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

ASI Dallas: Everything’s Bigger in Texas!

Filed under: ASI Shows, Editorial, Fun, Travel

Hey Y’all! (See, I’ve still got my Dallas on!)

So I just returned from a rollicking, rave-worthy ASI Dallas Show that was one for the books (along with my bar tabs…). I’ve always loved Dallas, since way back when PPAI used to have its shows there, so I truly look forward to this ASI event each year. As you’ll see from the voluminous amount of photos below, a grand ole time was had by all (I’m looking at you, Billy Booe, Julie Ditchik and Scottie Nussinow)! My favorite parts? Meeting new friends like Proforma’s Kelsey Anthony, who I’ve talked to numerous times on the phone and via e-mail, but had never met in person, and spending time with those I don’t see as often as I’d like to — my gal pal Lisa Horn, Polyconcept North America’s Melissa Lehman and Sweda’s Kellie Claudio, for example.

The show itself was an undeniable success: 3,600 distributors in attendance, an increase of 8% from last year, and record-breaking attendance for first lady Laura Bush’s keynote address, with more than 600 people packing the ballroom of the Dallas Convention Center to hear Mrs. Bush speak. 

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention ASI’s second-annual Women’s Summit, held at the magnificent French Room in the Adolphus Hotel. Networking with my favorite industry ladies, sanctioned mid-day drinking and a keynote address from the lovely and inspiring Mrs. Bush. What more could you ask for?

Hope to see you all soon at the next show, where my goal is to keep the good times — and optimistic mood we’re all in — going!

Cheers, and more soon!

