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Friday, July 31, 2015

Bullsh*t!

First, the big news...

It only took three years, but my movie "Black Hand" is set to premiere in South Korea. The thriller I penned (and was later translated by the great Byeon Hye-joo) has a wonderful cast including Han Go-eun who goes a bit haywire after her new hand she had surgically attached provides some eerie drama. Not for the weak of heart. Maybe a Grand Bell Award (aka Daejong Film Award) is in my future.

Okay, so where am I?

There is no truth to the rumor I am in South Korea attending the premiere of Black Hand. AND, I may or may not be in working on my next pieces of advertising so that my next Emmy submissions are top notch.

What I can tell you is that I may have detoured through Pamplona, Spain for the running of the bulls, aka  the Las Fiestas de San Fermin. There's something you feel in the soul when you hear the rustling of the crowd eager to soak in the testosterone cloud emitted from the raging bulls. You feel an aura around you, as if you were part of the herd. A day in Pamplona does nothing but help you on your journey towards inner chi.

Those that know me will know that I've long said to my best buddy Charles that we are simply on a vision quest...just trying to find a place in the circle. The running is definitely part of the grand quest. It's also one of the world's most dangerous spectacles (and also one of the true parties left on this planet). To succeed you must avoid being gored. You must also be three things: Cautious. Sober. Fast.

That being said, you cannot be afraid of the bulls. I refuse to be. After all, there are scarier clients in the boardroom after a bad advertising campaign that cost millions. When I find myself in the herd's center, I feel a sublime safety. "How is that possible?", you ask... When you are are part of the herd, the bulls are somehow united with your being. They sense you are part of the herd, running with them every step of the way. I despise those "daredevils" that need to put their hands on them, pushing, hitting or grabbing them. That went they get defensive. That's when the fire burns deep inside these magnificent creature. True runners know this truth: Never touch the bulls.

THE VIRGIN RUN

I remember my first run. I was shut out the previous time I went because I was in advertising executive mode -- at the hotel await my continental breakfast and a ride the run. That was definitely not a recipe for success. I couldn't even get close enough to take a picture of the bulls let alone run with them. The next time was different. I decided to stay up all night and be in prime position near the arena. I nodded off in a restaurant doorway only to be shoo'ed away by the local police and general treated like a vagabond. I mean do they who I am?



I jokingly thought I was a kinda of big deal, ala Ron Burgundy. I learned pretty quick that the bulls are the only big deal in Pamplona. In my 3am haze, I staggered to the Hemingway statue.

Hemingway Aside #1: This is definitely one off the oddest statues I have ever seen. The full-bearded depiction of the literary giant shows him in his stoic glory, the bust meticulously finished and polished. Then, they took this beautiful bust and dumped it onto a mess of a concrete block as if the money for the project ran out. Strange indeed.

Hemingway Aside #2: His work was the fodder of inspiration. Do you remember the books we were assigned to read? The Count of Monte Cristo, the Three Musketeers and the like? Yawnsville. Hemingway’s work was relatable and adventurous: old fishermen and soldiers and street fighters. You wanted to write like him. And you did, until you found your own style. He once wrote, “There is nothing better than to be shot at and missed.” What could sum up a grand adventure better than that?!

Yet I digress…

At the foot statue of the statue sits a lovely makeshift bed in the form of a rounded brick slope. I rested there until the dawn’s sun served as my alarm clock. Workers had already secured the barricades about 100 feet away and so I wandered to Telefonica; that's the area where the street widens and it becomes impossible to keep the herd of bulls grouped together. I must say that the locals are nothing short of stunning—both sexes. As a younger Media Guy, my flirt scale was still on 9,000 RPMs and thus I tried my best non-gawking Spanglish on the any young lady who stopped long enough. Some made eyes, some whispered “gringo”, but most just giggled at my one hundred poorly-constructed words of Spanish. Then, panic set in.

The police line came from nowhere, reminiscent of a swarm of locust striking some unsuspecting farmer's crops. The line closed in and pushed everyone up the street and through the first barricade on the first intersection on Estafeta. Everyone scattered from down side streets, through alleys and around building. I was already tired and I hadn't seen a bull yet. My chest ached and then I heard the beacon of hope: the loudspeakers blaring something in multiple languages. I followed the voice like those hypnotized Eloi as they moved towards the Morlock's underground horror pit in The Time Machine.

All at once I was trapped in a sea of humanity. The body-to-body pressure was crushing and it ebbed and flowed in unison with our collective breathing. Dawn had turned into 7:45a and the loudspeaker finally started screaming in English, which turned out to be more startling than the suffocating crowd:
“Bull runners are in danger of great bodily harm—if you fall down, stay down.”
This only charged the crowd as the murmur turned into a roar of great proportions. It took a few moments until the police line broke free and we unraveled up the street. I moved to to La Curva, aka the curve, aka Dead Man’s Corner, aka Hamburger Wall. This was THE SPOT. This is where the herd crashes every morning. The media and photographers hang here, protected from the police with the media badges. My international press card came in handy here as I flashed it liberally to avoid being moved yet again.

A rocket screamed into the sky and was quickly followed by a second. The crowd in the balconies and behind the remaining barricades surged with energy and wild noise. The runners were now in full motion, flowing around the corner and past me creating a breeze. Their expressions ran the full gambit of emotions: Cavalier. Scared. Excited.

The ground began to quake as a the galloping murmur of hooves grew to rumble. The mass of runners poured around the curve dressed in white with red scarves. It was dense and carries a certain stench of sweat and fear. This group was united in terror and each second seemed like hours. Time was grinding to halt and then, it simply froze.

Cartoons like to show the bull staring across at the matador with menacing red eyes. I often laughed at that as a child, but as the massive brown bull streaked around the curve I locked into his eyes. If I were older, my heart surely would have stopped as his red eyes literally put me squarely in his own bullseye. The unforgiving cobblestones could not absorb me or shield me from death. But then a foolish angel intervened. A runner crossed in front of me and took the full force of the lead bull's forehead. As if in slow-motion, the man hovered on a blanket of air above the bull's head as his arms flailed higher above as five other bulls thundered past. The man crashed to the side of me and he scurried towards safety, somehow gaining his feet. A giant white steer basically said "not so fast" as he barreled towards the man plowed through him, its hooves gobbling him up. The high-pitched grown that squeezed from his chest still haunts me today. Somehow he limped away without serious damage.

Two lives saved.
One grand story.
Viva los toros!

AD OF THE WEEK/MONTH/WHATEVER

M&M's Tainted Love Spot

"Our latest commercial shows how irresistible M&M's really are in a way that's part comedy, and part soap opera," says BBDO VP of Marketing Berta de Pablos-Barbier. "We think viewers will have fun with all the twists and turns, and see how it's even more fun to share M&M'S Chocolate Candies versus keeping them all for yourself."

Fittingly, the 80's classic "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell closes out the spot.




WAXY FUN

I couldn't resist sharing this from London's Madame Toussauds - Helen Mirren checking herself out at this week's press conference. Classic!


RIP Roddy Piper

He ruled the squared circle as one of it's greatest non-champions. He didn't need a belt to prove his worth. We was the king of the interview and knew how to hit people over the head with a coconut. He taught me how to think on my feet and pour out words in great volume while captivating a room. He is the king of the soliloquy. Long live the king...you will be missed.