Hangin’ out with Steve Forbes


What good would a media appearence be without some funny little oddity to go with it?

I get to the Fox Building in Rockefeller Center about 1:15. The Forbes folks arrive about the same time. We exchange greetings, and get our i.d. cards. While I’m waiting for my i.d. card to print, a woman walks up to the counter next to me, dripping with the faux fabulousness and pretension that makes entertainment the beloved industry it is. She has a pink weave, is thin and somewhat attractive, but horrifically annoying.

I’m still politely flirting with the desk receptionist/security person, when Miss Thang’s voice rings a bell in my head: Susan Powter of “stop-the-insanity” fame.

I say — “Hey, you’re not bald anymore. That’s a good look for you.”

Her reply: “Darling, its all fabulous.”

Uh, sure. I happen to catch her schtick on Neil Cavuto this morn, and she’s simply off the charts, hyper caffeinated, makes Jim Cramer look positively subdued. Cavuto can barely get a word in edgewise, and I suspect he was none too happy with her. Betcha she’s not invited back for a good long time.

But that’s not even the fun story: Me and the Forbes editors go inside. Waiting in the green room (the size of a small dorm room), doing hair, make up, etc. I’m standing there chatting with the editor who covers entertainment, discussing why the RIAA litigation strategy is so futile.

Suddenly, a few people yell “Hey, Steve!”

I turn around, and I’m face to face with Steve Forbes. Publishing Magnate. Presidential Candidate. Billionaire.

He sticks his hand out and says: “Hi, I’m Steve Forbes.”

My instinct is to say “I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch the name?” but I overcome my own wise ass inclinations. I shake his hand and say: “Sir, there’s no need to introduce yourself. Its a pleasure to meet you.” He actually gives me his business card, I fish out one of mine for him.

He seems like a regular ordinairy guy — down to earth, real, not what you would expect from a multi-billionaire. (Does Bill Gates eat at Wendy’s? Just curious.)

We chat a bit, everyone talks about the show. They go in to tape. I eventually do my 2 minute thing. After the taping, I get the makeup removed (they blow it on like their airbrushing the side of a van). The rest of the crew trickles in. Dennis (one of the editors) and I discuss several music related themes, used CD sales, M.A.P., etc. He’s definitely interested in the hard data, which is tough to come by. Fun conversation.

Then I said the magic words — “The music industry really needs to let the marketplace control prices” — ’cause Mr. Forbes then joins the conversation. I mention the artificial restraint of competition, the advertised price minimums, the creation of a used CD market, the 7 year delay in allowing digital distribution. He seems genuinely interested.

We leave the studio, and I walk out with the big guy. We head downstairs into the Rockefeller Center concourse, me still talking a mile a minute. I apologize for taking up so much of his time.

“No, please continue” says Forbes.

I tell him how MP3s are really an advert for music, their sound quality is mediocre — about = to FM radio — which is why classical and jazz music aren’t readily swapped via P2P. I mention Apple’s version is the highest sound quality, but still nowhere near CDs. We discuss discontinuity of how a movie which costs $100 million dollars to make sells for $10 as a DVD — yet the CD soundtrack to that same film sells for $18. (Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K).

He tells me to stay in touch with Dennis on this, and then (here comes the best part of the story) — he mentions that he’s gonna grab a bite for lunch. We say goodbye, and then Steve Forbes, billionaire publishing scion, steps into Wendy’s. Gets on line at the back of the queue, and patiently waits his turn.

I’m floored! Talk about real! What a surprisingly down to earth, very un-Dennis Kozlowski like person. The guy can buy the entire Wendy’s chain if he wants, and there he stands at the end of the line, waiting to get his burger.

The lesson learned is not to prejudge people. They can surprise you, and if you allow preconceptions to get in the way, you’ll miss seeing the real person. And that would be a shame . . .

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  1. BusinessPundit commented on Feb 14

    Steve Forbes Eats at Wendys

    This really surprised me. But then again, saving money is helpful when it comes to achieving billionaire status….

  2. Jonathan commented on Feb 16

    No, but Bill Gates does like to eat at McDonalds. He loves their cheeseburgers. I don’t know if they still go out due to security, but when he and his wife would go to McDonalds, she would sit on the outside as a shield. Stories abound about his love of McDonalds.

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