returning from ‘Nam to admit where he’d been.

When the hate and mistrust diminished and things cooled down it became obvious the soldiers in Vietnam, though the most visible symbol of the war, were not the cause or guilty party. They shouldn’t have been the target of scorn. Many of the soldiers were draftees and in Southeast Asia against their will.

Back then I tried very hard to keep my upset focused on the government. Was I successful in doing that 100% of the time? Hopefully, but I can’t say for sure.

By claiming to be a Vietnam Vet Blumenthal traded on the guilt many of us still feel about that era.

Tonight I feel hurt and cheated. I am disappointed in a man I thought I could trust.

Advice From Gabe Pressman

I’m not sure how much reporting he still does now in his late eighties, but he did say one thing that’s incredibly good advice for all reporters. Maybe it’s common knowledge and I’ve just missed it.

The New York Times profiled Gabe Pressman in yesterday’s paper. He’s been on Channel 4 since I was four years old!

I remember a few years ago seeing video film of Jackie Robinson as he broke into Major League Baseball. The editor cut to a b-roll shot of the reporter. It was Gabe. He hasn’t missed much.

While looking for a photo to accompany this entry I found him with Malcom X, Elvis Presley and then presidential candidate Senator Eugene McCarthy. That was just on the first page of results!

I’m not sure how much reporting Gabe still does now that he’s in his late eighties, but he did say one thing that’s incredibly good advice for all reporters. Maybe it’s common knowledge and I’ve just missed it.

I’ve always made sure to try to get politicians’ cellphone numbers during campaigns when they want to talk to you, so I could have them later when they might not want to talk and were otherwise unreachable.

And they say experience doesn’t count? Please.

With TV and news in general changing it’s safe to say there will never be another Gabe Pressman. Shame.

Rupert Murdoch From Both Sides Of His Mouth

Murdoch blames the search engines, but the truth is the entire business model for advertiser supported information is broken.

My friend Farrell forwarded an article from Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News:

Rupert Murdoch has warned internet search engines the time has come for them to pay for news content.

The News Corp chief executive said sites such as Google and Yahoo, which take content from a range of sources, would soon be charged for the service.

This is totally within Murdoch’s right and if he wants to put his content behind a paywall he should. The New York Times used to do this with much of their exclusive content, like columnists, but later relented.

If taken at his word, Murdoch could implement a change to cut off search engines now.

To stop search engines from indexing your site you simply add a tiny text file to the root directory. It’s beyond simple and can be totally accomplished with one line of code. The Journal, or any news site, could do that in a few minutes.

Not only is that not what Murdoch’s doing–he is doing the opposite!

If you go to the Wall Street Journal site you’ll find many (not all) stories run for a few paragraphs and then stop with “…” Here’s an example I found in a link from the Journal’s home page:

As of July, nearly 90% of U.S. households paid for television either from cable, satellite or phone companies rather …

It’s obvious the story continues, but it only continues for subscribers.

However, if you enter that same sentence fragment into Google you get a link to the full Journal story!

As of July, nearly 90% of U.S. households paid for television either from cable, satellite or phone companies rather than getting it free from broadcast stations, according to Nielsen.

The Google link and the direct link from WSJ’s home page produce the same URL link. I believe WSJ’s website is configured to deliver the full content when the referrer is Google or Yahoo!, etc.&#185

The URL for the Sky News story I quoted at the beginning of this post is optimized to make it more visible to search engines. Many of the story’s key words are embedded in it: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/Business/News-Corp-Chief-Executive-Rupert-Murdoch-Tells-World-Media-Summit-Search-Engines-Must-Pay-For-News/Article/200910215402865?lpos=Business_First_Buisness_Article_Teaser_Region_0&lid=ARTICLE_15402865_News_Corp_Chief_Executive_Rupert_Murdoch_Tells_World_Media_Summit_Search_Engines_Must_Pay_For_News_.