– M

Here I am at the Dragonfly restaurant, located within the very swanky Hotel ZaZa in Dallas, with (from left) Mark Hobbs, president of Pacific Coast Golf, Nadine Panetti, vice president of PromoBiz USA and Christian Brandt, executive director of ASI’s distributor sales department. Their aliases, by which they’re better known, are McDreamy (for obvious reasons), the Saucy Aussie (Australia’s most sassy export!) and Tigerbeat (my colleague who all the girls swoon over like teenyboppers). When Christian and I go out with Mark and Nadine, we always have a memorable evening (followed by soul-shattering hangovers the next morning). I really can’t remember if Nadine was patting Christian’s face in an affectionate, sisterly way or preparing to give him a slap for being a smartass. Either way, it was hilarious.
I love that at the haute Hotel ZaZa in Dallas, the maitre’d greeted everyone — in lieu of traditional candy or nuts — with a martini glass full of fruit loops. Which, considering my dinner companions, is irony at its finest. Have you met Jake Krolick (“Jakey,” to you and I), ASI’s uber-creative and weapons grade-wacky marketing manager? Jake says I have a talent for taking photos of him that showcase his libertine, rock-star self and this one is no exception — he looks sketchy, but in a fun way. Want to know how to use social media to create off-the-charts innovative marketing? Jakey’s your guy.
Murray Siegel (left), marketing manager for Towel Specialties, is the face of the company and one of the reasons it continues to win Counselor Distributor Choice awards year after year. Murray and I have known each other for years, having bonded over the sheer brilliance of the movie Diner, and its fabulously sardonic dialogue. Here, Murray joins Brad White, vice president of sales for Counselor Top 40 distributor Boundless Network, for some cocktails. See you on the Chisholm Trail, Murray! ; ). Here’s a funny story for ya: So Brad White overwhelmingly wins the Supplier Salesperson of the Year award from ASI’s Supplier Global Resource magazine (as voted on by distributors) for his above-and-beyond service and salesmanship with the San Diego-based supplier AddVenture for 14 years, and promptly becomes a distributor, joining Boundless Network as its vice president of sales, much to the chagrin of his distributor clients, who simply adore him. Here he is with his award, which he so richly deserves for his sheer enthusiasm and sales talent — Brad will always be one of the best, regardless if he’s a supplier or a distributor. Next to him is my girl Jilly Albers, who you’ve met in this blog many times before and is director of business development for the OH-based distributorship Shumsky. Jilly always stays with me in my hotel room when we’re at shows together, and we always have a blast. I don’t have a sister, but if I did, it’d be Jilly.
Sweda’s Paige Millard (inexplicably looking as though I just kicked him with my stiletto in an especially sensitive area) and Jilly each stand well over 6′ feet tall and make someone like me, 5′4″ in heels, look like I should be baking snacks in the Keebler tree when I stand next to them. I call Paige and Jilly my “leaf-eaters.” Love them both! ASI’s senior vice president of professional development and editor-in-chief of its magazines, Melinda Ligos, in the midst of a delightful dinner at The Palm — hosted by supplier sales rep Mary Sells and ASI’s executive management consultant for ASI Canada, Fred Oesen — with Billy Booe, vice president of business development for Charlotte, NC-based distributor Bluegrass Promotions. Billy was on my “Secrets of Successful Self-Promotions” education panel earlier that day and made it a huge success. He is as charming and fun as he is smart and creative!
Having just celebrated his 8th anniversary as ASI’s president and CEO, Tim Andrews (center) welcomes the very vivacious Leslie Austin and Loren Hudson, new suppliers who own MojoGlo, and an awesome company with tres cool products. (Check them out at www.mojoglo.com) Also shown, Pinnacle Designs’ Julie Ditchik. More on Jules momentarily… Tim, one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked for (and second in sassy snarkiness only to me), poses with the one and only Julie Ditchik, director of sales for the CA-based supplier Pinnacle Designs. Jules and I have known each other for years and she is a whirlwind of energy. More accurately, she’s a pistol — without a silencer. LOVE her!
(From left): Typically, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more raucous than Jules and I at a gathering, but this guy — Bill Miller from BCG Creations in Canada — made us seem like wallflowers at the prom. Here’s Bill and Jules, with one of my two “work husbands” (the other is Christian “Tigerbeat” Brandt), Ron Ball, ASI vice president of supplier sales — another “introvert.”
Bill Miller and his lovely wife, Sharon, from BCG Creations. I was lucky enough to have these two firecrackers at my table during a dinner in a private room at The Palm, making for a very entertaining evening.
Mary Sells (center), one of ASI’s hosts for a very memorable dinner at The Palm, celebrated her birthday with her guests, including Bluegrass Promotions’ Billy Booe (to her left), with some singing and cake.
Mark Bruk (left), vice president of CFS Promotions for Now!, once convinced me that it was a good idea to join one leg of an Advantages roadshow to “experience life on the road.” Consequently, because I stocked the tour bus with beer, wine and various “spirits,” and encouraged suppliers to drink through the Midwest with me, my liver still quivers at the thought of it. Thanks for the memories, Mark! Next to him is Barry Hermanson, the owner of Aunt Beth’s Cookie Keepers.
