Enter your email for updates:
Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

BIC’s Dave Saracino Turns the Big 5-0

Filed under: Fun, Personal

Hi Everyone!

Some of my favorite industry characters recently clued me into the fact that Dave Saracino, director of sales for Counselor Top 40 supplier BIC, celebrated his 50th birthday. BFFs Chuck Fandos of Counselor Top 40 distributor Gateway/CDI and Kris Robinson of Counselor Top 40 distributor PromoShop sent me these photos from the rollicking festivities, held in conjunction with a Legacy Buying Group meeting in Las Vegas.

Details of the lost weekend in Sin City — like the boys’ behavior — are sketchy, but let’s just put it this way: I think the unofficial name for this group of fun friends should be “The Wrecking Crew.” ; )

Dave Saracino, director of sales for Counselor Top 40 supplier BIC Graphic, celebrates the momentous occasion of his 50th birthday on January 7th at the Lake Las Vegas golf course. In addition being a respected industry professional and a reportedly fabulous golfer, his partying prowess is legendary (which is why we love him!). Dave ranked #1 on Counselor Top 40 distributor iPROMOTEu’s inaugural “Fun 30” list (which first appeared in the May, 2008 issue of Counselor magazine) of the industry’s 30 most charismatic industry characters — deservedly so!
A group that plays as hard as it works, the Legacy Buying Group guys truly enjoy hanging out together, as is evidenced in this photo and the now-legendary stories from the rest of their evening in Vegas. (Party on, my little rock stars!) Of the 12 people in attendance for the group’s meeting, eight played golf at the celebrated Lake Las Vegas course. Here, from left to right, are Conrad Franey, a principal at Counselor Top 40 distributor Gateway/CDI; John Leahy of Baltimore, MD-based distributor Target Marketing; Chuck (or “Chuckles,” as we like to call him) Fandos, president of Gateway/CDI; Paul Lage, CEO of Counselor Top 40 supplier Norwood; Memo “the Patron Saint of Patrone” Kahan, owner of Counselor Top 40 distributor PromoShop; John Papa of Hartford, CT-based distributor John Michael & Assoc. (JMA); and industry celebutante Kris Robinson, vice president of PromoShop. The boys made Dave Saracino, who celebrated his 50th birthday on the trip, snap the photo.

“The Legacy Group is a group of six distributor companies totaling about $160 million in sales who formed a buying group in 2000,” says Gateway/CDI’s Fandos. “We share business strategies and lots of fun. Dave Saracino is an honorary member of the Legacy Group because he is, well … Dave.” Fandos also told us that after the group played golf at the stunning Lake Las Vegas golf course, they visited a variety of casinos and watering holes until the wee hours of the morning. “Dave kept the golf theme going by wearing his golf shoes all night.”

Post a comment below if you’d like to send Dave 50th birthday wishes!

Cheers and more next week!

— M

Battlestar Galactica’s Last Episode: The Final “Frak You”

Filed under: Fun, Personal

Hi Everyone!

Today is a momentous day in Dorkville, as Battlestar Galactica, the Sci-Fi Network’s brilliantly brutal and deliciously dark space opera about human beings living in a futuristic alternate reality and the sexy, stealthy, sneaky Cylon robot counterparts who love them (except when they want to kill them) calls it quits after four breathtakingly rollicking seasons.

In this now-famous “Last Supper” press photo for the start of the fourth and final season of Battlestar Galactica, the impossibly attractive main players of humans and Cylons share a table before one last, big, “frak you” moment.

Two of my work BFFs, Hillary Braubitz (ASI’s senior editorial designer who lays out our magazines) and Jeremy Young (one of ASI’s tech engineers) and I rented a hotel room last week so we could all watch the second-to-the-last episode together. We wanted to watch together because Hillary, who is in Europe at the moment and will be missing tonight’s final show, is the one who turned me on to the frakking fabulousness that is BSG. She’s also allergic to cats (removing watching the show at my house, where my kittens Monkey and Mouse live with me, from the equation), which is why we got a hotel room where we could all hunker down, drink ourselves silly and bask in the brilliance of the show.

