From an icy reception to raunchy radio

We don't just sit here pounding away on the keyboard month after month, you know. No siree. We get out and around. See the world. Hopscotch the highlights. Grapple with reality....

We don’t just sit here pounding away on the keyboard month after month, you know. No siree. We get out and around. See the world. Hopscotch the highlights. Grapple with reality.

And as the resulting observations, vexations, perceived conundrums and wry, piercing insights pile up in one’s cortex like empties in the recycling box, one craves to do a column that collects it all together and puts it out in public where people can come and take it God Knows Where.

In March we roamed eastward into Quebec. Couple of meetings, and Yes, folks, we visited North America’s Most Famous Building for Fifteen Minutes, The Ice Hotel! Considering the miles of printed lines and hours of TV time the damn thing managed to garner, you would expect something rather larger than the Chateau Frontenac constructed entirely of Perrier. In fact, The Ice Hotel at first glance struck me as The Blocks of Dirty Snow with Ice Windows Garage, standing as an outbuilding of the Montmorency Inn, where Ice Hotel guests could find food, a shower and a warm place to take a pee. Otherwise, there were a few Johnny-on-the-Spots by the side exit. The Ice Flophouse!

There were some witty touches, though, with a reception desk and ‘furniture’ carved out of crystal-clear ice. We talked to a couple who’d been married in the place the previous afternoon, and spent their wedding night on a slab of foam covered with fur pelts. From what I could gather, their warm breath in the freezing room created a tiny rainstorm over their faces, which means they were drizzled upon all night long.

Never mind. The whole place was a walk-in ad for Absolut vodka, with an ice-carved bottle you could stand inside and have your picture taken. A bar was stocked with the stuff, poured an ounce and a bit at a time into ice block ‘glasses’ for about twice the price of a big martini downtown.

Twelve bucks admission for an adult to walk around inside a vodka ad. You’ve gotta admire their nerve. When they demolished the place in April, it made The National at eleven!

From there we hit Vermont. One gorgeous Saturday afternoon at a place called Jay Peak (76 ski runs and a vertical drop of 2150 feet), the big deck facing the mountain was filled with three or four hundred skiers from all over North America, soakin’ up the rays and the draft beer. Giant speakers pumped out an endless stream of ’60s and ’70s hits, like Hot Blooded and Proud Mary. Nary a Brittany. No Back Street Boys. Made you feel old, but smug. A guy called Spider Robinson recently wrote in the Globe that ‘the ’60s’ actually occurred between 1968 and 1975.

Back home in Tarana, the nice people at the Radio Marketing Bureau sent me a ticket to The Crystals, their industry awards evening. It’s funny, back in the ’60s, (whenever that was), there was a whole audio culture that was entirely unique to radio. Radio people talked and sounded unlike anyone else on the planet. Radio spots produced by radio stations still sound and act differently than radio spots produced by ad agencies. Radio is, I think, the raunchiest medium, too. Howard Stern is not exactly an aberration.

The Best of Show Agency award went to a very funny campaign for The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, which purported to deal with people’s fear of attending classical music performances. One lady frets but I don’t own a $500 strapless evening gown. The symphony spokesman says I do, but I don’t feel compelled to wear it. He announces that if you mispronounce a composer’s name, you only have to pay a small monetary fine. We’re kidding. We don’t do that. (Beat) Anymore.

By contrast, the Best of Show Station category was won by a spot called ‘Surfin’ for Nudity.’ It involved guys covering up the fact they were logged on to an Internet Golf Magazine by pretending they were surfing for porn. See what I mean?

Barry Base creates advertising campaigns for a living. He creates this column for fun, and to test the unproven theory that clients who find the latter amusing may also find the former to their liking. Barry can be reached at the Toronto office of Barry Base & Partners, (416) 924-5533; fax (416) 960-5255.