Thursday, January 12, 2006

Celebrities Flock To CES For Free Crap

A flock of Hollywood and entertainment types, both the well known and not so well known, hit Las Vegas during the first two days of CES.

The first celebrity sighting took place during the DTS press conference. DTS makes home theater audio technology and brought in actor/rapper Ice T and the lesser known, but more famous to me, Martyn Ware to discuss the impact high-definition sound will have on the music industry. Any reader whose formative years included the early 1980s knows Ware. He is a founder of the group Human League — you know, "Don't, Don’t you want me ..."

Like all of us who were pretty young in the 80s, Ware looks quite a bit different, more like my Uncle George than an old time rock star, but then who am I to cast stones about someone's looks?

After DTS I headed over to get in line to hear Bill Gates' keynote address. Bill usually has a pretty good lineup of surprise celebrities. Last year it was Conan O'Brien who did a great job ripping Gates every time a demo failed. This might explain his absense from this year's shows. Instead Bill rolled out Justin Timberlake. Granted he is a big star, but it was obvious the crowd — whose average age was several decades above Justin's fan base did not recognize him, as the applause was pretty scattered. Justin was on hand to help hype a new Microsoft/MTV online music service called Urge.

Thursday morning, Sony Chairman Howard Stringer kicked open the celebrity gate. (pictured above Stringer, Hanks, Howard, Grazer. This image is proof that a 3x zoom on a digital camera is not enough.) As part of a discussion on Sony’s upcoming movie "The DaVinci Code," Stringer had the movie's star Tom Hanks along with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, the films director/producer team come out. Hanks had a great time ribbing Stringer over his being a corporate shill for Sony.

Hanks was particularly busy Thursday. After his gig with Stringer, he did a bit with Paul Ottelini, Intel's CEO. He was joined by Morgan Freeman and Danny DeVito to show their support for a new video download service called ClickStar. This service will offer first-run movies for home download with the first release, starring Freeman, about to be released.

Day 1 of the show is always the busiest. Every company tries to do something big to grab the press and attendees attention. Some, like XM, bring in their headliners: radio hosts Opie and Anthony are doing their show from CES, and the satellite service had rocker Alice Cooper make an appearance.

With booths the size of football fields, one would not think that a celebrity would be needed to attract a crowd, but I guess I don't know much about marketing because many go that route. I have to say it certainly makes my job more interesting.

Tom Cruise also was around, but I did not see him. Considering he is borderline nuts these days that might be just as well. Robin Williams also came out to help Google's Larry Page get through his speech. Page is pretty young and evidently was not used to speaking in front of large crowds. Williams pulled him through pretty well from what I heard.


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