Whether you are a millionaire rock star or an entry-level customer-service rep, no one can resist the lure of cable graft. Wandering unbadged and unescorted at the National Show last Tuesday in New Orleans (until a Wire correspondent recognized him) was Ric Ocasek, former lead singer of The Cars. He explained that his wife, model-actress Paulina Porizkova, was signing autographs in a booth, "and I'm not, so I'm taking a look around." The rocker branded Cable2K pretty cool, adding that he had never been to a trade show before, except for "a little indie-film thing in Milan. Nothing like this. I love technology." "So, you're getting a lot of product demos?" he was asked. "Nah, I'm just picking up stuff for my kids," he said, holding up a modest bag of trinkets.
- - - Celebrity attorney Alan Dershowitz also shopped the booths at the National Show. In addition to "selling out" the 500 free copies of his latest book, The Genesis of Justice, at his first trade-show book signing, Dershowitz found time Tuesday to tour the floor. He stopped to talk to The Wire clutching a plain white yo-yo with a Toshiba logo and bright yellow flip-flops from StreamSearch.com, while keeping an eye on the Court TV PR exec responsible for keeping tabs on his Turner bag stuffed with other goodies. His favorite: the yo-yo, which he mastered as a youth and demonstrated as he talked, prompting Court TV president Henry Schleiff to observe," You'll always have something to fall back on."
- - - Tennis Grand Slam vet Jim Courier made his debut as a cable employee in New Orleans, just hours after official word broke of his retirement from the professional men's circuit. But what no one could tell as he gripped and grinned through the "Breakfast at Wimbledon" affiliate photo op was how close Courier came to a serious injury that could have knocked him out before his multiyear contract with Turner Sports was even announced. Sporting a vivid red mark on the far right side of his temple, Courier explained that it came courtesy of a friend who got a little frustrated on the golf course and angrily tossed his sand wedge, which then boomeranged in his direction, slamming into his temple. Courier told The Wire he was in such pain he couldn't figure out how to break the club in half and strangle his friend at the same time.
- - - Final celebrity sighting: Rapper Coolio, headed into the far doors of the show floor, sans entourage. One bystander called out a greeting, then a handful of convention-center employees exploded in glee. "Coolio! I can't believe it. I can't believe you're here. My Man! Yo, Coolio!" But in a sudden reversal worthy of an American Express commercial, one worker's next comment was, "Hey, man, you got no badge. You're not supposed to come in here." (Like Ocasek, Coolio got in anyway.)
- - - Part of The Walt Disney Co.'s strategy in its mini-feud with Time Warner Cable was to play the direct-broadcast satellite card-that is, to reimburse customers who bought DBS dishes to pick up ABC programming that Time Warner declined to carry. But the Mouse House hasn't always been so DBS-friendly. Last year, at the urging of Disney uber-lobbyist Preston Padden, the House Judiciary Committee adopted an amendment that would have barred within one year the importation of distant network signals in markets served by at least two local TV signals delivered via satellite. This meant DirecTV Inc.-which, at the time, had no local-into-local strategy-would have had to terminate distant network service to thousands of DBS customers living in markets where Dish Network, which had an aggressive local-into-local strategy, began to offer the local affiliates of the four major networks. The amendment, Padden said at the time, was intended as "a much better way to incentivize people to do local-into-local." A DBS lobbyist, angry about the Disney gambit, said the provision had to come out, claiming that it "disenfranchises these distant-network-signal subscribers and basically makes the equipment they have purchased useless for the purpose of network programming." Padden eventually lost the battle, as Congress decided to drop the provision.