Good Hygiene, Multilevel Marketing, God
NORMALLY, OFF BEAT is immune to such come-ons. But we were drawn to an ad in last week's sports pages. "Get into business with Randall Cunningham, America's All-Pro quarterback," read the copy accompanying a photo of the beaming Viking. "Huddle up Wednesday, June 19, 1999. Exciting new business opportunity. Skinvisible International Inc. Hear Randall explain this new opportunity." As we made our way through the rush-hour horror of I-494 to the Radisson on Normandale Boulevard, we wondered just what kind of crush of humanity results when multilevel marketing meets the gridiron. The answer: about 20 people. We were in time for the warm-up act--Harvey Hyde, Cunningham's former coach at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, who told an absolutely hysterical yarn about a recent lunch date with Randall at an Applebee's in Vegas, and the silent debate over who'd pick up the check. But the lunch was important for another reason, Hyde told us: That's when he clued the QB to the miraculous properties of Skinvisible, a line of skin-care products that function as "an invisible glove," protecting hands from the damaging effects of everything from grease and dish soap (thanks to a special patent-pending polymer developed by a brilliant researcher from Fort Lauderdale!) to E. coli, salmonella, and shigella (thanks to special antimicrobial agents!"). From there it was on to the evening's star attraction--who, according to a company press release, owns stock in the firm and recently signed a three-year agreement to hawk its products. "I'm a Christian man," declared Cunningham, looking fit and natty in black T-shirt, black slacks, and black shoes and making earnest eye contact with an Avon Lady type in the front row. "I'm not going to drag you down here and tell you lies. I just don't go out and endorse any product. I wouldn't do this," he added emphatically, "unless I believed in it." Now, he explained, when he shakes hands with strangers he no longer needs to rush off to wash his hands. "You guys know what I'm talking about," he smiled knowingly. "It's nasty. When I go to the restroom, I don't like touching things." Passing out sample portions, Cunningham instructed us to try out the product, and to imagine all the different people we could sell it to: flight attendants, mechanics, doctors, waitresses... Concluding with the requisite comic anecdote (as a man whose trade requires him to place his hands under another man's rear, he especially appreciates the extra antimicrobial protection!), Cunningham moved to the back of the room to autograph photos while we were treated to more pitches, and video testimonials featuring scientists, researchers, and doctors, including heart transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard. But as we prepared to shell out the ten bucks to get in on the ground floor as "independent representatives" and were wavering about whether to put up the extra twenty for the optional sales and marketing manual, we noticed that Cunningham--that always elusive scrambler--had managed to slip unnoticed from the room. Not that the evening was a total loss: That autographed glossy'll look great on the wall of our cubicle.
Body by Jake
"I DON'T THINK he's that prominent an author," Off Beat overheard someone say. A handful of butts were scattered in the two dozen chairs that had been set up in a corner of the Calhoun Square Borders, awaiting Jake Tapper's one-city promotional tour in support of his unauthorized, direct-to-paperback gube bio Body Slam: The Jesse Ventura Story. The 30-year-old author, who penned his tome without the benefit of either an interview with Ventura or a trip to the Twin Cities, breezed in 15 minutes late, blaming his unfamiliarity with the local landscape. "I don't know if you guys have any questions or if you want me to read an excerpt or what," he announced. "This is the first one of these I've done." Though Ventura was nowhere in sight, three of Tapper's sources were on hand: "Mac" McInroy, the governor's history teacher at Roosevelt High; former pro wrestler Eddie Sharkey, who taught Ventura the game; and, on the perimeter, Bill Hillsman, the brain behind the candidate's ballyhooed ad campaign. The author, who recently took a job as a Washington correspondent for the online magazine Salon, played to the familiar faces, reading segments featuring quotes from Sharkey and McInroy. He also commented on the tameness of his bio compared to the governor's own recently released I Ain't Got Time to Bleed, deeming Ventura's chronicling of his exploits with prostitutes "inappropriate." Off Beat's no book reviewer, but we will say this: The hooker stuff was the best part of Jesse's book. As for Body Slam, it has a certain term-paper breeziness (as well as some fact-checking oversights) that smartly set off its supermarket-checkout-line look and $5.99 price tag. It ain't great literature--but then again, neither is Off Beat.
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