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

ASI Orlando: Big Crowds, Balmy Weather & Beaucoup Bon Temps!

Filed under: ASI Shows, Editorial, Fun, Travel

Hey Everybody!

Try not to drop your jaws like Nutcracker dolls, as I’m actually posting two blogs in one week! 

The last one regaled you with all the delicious details of the fabulous PSI Dusseldorf Show; this one is way closer to home — ASI’s Orlando Show, which was off-the-charts crazy busy and tons of fun, with the weather sunshine-filled and in the mid-70s (which those of us on the East Coast just covet at this time of year…).  My favorite part? The optimistic, forward-thinking, sunny mood everyone was in — drastically different (and much better) than shows three years ago.

So, without further delay, take a moment to scroll down and peruse my fairly extensive Rogues Gallery of industry raconteurs, luminaries, superstars and hurricane force hell-raisers (aka, All My Favorite People). Sometimes, as is the case here, the photos tell the story far better than I could. ; )

Cheers, and more soon from my upcoming trip to France on February 5th, for the CTCO promo products show (www.salon-ctco.com/en ) in Lyon.

Can. Not. Wait.

— M

A word about the BrandFuel boys: Robert Fiveash and Danny Rosin (shown here, doing their signature move, the “Tebow Plank”), co-owners of the NC- and VA-based distributorship, have been friends since they were kids — which makes them similar both in origin story and capacity for cocktail-fueled fun to The Stones’ own Glimmer Twins, Keith and Mick. As stunningly talented (I worship at the altar of their self-promo campaigns) as they are humble and gracious, I just think the world of them. Click here to see a mini-profile on Robert and his workspace from ASI’s supplier magazine that I edit, Supplier Global Resource.


(From left): I don’t use the word “beloved” often, but truly, that’s how her clients and industry friends feel about Kellie Claudio, vice president of sales for Counselor Top 40 supplier Sweda, shown here with Paige Millard (fact: if you’re really a show road warrior, who doesn’t know and love Paige???), Sweda’s trade show manager, and the lovely Lauren Anselmo, Sweda’s sales operations coordinator. 
(From left): Here’s my colleague (hence, much-beleaguered) Joe Haley, managing editor of our magazines and star of ASI’s The Joe Show, with the always-delightful Kathleen Milbier, who heads up the sales efforts for the CA-based supplier Skinit (check out their awesome items here: www.promo.skinit.com) and one of my industry faves, Brad White, vice president of sales for Counselor Top 40 distributor Boundless Network. I’ve branded the extroverted Brad with the moniker “Captain Loudmouth,” which is ironic, of course, since the level of audio coming out of my trap at any given time is a fearsome thing that could make one’s ears bleed.


(From left): The vivacious Candace Hershey, shown here with my pal Vicky Tirpack, Midwest regional manager for Promo Marketing magazine, and her hilarious and awesome colleague, Meredith Edelman, Northeast regional manager for Promo Marketing. Is it me, or do they — a redhead, a blonde and a brunette — look like the industry’s own Charlie’s Angels?


I’d like to tell you that this photo of my editorial colleagues (from left) C.J. Mittica (Wearables‘ editor), Larry Basinait (ASI’s research director), Melinda Ligos (senior vice president/editor-in-chief) and Joe Haley was taken in this blurred fashion to be aesthetically edgy. In fact, I think I still had the shakes from all the Riesling I drank at the PSI Düsseldorf Show.


Why do I love this photo? Not only because it features one of the nicest guys in the industry — Mark Graham (center), owner of the Canada-based distributorship Right Sleeve Marketing (winner of last year’s Counselor Distributor Entrepreneur of the Year award!) — but it just cracks me up that Dana Zezzo (left), ProTowels’ marketing guru and industry gadabout, and ASI’s Joe Haley (right) were clearly Separated at Birth!


Here’s Scott Anderson (left), national sales manager for Counselor Top 40 supplier Polyconcept North America, with One of My Favorite People Ever, PCNA’s Steve Gelernter, known the world over as “Stevie G.”


PromoKitchen, a group of whip-smart and very marketing/social media-savvy suppliers and distributors (the “Chefs”), held a slammin’ soiree at a Greek restaurant in Orlando called “Taverna Opa,” which was fabulous! This is one of the sultry sirens who greeted guests at the door. Learn more about PromoKitchen at www.promokitchen.com.


PCNA’s celebutante, Stevie G, with one of the hostesses at Taverna Opa.


A crowd shot from the rollicking PromoKitchen party at Taverna Opa in Orlando.  


So at one point at Taverna Opa, the exotic Greek hostesses roused the crowd at the PromoKitchen party to join them for some on-the-bar dancing. The first two to leap at the offer? ProTowel’s gregarious Dana Zezzo (right) and ASI’s Jake Krolick. Hands up: Is anyone shocked by that? Anyone? (Crickets… Crickets…). And that’s why I love them!


Two words that describe the looks on the faces of BrandFuel’s Robert Fiveash (left) and ASI’s creative director of our marketing department, Jake (or “Jakey,” as we call him back at the home office) Krolick: Mayhem. Imminent.


