Skits used to be the preferred way to showcase product knowledge and presentation skills at sales meetings in Dupont Radiopharmaceuticals. We buried that technique deep in the foggy bottom of history in 1992.
Being cursed with a ribald sense of humor and no filter, I was my team’s unwitting agent provocateur for the skit’s demise. Skits were an awkward and mostly embarrassing method of limiting someone’s career. For me, it was rote.
The scenario we cooked up was “Cardiolite On Trial”. This was, after all, the big Cardiolite launch meeting and they were spending huge bucks to make sure we knew our stuff. Traveling us to Kona, Hawaii, with separate rooms, food to die for and a huge celebration at the end, they were hoping to recoup their investment. They did. In spades.
Rehearsals commenced in Mike Komosinski’s room that morning and it got nasty from the git-go. It never rose above the sixth grade. Debbie Elliot was the only one who raised concern. Our only voice of reason. We didn’t listen.
My thinking was, hey, these guys have been around a while, they would know if we were going to break the HR code of decency. I would be wrong.
Once rehearsals ended, we took our wobbly creation to the designated platform. No one anticipated the jitters, the enormous sound stage, the lights, the cameras, all those people and of course, our executive audience. I did. This was old school for me. After all, I used to make a fool of myself for a living. No stranger, I.
As we were being miked up, I had a bad feeling. Such intuition was how I had survived until then. Again, I didn’t listen.
Once on stage, were were blinded by the lights and mercifully couldn’t see the audience or our boss, Sully, trying to hang himself with his lei. We used every elementary play on words we could lay hold of, Berman became sperm-man and on and on.
William Kennedy Smith was on trial then and we mimicked a lot of that salty testimony. I was dressed as the judge and for the most part, in charge of the proceedings.
The live, unintended improvisations were what really cooked us. Once I sensed we were running out of steam, I ended the mess with, “Have you ever had a camera go down on you?” Signed, sealed, delivered. I was done.
I knew. One foot off the stage and I knew. No matter who else I shared the lights with, it was gonna be O’Hearn. Again. “Why isn’t he still on the dock, where he belongs?”
It was 5:00 o’clock when I reached my room with echoes of Ken Kasses’ high pitched laugh bouncing around in my ear drums. Was he laughing because he thought it was funny? Or was he laughing because I had just imploded my still shaky career? Guilty minds have no limits.
By 6:00 pm there was no living with me. There was a big party scheduled on the beach that night with live music, food and spirits. I pulled myself together and made my way to the beach.
It was huge. Big torches lit up the night, the band was playing “Tulsa Time” and festivities were in full swing. I started to sore-thumb my way through the crowd.
Like paranoia off a weed high, the trek was other worldly. I was coming out of my body. Crowds would suddenly part like the red sea. Nobody had to look, it seemed they could just sense me and move aside.
Peter Card sidled up to me and looking off towards the water muffled “That was the funniest fucking thing I’ve ever seen” and disintegrated into the crowd.
Years later, when we had meetings with spouses, I would be introduced to significant others as “This is the guy I was telling you about. He ended the skits in our company. Forever”. I’ll never live it down.