The Journal and Sky probably do this because search engines drive traffic to their sites. Without the search engines wsj.com and sky.com would see a lot fewer hits. They are making money from those hits–though certainly not as much as they want nor probably not enough to survive in their current business model.

Murdoch blames the search engines, but the truth is the entire business model for advertiser supported information is broken. The type of journalism the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other ‘classic’ news sources provide is dependent on selling high cost advertising.

Unfortunately, the same eyeball on the net is worth a lot less than in the paper or on TV. It’s a matter of supply and demand. The Internet has opened up the supply so there’s nearly an infinite number of places to run your ad.

Murdoch will grouse and yell and flail like the bully he’s always been–but he’s screwed and he knows it. He’s not in that boat alone. Mass media as we know it is terribly ill.

&#185 – My research on this is less than voluminous. How they do it isn’t as important as the fact they do it.

More Mountaineering

I felt great! Not just a little good, I felt really great. My head was clear and sharp. It was as if a film of dullness had been lifted from me.

“I don’t think this is getting easier,” were Helaine’s words as we approached the halfway point in our march upward. I was huffing and puffing too much to respond.

The trail is wide enough that a car could fit… if it was allowed up there. You’re walking through a forest, so there’s little direct sunlight that hits the trail itself. That makes summer walks a little easier to handle.

Nearly all of the trail we walk is on an incline. It has to be. In the 1.6 miles to the top, you’re gaining nearly 700 feet.

“They’ve tilted the Earth, haven’t they,” I asked? “It’s steeper than it was last week.”

Today, for the first time this season, I made the trip in one fell swoop. There was no stopping for a sip of water on a convenient boulder at the midway point. My hair was matted and sweaty under my New York Times hat (a Father’s Day gift) as we got to the stone castle at the summit, but we got there.

It’s a good thing this is Sleeping Giant Mountain and not Sleeping Giant Canyon. Who’d do it if the uphill part was last!

We got home, I took a shower and got ready for work. And then, a wonderful thing happened. I felt great! Not just a little good, I felt really great. My head was clear and sharp. It was as if a film of dullness had been lifted from me. I think the mountain hike is responsible.

Is it possible our walking has brought me a runner’s high?

From Wikipedia: Another widely publicized effect of endorphin production is the so-called “runner’s high”, which is said to occur when strenuous exercise takes a person over a threshold that activates endorphin production. Endorphins are released during long, continuous workouts, when the level of intensity is between moderate and high, and breathing is difficult. This also corresponds with the time that muscles use up their stored glycogen. Workouts that are most likely to produce endorphins include running, swimming, cross-country skiing, long distance rowing, bicycling, weight lifting, aerobics, or playing a sport such as Ultimate Frisbee, basketball, rugby, or American football.

Does this mean I’m out-of-shape enough that walking brings to me what running brings to others? Whatever it is, I want more. We’ll probably be back on the mountain Saturday.

Tough Times In The Biz

The problem with the Internet is, it’s tough for conventional businesses to compete with something being given away for free! The entire cost/revenue structure of the Internet is crazy compared to traditional businesses.

tv-camera.jpgThere’s a big headline, in red, on Drudge tonight: “CBSNEWS IN TALKS TO CONTRACT OUT REPORTING TO CNN.” It’s actually just a link to a New York Times story which says CBS is thinking of outsourcing much of its news gathering.

I’m not sure what’s going on in my business all of a sudden. I suspect it’s not good.

Last week CBS started taking a hatchet to it’s owned and operated TV stations. For five decades, these O&O properties have been cash cows. No more.

Anchors and reporters, people whose services were fought over a few years ago, were dismissed without a blink. Some of these folks were making seven figure salaries. All were household names in their own communities.

For example, in Minneapolis, meteorologist Paul Douglas was let go. Paul had been in the market over twenty years. If he wasn’t making a half million a year, he had to be close.

He was gone before he could say goodbye.

“The simple truth: Like many other CBS employees, I was a target at a time when there are systemic, long-term challenges. No attempt was made to negotiate a lower salary; it was pretty cut and dry. It’s just business, dollars and cents — I get it.”

