Fishy business

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Not all incidents were this serious. The Sharp stand had a huge fish tank on it, providing their Viewcams with colourful images. But the stand lighting or perhaps just the weight of the structure of the large tank, suddenly cracked and started to vent the water. Backing on to the rear of the tank was a row of Sharp microwaves so the water was a real concern.

Sharp’s tank was much larger

Everyone was called to the scene – hall management, the safety officer, the fire team, my floor managers, electricians, cleaners – you name it they were all gathered around the fish tank. Someone had been despatched to get rope-and-posts to limit access, the cleaners had got a specialist vacuum cleaner that sucked up water. The crack did not penetrate to the bottom of the tank, the venting stopped at a point that left plenty of water for the fish.

Trying to settle things down and disperse the crowd I asked each in turn if they were content with the solution, they all agreed until I got to the Sparks, who said ‘Has anyone asked the fish?’.

ASIDE: Earls Court had a wonderful history before it was pulled down in 2015 – such a shame! In 1887
Buffalo Bill gave a series of performances of his Wild West Show, two of these to Queen Victoria.
In 1895 a forerunner of the London Eye was built in Earls Court, a 91m high big wheel with forty cabins. In WWI it became home to many thousands of Belgian refugees.

The hall had a 60m x 30m swimming pool that was used for a number of years by the Boat Show. Johnny Weißmüller, the 1930s/40s Tarzan, held the length-sprint record for this pool for many years, many subsequent pretenders were defeated because it was so very cold. When not in use a ceiling slid across, which was strong enough for the royal Tournament vehicles and equipment.

A Daily Mail article reported that Earls Court was the place where the Queen Mother exchanged nods with a complete stranger sitting in a warm bath – shock, horror! It was also where Princess Margaret allegedly took cocaine with the Rolling Stones at a concert, and where a young Cliff Richard announced he had found Christ at a Billy Graham “crusade”.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of LIVE was when we held a marriage ceremony. Across all three shows we had a special arrangement with an exhibitor, Rare Records, a vinyl specialist. The owner confessed he could not afford our stand charges, so we agreed a share of revenue achieved. Each evening he would arrive in the organiser office with an envelope with our share of the day’s sales, it worked out to at least wash its face and more often delivered us a small profit for what was an stand that generated much interest.

He approached me in 1995 and explained that he and his long-term partner were unmarried, and they loved their time at the show so much each year, that they wanted to get married at the show. Kit Brinkley had long been involved with the Holy Trinity Brompton and had become a lay preacher there, so he agreed to provide a ceremony of sorts for them. It was not a formal marriage ceremony but then the Rare Records couple were pretty unconventional too. I’m aware of many Wedding exhibitions but believe we were the first to have a wedding take place during an exhibition.

ASIDE: I took Robb Mackenzie and Kit Brinkley with me to Vegas for the CES which became more notable for two R&R events. We met up with Kit’s son who lived and worked in LA and drove up together to Vegas. One night we went for a drink to a club and I saw Kit’s son pay for a lap dancer for his Dad. I swore that if my son ever did that to me, I would either top myself – or him.

But the really interesting event might have served as a case study for the University of Vegas-ology (there must be one!). Robb and Kit decided to attend a school run by the hotel/casino to introduce new players to some of the gambling games. I had passed on my enthusiasm to them for Craps, and they were taught a system for it (I must admit that I laughed at the thought of that), each returned sporting a big badge that said, ‘Please be nice to me, it’s my first time!’

Robb applied the system and started to win. He had amassed several hundred dollars and I suggested he quit while he was ahead, but he believed he was on a roll. Here’s where the case study began. As he continued to win the pit boss promptly changed the croupiers, something they did as a knee-jerk in case there was any collusion.

Still winning, a small group of fans appeared around him shouting encouragement, ‘Go Shooter Go’ and the like. Then a pretty little Brazilian girl, turned up under his left arm (Robb was tall!) revealing an attractively curvaceous embonpoint. She kept looking up at him adoringly and asking for his advice (Oh, great guru, help me). As I was stood back, I could see all this unfolding it was casino choreography, plain and simple. If his run had continued, he would soon be offered a big-winner’s suite and so on, everything to ensure he would give back his winnings to the house, eventually. But he started to lose, the Brazilian was the first to fade away, then his support group wavered, and he was back where he had started. But he had enjoyed the ride.

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