The Venice Effect

A hundred years ago, a student, I spent my sophomore year in Pavia, Italy; a quiet-ish town just 20 miles south of Milano. Possessed of the requisite number of churches, a cathedral, a central town square, covered bridge over the Ticino River and most of the streets paved in stone; Pavia was, for me, the perfect combination of town and village to host the perfect, first-time, expatriate experience.

The University of Pavia – one of the oldest Universities in the world (pre 825AD) – can name among alumni Christopher Colombus, Camillo Golgi, Antonio Scarpa, multiple Nobel Prize winners and famous names from philosophy, law and medicine…

…none of them related to me.

Effectively my first Fully Immersive Experience, I lived in Collegio Fraccaro; one of two Americans among about two-hundred medical students, few of whom spoke English. This, alone, helped to transform the learning of Italian from academic to survival. 

It was a wonderful year, and has remained vivid ever since. I swam with and helped coach the city swim team, hitchhiked all over Northern Italy, Switzerland and Austria on weekends, went to the annual Sagra (Festival) in scores of nearby local towns and villages as each celebrated their Thing of Most Pride (usually edible: no problem) and met and talked with hundreds of locals as I became more proficient in the lingua.

Through the winter, I had dinner twice a month with a local businessman and his family. We’d met through the proprietress of my favorite café…I suppose she was my “dealer,” as that place was the birthplace of my lifelong addiction to espresso and strong coffee.

The deal was, at these dinners, I was to speak only Italian and he would speak only English – other than when we needed to correct one another. This was for him and his wife, but also for his kids – to give ‘em a head start on learning English. That, and it sure didn’t hurt me. The food was great and conversations would inevitably wax more complex as the evening progressed and the level of proficiency increased.

But one such night stands out among them all: the night in February when I mentioned that in a few weeks, I was going to see Venice for the first time…

“Ahh, Venezia!” he sang, “Il cuore d’Italia!” <The heart of Italy> 

And with that, the English lesson was over as his passion took flight… 

All appassionato, his hands conducting an unseen orchestra, he began instructing me on how to approach and see Venice for the first time…


  • <Listen!

“Quando arrivi a Venezia, non vai subito a Piazza San Marco!” 

  • <Do not go immediately to Piazza San Marco!>

“No. Stay away from Venice proper ’til early morning. Then, before the sun rises, take the vaporetto to the far side of the island – NOT to Piazza San Marco. “

“Walk the vicoli <alleyways>, perditi come tu vaghi  <lose yourself as you wander> … Ascoltare alla cittá <listen to the city>…”


“Keep wandering. See the city awaken. Observe. Immerse (I don’t know that he actually said “Immerse,” but that was the concept). You will forget where you are…and then…”

(Dramatic pause. He looked me directly in the eye.) 

“Suddenly…you will discover Piazza San Marco!”

“And then…you will understand Venezia…and then…you will understand Italia…”

…and he rested his hands on his stomach as he leaned back against his chair. 


So, that’s what I did. 


Arriving late the night before, I was just in time to check-in to the youth hostel on the island of Giudecca…coincidentally almost directly across the water from Piazza San Marco; I could see the towers and dome of the Basilica from my room; but the lower levels were obscured by buildings between us. 

In the dark of the next morning, refusing to look across the water, I boarded the vaporetto counter-clockwise, traveled to the far side of the Castello district, alighted at Ospedale and began to wander.

By now, the sky was grey and I could hear activity in the windows I passed. Once one has ventured just a few steps from the ocean, one finds oneself in the narrowest of passageways without view of any sort of landmark, as the vicoli can be as narrow as three feet with walls several stories high. If one doesn’t know, there is no way TO know where one is in relation to anything else.

Fortunately, one knows one is surrounded by water; so, at some point there will come an edge. Thus, onward. 

Tiny, compressed, all the passageways are only wide enough for people with small carts; every inch of Venice is valuable and there is no wasted space. I could hear the chiacchierare of morning television, the clang of pots on stoves, the clatter of dishes on tables and mothers calling for the ragazzi to get themselves down to breakfast. 