Writing in an online bulletin board for meteorologists, a former on-air met said:

NO TV weather job is safe. Longevity makes you even less secure (since you make so much more than anyone else in the building). Make sure you have a backup plan and a solid amount of savings (minimum of 6-months) to tide you over. Live frugally now and put away EVERY PENNY in case you are slashed in the next round of cuts which are inevitable.

I’m not sure I’m ready to go that far, but the business has changed. My competition isn’t just the local stations, or The Weather Channel (always a minor player in the general scheme of things), but weather.com, wunderground.com and every website with a forecast… which seems to be all of them.

The value of high profile talent, people who could draw an audience to a station, seems to have dropped rapidly. If these CBS firings have little or no negative impact on ratings, other managers will be emboldened to chop away too.

The Internet has changed many expectations. That’s fine, and as it should be.

The Internet has freed information from a schedule. Virtually everything is available on demand. And, at the moment, the Internet reports the news without reporters, shows video without production staffs, and sells products without stores. Companies that pay people say, “why?”

If at some point the Internet drives newspapers and TV stations out of business, where exactly will local news come from?

The Internet resembles the oxpecker, an African bird that lives on rhinoceroses.

“Although the birds also eat blood from sores on the rhino’s skin and thus obstruct healing, they are still tolerated.” – African Wildlife Federation.

The problem with the Internet is, it’s tough for conventional businesses to compete with something being given away for free! The entire cost/revenue structure of the Internet is crazy compared to traditional businesses.

Last year, Google had $16 billion revenue with 18,000 employees. That’s around $900,000 revenue per employee. Their ‘real’ operating expenses were only $2.7 billion, with another $2.1 billion thrown in for research and development. Their pre-tax net was close to $6 billion.

Is Google or Craigslist responsible for what’s going on to newspapers and broadcasting? Maybe. Maybe it’s the appearance of hundreds of channels, each with a tiny audience… but it’s tiny times hundreds!

Maybe it’s the Wal*Mart’ing of America; the disappearance of hundreds of stores in favor of one… and the disappearance of hundreds of local advertisers as well.

It’s not one thing. It’s a variety of things, but they’re reaching critical mass.

At the moment, you can buy two shares of Journal Register (publisher of the New Haven Register and other papers) stock for about the same price as a copy of its newspapers!

Journal Register just announced they’re exploring their ‘options’. I don’t know a lot about finance, but is there anything left to sell?

Sam Zell, who heavily leveraged his recent purchase of the gigantic Tribune Corporation, is now rumored to be selling some of their papers. That’s something he originally said he wasn’t going to do. He needs the cash to pay the debt.

The funny thing is, newspapers, radio and TV stations still make a lot of money, as long as you don’t factor in the financing used to buy them. Many were purchased at what now looks like inflated prices. The assumption was their value (and revenues) would rise. It’s similar to what’s gone on in the housing market.

Tonight on IM, a friend in the business said

Sorry to say this, because this is your income, but, Local TV is DOA.

In a way, I’m glad you are at this stage of this career and this isn’t happening in 1980.

You have many things you can do

Again, I think that’s a little heavy on the melodrama, but times are definitely tough.

I am very lucky to be under contract right now.

Only Following Orders

Did you see former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s op-ed in this morning’s New York Times? My blood began to boil.

This is one of those stories where a very limited subset of the full facts are known to mere mortals like you and me. It seems the federal government asked the major phone companies for all sorts of data on phone customers. That would be people like you and me.

The phone companies rolled over like a collie waiting for a treat.

What kind of data? Who knows.

Did they allow the government to listen in? I wish I knew.

Whatever it was, it was probably illegal. The phone companies are now sweating because they’re being sued.

When the White House asks you to help in surveillance, do you say yes in spite of the law? What if you’re a big business and feel a significant portion of that will go away if you say no?

I say, “no.” Our personal liberties are among the most important rights granted in the Constitution.

