Blowfish: A Private Life in Public Relations – Episode IX: “Chemical Dawn”
Recap: Jack Vance, the colorful CEO of Blowfish Communications, has been hired to engineer the launch of VGlobe a new online video network. The cornerstone of his launch campaign is Some Will Die, a reality weight loss program engineered to render all contestants dead. Jack and his team have just liberated their reluctant new host, Vladimir Berber, from a Mexican jail after plying him with psychoactive drugs.
- Episode I here
- Episode II here
- Episode III here
- Episode IV here
- Episode V here
- Episode VI here
- Episode VII here
- Episode VIII here
Vlad Berber was sure his eyes were open now. He had been walking through the desert for days, but the sun hadn’t made him squint like the light now streaming in from the window in front of him. He turned his head. The pillow under him was soft, firm and cool, like every ad in every magazine said a pillow should feel. He pushed himself up from his bed and looked around at the palatial room that lay before him. He knew this hotel. He had stayed here, in this very room years ago when he was THE celebrity from Survivor Chernobyl.
He felts as if long dormant program was kicking in, and marched towards the bathroom, regarding his clean shaven face in the large mirror over the sink. He relieved a full bladder of avocado colored urine and walked back to the living area. There was a bottle of Kauffman vodka from Moscow, chilling on a tray. He poured himself a glass. He sat down on the boldly striped couch; today’s copy of the Komsomolskaya Pravda lay where he would have left it. His standard outfit of Propper Tactical jungle pants, Danner combat boots and a Blackhawk Kev-lon shirt lay casually over the couch, as if he had just taken them off before going to bed. He lifted the shirt felt the heaviness he was looking for. Berber slid his hand into the custom made internal pocket and produced a modified Walther PPS. So strange, his long dream about some hot prison in Mexico, then the desert and now, everything seemed so…right. Then he heard the phone ring.
Berber had never bought into the idea of having a receiver planted on your body and an amplifier in your ear. He never wanted a pair of heads-up glasses or contact lenses, didn’t even own a smart phone when they were all the rage almost a decade ago. He was a “dumb phone” kind of guy. And with power that he once had he was able to wrangle a lifetime contract for plain old voice-only service from AT&T in exchange for an advertising endorsement. And there that old Nokia sat, ringing merrily on the couch. Hadn’t that phone disappeared years ago? Maybe he was mistaken because there it was. He regarded it like a long lost pet come back to life, and touched its familiar keypad.
“Vlad, it’s Jack, how’s the boy this morning? You presentable? I’m coming up.”
There was a rap on the door. Vlad opened it and regarded the overly cheery, highly styled man in the hallway. He knew this man. Why?
Vance marched past Vlad. He knew that he had a short window to sell his illusion and counted on Berber’s famously Luddite tendencies to leave what he was uncertain of unvetted. His first order of business was to start the alcohol flowing to lubricate the situation. They had kept Berber under for nearly three days while Vance’s crack psycho-pharmacologist had done a Manchurian Candidate on him. He looked around: the phone, the paper, the clothes, even the gun on the couch; Naomi had done her homework. If this paid off maybe he’d even shut down the upskirt cam feed that he’d installed under her desk. Although he hated to see a revenue stream go south, he felt ethically bound to acknowledge good works with at least a modicum of respect. He filled Berber’s glass to the brim, duplicated the order for himself and handed the confused giant his medicine.
“Pey Dadna! We earned this, eh!”
Vlad accepted the drink and followed Vance’s suit, draining it. Vance steered Berber to the cocktail table and pulled out a small projector.
“Do you remember the program? What you’re supposed to do this afternoon?”
“I…you mean the show? You’re talking about the show?” Fragments were returning to Berber. He had been in some reality show in Mexico; but it was canceled when the sponsor pulled out. Now he was on another show. But this one was good – he would be helping people. And this man, he was the one who fixed everything. He created another show. He was a friend.
“That’s right Vlad. Sit down, we’re meeting with the clients in two hours. We need to sell this. We need to sell you. Let’s review the pitch.”
Two hours later Vance and Berber were standing in front of Stanley Brill and company in the spiffy new VGlobe corporate offices where the odyssey had begun less than a week ago. It was show and tell time. Vance had already sold the client on the idea, now he was delivering the program. Brill eyed him, knowing the punch line with Vance was always preceded by a dollar sign.
“Gentleman, I’d like you to meet Vladimir Berber, the new face of what will be the biggest program that VGlobe will air: Some Will Die.” Berber stood; he knew his place on this buffet table, having been run through it during all the beauty pageants he had strutted for Survivor. Except the Mexican one; his memories on that program were somewhat fuzzy.