Tiny bridges over tiny canals barely wider than a Gondola. Gondoliers, calling to one another as they wipe down their barche and begin navigating toward the Grand Canal and the morning fares… 

In tiny, interior plazas, fishermen were piling high their catches of moments ago onto tabletops, hosing down the pave stones to be ready to sell lunch and dinner to the shopping mothers, once their kids have headed for school.

Up high, the sky is blue, though one only sees a sliver…even passing through the morning marketplaces, the view is still high above, one can only see what’s adjacent; no distance, no landmarks. 

But that limitation went completely unrealized, as I was immersed in activity and detail all around me…and navigating through it. Objectively, I knew I was heading in the general direction of Piazza San Marco, though I really wasn’t thinking about it; so much was going on around me.

I came upon a fountain. Into the base were carved little bowls into which slender streams of water were fed as part of the runoff. At that moment, one of them was functioning as a birdbath, wherein a couple of piccioni (sounds more romantic than “pigeons”) were taking their morning ablutions. 

I did not take this photo.

I bent over to get a photograph (with an actual Nikon camera – that’s how long ago this was) and, as I stood up and looked across the fountain…

There it was!

Piazza San Marco. 

Breathtaking; the vastness of the Piazza was magnificent. The effect of encountering so much unencumbered space, being able to see the sunshine sparkling on the waterway to the left, warming the rooftops above the surrounding colonnade, shining bright on buildings far away and brightening the white stones of the plaza to alabaster; then turning and seeing the brilliant façade of the Basilica…

It stopped me completely. I don’t know that I’d ever before been moved by architecture; but my eyes were wet and my throat hurt as I immediately appreciated the investment in the ethereal that had been made in the creation of this space. 

Had I gone directly to the Piazza, I know I would still have been impressed. It is beautiful. It’s really not so big: as piazze go, it’s not spectacular. In its Venetian context, though, it is virtually unsurpassed in grandeur, in eloquence, in transcendence. 

I don’t know that I understand Italy, or Venice, but I certainly discovered and embraced something I felt at that moment that can only be appreciated by walking through it. It is a moment and an experience I shall never forget… March, 1972.

From Google Earth. One can see how large is the Piazza relative to all the space around it, but it’s pretty much the same size as the train station.


It wasn’t until years later that I realized the opportunity to use that morning in Italia to enhance audience experience. 

Introducing an audience into a space – even and often more effectively into a space with which they are presumptively familiar – through a distracting, engaging and perhaps somewhat confining pathway – by way of what I call “The Venice Effect” (though I’m sure there’s a loftier, industry term for it) has never failed to engage even the most jaded even at some subliminal level. 

Offering people a new perspective on what might be considered familiar is an unexpected gift that can affect how we might experience other things to which we may have become familiar; offering the opportunity to see through fresh lenses, removing preconception, actually making the old, new. 

I wonder if we might be able to find a way, within each of ourselves, to do this with other people; to refresh our vision and brush away years of familiarity to see how those around whom we have spent so much time may have grown or evolved since we first met. To hold close the love and fondness that may have grown between friends and colleagues over the years while seeing the new person right before our eyes…and to be seen, each of us, for whom we have become as we’ve been so busy Being. 

There’s no App for that!



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“IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience”

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Feed Your Darn Crew!

January 19, 2013. Opening Cast at Yas Waterworld. Photo by author.

Seriously, feed your darn crew.

The way to a person’s best work is paved with taste buds and gastrointestinal comfort. 

You probably already know this. You must know this. Though, I think some may not know this, so I’m going to say it.


Decades ago, when producing Press Conferences for national and local political campaigns, and upon discovering that the Press Corps often had to be at their desks by 8am…I would hold Press Conferences at 8:30 and always provide donuts and coffee. That way, they could be late to work – as they’d want to be in position before the conference began AND get free breakfast. 

Packed, every time. 

Feed those you need.


