Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Atlanta Auto Show: It's All a Blur

Media day for the Atlanta Auto Show was Wednesday. Actually, it's more like media morning because the show officially opened at noon that day. But the morning was packed with press conferences with a handful of manufacturers.

If you follow this blog at all, you probably are well aware that I'm not keen on media day(s) at auto shows. It's a lot of walking around listening to carmaker PR and marketing types talk about cars that either I've already heard about or will hear about ad nauseum in the coming months.

Catching up with folks in the business and doing a little networking is a plus. Sometimes a car manufacturer will put me up in a hotel for a car show, as Nissan did in Chicago. And usually a carmaker will take me out to wine and dine me, as Volvo did in Chicago and Toyota in Atlanta. I'm all for that!

But the actual auto show event usually isn't as much fun as it sounds.

This year was a little rougher than years past.

Historically, I've driven the 150 miles to Atlanta's convention center from Greenville at O'Dark-thirty, the day of the event, arriving in time for breakfast at 8 a.m.

This year I broke from tradition. I discovered that I have Marriott points left from my days of traveling with "Discover America." Toyota hosted a pre-show dinner on Tuesday night at Atlanta's High Museum of Art, so I gave up some points to stay at a Mariott property in Buckhead. So far, so good, right?

After dinner, I joined some PR types from four or five car companies, a couple of guys associated with the auto industry and who-knows-who else at the lounge in the W Hotel in Atlanta.
We partied like a heavy-metal rock band. We did everything but set the place on fire.

Things began tamely enough in a little alcove seating area off the main lounge. As our group swelled, they moved us into what would have been the Champagne Room if this had been a strip joint.

This is where the evening took a sharp left turn, rapidly deteriorating.

Drinks just kept piling up. At one point I had a Maker's and water in my hand, and two fresh ones on the table in front of me. Every time one of the server's -- we had two trying to keep up with us -- would gamely enter the room somebody would order another round.

Don't get overly concerned, though; more drinks were spilled that night than consumed. It was like being in the front row at a Gallagher concert.

Even though everyone in the room had attended one dinner or another earlier that night, someone got the bright idea to order food. Just something else to hit the floor.

I won't go into all the gory details because, as you well know: What happens in Atlanta, stays in Atlanta; but, even by my measure, it was an epic train wreck. I have no idea who picked up the tab, but I was glad my name wasn't on any of the paperwork. I suspect the W is still hosing out the place.

The auto show breakfast began at 8 a.m. at the convention center, which was about 10-Atlanta-rush-hour-clogged miles from my hotel. My eyes popped open at 8:15. It was Mr. Toad's wild ride getting to the show.

I was not at my best at the press conferences, but did manage to stay on my feet and respond whenever someone engaged me in conversation.

Yeah, this auto show was a little tougher than usual, but a heck of a lot more fun.

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