Here are my partners-in-dorkiness, Hillary Braubitz, ASI’s senior editorial designer (she lays out all our magazines) and the person who first clued me into the brilliance of BSG, and Jeremy Young, one of the uber-Geeks who handles ASI’s technology infrastructure. Despite the stricken look on her face — which bears more than a passing resemblance to Patty Hearst’s after she spent a day or two with the Symbionese Liberation Army — Hillary really isn’t unnerved by Jeremy, nor is Jeremy nearly as cheesy as he looks in this photo. Why he appears to be posing for a cognac ad escapes me. All he’s missing is a red silk robe, a matching ascot and a pipe.

Here, Jeremy says something clearly jaw-dropping to Hillary. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s just sucked down his second tumbler of 18-year-old Scotch or that he’s proudly wearing a Han Solo Star Wars T-shirt. I’ll say this about Jeremy: He does fly his dork flag proudly…

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about my love for BSG, or my coming out of the closet as a full-fledged sci-fi/fantasy fan. [Click here for previous blog] However, it bears repeating because this show may be one of the best we’ll come across in a generation. Like some other ground-breaking shows — The Sopranos, Mad Men, Rescue Me, LostBSG was never afraid to address messy issues and had to guts to let them play out as they would in real life, in all its nasty, gritty, gory glory. No one on BSG is an angel (well, one of them may be, but her behavior is far from angelic), which is what makes the show all that more compelling — there is no pure good or evil. Everything about this show (including its lighting) exists in troubling shades of gray. Not since Blade Runner has science fiction shot for the screen been so morally ambiguous.

So, without further delay, are the top 4 reasons why BSG may be the best show in decades:  

1. Though it never won a major Golden Globe or Emmy award, BSG received critical acclaim, the devotion of legions of fans and was presented with the prestigious Peabody Award for excellence in television. Which, by the way, if we’re comparing that to the Emmys, would be like being given a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne as opposed to a mason jar full of Champipple. So esteemed is this show that a special screening of select episodes was held this week at the United Nations, followed by a discussion among U.N. representatives, cast members and the show’s creators on topics such as human rights, children and armed conflicts, terrorism and different cultures and faiths. When the blond pop tarts on The Girls Next Door are invited to such a gathering, I’ll turn in my membership to the nerd herd and begin touting the benefits of reality TV to society.

2. In creating such a vivid, complex and at times frustrating view of an alternate society, the brains behind BSG have given us such gems as a cranky, cantankerous doctor, ironically named “Coddle,” who chain-smokes in front of critically ill patients and barks at grieving family members, “just try not to unplug anything — or anybody.” So fully-formed and unique are the characters that populate the BSG world that it’s them you’re ultimately drawn to — not the dazzling (and they are) special effects. You also have to give kudos to a show that installed a woman as president (the always-awesome Mary McDonnell) and gave her the backbone to make impossibly difficult decisions with the wisdom, grace and definitiveness you wish existed in the men who’ve held the office of U.S. president.

3. FRAK! One of my favorite aspects of BSG is the way it commandeered its own bad, four-letter “F-word” that’s not only part of the lexicon in the BSG world, but has seeped into ours as well. Want to know who’s a BSG fan? Start hurling the word “frak” around and they’ll give themselves away with the knowing glint in their eyes. I like it because it allows me to curse even more loudly and liberally than usual, but without the usual annoying tisk-tisk, finger-wagging repercussions. I can’t tell you the joy I derive from telling Joe Haley, ASI’s managing editor and star of The Joe Show, “Frak you, my little motherfrakker!” (He responds in kind by calling me “a total dork who is justifiably single.”)

4. Because the creators of the show, Ronald Moore and David Eick, took the character of Starbuck — played in the cheesy ’70s original by Dirk Benedict as the epitome of a testosterone-driven, swashbuckling rogue — and did the unthinkable. They re-imagined the character as a blond, tattooed girl. Kara Thrace (played by Katee Sackoff) is an ace fighter pilot with a mouth like a sailor on shore leave. The only thing more mind-numbing than her use of profanity is her cavalier, chew-’em-up-and-spit-’em-out attitude towards sex and her ability to drink copious amounts of liquor. Of course, I love her. I’d want to drink with her, but am sure she’d kick my ass, as she does everyone else’s. In this new, enlightened BSG world, Starbuck is a little bad-ass blond who can eat your entrails for lunch, and wash them down with a shot.

Because I am such a devotee of BSG, and because today is the show’s last hurrah, please do post a comment below if you’re a BSG fan. If you do, it will be my pleasure to send you your very own “Frak” mug — one of which I have on my desk, as do my BFF dorks Hillary and Jeremy. After all, everyone deserves a good frak. So say we all!