“And the only show on VGlobe at this juncture,” quipped one of Brill’s programming execs, a heavyset pudgeball who was all of 28, with a visible nervous twitch probably brought on from the lack of appetizers in the room. The little prick thought he could be afford some cheek at Vance’s expense because his boss was writing the checks. Vance let the comment slide. He thumbed the remote in his hand and the conference room screen filled with a stream of charts and spreadsheets. Brill recognized Berber, but like most people in the room couldn’t put any association to a name that had been out of circulation for five years.
“Welcome to the team Mr. Berber…your name is familiar, but…”
“Manslaughter in Chernobyl…and Mexico!” The pudgeball sparked up again, clearly beside himself with his mastery of important cultural facts.
“Mr. Berber was shooting a reality show in Mexico; the press got very creative with their interpretation when the show’s sponsor pulled out.” Vance needed to brush past the associations that didn’t fit Berber’s drug induced scenario as quickly as possible. He refocused the conversation.
“We have gone through all the potential audience scenarios; you’ll find copies of our data in your file folders on your server. Gentlemen, we feel that the best time to launch the premier episode of Some Will Die is against the Super Bowl.”
Brill stood up. Sure, Vance had put together an impressive program in an incredibly short period of time, but this was insane, whose money did the man think he was gambling?
“Why not after the game Jack, when three quarters of the potential audience isn’t watching something else?”
“Because if we can pull it off, you will make history, I will make you rich and you will be guaranteed an audience for at least…a season. And that’s pretty good these days.” Vance sat and Berber remained standing.
Brill shook his head. “And just what makes you think that you can possibly deliver the kind of programming that will make this country tune out the Super Bowl?”
“Since the head injury insurance settlements have reduced the Super Bowl to a flag football game, our country is jonesing for something that organized sports can’t deliver anymore: violence that yields results. I’ll show you why we have gone out of our way to deliver Vlad to the party.”
Vance nodded to Berber. The large Russian coolly picked up a conference room chair and threw it through one of the picture windows, shattering it. The bitter wind gusts from 50 stories in the air would have turned any paper in the office into a whirling vortex, if paper was still being used. While the room was still in shock Berber strode over to the fat little Peanut Gallery executive, picked him up, carried him to the open window and held him by one leg over the street.
“Give me 20 crunches fatty. Now.” The pudgeball, shaking with too much fear to scream, flailed wildly, grabbing air. Berber gave his leg a squeeze.
“Relax and give me a crunch!” Urine began running down the executive’s inverted face. He looked at Berber, folded his arms and, through his tears, grimaced as he attempted to pull himself into a crunch.
“Vance!” Brill yelled. But Jack waved him back: “Careful Stanley..he might drop him!” And the collective executive suite took a step back and watched the show play. The surreal entertainment played out.
“I..I can’t..” the squirmy fat little man managed to say, his ruddy face filling with blood.
“You can!” Berber put his other arm on the man’s other leg and steadied himself. “We do it..together.” Slowly the man started to curl up.
“One!” Berber yelled. Pudgy curled again and again and again, feeling steadier and stronger with each motion. Berber counted faster, “Five, six , seven, good!!” And suddenly the fat little executive, whose twitchy snideness had formed the protective shield over his girth, stopped focusing on the fact that he was being dangled by his legs 600 feet in the air and began to want the 20. He could do this.
“18, 19…20!” Berber pulled the executive back into the conference room and lowered him to the floor where he promptly collapsed. Berber pulled him up, then spit in his face and kissed.
“Not many men could do what you just did.”
The executive held a urine and sweat soaked hand out his tormenter.
“Thank you. I never…ever could have done that. Ever.”
Vance looked at the room.
“Anyone feel like watching a football game now?”
Within five minutes the assemblage had resumed their seats and the conference continued. Save for the broken glass, howling wind and the chubby programmer who had fainted while attempting to walk out the door and clean himself up. The recent dramatic interlude was already becoming a memory.
“Alright Vance, let’s say you can pull off something interesting and let’s say we do agree to attempt to go against the Super Bowl, what is this gambit going to cost us? The game’s in a month, you telling me you can pull it all together that fast?
“It’s not going to cost you anything Sidney. Matter of fact, I’m willing to gamble all the costs from here on in on the results of that game launch.” He had their attention now.
“No more expense bills, no more retainer. I want 15% of whatever advertising you sell around that game. That’s it. I’ll take care of everything else myself. What do you have to lose Sidney? You launch and we grab share – you’re rich and on the air. You launch and we get steamrolled, what are you losing? You’re on the air anyway, move forward.”
Brill thought about the proposal for all of one half second.
“Vance, give me a snort from that flask you have hidden in your jacket. It’s god damn cold in here. Let’s drink to that deal.”
TO BE CONTINUED.