I love going to dinner with ASI’s sales reps, because I always get to meet interesting, new people outside of my usual lunatic fringe of kooks and degenerates. At this particular dinner, I was able to meet Frank Rocco (left) from Marathon Prestige and Ray Mancari, with Aunt Beth’s Cookie Keepers.
If there is a male version of me, in his deep, deep love of wine and the superhuman capacity to consumer large quantities of it, it’s Stuart Johnson, president of CFS Promotions for Now! Should we ever be at a vineyard together, we’d cause more devastation than locusts. ; )
Leslie Austin of Mojoglo and her stunning, so very Texas Christian Louboutin stilettos, which were red suede and rhinestone. I stand in awe of these shoes and this chica wore them well! These boys, who are responsible for the livelihood of many a bartender, are some of my favorites. (From left): Scottie Nussinow, vice president of marketing for Points of Light; ASI’s Christian Brandt and Bluegrass Promotions’ Billy Booe.
Joe Hoffman (left), vice president of business development for Jetline, who wears a perpetually amused smirk that conveys he knows everybody’s secrets, is shown here with Loren Hudson, from Mojoglo, as we all partied at the bar at The Palm, post-dinner. You know how they say “a picture speaks a thousand words”? This one speaks two: “delicious” and “trouble.” (From left): Points of Light’s Scottie Nussinow; ASI’s social butterfly and executive director of the ESP Information Team, Candace Hershey; and Dan Townes, owner of Shepenco/Shelbyville Pencil, with whom I once went on a legendary 15-hour bender in Hong Kong.
Some of my awesome ASI colleagues: Christian Brandt; Angela Wright, manager of ASI’s electronic advertising; and Freddy Oesen of ASI Canada — or, as I call him, The Prime Minister. My pal Scottie Nussinow and the beyond-delightful Megan Erber, the mid-Atlantic sales manager for Jetline. Megan, a martial arts expert, could incapacitate you more swiftly than Spock with his Vulcan Death Grip, incidentally.
Here’s Joe Haley, ASI’s managing editor and star of The Joe Show, channeling his inner Golden Girl and hiding behind his alter ego, Betty White.
My sista Jilly and one of my industry faves from way back, Eric (“E,” to you and I) Johnson, co-owner of the MN-based supplier Halls & Co./IDLine. True story: E and I met 14 years ago at my very first PPAI Dallas Show. Not knowing any better, I was walking the show in 4″ stilettos and wanted to die after about six aisles. I spotted E in his booth and noticed he had an extra chair, which I promptly commandeered after introducing myself. Now, at every show where we’re both in attendance, E gets an extra chair for me in his booth, where I plant myself for extended periods of time — like a lawn dart.
Freddy Oesen, head of ASI Canada (and the aforementioned “Prime Minister”) held a private dinner at famed chef Stephan Pyles’ restaurant, which he graciously invited me to attend. Two of the many awesome guests were my pal Harry Fotopoulos, sales manager for OraLabs, and Kirsten Olson from Showdown Displays. Stephan Pyles’ famed restaurant in Dallas was just stunning, and the food was off-the-charts. The only thing better was the fabulous people in attendance.
Two people who define “life of the party”: ASI’s Candace Hershey and OraLabs’ Harry Fotopoulos. The host with the most at our private dinner at Stephan Pyles’ restaurant, here’s Freddy Oesen (center) with Gigi Grein and Richard Bubis from the Canadian supplier Fersten.
My ASI colleague Angela Wright was seated next to the very charming and cordial Jeff Firkser, from St. Regis Crystal. A native South African, I could have listened to Jeff’s accent all night. Kharl Douyon with Fersten sat next to me at dinner and is one of the most interesting people I’ve met in quite some time. Born in Haiti but living now in Canada, Kharl’s family still lives in Port-au-Prince.
A little background for this photo: Kharl Douyon, who was born and raised in Haiti, shared with our table that he had never had tequila before and was curious as to its allure. Now note Dan Townes — who never met a bottle of tequila he didn’t love — sitting at the table as well. Quicker than you could say “Patrone,” we each had cordial-sized shot glasses filled to the brim with tequila. Because, as Dan rationed, “I’m just trying to be hospitable.” Yes, Sweetie. Held in the famous French Room of the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, ASI’s second-annual Women’s Summit was a smashing success, with over 65 of the best and brightest ladies in the industry gathering to meet former first lady and Texas native Laura Bush and hear her deliver a keynote speech on empowering women on a global level. With an hour of cocktails and networking and a fabulous lunch in addition to that, the event was not one to be missed.
(From left): ASI president and CEO Tim Andrews greets Laura Bush and Fran Ford, executive vice president of J. Charles Crystalworks, one of the sponsor’s of ASI’s Women’s Summit.
The Shumsky & Boost Rewards’ ladies — the Blonde Bombshell Wrecking Crew, as I call them — give Laura Bush a warm welcome.
Tonia Allen Gould (left), owner of the distributor TAG Marketing, spends some quality time with one of my faves, Bonni Shevin-Sandy, president of Dard Design, vice president of Dard and one of this year’s “10 Women to Watch,” as voted on by suppliers and distributors. The ASI awards were presented at the Women’s Summit. These two ladies exemplify the phrase role model. Executive vice president of Castelli North America and one of ASI’s 10 Women to Watch, the always-delightful Missy Kilpatrick (left), shown here with my pal Lisa Horn, the founder and chief content officer of the boutique marketing and PR firm Content Matters. Big kudos to Missy for also being the first runner-up for Supplier Global Resource’s Supplier Sales Rep of the Year, as voted on by distributors. You rock, girlfriend!