Cheers, and more next week!

— Michele Actual 

ASI NYC: Start Spreading the News!

Filed under: ASI Shows, Editorial, Travel

Hi Everyone!

We’re just back from ASI’s second annual New York Show and it was both a success and a blast! The trade show posted strong attendance of nearly 2,800 distributors from 1,338 firms, up more than 7% from 1,247 firms last year. Education day attracted nearly 450 distributors up about 8% from a year ago. Even more impressive because education day was held on a Sunday.

I’m a little out of my comfort zone in New York, but with the help of some friends, managed to hang out in some of the best places. For example, at the legendary Algonquin Hotel, where writer Dorothy Parker and other renowned writers traded bon mots and barbs around the notorious “vicious circle,” Shepenco’s Dan Townes and I had quite a few cocktails. A New York landmark, lounging at this hotel and it’s amazing bar — steeped in tons of local lore — was the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Had I known it existed, I would have shaken Dan down to buy me the Algonquin’s $10,000 martini — into which they plop a diamond in lieu of ice. (Click here to learn more about the famous — and infamous — writers who used to frequent the Algonquin: and here for some trivia regarding the historic establishment.)

This napkin, mystifying free from any spillage from my three Cosmo martinis, bears a famous quote from Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker’s BFF and prodigiously talented writer for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Life magazines in the ’20s and ’30s.

So, without further adieu, enjoy the sights from the show!

More at the end of the week when I give a heartfelt send-off to the best show on TV, Battlestar Galactica. Get ready to get your CYL-ON, my little toasters! ; )



