When I was a kid I first heard the expression that “you can't fight City Hall,” and the older I get, I find that to be the truth. Examples are found everywhere in life; two that are hitting home particularly to the mobile amusement industry involve the H-2B foreign Visa work problem and the battle over the content of an AT&T telephone advertisement.
The OABA and other organizations have fought relentlessly but to no avail, so far, to obtain their objectives. The H-2B deal is strictly political, and the eventual outcome is nebulous. In the meantime, let's hope carnival employers are able to find the necessary workers to help them do their jobs.
I received a note from Charma Wilderson, General Manager – Amusements, Safe-Strap Company, LLC, Ft. Myers, Florida, regarding the second subject. Here's what she had to say: “I'm fairly sure you are aware (but just in case you are not) - - AT&T has been running a stream of commercials regarding 'Just OK' services are not OK for several months now. But they have been running one frequently most recently regarding a carnival ride and operator that really puts the mobile industry in a bad light. It feeds into the misguided belief of the general population about carnivals being “shifty.”
“I'm not sure if anything can be done about it – but I wanted to let you know that I found it disturbing at best and wanted to share my thoughts with someone that may have connections or information as to how those of us who do find it offensive can voice our thoughts. Thank you for taking the time to read my correspondence. Wishing all of our traveling shows a brilliant, safe and successful season!!”
I reached back to Charma, thanked her for her comments and asked for a little more information about her firm. She said “Safe Strap Company has been manufacturing web-based safety restraints for the amusement industry since 1983. We specialize in customizing ride belts and all class restraints, and supplying belts to end users as well as manufacturers.” Phil Tomber, head of Rio Syrup Company, St. Louis, and a major stockholder in AT&T, vowed to take up the fight when this battle first arose. While watching television last night, June 29th, that goofy looking kid masquerading as a ride boy, was still telling two shocked customers that when accidents occur, the carnival just moves on to the next town. AT&T has used a similar tactic with the medical profession, showing a doctor who maintains he has just been reinstated and is not worried about an upcoming operation he is expected to perform. My point goes back to my childhood that what I heard then was correct. You can't fight City Hall.
We are getting into the height of the fair season with the San Diego County Fair, Del Mar, about to end and draw approximately 2 million people. Other events are ready to get going. Ronnie, Kim, Butch and Ann Netterfield had a fun time at the Florida Fair Convention in St. Augustine before getting ready to start work for another season at the 12th Annual RockStock Music Festival in Muskegon, Michigan, July 3-7. Darrell Desgranges, the Mizuno Golf Pro and Brad Coombs of Meridian Entertainment, Traverse City, Michigan, booked the talent for this event, which is adding a carnival midway for the first time. Desgranges said it will be a combination of Arnold Amusements and TJ Schmidt Amusements with Tommy Arnold and David Starkey more or less in charge. I had spoken to Starkey, who played a spot in Lake Odessa, Michigan, with Bob Hallifax Amusements on his way to Muskegon. Starkey mentioned that his pal, Harold Case, was a bit under the weather, but would be there as well. When I called to check on Case and his wife Debbie, he said gathering his strength to move seven trucks the 1,400 mile distance to Michigan was the toughest he ever made. When I asked Desgranges about the talent headliners lined up, he mentioned Puddle of Mudd, and I'm sure he could almost hear me stammer when I asked who else. He answered Tantric, Saliva and Trapt. Almost apologetically he then pointed out that his son Glenn, working for Live Nation, had booked Willie Nelson and Allison Krauss for a June 25th sellout at Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights, Michigan. He also added that Glenn booked a Hoedown in Detroit on June 15th with Brantley Gilbert, where Garth Brooks made a surprise performance and performed for an hour. When I cracked jokingly that they had spared no expense for Muskegan, Desgranges said Puddle of Mudd has sold more than 7 million albums and had 5 number one hits on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Song Chart, including “Psycho” in 2008. When I mentioned the acts to my 57 year old daughter, Alice Stanley, who is helping me with this dictation while I'm trying to get over a bout with gout, she confirmed these acts were bigger than I thought they were. What do I know? Butch and Ann Netterfield, by the way, celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary on June 25, and his 74th birthday at Eddie V's in Tampa – they were wed in Olivet, Michigan. Other venues where Desgranges and Brad Coombs book the talent include the Central Carolina Fair in Greensboro, NC, at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex beginning Friday, September 7th and running through the 16th; the Buffalo Chips Festival in Sturgis, South Dakota, running from August 2–11, and the Arkansas State Fair, Little Rock, running October 11–20.
There was plenty of reaction to the column I wrote about the death of my special friend of 61 years, Johnny Hobbs. Desgranges said it had been on his bucket list for years to come and visit Johnny at his Nashville Palace, which he owned for 35 years. Dan Kroeger, CEO/Chairman of Gold Medal Products, Cincinnati, and former longtime Treasurer of OABA wrote, “You could feel the love you had for your friend John from that article. What a tremendous tribute! We are fortunate to be part of such a great industry. Bob Anderson, formerly with National Ticket Company of Shamokin, Pennsylvania, wrote, “Thanks again for your always awesome columns. I'm sorry to read about Johnny Hobbs. I know how close you were to him and one by one, it seems as though our friends and relatives are leaving us. I suppose it's the price we pay for aging.” Charlie Cox of Cox Food Concessions, Perry, Georgia, Columbus, Ohio, and Tampa, Florida, wrote, “I knew him through you. I can't imagine any two people who were better friends than you and John. I spent hours listening to Ed Gregory (true or not) tell stories about you, Hobbs, Jim Ed Brown, the Opry and all the stars. I enjoyed many times going to Backstage at the Opry and then to the Nashville Palace. Those were great times and I thank all the old-timers for blazing the trails for us to enjoy.”
Many years ago on one of my first trips with Monsignor Robert J. McCarthy, the Carny priest from Watertown, New York, I met one of the most fascinating showmen I have ever known, Roland Koch, a well-known entrepreneur at Octoberfest in Munich, Germany, the Cannsfest in Stuttgart and other Christmas festivals, amusement parks, fairs, and anything having to do with entertainment in Germany. Through Bill Alter of National Ticket. I even got to know him and his wife, Renate, better, along with his son, Thomas, and best friend, Rudolph Barth, at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Conventions. Barth owned the only five looping rollercoaster in the world. He spoke little English and every time I interviewed him, Koch interpreted. Roland was known for his famous parties at Kafer's in Munich, which drew industry heavy-weights from all over the globe. I heard from him in an email last month in which he said, “It is good to know you are in good shape and still involved with the carnival and park people. When I look back, I remember when I came as a member to the Showmen's League of America Convention. Patty Conklin brought me to Chicago in 1969, and at this time I was very busy in the fairs in Germany, when you remember, I was the host in Stuttgart for your 50th birthday party. Maybe I will see you and Christine in Orlando. All the best and here are my addresses and phone numbers, regards, Roland.” It truly is a big and small world.
I apologize for no column last week, but as I mentioned earlier, the gout made it unable for me to type.
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Have a great Fourth of July celebration, and God Bless!