Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 9, NO. 9 / SEPTEMBER 1983 / PAGE 216

The party line. (after show parties) John Anderson.

A reporter's work is never done. After a hard day walking the length and breadth of the Consumer Electronics Show, the real job begins: covering the various parties spread across the host city. This is a necessary part, of course, of CES coverage by the stalwart and dedicated staff of Creative Computing. Day One

We started at the "clipper" ship Commodore, docked on Lake Michigan. It was an old ferryboat, decked out in 1930's finery. Various and sundry goodies were thus unveiled in a decidedly nautical manner, although since the ship had no engines, we were unable to leave the dock.

The bar was handsome, and drinks plentiful. Unfortunately there wasn't much to munch aside from cheese and grapes, so the drinks took hold early. I knew we should have had a snack before coming.

The presentation was backed up by a very nice "hands-on" session and party. For atmosphere, the Commodore affair has assumed a lead that would not be surpassed. After a few drinks, I was nearly surpassed by the wheels of a crosstown bus.

NExt we arrived at a party at the Adler Planetarium for Creative Software. Those folks make programs for the Vic machine, and hit upon the exciting idead of holding a party at the planetarium on the lake.

There among LEMs, scale model lunar terrain, and a lunar rover, we were entertained by a surprisingly good live band, and managed to ingest some very tasty hors d'oeuvres. Owen was somewhat shaken when he discovered that the cola used in his rum and coke was in fact a Midwestern soda called Like. When I ordered a scotch and soda and got a scotch and tonic, we decided to leave.

On a whim, we then headed to the McCormick Inn, adjacent to the convention center itself. To our disappointment, we didn't find any active parties there, and ended up at the bar. The evening turned out rather nicely nevertheless, as we played table version PacMan and phoned home, as E.T. might say.

I wanted to find the Billygoat Cafe on Lower Wacker Drive, but the evening was growing late, so we called it quits, vowing to locate it the following night. Day Two

This was the big night for CES parties. First was the Westin (nee Ambassador) Hotel reception for Atari, where Alan Alda was unveiled as the new corporate spokesperson. What a wonderful guy. Why even if he hadn't opened his mouth everybody would have loved him. He just sort of emanates integrity and compassion.

And the food wasn't bad either. The jumbo shrimp sure went fast though. By this time I was utterly starved and made my way directly to the buffet table upon arrival. Good reception rule: stock up first, then stake out a place to sit. The scotch and sodas were the best yet--a dangerous development.

It was at the Atari gala that we connected with Arlan Levitan of the Michigan Atari Computer Enthusiasts user's group and Vincent Wu, an Atari software manager. Thus was formed a search party in search of further partying.

Next we walked a couple of blocks to the Tremont Hotel for the Electronic Arts gala. Electronic Arts is simply the hottest new software house on the home computer horizon. The decor and service at the Tremont were far and away the best hotel hospitality we were to see. You haven't lived until you have sampled Cricket coffee, which is a glass warmed by burning cognac, then quenched with fresh coffee, a touch of Amaretto, nutmeg, and a big dollop of fresh whipped cream. Wow!

Electronic Arts president Trip Hawkins, whose picture graced the business section of Time magazine last week, got involved in a cutthroat game of M.U.L.E. with the game's designers. M.U.L.E. is a very absorbing next-generation computer game in which players cooperatively (or not so cooperatively) colonize an alien planet. I could understand his distraction.

There were two other people of note at the party. One was Steve Wozniak, who is on the board of directors of Electronic Arts, and whom it was my pleasure to meet for the first time. The other was Dave Ahl, my bos. Dave said it was high time to check out the action at Activision, so we shoved off.

Activision is a company that has grown phenomenally in the past three years or so, as have its parties. They have never spared any expense in mounting their events, and each party must increase substantially in scale to top the previous one.

Unfortunately, most CES repeat attendees have learned of this noble effort. This year, at the 12th floor Ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton, it seemed as if everyone who had been at CES that day was trying to get into the Activision party. Even more unfortunately, they were getting in. Nobody ever checked for my invitation. I realized that any attempt to turn away people in those kinds of numbers could easily have resulted in a riot. And so all were admitted.

As a result, the Activision party was one of those affairs where merely walking across the room is impossible. Despite the fact that there had to be a dozen separate bar stations and a dozen separate food stations, serving everything from prosciutto and melon to spaghetti, and despite the fact that some of the most interesting people in the industry were there, it was impossible to have much fun. Crowds get to me.

I did manage to talk to John Loveless of Synapse Software and Dan Gorlin, author of Choplifter. And the stuffed clams were pretty incredible. But the crowd was getting to me.

After Dave and I nearly became involved in a fracas with a rather drunken leather jacket type, I became somewhat anxious. I managed to locate Owen and Arlan, and we hightailed it.

It was time for the Billygoat Cafe. This is the bar and grill upon which the "cheeseborger" skit was based year ago on "Saturday Night Live." Belushi and Ackroyd used to frequent the place, as still do raisin-eyed Chicago Tribune pressmen.

The place is a wonderful, old-fashioned dive. Your drink sticks to the bar and must be pulled off forcibly. On the other side of the bar is the grill, manned by a smiling Greek.

"I'd like a cheeseburger."


cWith french fries."

"No fries. Only cheeps."

"Okay. Chips. And a Coke."

"No Coke. Just Pepsi."

I'm sure by this time he does it just for the tourists (which I'm sure we resembled). But it was great. We stayed until closing time. Day Three

Dave, Owen, and I headed back to the Westin for a hands-on session with the new Ataris. We stumbled onto, then crashed, I guess, a party being held for Atari International. The food was Japanese, with chefs preparing tempura at the buffet. The food was utterly sensational. I ate enough shrimp to keep a killer whale happy. Dave was wearing his blinking LED boutonniere, but people at that banquet were too shy to ask him about it.

Then we went up to the 14th floor to play with the new Atari products. Steve Gibson was on hand, demonstrating the new Atari light pen. Steve is a very entertaining guy, and the perfect showman. He had the crowd oohing and aahing like crazy. I sure hope they let him do his own promotion--he's a natural.

Dave called Ken Uston, then left for the Datamost Party at the Playboy Club. We stuck around to snoop for a while. I congratulated A.J. Sekel of Atari for reading and following the advice I had given him in "Outpost: Atari." He just laughed. And who showed up? Vincent Wu, just in time to accompany us to the Playboy Club.

We made a mistake, but it turned out to be a fortunate one. We saw a Playboy sign on a building, headed for it, then realized that it was a business office.

But in front of the building, we ran into two of our New England sales reps, Merrie Lynch and Nancy Wood. They had made exactly the same mistake. The evening was looking up.

As it turns out, we probably wouldn't have made it into the Datamost party in we hadn't bumped into Merrie and Nancy. Dave had had dinner there, then shown up stag for the Datamost party, with an invite, and didn't get in{ We let the women carve the path, then followed in the swath they cut. It was that easy.

It was an amusing evening. We had the honor of being seated at a table adjacent to that of talented High Society ingenue Annie Ample, whose autograph I procured, so to speak, for young Owen. She was working for Datamost at the show, and as far as I could tell, was doing a very good job.

By the time the magician came to our table, I was speaking in tongues. He was extremely impressive, especially to a table of totally sloshed folks. I seem to remember that nearly every trick he did required paper money, donated by a volunteer, and that it seemed natural that he should keep the bill at the end. Hmmm. Could have been that something funny was going on.