Over 20 years in Production; I learned early-on and have always considered it a given that The Crew Must Be Fed…and always a Real Meal. 

This is not Rocket Science and it ain’t no mystery; but when I encounter a Producer, Director, Project Manager or Events Person who begrudges or in any way resists the precept of feeding the Crew, I am repeatedly stunned at the Obvious Benefit can be so myopically missed. And yes: I judge.

Seeing that the crew is fed is not about Union Rules and contracts; it’s about building a team and infusing the qualities of collegiality and respect. A happy, well-fed crew knows they are appreciated and respected; and will likely go the distance – above and beyond – when the situation calls for it… And in live show work, you can pretty much count on the situation calling for it.

When a crew is treated as an expense, with marginal craft-service & meals and contractual boxes to be ticked in order to comply; one can expect that that is how one’s job or production will be treated. With such an attitude underlying the production, a crew can then be expected to do only what they are contracted to do and nothing more. Professionally Professional, certainly: but a great show depends on that relationship being Personally Professional.

Communicating the importance of feeding the production crew is often one of the first “come to jesus” conversations I find myself having with a new client…and sometimes with a regular one. 

“Why should I feed ‘em when I’m already paying them?” 

“So that your show happens…and, it’s the right thing to do.”

Sometimes…people who don’t ever really worry about food on the table fail to perceive its importance to those who live closer to the line. [This pertains, too, to paying cast and crew at the close of the show so that they depart with the deal complete and needn’t worry about when they’ll see the money: but that’s yet another column.]

A few years ago, on site with a colleague, she was grousing about the concern being expressed by her crew heads about the quality of the breakfasts that were being supplied. Skinny, aluminum-wrapped breakfast burritos seemed fine to her. “Why do they make such a big deal about breakfast?”

I was all, “Are you kidding? <Name withheld because I love her>, are you nuts? Why buy a Ferrari and put unleaded fuel in it? You have a great crew, keep ‘em happy and in top form. Scrambled eggs, biscuits, BUTTER (spreadable), jam, potatoes and bacon…lots of bacon, and you’ll have one of the smoothest-running shows you’ve ever had. Trust me.” 

Bonus: they’ll be inclined to show up early for a good breakfast and be ready to go at call-time.

The Ferrari metaphor resonated; she upped the quality of breakfasts and the Day Two show eminently surpassed that of Day One.

One’s crew are the most important guys and gals one wants committed to oneself as Producer and to the vision of the experience or show one is striving to deliver. The crew should know that the Producer or Director knows s/he is dependent on them and that genuine respect underscores the relationship. 

When that is known and appreciated, the crew are all about supporting the show and the vision. 

This is a commitment the rewards for which will become eminently evident and valuable as one finds members of the crew coming up with creative solutions to problems the Producer may not yet have seen coming. They take ownership of the show at a more fundamental, personal level and treat the responsibilities under their purview with that much more acuity and concern for quality.

It’s a Human Trait.


There existed an even greater dichotomy to be discovered during my years in Dubai. The “caste” distinction between levels of the production crew is even more pronounced in that part of the world; most especially between the (generally Western or First World) professional / creative / technical crew and the Third World labor class brought in to do the actual building. 

Early on in my experience, it took much insistent negotiation between a client and me to obtain even a simple table of water bottles and bananas placed under a canopy, specifically for the laborers on a show or project. It also took a little friendly education to convince the laborers that there were no negative consequences for helping themselves to the table whenever they were thirsty or had a pang. 

The smile and laughter quotient among the laborers tended to rise, after that…and I’ll tell you, experiencing all those guys smiling and quietly speaking or signaling a greeting as they passed rather than having them silently avert their eyes from “Sir” is transformational and spiritually empowering.

Feed your crews.


Bit of a post-script: 

Concomitant to this is the cardinal rule that a Producer NEVER yells at or belittles a crew or crew member – especially in public. ALL public communication must remain respectful and, when there is a problem, the wise, experienced Producer engages the crew or crew member to collaborate in addressing it and in coming up with and applying the best solution to the problem for which they are responsible to solve. 

