Friday, May 2, 2008

Coworkers: Part 31 - Hey, Where's My Wine?

   This wasn't a request. This wasn't a suggestion. This was a command from the Bromeroids. My presence in Dallas was mandatory. No excuse, aside from death, would be accepted. EMI was throwing a gala listening premier for Paul McCartney. I had to attend. All Classical managers had to attend. No exceptions. McCartney had written some classical songfest for Liverpool, and Capitol was trying to create buzz, get all us section managers fired up.
   Hold me back.
   I was also urged, strongly urged, to bring a guest.
   Zelda was less than thrilled.
   Until I told her the event was going to be fully catered.
   "How fully catered?" she queried.
   "I phoned Charlie, head classical guy in Dallas, and he said full wine bar."
   "We're going!"

   This was supposedly huge. No idea how huge. Hell, maybe Sir Paul would be there. Should I take my Beatles CD's? Should I grab my lone McCartney CD? Reality asserted itself. No way, Sir Paul McCartney was flying into Big-D to snack on nibbles and wish a bunch of flunkies and clerks a jolly hello.
   Zelda selected a dark posh frock, I put on a shirt and tie.
   Stuck my lone McCartney CD, Ram, into Zelda's purse.
   What a loser.

   I was Cowtown's sole Classical manager. There were guys from Houston, Waco, San Antonio, Austin. Classical experts, all. Roomful of fishbait was more like it. Capitol reps from field staff to Regional clustered about. No music played, which I thought an oversight. There was a TV monitor over in the corner, switched off. I later found out some middle management curb stop assumed Sir Paul would offer a live feed. I did the math, 7:00 PM in Texas, 3:00 AM in Britain. I schmoozed and made new contacts. You never knew when one of these guys might prove useful. Snag a promo copy of a hard-to-find New Release, or sport tickets to see Big Paul himself.
   Found Charlie from Dallas. He manned the flagship Mockingbird location, and was also head Classical buyer for the chain itself. Charlie was a quiet individual, ever patient with my mindless questions or mispronounciations of all those European artistes.
   "Always the most important thing at any function," Charlie smiled, "is to get your promos before they're all gone."
   He led me to a stack of McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio. Not the whole set, only a single CD with four excerpts. Useless, I decided. There was also a sample disc of current CEMA acts. I grabbed that, too. I would just add both to the promo pile back at Camp Bowie. We might play the Oratorio ... maybe ... I doubted it.
   Found Mark, from CEMA, and we chatted about the imminent Beach Boys boxset.
   "Maybe I can find you something," he hinted.
   Meanwhile, Zelda was getting bored. The music business did not remotely interest her. More disturbingly, she had appropriated a bottle of Chardonnay. She stood off in a corner with bottle, glass and a cracker. There were perhaps 4-5 women at the event, not counting EMI personnel and catering staff. With Zelda was another abandoned female, sipping from a glass of Champagne and a glass of red. Both were laughing merrily. I smelled trouble down the line.
   I fetched Zelda just as the other woman's date retrieved her. We found a table and food was brought. Candlelit dinner. Skewered shrimp, Thai chicken, ribs. Salad, veggies, desserts. The whole package. Also another bottle of wine. Cabernet. Zelda had lost her Chardonnay, but she had drunk most of the bottle. She grabbed the Cabernet and filled our glasses.
   Food was fine. Not top tier restaurant, but very good. As events went, this was exceptional. EMI had outdone themselves for this promotion. Most listening parties offered lukewarm beer and stale pretzels. Glenn from HQ walked by and nodded. I nodded back. My presence was noted, I'd represented Camp Bowie and Cowtown. Good enough for me. Finish dinner and blow.
   By now, Zelda was freestylin' about alloting glasses from that Cabernet. "One for you and three for me. Be nice to me, and then we'll see. Yes, indeed."
   I suspected that "Yes, indeed" was redundant but Zelda was a published poet. Besides, she was enjoying herself.
   "Hi, you two enjoying yourselves?"
   Karn, District Manger sat down at our table. A year before, another Karn had been District Manager. No relation.
   "Can't complain," I replied. "Seems ... kinda over the top, though."
   "I think Capitol executives have hopes for the McCartney Oratorio, and misconceptions about Classical managers."
   "Ha ha. Smoking jackets and tweed."
   "Tweed, indeed." Zelda added the poet's touch.
   Karn blinked, I smiled.
   "Well, I'd better mingle," he said diplomatically. "I'll see you later. Nice meeting you."
   He left.
   "You, you, the moon is blue, and the sea is blue."
   "Come on, Princess, let's get home and you can write all these lines down."
   "Downtown, things will be great when you're," Zelda began singing. "Downtown, don't wait a minute -- Hey! Where's my wine?"
   I looked across the table. That Cabernet bottle was there just a minute ago.
   "Where's my wine?" Zelda repeated.
   "Maybe on the floor?" I suggested. "Next to you?" I knew that was absurd.
   Zelda studied the floor. "Nope. I think ... I think your little friend stole our bottle."
   "Karn. Karn the Bastard. He took it. That bottle was half full. I wasn't finished with it. We were taking it home."
   "Hmm." I was already standing, and surveyed the room. Karn was across the way, slowly rising from another table. I observed as he deftly confiscated their bottle as well. I would later hear from Dan, Rob and others that someone had a tiny problem.
   "Where is he? Where's Karn the Bastard? Where's my wine? I want my bottle."
   I knew from the beginning there was going to be trouble.
   "C'mon, let's split."
   "Where's my wine? Where's Karn?"
   We departed without incident.
   Liverpool Oratorio sold reasonably well. Didn't scale the mainstream charts, but our store shifted several boxes worth.
   Day later ... week later ... month later ... probably until forever ... Zelda continued to refer to the booze bandit as Karn the Bastard.

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