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Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

The End of the Roadshow… Out with a Bang, Not a Whimper

Filed under: ASI Shows, Fun, Travel

Hey there Everyone!

My apologies for just getting this final blog installment from last week’s Advantages road show through the Midwest to you now. Frankly, it took a few days for my internal organs to stop quivering. Some people may leave their hearts in San Francisco, but my lungs and liver are in Des Moines and St. Louis.

After a 30 minute-cab ride to a field in a county in St. Louis guaranteed to be “police-friendly” to fireworks, we all set off — led by Tom Vann (aka “Tommy T-shirt”) — $250 worth of sky rockets in flight. There were no injuries, only jaw-dropping splendor. And the experience reiterated something I already knew — men are much more fascinated with blowing up bright, shiny objects than women ever could be. How do I know this? Because after five minutes of “oohs” and “aahs,” myself, Crystal Duckett from Gemini Industries and Lisa Sembro from Lanco were ready to hit the bar.

First, yes, we all survived the “fireworks” incident without injury or incarceration. This can be attributed to Tom Vann (aka “Tommy T-shirt”) who actually planned out and Googled where we were legally and logistically allowed to set off an insane amount of “skyrockets in flight.” To him, I send a hearty thank you for being such a Type A personality. Tim Andrews, ASI’s CEO/president — who is the master of the quick, witty quip — was in New York last Friday accepting the prestigious Neal Award (one of business journalism’s highest honors) for Counselor magazine’s 2007 State of the Industry issue. He sent me this text message after monitoring our antics on the blog: “Michele, glad to see you’re adhering to ASI’s ‘two-drink maximum’ rule. By the way, fireworks aren’t a business expense.” Second, the last day of the road show, in St. Louis, was held jointly with the Stitches magazine show and drew 411 attendees, about half of which were embroiderers. The wearables exhibitors were thrilled, of course, and everyone agreed that they couldn’t remember a more successful week in which each city drew over 150 distributors.

Now, for your amusement, more photos from our last night in Kansas City, from throughout the week and some shots of the most notable [read: wacky] characters on the tour and the famous “celebs” they resemble. I can only tell you now that I’m home, I miss seeing these people every day. Hunter S. Thompson, the infamous “Gonzo” journalist, once uttered this gem: “Crazies always find each other.” I wholeheartedly and happily agree. Nothing brings people closer than cocktails, long travel and rousing ’80s power anthems. I thank them all — Key-Bak’s Tom Ngo, Eddie “E” Roth (my brother from another mother) from Aunt Beth’s Cookie Keepers, “Tommy T-shirts” from Target Graphics, Dan Burke from Avaline, ASI’s Nick DiNicola, Laura Fisher & Steve Cattau, Andy and Daniel Townes (Dan, you would have been proud!), Jason Grindall from Graphco, Bryon Daley from the Better Life Line, Dreama McDaniel from Expert Performance T’s, Mike Contreras from Perfect Line, and Crystal Duckett from Gemini Industries, among many others — for being so welcoming, friendly and fun. They made my first road show one for the books. And to them — my little roving band of ramblers —  I say, keep in touch and “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Meet Us in St. Louis (But Only if You Have Bail Money & An Alibi)

After a day being the smiling face greeting attendees at the front desk of the Advantages road show in Kansas City, Daniel Townes relaxes on the bus and gears up for the four-hour ride to St. Louis.

Expert Performance T’s Dreama McDaniel and Bryon Daley from the Better Life Line taking their customary seats in the back of the bus, where all the characters resided

(From left) Jon Robertson from ASI Computer Systems here with ASI’s Laura Fisher and Steve Cattau, who definitely kicked the party up a notch.

Daniel Townes, who dressed up in his swanky tuxedo T-shirt for this truck stop on the way to St. Louis, and my pal Laura.

Me, Raymond Hung from Issun and Dreama McDaniel getting our trucker on at the rest stop.

The motherload of fireworks, shown here with Eddie Roth standing next to it for scale. Why did we buy this? Never underestimate the power of large groups of people to engage in questionable — though fun — behavior.

The first of many, we shot off this firecracker in the parking lot of the Hilton St. Louis. I’m sure the hotel staff has never quite been made aware of guests checking in to their establishment in quite such a fashion.

They Say We’re Crazy But We Have a Good Time; We’re Just Looking for Clues at the Scene of the Crime
Benji Kohn, our fearless bus driver, myself and Eddie “E” Roth at the Lotus trap in Des Moines.

Tom Vann (“Tommy T-shirt”), Laura Fisher and Andy Townes, fairly early in the evening when we all still had a grip on sobriety.

At the Upstream Brewery in Omaha, where they clearly embrace variety and excess, they offered a “sampler” of beer.

Laura Fisher and David “D.J.” Jungling from ASI Computer Systems, who, as legend goes, once led a road trip to Tijuana during an Advantages road show through Cali. Because at ASI, that’s how we roll.

Andy Townes and Laura, enjoying the ambiance in Omaha.

Brian, who drove the truck containing the exhibitors’ booths and products all week from city to city with Andy Townes, with the ever-photogenic Laura.

Avaline’s Dan Burke, Dreama McDaniels, Daniel Townes and me at a swanky truck stop on the way to St. Louis.

Tommy T-shirt & Tom Ngo carting $250 worth of fireworks onto the bus. Any rational person would have questioned this decision at this precise moment; we all cheered.

Eddie “E” Roth and Laura before boarding the bus on the way to St. Louis for a showing of the gut-wrenchingly hilarious movie “Superbad” and another round of road sodas.