ANY upbraiding, criticism or firing is always done in private. Always.

A producer who shouts at a crew sows seeds of disrespect, mistrust and conveys a sense of ownership that is at cross-purposes to the spirit of show and project crew culture. The best work comes through respect. 

Shouting and berating is Amateur. 

Such a producer will have a hard time engendering loyalty and finding crew colleagues willing to join the next project. 

So. Feed your crews. 

Feed ‘em meals. Feed them respect that offers self-respect. Treat them as your valued team and you can trust that you will benefit from their best efforts.

That: and they’ll both speak well of you behind your back and will jump at the chance to work with you, again.



Omani Performers – amazing, generous men – Dubai National Day, 2012. Photo by author
Stage Management Team. Dubai National Day, 2012. Photo by author.

Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies,

“IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience”

remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes.

Seriously: Free.

Read it. [Link to iBooks site ]

The Boomennial Age


I made it up.

In attempting to describe where we are along the spectrum of cultural evolution, this new term is meant to combine the umbrella labels of the two largest factions of the current American Workforce; dependent on each other – on which we all are dependent, actually – for effective institutional, intergenerational knowledge transfer in virtually every industry.

Last week, the Themed Entertainment Association held our annual Summit Conference at Disneyland (…where else would one expect such a meeting to take place?). One of the Hot Topics presented on our stage was a panel on the changing composition of the Workforce and an exploration of adjustments to methodologies, mindsets and existing corporate cultures that are essential to success in embracing new demographics that have new or different ways of thinking than has been SOP since the Industrial Age…or at least the ’80’s.

Before We Begin

Assumptions, Definitions and Postulations:

  • “Millennial” seems to have become a pejorative, negatively-laden word. Big time. No matter how the word is meant when used, it seems to carry a volatility and be met with defensiveness and even anger when laid upon the pursuant age group. [I don’t recall any previous generational generalization being met with such antipathy; not X, not Y, and not even “Boomer”…a term not without its own corona of entitlement, yet that label never seemed to inspire such ire as does the “M” word.]
  • I’d like to find another word; somehow, I doubt that will be successful.
  • A personal POV, but I don’t see “Millennial” as a specific age group, anymore. As posited in this post of last November, 

“No longer really applicable to a specific, definable age-demographic; if anything, “Millennial” is a point of view, a way of seeing things, a combination of aspiration, inquisitiveness, a sense of one’s value … that pervades vast segments of society and culture…largely irrelevant anymore to age or “generation” and more broadly so to exponentially greater segments of the professional workforce who plan on remaining in that workforce for some time to come.”

  • …In other words; pretty much anyone under 40 and many of the Digital Immigrants and Industry Elders has – by now and to at least some degree – adopted and embraced a more nimble, flexible way of thinking and communication…or is in the process thereof. 

Some facts:

  • By 2020, 46% of the workforce in the US will be Millennial.
  • This year, the number of Millennials in the workforce is greater than that of Boomers
  • By 2025, more than half the workforce population will be reporting to someone younger than themselves. 
  • The smallest segment of the Workforce with the greatest amount of Industry / Institutional Knowledge have already crested 60. Far more active and healthy than the 60’s of the ’60’s; this valuable population of Elders wants to continue working and contributing…and sharing knowledge. We only have 10 – 15 years to see that knowledge and know-how shared: we must get moving.

…and On to the Conversation.

So here’s The Thing: irrespective of one’s perception, perspective or impression of Millennials; the fact is inarguable; these aspirational new thinkers are coming and must be welcomed and embraced. So, whatever generalizations may be levied on this evolving workforce must be set aside with the larger view that We Are Bound to Make This Work.

And here’s the Other Thing: the Elders may need to learn to listen differently, better, more generously and acutely. This means shutting down preconception and silencing the Voice in One’s Head and truly hearing the newcomer before deciding…

  • when and how to share what knowledge,
  • how open each might be to learning and collaboration,
  • how best to relate, to establish positive, working relationships.

