Is it really 10 years already? How can the time have gone by so fast? It seems like just yesterday the entire staff for the first LDI was stuck at O'Hare in Chicago with all flights to Dallas canceled because of weather. Poor Pat MacKay and Paula Millstone were waiting for the rest of us to arrive at the Infomart! I think that's the last time we all flew on the same plane.
LDI88. The debut. The uncertainty. What if we produced a trade show and nobody came? But the entertainment industry was ready for an event of its own, and LDI fit the bill. That first year, the Infomart seemed more than big enough to house the hundred or so companies that filled 300+ booth spaces and welcomed 3,000 attendees. By the time we returned to the Infomart in 1992, LDI had grown so much that the building was way too small to hold the show.
In 1989, the second LDI was held in Nashville. The staff wanted to buy sequined shirts in a cowboy store around the corner from the convention center to be properly outfitted for the high point of the weekend: a bus trip to Opryland and a performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Many of our European guests were amused by the live broadcast format of the show and the radio announcer who kept promising "Little Debbie has a snack for you."
1990 took LDI to Orlando, the home of Walt Disney World and the newly opened Universal Studios Florida. Todd Nichols, Mickey Mouse, and Roger Rabbit were our hosts at a late night party at the Disney-MGM backlot, and LDI began its love affair with Orlando. We've gone back in 1993 and 1996. The theme parks really put their best foot forward last year in welcoming the Backstage Orlando group. Mickey was there to greet us at 8:30am on Disney Day, and thanks to the heroic efforts of Bettina Buckley, then director of entertainment operations development for Disney/MGM Studios, the group didn't head home until after 1:30am. Even at that hour it was hard to get the revelers off the dance floor at Mannequins.
In the meantime LDI had gone to Reno, NV, in 1991 and 1994. I think we'll all remember Reno 94 as LDI-in-the-snow. And the last hurrah for Timothy Leary. But back in 91 we blew up the town. Literally. As part of a pyro demonstration called "Pyro in the Parking Lot," we detonated a car. A $100 junker had been rigged for the occasion by drilling holes and filling them with pyro powder, then repainting the surfaces. When shoot-out time came, the windshield blew into a million pieces (they forgot to tell us to take it out). And the melted tires in the parking lot were quite a conversation piece for the rest of the show.
In 1994, the snow in Reno was bad enough, but up at Lake Tahoe it was even worse. Lake Tahoe is home to lighting designer Peter Morse, who was the LDI Award-winning lighting designer of the year in 1991. It seemed simple enough: The show was right in his backyard. Of course, he wasn't, and had to be flown in from simultaneous rehearsals for Michael Bolton and Dolly Parton, or whoever his big acts of the moment were. So in 1994, Peter promised to be home for LDI. With this in mind, we organized a panel discussion called "Lighting Rock on the Road," with Peter as a featured speaker. Needless to say, he was snowed in at Lake Tahoe and never made the panel. In 1996, we tried again with "Reba on the Road," but I'm not sure he made that one either.
1995 was LDI's first trip to Miami Beach. No risk of snow there. Rather, a year remembered for lunch in the neon splendor of Carnival Cruise Line's Ecstasy cruise ship, and Martin's party at Penrod's with a fantastic fireworks display on the beach. The cruise ship luncheon was part of an extended workshop track on Technology at Sea, marking an era of expanded high-tech entertainment venues on luxury liners, and an area of growth for our industry.
1996 marked the start of the Intertec era, as LDI became part of a larger family of trade shows and conferences. And now 1997, our 10th anniversary. A great occasion to make our debut in Las Vegas.
Actually some of us had been to Las Vegas in 1994 for the first post-show Backstage trip. A group of about 100 people boarded a chartered plane in Reno and were flown to Las Vegas right after the show floor closed. LDI Award winners Jonathan Deans and Luc Lafortune were on that flight and a real sense of excitement was in the air.
A bus was waiting right on the airstrip to whisk us to Treasure Island and a private viewing area for the pirate show at Buccaneer Bay. Talk about blowing things up--our efforts in the parking lot at Reno paled considerably. After Buccaneer Bay, we were off to the Cirque du Soleil, and then a weary group checked into the Mirage Hotel. We had distributed everybody's luggage along with a "Backstage" backpack and black plastic briefcase full of Las Vegas information. A few confused folks called the front desk to report that they had someone else's luggage in their room. I guess we should have warned them.
LDI grew rather organically as an offshoot of Lighting Dimensions magazine. Jackie Tien sold the advertising for the magazine and the booth space for the show. Circulation director Harvey Swaine sold the show to the magazine's readers. Ann Daly was the editor at that time and she lined up the speakers for the first year's workshops. Linda Ida Moore and Paula Millstone came on as show managers. I worked on marketing and promotion, and by the second year took over producing the workshops as well. Now that we have the support of Intertec's trade show and conference division, LDI is in great shape to begin its second decade.
Over the past 10 years, LDI has kept pace with a rapidly changing industry. Designers are working in more diverse fields. Moving lights have moved out of the concert arena into every imaginable entertainment venue. Themed restaurants have captured the fancy of the nation. Theme parks are proliferating the world over. Rock is still rolling out on tour. Broadway is booming. Major opera houses are renovating for the future. And the shipyards have orders for many more new cruise ships.
All of which bodes well for the health of the entertainment design and technology industry. The growth of exhibitors on the LDI show floor and the depth of our workshops reflects the breadth of the industry. It's a great time for a 10th anniversary celebration.