Two of my favorite ASI colleagues, Jakey Krolick (left) and Colin Graf, marketing director of supplier services. Love, love, love them! 
Meet Alex McKenzie (left), a distributor salesperson with Masterwork Custom Wholesale Signs — who used to play for the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons — here with The Funniest Person in the Industry, Glen Colton, owner of the GA-based distributorship Seville Marketing. Glen and I have known each other for 14 years, and he has the distinction of making me laugh so hard that I cry every time I talk with him. He is a HOWL…


Aakron Rule owner Devin Piscitelli, who was also at the PSI Show in Düsseldorf I attended earlier this month, is someone I’ve only recently gotten to know — we always moved in different circles throughout the industry, though I’d always heard how great he is. And truly, he lives up to the hype. Smart, inquisitive, engaging and slyly sardonic, I enjoy him more every time I see him and look forward to getting to know him better.


Here’s my colleague (and designated “handler”) Joe Haley, modeling two creepy masks: one of Spiderman’s nemesis, the Green Goblin (shout-out to Nerdville!) and one of Gary Busey (see photo to the right), as he poses with ASI’s IT saviors, Jason Cissorsky (left) and Jim Talone. We all agreed, hands down, that Busey is way more shudderingly frightening.


Holla! to Mary Ellen Nichols, one of the most effervescent and bubbly personalities in the industry, shown here with ASI chairman Matthew Cohn (center) and the salesperson everyone loves to love, Bodek and Rhodes’ Marc Held.
Counselor Top 40 supplier SanMar won the Best Booth award for an apparel company, and here’s my friend John Lindgren, marketing manager for SanMar, who was integral in the booth’s snazzy, retail-inspired design.


For the first time, ASI presented Best Booth awards to exhibitors, based on attendee text voting. Spirit Awards’ self-created, stadium-style booth took the prize for Best Booth over 10′ x 10′. A fairly new supplier, Babble Text, won among the booths that were 10′ x 10′.
Hollywood may have Brangelina, but in our industry, we have “Mardine,” the impossibly-attractive industry celebs that are Pacific Coast Golf’s Mark Hobbs and PromoBiz’s Nadine Panetti, two of my favorite pals.
Having dinner with Jamie Raynor, my dear friend from JournalBooks, is like being able to relax with someone you can feel supremely comfortable with — she is the definition of grace and equanimity.


My pal Jason Emery, vice president of sales at Counselor Top 40 supplier Logomark and someone who was on Wearables magazine’s “Best Dressed” list in 2011 — a title he lives up to in spades every time I see him.
I just had to snap this photo of CJ Schmidt, someone I adore, right before his company Hit Promotional Products won the Distributor Choice award for Best Keytags & Luggage Tags.


Rarely do I take a photo of someone that captures their personality as much as this one does, of my BFF Tim O’Boyle (“Ringo,” to his nearest and dearest…) from JournalBooks. Something about the glint in his eye and smirk on his face just makes me giggle.
Ah, my dear friends Pete Gleason (left) and Christopher Duffy, with Counselor Top 40 supplier BagMakers, who won a Distributor Choice award for Best Shopping Bags. I’ve known these gentlemen since my wild heyday in the industry (Yep… I used to be worse. Swear. To. God.), and remember with perfect clarity how Christopher, at a party during the PPAI Show in Dallas one year, carried me around on his back — like an organ grinder with his yappy little pet monkey. Good stuff.


Do you know the awesome folks at Counselor Top 40 supplier, Broder? You really should, and I’d recommend starting with Ken Seidl (left) and the ever-charming Chris Blakeslee, who are as super-nice as they are whip-smart about industry apparel. Here they are with my editorial colleague C.J. Mittica, editor of Wearables magazine.
Every year at the Orlando Show, two colleagues of mine at ASI on the Supplier Sales team — the very gracious Phyllis Mutnick and Suzanne Rozick — hold a celebratory dinner-to-die-for at The Palm, for their clients who’ve won and were finalists in the Counselor Distributor Choice Awards. They’re kind enough to invite me along to host a table of guests, and each year, I’m lucky enough to have David Byrne (left) and Jason Grindall from Graphco Line sit with me. The antics ensue soon after… ; )


You know you’ve “arrived” when your visage has been drawn on the famed walls of The Palm, alongside legends and luminaries. Here’s ASI’s president/CEO signing his image at The Palm in Orlando.

Love, love, love these two: Vantage’s Ira Neaman and Bodek and Rhodes’ Mary Ellen Nichols.
Back story: At the aforementioned annual dinner at the Palm, I met Michael Moore, whose family owns Bay State Specialties, last year for the first time. Thirty minutes and four martinis between the two of us later, I was in shock and awe. Oh, Holy Hell: He’s the male me. I only get to hang with him once a year, at this dinner in Florida, and when we do, our cocktailing and subsequent antics have been described as “When Godzilla Parties With Mothra.”


Take a good look at this photo: This is your face on Patron shots. Michael Moore and I, cavorting at The Palm (after which, we may or may not have jumped in a hypothetical fountain and then taken a theoretical golf cart for a joyride…).
Here’s the fabulous Dan Jellinek, vice president of Counselor Top 40 supplier (and 2012 Distributor Choice award-winner!) Magnet LLC, with the most fun couple in the industry, this side of Dan & Natalie Townes: Janet & Bill Korowitz, who run Magnet. So awesome are they, that I actually flew to a show once just to hang out with them. They’re like F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald, without the darkness. “Hilarity was right up their alley, with pandemonium just around the bend…”


ASI’s creative marketing director, Jake Krolick, posing with the models he hired to tout ASI’s new SmartSales service.
How fitting to end this blog with a photo of my illustrious “work husband,” Ron Ball. Our boss, Rich Fairfield, claims that though he loves us, we are his “two most unmanageable employees.” Really? I just don’t get why… ; )