Road-builders survey the topography before beginning to design the road or laying pavement. ’Tis the same with mentorship. Know with whom you are dealing, establish a respectful relationship before sharing knowledge…and be not only prepared, but prepared to find new excitement or fulfillment in one’s own learning from the person being mentored. 

It truly is a two-way process.

Active Listening is critical to the building of a mutually-respectful relationship. 

Leadership must be Collaborative.

“… people, having been and felt fully heard throughout a given process are far more likely to accept, embrace and support the path and solution ultimately taken than when simply directed to do something a given [or predetermined] way.”

And then there’s This Last Thing: Everyone is involved in this metamorphoses; all the X’s and Y’s now in Middle Management are called upon to advocate, to create, broker and foster these relationships. Not yet at Executive/Mentor level, though more hands-on-with-cachet than any other subset; knowledgeable managers are in a position to lobby for, initiate and institute a pervasive, effective culture of mentorship within and around company and project environments. In the field, they are also in a position to know how to augment and with whom to raise the level of the body of knowledge and experience to be shared on their teams.

Mentorship must be Part of the Program. All Programs. Mentorship is no longer lunch-every-other-Thursday-with-one’s-Mentor as in the Olde Days.

Mentorship is Collaborative and Collegial. Mentorship is not “teaching.” Rather, it is two (or more) intelligent people – one full of fresh knowledge and aspiration, the other with practical experience and a way of addressing the mission, goal, project or task, working together to accomplish something. 

Note, too, use of the term “a” way as opposed to “the” way; for through the collaborative process the prospect exists that there might be discovered an evolution of approach. Both or all participants must be willing to learn something at any time.

For example: “So, here’s how I do it; I’ve had a lot of success with this methodology. If you have a different idea, let’s take a look at that, too…” goes a lot further than, “…this is how it’s done.” 

Just sayin’.

Mentorship is Apprenticeship and Example. It takes place all the time, every day, throughout the course of working together. An encounter in a hallway, perhaps an ad hoc site visit or vendor tour, “…how’s it going? What are you working on, just now…?”

Along with this comes the invaluable to share with those who are new the incomparable sense of accomplishment when one has put in the work and effort over a significant amount of time to bring a project to conclusion or a program to life. 

In a world filled with right-swipes, clicks and likes; to discover the rewards of total immersion, arduous work through toward and ultimate accomplishment of is a treasure to share. Perhaps approach the shepherding through the culture in such a way as to see the manifestation of intrigue as the delving-in begins, then witness the deep-seated excitement and visible thrill of accomplishment at success is realized.

Mentorship is Community-based. Every member of a staff or team is a potential mentor at any given time. Navigating the pathways of a new company takes time and information, knowing the names and jobs of all whom one passes in the hallway adds immensely to the sense of Belonging and Partnership. If such an attitude can become woven into the culture of a company, organization or project; productivity will increase and morale can skyrocket.

Finally, as articulated in most things written in this space: Listen, First. 

People who feel authentically heard – especially by what is traditionally an authority figure – are far more likely to have respect for that person and hear what s/he has to say. Mentors / authority figures who approach first meetings – any meetings – without a script and who first Listen will quite likely discover that they have something different and more relevant to say as well as see that what has been said is more readily embraced than may otherwise have been had their first comments or direction been based on pre-meeting assumption about the mentee rather than an actual in situ experience with them.

Respect begets respect. It’s uncanny!

So, really, I’m thinking that accommodating the burgeoning evolution of the workplace isn’t the onerous obstacle it can so often be perceived to be. It’s nuanced, sensitive, organic, and eminently do-able.

IMHO, the steps of the solution to successfully accommodating this workforce evolution are:

  • Exploring and Appreciating one’s Assumptions
  • Active listening without preconception
  • Establishing Respectful Relationships – a community of Respectful Relationships.
  • Embracing an inherent culture of Mentorship wherein new knowledge flows both ways and at all times.

