By Jon Roig
Arizona Daily Wildcat February 27, 1996
I love a good convention. Heck, I even love a bad convention - even a bad convention has a surreal element of forced seriousness to it. "The Big Boys Toy Show" at TCC this past weekend was a perfect example. Featuring over 100 exhibits demonstrating consumer products that automatically enhance one's virility, the convention was an interesting failure.
The ads promised novel sports cars, motorcycles, sporting goods, audio & visual technologies, computers, jet skis, and recreational vehicles ... What man could resist? I expected some sort of "This Old House" meets Disneyland kind of experience. Besides, Nici Sterling from Spice's "F-Zone" was going to be there (I got her autograph).
I don't know what I expected, but the "Big Boys Toy Show" didn't quite deliver. At no point did I see so much cool stuff that my testosterone shifted into overdrive, and most of the more interesting booths were charging money in addition to the admission price - I didn't get a chance to do the virtual reality thing because they wanted five extra bucks for a 10-minute escape.
I did, however, leave with a bag full of crap, which is usually my objective at any kind of convention - take anything that's free. I have about two dozen promotional pens, pencils, and fridge magnets, a couple sample tins of Skoal flavor packs (which, by the way, aren't that bad), a few notepads, a two inch thick guide to all the cool stuff on cable, some inexplicably weird hair camouflage grease that you can supposedly paint on your head to make it look like you're not going bald. According to the directions, you can even swim and shower with it, but it came right out when I dunked it in hot water.
"Digital" is a big code word at these things, 'cuz man, digital sounds cool. "What did TCI give you for Christmas this year?" demanded some guy representing the Primestar mini-dish digital cable service, after I examined the epic tome that is the monthly guide to what you can receive on this dish if you're willing to pay about $200 a month. I asked him about getting local channels and he went ballistic. He just starting screaming, "Boy you need to get an education." Sure, I called it an evil scam, but I don't think he heard me.
It's tough working these things, and I'm sure smart-ass college kids don't make it any easier. Take Victoria Fuller, Playboy's Miss January 1996. Posing in Playboy is your quick ticket to fame, fortune, glamour... and The Big Boy's Toy Show in Tucson, Arizona? She just did not want to be there, but, dutifully, she put on her plastic smile for every horny guy who wanted a snapshot with her (even me).
Depressing hokiness hung over the whole event like a tattered car cover - the rehearsed antics of the "world renowned" Skyriders BMX and rollerblade team took away from their demonstration. Maybe it was their carnival-reject manager who was the problem, but after listening to his uninspired banter, I just wasn't in the mood to rediscover the lost art of BMX stunt-biking.
Weird pets were a big hit at the convention, whether it was a pet iguana, adoptable greyhounds left over from the racetracks, or crazed attack dogs, led by a particularly intriguing Pima county sheriff who was a dead ringer for G. Gordon Liddy. I picked up his picture from the talk radio booth to do a comparison, and, believe me, you don't wanna get pulled over by this guy. Although I had to pay four bucks to get in to shop at the Toy Show, the knowledge I gained about training police dogs was priceless.
And yet, I was a little disappointed. Sure, there was a nice selection of the $100,000 Hum-V all-terrain vehicles, but there was a distinct lack of motor boats and yachts. Also, the folks at Fox-11 were nice enough to get Bart Simpson to show, but wouldn't give me a free box of Cheerios or a copy of "Star Wars" because I'm not under 12.
That's the problem with being 20; you're too old to score all the cool kids stuff, but not old enough to get free shots of warm Red Dog beer. Oh well, there's always the Skoal. So, I guess in a way I made out like a bandit.