Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Who You Callin' A Harlo?

On my bike ride this noon I noticed one of those big plywood storks you can rent to announce the birth of a baby.[1] The plywood stork had clenched in its plywood beak a plywood balloon with the words “Welcome baby Harlo.”

I saw the name and was momentarily taken aback, because I didn’t see “Harlo”; I saw “Harlot.”

I’m special but I’m not that special, so I’m probably not the only person who will make the Harlo-Harlot connection and conclude that naming your child “Harlo” is pretty much like naming her “Rostitute.” 

This is one of those cases where it pays to be complete. You want to name your kid “Harlow”[2]? Add the bloody “W.”

Another area that would have benefited from completeness in communication (transition alert) was the Handful O’Landfill era. I was reminded of this when I found a near-complete run of Trade Fax while cleaning out a file cabinet.

Trade Fax was a weekly trade publication started by Krause Publications to satiate the hobby’s interest for breaking news (breaking in the sense of being less than 10 days old) and break the backs of a couple of competitors, The Brill Report and Beckett Insider. Today the idea of up-to-the-last-10-days news being delivered on paper the consistency of Warren Jabali’s drawers[3] is ludicrous, like putting potato chips in boxes.[4] Back then it was like Twitter on muscle relaxants.

I didn’t have to dive far into Trade Fax to get stopped by a random fact. In fact, I cliff-dived headlong into this one and was paralyzed from the waist down.

The fact was a quote from a SkyBox product manager named Ken Smith. Ken isn’t around anymore. He died way too young – a real shame, because he was a peach of a guy: smart, funny, polite in that delightful southern manner, self-effacing.

Ken understood what it took to move product, so it really wasn’t a surprise to see the breakout quote in Trade Fax that said, “While gimmicks do have limits, it’s important to keep putting new products on the market.”

While Ken is guilty of being just a little too aggressive in the candor department, the quote also suffers from a lack of completism. I don’t think Ken said, “While gimmicks do have limits, it’s important to keep putting new products on the market,” and just left it there; I think he said, “While gimmicks do have limits, it’s important to keep putting new products on the market,” and then added, “so our gimmicks can beat the snot out of their gimmicks.”

The other fascinating thing about this issue of Trade Fax was its lead story, a description of the legal fight between Classic and Upper Deck Authenticated over autographed memorabilia. Basically, UDA was doing what it did best – file legal action, this time against Classic parent the Score Board over its selling of autographed memorabilia featuring UDA-exclusive athletes Wayne Gretzky, Mickey Mantle, Joe Montana, and Reggie Jackson.

Hoo doggie. UDA and Classic duking it out over autographs. This is better than Scott Walker and Kim Kardashian mud-wrestling over the rights to The Lone Ranger 2, with Vladimir Putin (wearing Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl ring) as the mud.

The quotes are classic, especially from Ken Goldin, the shopping-channel pot that would not hesitate to call any kettle in the cupboard black as a Paula Deen nightmare (tha Timbaland remix).

After UDA’s Brian Burr led off by saying, “We will do whatever we can to clean up the sports-autograph business. The consumer must be protected from the illegal businesses that profit from sports fans’ lack of awareness,” Goldin countered with, “What the case claims and what their press release says are two different things. Score Board is not being sued due to sale of unauthorized memorabilia, but because we’re supposedly infringing on UDA’s exclusive contracts with four athletes[5] … It’s a bullying tactic.”

Ken From New Jersey then went in for the kill. First he said he resented being included in a suit with “three entities that we know nothing about” (though if he knew nothing about one of the entities, Shop At Home, I am all the characters in the movie Rango, including the thing that looks like a cross between a gila monster and a hiking boot). Then he added, “What they’re doing is pathetic. UDA is a company whose co-founder and half-owner [Bruce McNall] has been convicted of fraud. They fired their president and shut down their mail-order catalog and retail outlets. Their highest-paid athlete [Mickey Mantle] is suing them for breach of contract. It should be very easy for anyone to figure out the reasons for this suit.”

How do you like them apples, Upper Deck?
I don’t have a record of what happened after that. My guess is that the two entities came to a settlement wherein McNall and Richard McWilliam donated their supplies of snake oil to the National Strategic Reserve in exchange for Ken Goldin having sinus surgery. But this one Trade Fax – and I have hundreds of others – gives you some idea of how serious (or maybe seriocomic) the pictures-on-cardboard business was at the height of the Handful O’Landfill era.

In other words, this post suffers from a serious lack of completism. And since I don’t have the motivation to complete it, I think I’ll sign off.

Hope you enjoyed my post. Have a nice day.

Sincerely yours, Treetwalker

[1] I wanted to say, “One of those big plywood storks you can rent from …,” and then fill in the blank, but then I realized I have no idea what sort of place rents big plywood storks. Stevens Point Stork Supply? Rent-A-Stork? The Stork Store? I think this will have to remain one of life’s great mysteries.
[2] Because it is a far, far better choice to name your innocent newborn after a self-destructing, substance-abusing, bed-hopping blonde actress, and spell her name properly. The name does sound kinda pretty, and there is the historical value. Besides, naming your child Marilyn Monroe Jones is such a cliché. Unless it’s a boy.
[3] Cf. Pluto, Terry, Loose Balls, p. 218. “Warren noticed that the kid was wearing cotton underwear. Jabali reached over and literally ripped the shorts right off the kid. Warren said, “Don’t you know that our ancestors had to pick this cotton? Get yourself some slick drawers.” Thanx and a hat tip to Jim and Sparky for that one.
[4] Of all the wayback-machine culture shocks my kids have been exposed to, this may have been the most shocking. For weeks afterwards they would break into bouts of head-shaking and mutter, “Potato chips in boxes?” It was a foodstuff and a container that simply did not go together, like chicken in a jar.
[5] Which would technically make the memorabilia unauthorized, but let’s not get wrapped up in the details here.

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