Observations On The Bobby Poe Convention

This convention was more confusing than most. It was listed as the 23rd Annual, yet I have a flyer, reprinted on a later page, that lists the 2nd annual as happening in 1959. But as Bobby himself said, “Aw, Gerry, don’t confuse me with the facts.” (Bobby actually had no affiliation with this other convention…it was before his time.)

Attending the Poe Convention always brings back great memories. No other convention shares the glorious history of the Poe. It was the first real convention I attended as a “Baby Program Director,” and, in fact, it changed my life…well, at least the way I chose to live it.

I learned at those early Poe’s, among other things, that one could stay drunk for three days running. Indeed, it was a badge of honor. I learned the proper method of packing a sheet of toilet paper in one’s backside before lighting the other end and streaking the lobby. I learned how to play poker. I met my first hooker…a platonic meeting, of course. I learned to argue my point. I witnessed the famous escalator incident. (There were no more than 20 of us, yet since that time, at least 500 people claim to have been involved.) Most of all, I learned to network with my peers.

It’s not as much fun as it used to be. (Is anything as good as we remember it?) But it staill ain’t half bad.

There were some disturbing signs. The highlight of the convention was MCA’s showing of Jurassic Park. It emptied the lobby on Friday night. The thought of program directors and promotion people leaving the Bobby Poe Convention to see a movie seems somehow out of whack. The fact that so many of the alleged cutting edge programmers hadn’t seen the #1 movie in the country is scary enough. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt: Maybe, in typical radio fashion, they were just waiting for a free showing.

Whatever the case, it ruined a good poker game.

The meetings (the “beady-eyed stuff,” to quote Bobby) actually began on time. That wasn’t fair to those of us who are accustomed to everything running hours late. It wasn’t so long ago that Bobby actually locked the doors to the meeting rooms and declared the bar open at nine in the morning.

The most boring panel? The consultants panel. I know. I hosted it and I almost went to sleep. Benson and Vallie tried to be funny, but it was a tough room. In my conversations with them before the meeting in The Network Forty suite, I became convinced that they (and John Gorman) are committed to putting the flash back in Top 40 radio. However, the panel didn’t sparkle. All I heard was that we should continue to get 20-35 year-old females. Hell, I’ve been trying to do that most of my life!

Almost as boring was the talk by the Arbitron reps. Do these people really believe the drivel they spout? All they proved was that anyone can manipulate “figures” to make their case. At that point, arsenic seemed inviting.

The VP/Promotions panel was the most interesting…that is, when host Michael Ellis would allow subjects other than BDS to be discussed. And that wasn’t often. Was it just me (it probably was) or did Michael sound suspiciously like someone else I’ve criticized in referring to BDS problems being fixed “in the near future” and advances “coming in just a little while?”

I found it interesting that many Promotion VPs are using research data to convince reluctant radio programmers to add their records. It wasn’t long ago that these same people were bemoaning the fact that PDs were citing research to keep many records off their playlists. I hope we, as a business, don’t forget that a record can “sound” good. Let’s not lose our passion for music. If a promotion person can’t tell a PD, “Listen to this song. It sounds like a smash,” then we’re in trouble. “Computer-friendly” cannot become the criteria for a hit song.

The “Programmers’ Hotbox” produced the buzz of the convention. Mark Driscoll used an unfortunate choice of words in describing WPGC. Driscoll was wrong. He has faxed an apology to the industry. But I wonder how many of those who are currently nailing him to the cross have been guilty of similar comments in private? I’ve known Mark for years. He can be justly accused of being many things…a racist isn’t one of them. Instead of vilifying Driscoll, let’s use his mistake as a reminder that stereotypical comments are unacceptable in any form or forum.

The hottest record suite? Sony had it cornered Friday night by turning two meeting rooms into a gambling casino. If you won big, you could swap your chips for Sony products. Atlantic put their suite next door and shared the overflow. Motown raged on Saturday.

The winners? As always, there were many. The Bobby Poe Convention is unique for one reason: Bobby Poe.

He’s been a friend and character to our business for years and years. Right or wrong, he can never be accused of not caring. He is passionate in his beliefs and in his determination to share them with anyone who will listen. We go to the Poe convention because we love Bobby. In two years, it will be the 25th Anniversary Convention.

I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

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