Here’s what Ashcroft said:

Whatever one feels about the underlying intelligence activities or the legal basis on which they were initially established, it would be unfair and contrary to the interests of the United States to allow litigation that tries to hold private telecommunications companies liable for them.

You’ve got to suspect these telecom giants are lawyered to the teeth. They knew what they were doing. I was only following orders doesn’t work here… at least it doesn’t work for me.

I lived through the sixties and seventies. I still have a bad taste in my mouth about government surveillance, whether it be against Dr. Martin Luther King or war protesters.

Our government has worked so well for over 200 years because our rule of law is based on what’s written, not who is elected.

Oh… did I mention, John Ashcroft is now a lobbyists for the telecommunications industry?

Beakman’s World Returns!

The New York Times says Beakman’s World is back!

OK – maybe I’m a little old to be excited about the return of a kids show, but this is Beakman’s World! My DVR is already set for next Saturday.

I came downstairs to tell Helaine and Steffie. Nothing. Blank stares.

Beakman’s World was a science program feautring Paul Zaloom&#185 as Beakman. It ran on CBS in the 90s. It’s back now in syndication.

Beakman is like Bill Nye on acid!

The show was more than Beakman. There was also Lester D. Rat, an obviously rattily rat suited Mark Ritts. It’s tough to describe this character other than to say Lester was reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman’s Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy – but funny.

There was also a succession of female sidekicks. The mold was cast early on with Allana Ubach as Josie. She could not have been more condescending toward Beakman… it really worked. The other two were OK, but I couldn’t watch them without wondering what happened to Josie?

In Beakman’s World, it was OK to be silly and smart. In fact, it was encouraged. How can you not love a show like that?

&#185 – Interestingly enough, Zaloom is listed as two clients on his manager’s website – Paul Zaloom and Beakman. They also represent my favorite movie villain, Eric Bogosian.
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Politics About To Get Even Dirtier

During every recent election cycle there has been kvetching about how dirty politics has become. This, by the way, is a non-partisan dig. Both of our major political parties have been willing participants in mud related activities.

Sadly, negative advertising works in politics. It might work elsewhere, but we consider ourselves too sophisticated a society to put up with “Toyota sucks” commercials, paid for by GM.

As bad as it’s been, there’s been some restraint, mainly because those in charge have been ‘organizational’ people. You don’t get anywhere in any organization by being snippy and anti-social 100% of the time. People who fit in rise in organizations.

Now, the voice of politics might be the voice of bloggers&#185 – people who can stay home, by themselves, with none of the interpersonal requirements an office brings. Bring on the vitriol.

Here in Connecticut, Ned Lamont’s campaign for US Senate would be nowhere without the support of political bloggers. Howard Dean’s ill fated run for president was mounted on the backs of the blogging community. Dan Rather might still be anchoring the CBS Evening News, but for bloggers.

Adam Cohen, on this morning’s New York Times editorial page, talked about how computers and the Internet are making it possible for 15 year olds to swing elections. He was referring to this video, which has been viewed 30,000 times already (there are at least two versions on youtube.com). When was the last time you expressed your views to 30,000 strangers (and growing)?

Ava Lowery’s video was originally shown at the “YearlyKos,” the ‘political convention’ of liberal bloggers held last week in Las Vegas.

The cutting-edge discussions at YearlyKos were about the intersection of technology and politics. Bloggers sketched out their plans for shaping news in upcoming elections. The liberal political-action group Democracy for America gave a primer on turning online activism into offline activism, by developing networks of supporters and sending out “action alerts” to get them to contribute money and volunteer for campaigns and causes. The Participatory Culture Foundation, a nonprofit group, led a workshop on how ordinary people can make political videos and distribute them over the Internet.

We enter an era where partisans, with little restraint and powerful tools, will control the noise – if not the conversation. The technology seems to be an equal opportunity enabler (though Cohen felt the progressive wing of the Democratic Party would benefit most).

It would be a shame to think, as 2006 and then 2008’s political ads get going, what we’ve just been through were the good old days.