Boiled down to this, it doesn’t seem so challenging. I ain’t sayin’ it’s easy, per se; but it seems more adjustment than overhaul.


I want to share this video of Simon Sinek, “Millennials in the Workplace” We used a clip of it at the Summit to open our session; finding it an exquisitely articulate, sympathetic and insightful assessment of the dynamics that have brought us to this place, along with a suggested pathway through it. Worth a watch.


And finally, I want to acknowledge Julie Reyes and her team of kickass professionals who did all the research and presented this panel to the Summit, last week. These are the people with the direct experience of actually facilitating this workforce evolution, case by case.

  • Julie Reyes – Vice President, 11th Hour – – 310.821.6900
  • Mary Cluff – Managing Director – Mousetrappe – – 818.972.2525
  • Rani Bal – Independent Talent Consultant to the Fabulous – – 562.569.9777


Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies,

“IMHO : Creating Compelling Experience”

remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes.

Seriously: Free.

Read it. [Link to iBooks site ]

Cash, Conscience & the Moral Compass

It’s a big day in Brunei.

Starting today, it is legal to stone homosexuals to death.

New Islamic laws that took effect in Brunei on Wednesday, punishing gay sex and adultery by stoning offenders to death, have triggered an outcry from countries, rights groups and celebrities far beyond the tiny Southeast Asian nation’s shores.

The penalties were provided for under new sections of Brunei’s Sharia Penal Code, instituted in 2014 to bolster the influence of Islam in the oil-rich monarchy of around 430,000 people, two-thirds of whom are Muslim.

Even before 2014, homosexuality was already punishable by a jail term of up to 10 years. But under the new laws, those found guilty of gay sex could be stoned to death. Adulterers risk death by stoning too, while thieves face amputation of a right hand on their first offense and a left foot on their second.

By now, you’ve probably seen the calls for action – in this case, the boycotting of the luxury hotel chain (list at the end of this post) that is owned by the Sultan of Brunei – on the part of George Clooney, Ellen Degeneres, Elton John, Bobby Berk and a host of other, vocal celebrities. 

Succinctly put:

“They’re nice hotels. The people who work there are kind and helpful and have no part in the ownership of these properties. But let’s be clear, every single time we stay at or take meetings at or dine at any of these nine hotels we are putting money directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery. Brunei is a Monarchy and certainly any boycott would have little effect on changing these laws. But are we really going to help pay for these human rights violations? Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens? I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.”

George Clooney Op-Ed

This call for boycott was first vocalized back in 2014, as the Sultan announced his plan to invoke Sharia Law throughout Brunei by 2019. The furor died down and is now revitalized by the actual fact of this inhumane legal structure. Of course, this writer supports an active, vocal boycott; though my personal budget has never afforded me entree to that level of hospitality, so my staying away from the Dorchester Collection will have literally no effect on their profits.

As of this writing, I am unaware of any of my peers, colleagues or their companies actually doing business in Brunei. I would hope that any such business enterprise would cease with the knowledge of these aggressive, egregious violations of simple human rights. 

But, that’s not my call. These are personal and business decisions to be made by oneself with respect to one’s own business and point of view.

The thing is, this is far bigger than just Brunei. The spectrum on this planet of governments and businesses who aggressively support Hate is vast and broad. Hate for minorities, hate for women, hate for other-colored peoples, hate for homosexuals: Hate. 

So, when business profit goes to support hate; whither the Right Course? How much can concern for Life on the Planet affect decisions that are “purely business;” and is anything “purely business” at all, anyway?

From the US$2million a year that Chick-fil-A donates to US-based LGBTQ-targeted hate groups to the Russian pogrom of homosexuals in Chechnya to the government of Saudi Arabia ordering the brutal murder of a US Resident journalist, the degree of severity, the level of transgression, the sheer and willful abnegation of Human Values is virtually overwhelming. Simply keeping track of all the places and instances of hateful abuses of Power is exhaustive.

So, do we have a moral duty to pay attention to where the profits of our offshore or domestic expenditures go?

