Thursday, October 28, 2004

Market Madness

C-List Celebs Turn Out To Glad-hand The Furnituratti...

Fifty weeks a year, my adopted hometown of High Point, N.C. is pretty quiet. An unremarkable community of 90 thousand, High Point is wedged in between Greensboro and Winston-Salem. It's known as the Furniture Capitol of the World and with 125 furniture plants and more than 60 retail outlets, it's easy to understand why. But drive through this sleepy hamlet's business district and it feels like a ghost town. Shuttered store fronts stare back in silence, their plush showrooms empty, their ornate neon logos forever dimmed. It's enough to make one think of backlot movie sets and weird tales of post-apocalyptic empty cities.

That is, until the two very unusual weeks in April and October Officially known as 'The International Home Furnishings Market', we locals call it simply 'Market', and we usually do so through gritted teeth. You would too, if 70 thousand furniture industry sleazeballs invaded YOUR town. Buyers, sellers, manufacturers, exhibitors, and assorted hangers-on. For two weeks a year they all pour into High Point's downtown to wheel, deal and get their schmooze on. As a result, the sleepy streets of my little working-class 'burg transform overnight into a scene straight out of Midtown Manhattan. Sidewalks and avenues that usually bask in quiet sunshine fill up with enough cheesy sales-types, registered hotties and European weirdos to make a passing truckload of Klan members rip out their transmission trying to stop and be offended. Not that that's a bad thing.

As one who's forced to navigate this madness at street level, I have a love-hate relationship with 'Market'. Like any good photog, I like to people-watch and with an army of thin-socked retail weasels marching up and down every square inch, it doesn't take long to fill up your tape with big-city hustle and bustle. But therein lies the rub. With all the odd out-of-towners making the local police force nervous, your average news crew is quickly forgotten. Parking spaces evaporate, vital corridors shut down and the local authorities forget our call letters.

In short, it's a logistical nightmare, a fact instantly grasped by every shooter that's waded into the fray, but utterly unfathomable to the deskies who dispatch us to every dog and pony show featuring a C-list celebrity hawking a new line of ottomans. Kathy Ireland, Serena Williams, Jack Palance, even Uber-Bitch Martha Stewart comes to High Pockets to glad-hand the furnitur-atti. And like Pavlov's dog, our news managers jump at every press release touting the latest has-been with a furniture line.

So, why am I telling you all this? I dunno, beats paying a therapist to listen to my tripe.

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