Me a TV Star? What is the world coming to?
One day I received a telephone call from my stock broker, Rich Muhlberg of Metis Advisors in Cherry Hill, NJ. I owned shares of LifeCycle mutual fund. LifeCycle’s managers reviewed each customer’s portfolio on his birthday.
At this time some of the growth stock was sold and more income producing stock was purchased. The former has more risk and less income than the latter, so this process is appropriate action as one ages.
I Am Informed
Rich said that LifeCycle was hiring a video company to make an infomercial for the company. Did I want to participate by giving a testimonial? I valued the securities and jumped at the chance to have a new experience, so I agreed. It meant a trip from North Jersey to Philadelphia, where I was met at 30th Street Station by a video team’s representative and driven to a hotel in King of Prussia where the shooting would take place.
The team had rented a suite of three rooms in a row each connected by a door.
- Room one was at one end of the suite. The room had a closed circuit TV where security holders could gather and view taping as it happened.
- Room two was the middle room of the suite; it was used for the actual shoot.
- Room three was the other end room of the suite. It contained lots of refuse from breakfasts, lunches, snacks, coffee, and soft drinks. The many empty cans had contained a high energy soft drink, the contents of which are desirable to keep one going during prolonged and intense activity.
I Show Up
Having arrived I went directly to Room three, and an employee ordered a room service lunch for me. There were other people there waiting for their turn before the video camera or coming down from a high after the experience of being taped. The latter were eager to talk about their room two experience. And what an experience it was for me.
When my turn before the camera came I was taken to room two. I took in the ambiance of the room. On one side of the room I saw a conglomeration of traditional living room furniture – easy chairs, lamp tables, lamps, pictures on and off the wall; the furnishings were guaranteed to offend no one.
I’m Not the Only TV Star
At one end a stockholder was being interviewed; he was sitting in one of the easy chairs, a lamp table holding a lamp on one side of the chair. One of the pictures was hanging on the wall behind the seated man; it was hung so as to be visible on the camera. The man looked as though he were home and relaxed.
On the other end, I saw the video camera man. The shoot of each investor was not continuous but done in segments; each contained a question posed by the interviewer and the response given by the investor. Apparently when the taping was paused one could see how much time had been unwound since the shooting began. There were two young ladies who recorded the start and finish positions of the tape of each recorded segment. They also made notes on content of the segment and who had been taped.
The finished tape was to be one half hour long and would consist of segments chosen from those on the tape. The total length of the time spent producing segments for each investor was about a half hour, so the tape holding the recording would eventually be edited. Of course there would be other segments on the final tape other than those of the investors, segments describing details of the mission of LifeCycle – in other words, the sales pitch.
In the midst of this support group was the interviewer, one of the most handsome and charming men I have ever witnessed. When it was my turn to take my place before the camera I was given a new chair, new picture, new lamp table and new lamp. The setting was thus made different for each person interviewed, the illusion being presented to the ultimate viewer being that each person interviewed was in his own home. I sat down among these new furnishings and prepared to be interviewed.
TV Star – The Grilling
The interviewer looked at me, smiled and in a gentle but clear voice began to ask me questions. Some of the questions were general and others were particular to LifeCycle. Occasionally the interviewer would ask if I could answer a particular question in a shorter way. This, too, was recorded on a segment. I realized that when final segments were selected from those that had been recorded and strung together, the interviewer’s questions would not be included and my segments would sound like I was merely talking.
One answer I gave they found particularly interesting and very entertaining: “Einstein said that the discovery of compound interest was the eighth wonder of the modern world.” Segments of some stockholders were not included in the edited version of the tape. I think my Einstein quote gave me an edge and made me a TV star.
TV Star – The Outcome
LifeCycle paid my cab and train fare. There was no remuneration for my efforts as a TV thespian, the idea being that my effort before the camera was an unpaid testimonial.
Now when I see an infomercial my mind’s eye can discern what went on during its preparation.
I wish there was a happy ending to this story. The idea of tailoring your stock holdings in the light of your advancing age is a good one, but LifeCycle was ruined because of some of the destructive practices allowed in the stock market business.
— Ellen Hetland Fenwick
Note: Ellen has written additional articles found in our Math, Logic, and Design section.