That being said, they are personal and business decisions with very real human ramifications. My own sense is that putting money in the Hands of Those Who Hate must, at some level, take a karmic or spiritual toll.


During my four-year sojourn in Dubai, these conversations occupied no small amount of time and energy among friends and colleagues. There is a case to be made for being physically present in countries and regions of oppression; somewhat protected by having American citizenship thus able to represent to locals the truth and facts of freedoms available and accepted in other parts of the world. 

Enlightened citizens may have the opportunity to change their countries laws and cultures from within. Maybe. Sometimes.

At the same time and in the same conversations, it was incumbent on the Americans to cop to our own country’s de facto, endemic racism, hate and Human Rights Violations. We are not so innocent; especially now.


So what are our responsibilities as businesspeople and citizens of the US and of the world? At what point can we, with conscience intact, do business with governments or institutions for which Hate is such a part?

Is there a line we can walk with integrity; growing a global business while standing for humane treatment of and respect for all human beings? Can we say “…it’s not our business…” as we pay the taxes and pour profits into the accounts of nationals who Hate…who legislate and act on said Hate?

Can we take a stand for what we know is right and still have a business?


So: the information:

Again, these are calls that no one of us can make for another. The only universal action available to us is to simply inform and be informed. Decisions must lie with the Individuals and Boards. 

Even a quickly-gathered list of Areas and Governments of Concern is exhausting to read.

1) List of Dorchester Hotels:

  • The Dorchester, London
  • 45 Park Lane, London
  • Coworth Park Dorchester, Ascot
  • The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills
  • Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles
  • Le Meurice, Paris
  • Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris
  • Hotel Eden, Rome
  • Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan

2) UAE. We already know that it’s against the law to be HIV+ in the UAE and Malaysia, subject to immediate removal from the country.

3) Russia / Chechnya. Russian police continue to harass LGBTQ individuals, groups and gatherings.

Since the Sochi games brought to the world’s attention the Putin government’s policy of overt harassment, humiliation and torture of Russia’s LGBTQ population, there has been increasing public scrutiny and outcry. Yet, gay people are still disappearing from Chechnya and incidents such at that cited in the above news article continue to proliferate.

4) San Antonio tossed Chick-fil-A out of their airport.

This franchise chain has been giving millions to anti-gay hate groups for years. Yet, we are continually surprised at the number of otherwise conscious and aware peers and colleagues who have no idea that this is taking place. Other towns and college campuses are following suit. 

5) Qatar: Sharia law in Qatar applies only to Muslims, who can be put to death for extramarital sex, regardless of sexual orientation.

6) Saudi Arabia: Under the country’s interpretation of sharia law, a married man engaging in sodomy or any non-Muslim who commits sodomy with a Muslim can be stoned to death. All sex outside of marriage is illegal.

7) Afghanistan: The Afghan Penal Code does not refer to homosexual acts, but Article 130 of the Constitution allows recourse to be made to sharia law, which prohibits same-sex sexual activity in general. Afghanistan’s sharia law criminalizes same-sex sexual acts with a maximum of the death penalty. No known cases of death sentences have been meted out since the end of Taliban rule in 2001.

8 Somalia: The penal code stipulates prison, but in some southern regions, Islamic courts have imposed sharia law and the death penalty.

9) Sudan: Three-time offenders under the sodomy law can be put to death; first and second convictions result in flogging and imprisonment. Southern parts of the country have adopted more lenient laws.

10) Mauritania: Muslim men engaging in homosexual sex can be stoned to death, according to a 1984 law, though none have been executed so far. Women face prison.

11) Nigeria: Federal law classifies homosexual behavior as a felony punishable by imprisonment, but several states have adopted sharia law and imposed a death penalty for men. A law signed in early January makes it illegal for gay people countrywide to hold a meeting or form clubs.

12) Yemen: According to the 1994 penal code, married men can be sentenced to death by stoning for homosexual intercourse. Unmarried men face whipping or one year in prison. Women face up to seven years in prison.

