It was the best of times…
I’ve written about my friend and mentor Richard Beers several times, starting ‘way back in Copper #7. While I despise the lingua franca of biz-speak, it would be accurate to say that there was a “power vacuum” in the audio show biz following his death. And, as always…nature abhors a vacuum (oops—apparently, I’ve said that before…).
To condense events that unfolded over many months: THE Show Newport was held June 3-5, 2016, and was the first Newport show following Richard’s passing. Most of the show-wrangling was handled by Richard’s former assistant, Marine Presson. By all accounts—including our own and that of Stereophile—the show was a success.
While at the show I heard reports that a group of local audiophiles/business folk were discussing the idea of a new and different LA-area audio show. There were rumblings that the Hotel Irvine had deemed the audiophile clientele of the show beneath their standards of beauty and spending (go figure), and that the hotel would opt out of its contract. If THE Show were to continue, it wouldn’t be at the Hotel Irvine.
In September of 2016, the new L.A. Audio Show (LAAS) was announced for June, 2017, sponsored by the LA-Orange County Audio Society, backed by financiers the Orion Group, with Marine running things. Meanwhile, THE Show, headed by Richard’s friend Maurice Jung, scheduled a show for Anaheim in September, 2017. I recently rehashed this history, and so won’t dwell upon the details too much.
Long story short: The LAAS held their first show near LAX, with generally lukewarm reports from both exhibitors and attendees. Exhibitors commented at length upon logistical issues, light attendance, and navigational nightmares which left major exhibits from Harman and Sony almost unseen. In early September, 2017, THE Show was canceled only weeks before the scheduled date, largely due to the illness of Richard Beers’ friend and heir, Beverly Harber. Beverly passed away that November.
Beverly’s death was sad, but the community consensus was that THE Show was gone for good, eliminating the dueling-show mess in LA, and leaving LAAS to stand alone. LAAS was announced for June 8-10, 2018, to be held at the Orange County Hilton that had once hosted THE Show. Simple, right?
THE Show announced that they would be back, the week before the LAAS, June 1-3, also in an Irvine hotel. The audio community was not pleased, and many vowed to stay away from both shows, let them slug it out, and side with the eventual winner. Most placed their bets on LAAS.
As Patriots fans know, sure things don’t always win. On April 18, 2018, Marine sent out a rambling, contentious email under the heading “Personal Note From Marine at LAAS” in which she stated that “…the LA Audio Show is mine and mine alone to steer towards collective success.” With indications of persecution and a spiritual awakening of sorts, the collective response of the audio community was, “what the hell was THAT?”
Two weeks to the day later, on May 2, Marine sent out an even more-peculiar email headed, “An Open Letter to the Industry. LAAS Cancelled.” You can read the full text here, and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. Oh: if you click on the picture of Marine flashing deuces, you can read even more. And maybe even order a t-shirt.
On May 3, little else was spoken of in the industry, and THE Show wasted no time in pitching their show to those abandoned by LAAS.
If you’re interested in more details of the whole string of events, our friend Jason Victor Serinus wrote a thorough and fair account; Michael Fremer also wrote about the situation, with a classically prickly-Mikey take on it.
We’ll see how THE Show does. I have a feeling this bizarre story is far from over.