A throng of attendees enter the second annual ASI New York Show on opening day, this past Monday.
At the famed and fabulous Del Frisco’s steak house, here I am (center) with Randee Horwitch (left), vice president of sales at Counselor Top 40 supplier Dard and my gal pal Bonni Sandy, the company’s executive vice president and the president of Dard Design. A savvy, wicked-smart cookie, Bonni’s brilliance is only exceeded by her wit.
Brett Hersh, president of AdMints (left) and Sean Huban, director of sales for ePromos, enjoy a drink after the first day of the show at ASI’s “Welcome NYC” reception.
Ron Ball, ASI’s vice president of supplier sales and my weapons-grade wacko work husband, raises a glass at Balthazar. Not a huge fan of New York City, my boss Rich Fairfield — ASI’s senior vice president, publisher and a native New Yorker — made it his mission to show me a side of New York I would love (trust me… that’s not such an easy thing). Knowing what a Francophile I am, he took Ron, Dard’s Bonni Sandy and Randee Horwitch and I to Balthazar on Spring Street in SoHo — a French bistro that looked (and felt) as though I was back in my beloved Paris. I drank quite a few Kir Royales (champagne with a drizzle of Chambord) and declared it my favorite place in New York. What can I say? Rich knows me well…
Cliff Quicksell and I, at the Marriott Marquis bar. Cliff was one of the first people I met in the industry, about 11 years ago at an industry networking mixer. His name badge said, “Hello! My name is… Buffy.” And that is what I still call him to this day… “Buffy Quicksell.”
ASI’s Executive Director of Distributor Services, Christian Brandt and one of the ASI Show’s top-drawing education facilitators, Cliff Quicksell.
Star magnets Matt George (above, left) & Joe Haley took turns cozying up to Tracy Morgan, one of the stars of NBC’s hit sitcom “30 Rock.” Joe and I love “30 Rock,” due in large part to the tour de force performance by Alec Baldwin. If we had seen him, I would have coerced him to join us for cocktails, with the intent of doing naughty things.
With stunning views of New York City, hundreds of guests enjoyed ASI’s hospitality at the “Top of the Rock” gala, held on the famed building’s 64th floor. With a sumptuous spread of food, top-shelf open bar and a fabulously fun band, it was the perfect night in mid-town Manhattan.
(From left): Dan Townes, owner of Shelbyville Pencil/Shepenco & his wife Natalie — both of whom resemble the fabulously witty and cocktailing bon vivants Nick & Nora Charles from “The Thin Man” television series from the 1930s — shown here with industry educator extraordinaire, Cliff Quicksell.
(From left): ASI’s editorial staff, in all their wacky glory, at the bar inside the Marriott Marquis in NYC: Wearables editor C.J. Mittica, Staff Writer Dave Vagnoni, Education Director & Stitches editor Nicole Rollender, Staff Writer Matt George, Senior Application Developer Samantha Tucker, Web Designer Steve Hawk, Counselor editor Andy Cohen and Managing Editor & star of The Joe Show, Joe Haley.
ASI’s radio and Internet celebs at the swanky and high-class Rodeo bar, located at 375 3rd Ave. in NYC. Taking advantage of the bar’s “Recession Special” (a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Whiskey for $7) are Web Designer extraordinaire Steve Hawk, Staff Writer Matt George, managing editor and star of “The Joe Show” Joe Haley and Counselor editor Andy Cohen. Steve Hawk, who is a beer aficionado and brews his own award-winning beer would have rather swallowed shards of glass, I think, than PBR.
As guest photographer Joe Haley said, “Check out the Oy-Veys… the toughest Jewish street gang in New York City!” From left: Counselor editor Andy Cohen, Web Designer Steve Hawk, Senior Application Developer Sam Tucker — the shiksa mascot of the group — and Wearableseditor C.J. Mittica.
You have to hand it to ASI marketing rock star Jake Krolick, who always — regardless of what city we’re in — finds the most high-brow, refined establishments. This one, Rudy’s Bar & Grill, comes up under the search phrases: “dive bars” and “free hotdogs.” ASI’s cast of characters, from left to right: Dan “The Man” Brown, director of distributor services (honking Porky’s snout); Jake Krolick, marketing manager & Dionysian degenerate; Mike Landis, distributor services account executive; Porky, the other white meat; Shannon Blaszczyk, account executive, catalog sales; and Chris Glowacki, account executive, supplier Internet sales and recipient of ASI’s prestigious Rising Star Employee of the Year Award.
(From left): Ross Silverstein, iPROMOTEu’s director of marketing Linda Forsvall, and ASI’s senior vice president Dan O’Hallaran enjoy the “Rat Pack”-style atmosphere of the Carnegie Cigar and Scotch Bar in New York City.
IPromoteU’s Ross Silverstein and my new favorite gal pal Sheila Johnshoy, director of promotional products for the Deluxe Corp. What a pair… For those of you who know Ross, he’s a pistol; Sheila is as whip-smart as she is fun!
(From left): Ross Silverstein, CEO of Counselor Top 40 distributor iPROMOTEu; Glen Carrigan, president of Counselor Top 40 distributor EmbroidMe (Canada)/Plan Ahead Events Canada; and Tipton Shonkwiler, brand director for EmbroidMe/Plan Ahead Events relax after the show at the Carnegie Cigar & Scotch bar for an exclusive event hosted by ASI executive director of distributor services, Christian Brandt.
The lovely and lively Missy Kilpatrick, vice president of Castelli, and my old pal Michael Bistocchi, vice president of CleggPromo, party like rock stars at the ASI Show gala at the Top of the Rock.
In full view of the patrons at Rudy’s Bar & Grill on 9th Ave. between 44th & 45th Streets, this fine young gentleman leans against this upstanding young lady for some late-night support. Let it never be said that the City that Never Sleeps isn’t one super-duper friendly town!
Karyn Coates, ASI’s executive director of E-Media & Member Benefits, meets Anthony Geary, a.k.a. “Luke Spencer” — a super-celeb on ABC’s legendary soap opera “General Hospital.” At the hotel where we all stayed in NYC, the Marriott Marquis, there was a party being held for ABC’s soaps. Karyn, being all super-stealthy, managed to slip into the party and sidled up to some of her favorite stars. We just want to know, Karyn, where was that hottie guy who plays Nikolas Cassadine? He would have had us in a lather… ; )
Here’s ‘Lil Joe Haley, ASI’s managing editor and star of “The Joe Show,” posing with Cameron Mathison — who stands 6’ 1″ — and is a star of the ABC soap opera “All My Children” and was on season five of “Dancing with the Stars.” Our colleague Karyn Coates, executive director of ASI’s E-Media and Member Benefits, apparently squealed like a teenybopper when she saw the soap star… though, sadly, not “The Joe Show” star… ; )
ASI’s Brandon “B-Rabbit” Miller (above) and Steve Cattau, both distributor services account executives, go down for the count on the bus ride back to Trevose after a high-energy, non-stop ASI NYC Show.