13) Iran: In accordance with sharia law, homosexual intercourse between men can be punished by death, and men can be flogged for lesser acts such as kissing. Women may be flogged.

14) South Carolina: California is banning state-funded travel to South Carolina because of policies it considers discriminatory toward LGBT people.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the ban Tuesday. He says a provision in a budget bill passed last year allows faith-based child-placing agencies to discriminate against those who do not conform to their religious beliefs or moral convictions, including members of the LGBTQ community. 

Becerra’s decision is based on a 2017 California law that bans state-funded or state-sponsored travel to states that authorize discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. California already bars official travel to Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

All food for thought: IMHO


Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies,

 “IMHO: Creating Compelling Experience”  

remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. 

Seriously: Free. That’s the link, right up there.

A Bold and Timely Move

Not Animatronics

“Treating one’s colleagues with respect is a basic best practice in life and business. The themed entertainment industry is a unique business community: highly collaborative, highly creative and bringing together many different cultures and ways of doing business. It is also a field in which many people remain for the whole of their professional careers. To help ensure that TEA events are friendly, safe, and welcoming for all participants, at all times, these guidelines help identify unacceptable behavior and indicate steps that may be taken to help ensure a safe and positive experience for all.”

TEA Events – Appropriate Conduct Guidelines 

In a bold and timely act of international leadership, the TEA (Themed Entertainment Association) has published a set of Appropriate Conduct Guidelines for all TEA Events, worldwide. 

In this writer’s experience, we have not seen a policy as broad, specific, clear and articulate inserted into the actual ticket-purchasing process as caveat for participation in all events, meetings, conferences or special occasions. 

It has been barely a year since our Summit Stage was host to a hard-hitting presentation and discussion on the #MeToo initiative and the insidious presence of subtextual and overt sexual harassment in our professional contexts…indeed, throughout our lives. 

That presentation opened a frank discussion and awareness of the virtually invisible energy that can pervade various gatherings; unrecognized by those who aren’t the direct target of abuse or discomfort – while completely undermining the experience of those targeted.

The backstory of this newly created edict includes a committed, vocal group of members choosing to create their own protected “safe table” at our annual Thea Awards Event on April 14 of this year – a night to which many fondly, wryly refer as “The Theme Park Prom.” As this move to create a safe space within our space came to light; the concept and conversation were ultimately embraced by TEA Leadership and, in short order (especially for a non-profit bureaucracy!), this code was born.

The TEA has listened to and handily heard from myriad factions within their membership and moved with alacrity to create and establish these guidelines…guidelines-with-teeth, one might say. 

Beyond identifying general guidelines, the document makes room for the singular incident that may cause discomfort. It provides for immediate courses of action and immediate, on-site consequences for violation of the precepts of this code. 

Sections include;

  • General Guidelines
  • Identifying unacceptable behaviors and harassment
  • What to do if unacceptable conduct takes place
  • Consequences of violating behavior guidelines

…and closes with this:

“By their nature, TEA events often combine professional activities with social interaction. This is core to business networking and to fostering connections between participants, with the goal of fostering industry growth and improvement. TEA reserves the right to remove anyone whose social attentions become unwelcome to another, particularly if the behavior continues after their unwelcome nature has been communicated to the offending party. TEA also reserves the right to remove any participant who appears inebriated. TEA further reserves the right to remove any participant who engages in conduct that interferes with the ability of others to participate in and enjoy the event.”


While this document and policy are likely organic, and may evolve with time and practice; as they stand they are comprehensive, inclusive and above all a powerful statement in support of all members and guests. 

This is landmark. Worthy of accolade and acknowledgement. 

Kudos to the groundbreakers, the conversation starters and TEA leadership for moving fast and cleanly.

Worth a read, worth emulating; the entire document (it’s only two pages) is available here. 

IMHO: Great work.


Popular throughout the Milky Way and Andromeda Galaxies, “IMHO: Creating Compelling Experience”  remains a free download from the Apple bookstore and iTunes. 

Seriously: Free. That’s the link, up there.