&#185 – Geoff, are you talking about yourself? To a certain extent, as this blog is primarily done while I’m by myself, with no outside consultation. There is no safety on my trigger, other than me.

Often I censor myself. That’s probably because of 35+ years of broadcasting live. Which bloggers have that experience?

Network Neutrality Revisited

I’ve been writing a lot about the concept of network neutrality – how all websites and services should move through the Internet unimpeded. Some telcos and other Internet providers see it otherwise.

I though this was a very geeky topic and there wouldn’t be much discussion. Then I picked up this morning’s New York Times. My hot topic is their lead editorial.

Would the Internet have flourished with new age companies like Yahoo!, Google, Amazon and EBay, if they had to pay-to-play?

Roger Ailes And Fox

Roger Ailes, the Svengali of Fox News Channel, is taking on additional roles.

New York Times:

Roger E. Ailes, the media adviser to three Republican presidents who has been chairman of Fox News Channel since its inception nine years ago, was given an additional title yesterday: chairman of Fox Television Stations.

The appointment, which was announced by Fox’s parent, the News Corporation, gives Mr. Ailes oversight of Fox’s 35 broadcast television stations and a production studio, Twentieth Television.

Though Fox News has refers to itself as “Fair and Balanced,” common wisdom says it represents ‘right of center’ politics. And so, you may think Ailes will steer the Fox Network in that direction.

I don’t think so.

Seeing Fox News solely as an ideological brand is missing the point. Fox News has turned attitude and personality into high television art forms. There is nothing on the channel restrained or subdued. There are more well known people on Fox than CNN and MSNBC combined!

My guess (and it’s only a guess) that’s the biggest change Ailes will bring the the Fox stations.

Look for promotions to become bigger and bolder and more over-the-top than they are now. Look for more people driven, rather than concept driven programming.

It probably doesn’t make sense to politicize the Fox local stations, and I don’t expect to see that. I think Ailes job is to advance revenue, not advocate partisan politics.

Wait a year. We’ll see how insightful I am… or am not.

My Trashy Story

Every week, on Friday, our trash goes to the curb. Every other week it’s supposed to be accompanied by recycling. It doesn’t work that way in our household.

Whether it’s our distance from the curb or the amount of recycled newspapers we have (we subscribe to both the New Haven Register or New York Times) or maybe all the boxes we get because of online shopping, going to the curb bi-weekly doesn’t work. So all of this recyclable material piles up in the garage. A few times a year we stuff it into the SUV and I drive it to the transfer station.

Transfer station, what a lovely phrase. It’s so much more genteel than town dump.

I drove up to the transfer station this morning only to find the new policy – no newspapers. I had an SUV full of recyclables, and of course, the supermarket bags of newspapers were on top!

I unloaded the 20 or so bags of newspapers to get to the cardboard and other material underneath. At this point the transfer station folks took pity on me and found a place… a transfer station loophole if you will… that allowed me to drop the papers off. From now on it’s newspapers to the street, I suppose.

I want to be a good citizen, but it is increasingly difficult to follow the rules. In fact, it would be much easier to hide the newspapers and cardboard and bottles with our weekly trash. I’m sure a lot of people do just that. It also always strikes me as a little ironic that the two most talked about recycled products are made from sand (glass) or grow on trees (paper).

I know this is supposed to be good for the environment, and I’m for that. But, is it really? Is this just a feel good exercise with no payoff… or negative payoff?

From “Recycling Is Garbage” – New York Times Magazine, June 30, 1996:

Every time a sanitation department crew picks up a load of bottles and cans from the curb, New York City loses money. The recycling program consumes resources. It requires extra administrators and a continual public relations campaign explaining what to do with dozens of different products — recycle milk jugs but not milk cartons, index cards but not construction paper. (Most New Yorkers still don’t know the rules.) It requires enforcement agents to inspect garbage and issue tickets. Most of all, it requires extra collection crews and trucks. Collecting a ton of recyclable items is three times more expensive than collecting a ton of garbage because the crews pick up less material at each stop. For every ton of glass, plastic and metal that the truck delivers to a private recycler, the city currently spends $200 more than it would spend to bury the material in a landfill.