Nick DiNicola, who runs the Advantages road show and was the camp counselor, counting heads to make sure his drunken little ducklings all teetered back onto the bus.

Avaline’s Dan Burke, whose smile gets measureably wider with each cocktails, offers a toast.

Separated at Birth?

Though he clearly doesn’t have brakes, if you close your eyes, Andy Townes (left) is the audio equivalent of “Mater,” the character in “Cars” voiced by Larry the Cable Guy. Tom Vann, aka “Tommy T-shirt,” is the spitting image of Barney Rubble. Next time you see Tommy, offer him a brontosaurus burger.

I’ve lost count of the number of times people have compared me to Karen from “Will & Grace.” Maybe because she tosses off little bon mots like this one: “I’d like a vodka on the rocks… And by ‘rocks’ I mean crushed pills.” Mercifully, my voice is about five octaves deeper than her’s so at least when I speak it doesn’t sound like a cat being declawed without general anesthetic. My cackle of a laugh, on the other hand…

The only thing more prominent than Dan Burke’s hilariously wacky personality is his chin, which bears a striking resemblance to Buzz Lightyear’s from “Toy Story.” Here, Dan makes Avaline proud and does his best “To infinity and beyond!”

With his swarthy good looks and cheesy ’70s shades, ASI’s Nick DiNicola — the man with the patience of Job who keeps the whole Advantages road show circus rolling — reminds us of Eric Estrada’s character from “CHiPs,” Frank “Ponch” Poncherello.

Key-Bak’s Tom Ngo, one of my oldest friends in the industry, graciously offered to sigh up for last week’s Advantages road show through the Midwest and accompany (read: “chaperone”) me. He’s like the character “Lloyd” from “Entourage” because whenever Ari Gold — a weapons-grade wacko — needs his help, Lloyd is there. (I would be the “weapons-grade wacko” in this analogy.) On the bus, Tom was the one with the steady hand keeping everyone’s drinks chilled and filled to the brim.

With spiky hair so vertical it has its own hemisphere, Aunt Beth’s Cookie Keepers’ Eddie Roth (aka “E”) looks so much like the character “Syndrome” from “The Incredibles” that Mike Contreras from Perfect Line kept showing photos on his iPhone of the cartoon, holding it up to E’s face and asking distributor attendees at the show if they noticed a resemblance. The response? A resounding “Yes!”


  1. eddie roth Says:

    I still cant stop laughing at the comparison of Nick to Erik Estrada…..

    Friday March 21, 2008
  2. DJ Says:

    Correction… More than ONCE led a guided tour of unsuspected ASI Roadhshow exhibitors through the back streets of Tijuana!

    Friday March 21, 2008
  3. Dan Burke Says:

    To St. Louis and beyond!!!

    Friday March 21, 2008
  4. Michele Bell Says:

    I stand corrected, DJ! You’re way more of a bad influence than I thought. And in Michele World, being a bad influence is like a badge of honor. ; )

    E and Dan… Miss you guys!!!

    Saturday March 22, 2008
  5. Tom (name changed to protect the innocent) Says:

    What appears to be a mundane bus full of wary traveling sales man in an obscured promotional product industry, usually accompanied by boredom and monotony. As these travelers travel from city to city each week, little do they realize their journey will become more obscured as their bus takes a sharp turn into the; “Michelle Zone” (insert music them here: “bow chicka bow wow”.

    Monday March 24, 2008
  6. Jake Says:

    The comparrisons are priceless

    Tuesday March 25, 2008
  7. Dreama McDaniel Says:

    I never thought that riding on a bus for 3 – 4 hours could be so much fun!!
    Michele, you rock! Just let me know which Road Shows you will be attending so I can sign up.
    To all of my new friends, look forward to seeing you at an upcoming show!!

    Thursday March 27, 2008
  8. Bob Hechler Says:

    Just got off the phone with “Ponch” He told me you were drinking most RoadShow participants under the table. Can’t wait for New York, you really need to get to Vegas!!

    Friday March 28, 2008
  9. Paula Forgione Says:

    If I had known you guys had so much fun, I would have become a supplier instead of a distributor. :)

    Wednesday April 2, 2008
  10. Michele Bell Says:

    LOL! I never discount distributors, Paula. I’ve had some of my best times in the industry hanging with your bunch. ; ) Thanks for the comment!

    Thursday April 3, 2008
  11. Tom Vann – Tommy T-shirt Says:

    You must work to live, not the other way around. That said, do what the hell you want with your life, but I’ll be happy knowing I had fun & made friends. My point is this. The Advantages Roadshow was an unexpcted delight. My marketing coordinator, Cole Lohman, has done a few of them & said the activity was excellent. I wanted to see it for myself just to get the pulse. The show was excellent – great leads. However, what I didnt bargain on was the “college” quality bus ride. Yeah Man! From my first night sucking down ale with Dan & Andy Townes to the very end enjoying a night of Fireworks & Insane Blues at BB’s in St. Louis (thanks for the tip Mike),I was thrilled. Hello to all my new friends Michelle Belle, Ed Roth, Dan Burke, Tom Ngo, Dreama McDaniel, Jason Grindall, Laura Fisher, Mike Baucom, Bryon Daley, Nick DiNicola, Steve Cattauhe and the Townes brothers.

    See you in New York I hope!
    Tom Vann

    Monday April 21, 2008
  12. Bryon Daley Says:

    Michele, I was just walking through to remember the good times…Miss you all.. have started something new to get a little more stabel job wise. Better life is a great company I wish them the best. And as for the characters on the bus…Thinking about them often and and giving my friends at home a good laugh…keep in touch

    Peace! Bryon

    Thursday November 13, 2008

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