I don’t know what to think. I want to do what’s right, but I am really not sure. Until I know otherwise, I will follow the rules.

In the meantime, part of our recycling life at home will have to change. Newspapers to the curb. I can hardly wait for the first really big rain on a Thursday night.

Continue reading “My Trashy Story”

Rockford, Rickford… What The Heck, They’re Back

When you’re a fan… a rabid fan… you will move heaven and Earth. I guess that’s the best way to put Helaine and Stef’s trip to Rockford, Illinois into perspective. They are rabid Rick Springfield fans. You remember, the Jessie’s Girl, Don’t Talk to Strangers guy?

I’m not sure I would travel to Rockford for the ‘cup of coffee and danish’ period of time they were there. On the other hand, I don’t hang out online with people who decided to call it “Rickford” or “The Rickdom.” They do.

Tonight they’re back home.

For Rick Springfield, the venues are no longer giant stadiums and arenas. However, a dedicated. screaming crowd – mainly women – is still there and as Helaine’s license plate frame says, “Rick Rocks.” He has moved into the retail world of rock and roll where the contact with fans is a little more manageable and the touring a little less frenetic.

I’m not sure how Rockford got involved in this, but the classic and freshly refurbished Coronado Theater was chosen to be the site of a concert/DVD taping. Steffie and Helaine could not resist.

I have asked them in the past how many of the attendees of a Rick Springfield concert have been to see him before? Most. How many have seen him a dozen times or more? Lots.

I know for this concert, women were traveling from all across the US and parts of Europe. That’s rabid fans!

Over the past few years Helaine has gotten more involved in the infrastructure of his fan base, becoming a “Street Team” manager who helped in the promotion of his last CD. For this concert, Helaine and Amy, the Street Team national manager, organized a charity luncheon for 150 guests.

I watched over the last few weeks as faxes and emails and phone calls moved back and forth from the hotel in Rockford&#185 to our house in Connecticut. The fact that Helaine is extremely organized and probably could visualize what she wanted, didn’t hurt.

It was a thing of beauty. Helaine is modest and very talented in this regard. I’m not quite sure how she did it, but I’m proud she did.

Stef pitched in, helping register the attendees as they came in… and finally associating faces with some of the names she’s seen online.

From what I hear, the luncheon went off without a hitch and with the money collected through raffles and auctions of Rick Springfield oriented ‘stuff,’ around $18,000 was raised for the Disaster Relief Fund of the American Red Cross.

Helaine says Rick, who came to the luncheon for a few minutes and ended up spending around an hour, was taken aback by some of the prices paid for tickets and ‘meet and greet’ access.

They said the concert was great — but they always do! The proof will be in the DVD, whenever that’s issued, and the HDTV concert that will also be broadcast.

I think ‘being’ Rick Springfield is a good and lucrative business. He has to look at it differently than he did when he was a soap star and avoiding having his clothes torn off. He understands what his product is and who is buying, and he delivers. In the few times that I’ve been around, he seemed to genuinely enjoy what he’s doing.

When people find out Helaine and Stef are big fans, they are often surprised. Rick Springfield is no longer a household word. Who would expect a 21st century fan base? In fact, in this morning’s New York Times his name was used as a contrast the modernity of today’s MTV.

It was not meant to be complimentary.

MTV’s durability at the place where the fickle music business and the protean television trade intersect can be attributed to a singular mind-set: its 24-year-long insistence that the channel itself is the star. The Rick Springfields of the world can rise and fall, but MTV endures.

The problem is, even without the hits, he’s a talented guy who was a musician before he was a soap opera star. His success is now different, but there’s no denying, it’s still success.

&#185 – You would think a hotel in Rockford would be thrilled to get what amounts to convention-like business, on a weekend, in the dead of winter. They did and I’m told it showed.