Stranger in a strange land - Fear and loathing with the motivational jet set

Some Lower Queen Anne folks like to complain, half-jokingly, about the people who invade the neighborhood for gala events at the Center, the Opera House, the various theaters and Key Arena.

"I couldn't find parking."

"Those people from Renton (or Lynnwood) make U-turns right in the middle of the street."

The complaints aren't usually about bad behavior as much as about being crowded out by strangers.

But after my experience Monday, when I spent eight hours and change - which seemed like eight years to life - with 11,000 folks I didn't know, at the Get Motivated Seminar at Key Arena, I'm ready to sign petitions, or join a militia, to keep the Get Motivated folks and the crowd they draw out of my neighborhood next year.

That includes the muscular, overweight, 60-something-year-old man with a 2-foot-high, quiffed silver hairstyle, red face, leather briefcase and bright-yellow shirt with one word stenciled across the chest in homemade-looking red lettering: DANGER.

And yet, on paper, Get Motivated hadn't looked all that bad.

The Get Motivated folks, with the help of "famous" guest speakers, promised to help me "become more organized & effective."

They promised to "sharpen my competitive edge."

They said they'd help me "communicate for Success" and "learn the skills of time management."

I went into Key Arena Monday morning ready to transform my life.

I had a comped $225 ticket.

I didn't have a Get Motivated workbook, a glossy 120-page magazine that most of the folks attending were using as a study guide.

Unfortunately, the workbook was $22. That, on top of tickets advertised at $225, all but guaranteed somebody was going to succeed at this seminar - and that somebody was Peter Lowe, the promoter of the revival-like, all-day meeting.

Because that's all it was. A revival.

Three presidents were pictured with the bug-eyed, high-pitched-voiced Mister Lowe in his overpriced magazine (I talked a lady in a booth into giving me one). They were Old George Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

There was also a headshot and a speech by our current Bush in the White House.

Everything in the book and at the arena was a tinted in biblical red, white and blue.

It must have been biblical, because that was the major thrust of 77-year-old Zig Ziglar's interminable, 77-minutes-and-counting harangue.

Some lowlights:

"Some things are right, some things are wrong. There is black and white."

"I believe the Bible, every word, is the inspired word of God."

Zig also said he wasn't afraid of terrorists or death because he believed in heaven. "In other words, to die is to rise."

In between all his fundamentalism - including telling the crowd that women are different from men, they need "our" (men's) attention all the time - Zig kept saying America was the greatest nation in the history of the world.

Zig ended his rant with this pithy bit of certainty: "Your whole life will be a wreck if you don't follow biblical principles."

Zig is from Texas. So is Krish Danam, a transplanted Indian gentleman who moved to Texas, discovered Get Motivated and now travels with the tent to various cities, proudly proclaiming his success. Vaguely, though. He never said what exactly he did, other than motivate people all around the globe.

He, too, said America was the greatest nation in the world.

Cheers for Zig's platitudes were louder than for Krish's platitudes, but Zig talked longer and he's been motivating people for more than 50 years.

The speeches were light in facts. Claims and brags, greeted by cheers, were the main pattern of this glossily primitive call-and-response fest.

If you wanted to really discover the "Techniques of Investing" presented by one Phil Town, you had to buy his book after his 20 minutes on center stage.

If you wanted to learn "The Art and Science of Persuasion" from one Tom Hopkins, you had to buy his book after his 20 minutes of blabber.

As to who Towns and Hopkins were, they said they were big successes in the world of business.

And they certainly had a lot of books for sale out in the hallways.

There were some truly famous people who spoke. And the crowd buzz certainly increased when the celebrity speakers came aboard.

There was Jerry Lewis from his hospital bed somewhere via the magic of tape.

There was Goldie Hawn, smiling as vacuously as anyone else.

There was even the former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani who, while in town, also endorsed a bunch of local Republican politicians in between motivating us and proclaiming us to be the greatest country in the world.

Most of the speakers, though, were of the Towns and Hopkins variety.

They were famous because Tamara Lowe - Peter Lowe's wife, and our hostess - said they were.

Mrs. Lowe, featuring Farrah Fawcett hair and a shiny, gold jacket, started everything off early Monday morning by telling the assembled throng we were already Seattle's best and brightest. Just for shelling out and showing up.

Some of us weren't all that bright, though, because we couldn't find our seats.

Those of us with "premier" tickets discovered there were many more holders than seats.

Finally, after arguing with security, we were "allowed" to go up to the third deck where festival seating reigned.

Everything went downhill after the climb, and after some lady Tammy introduced as an internationally famous singer (Stacy Wallace, I believe, but don't hold me to it, I never saw Stacy before in my life) mangled the national anthem.

Stacy had modified Farrah hair, too. Not later, now-I-can-act Farrah hair, but "Charlie's Angels"-era Farrah poster hair.

The entire Get Motivated crew was a time-warp experience.

Whenever applause - sought loudly by Tammy - flagged, she or whoever had the mike mentioned the "men in uniform" and "Jesus," both of which drew loud, pep rally-like applause every single time.

But the worst speaker for my money was Dick Vitale, a screaming former basketball coach, fired by the Detroit Pistons some 23 years ago, who subsequently got a job at then-fledgling ESPN cable sports station.

Vitale, like the other guest speakers - part of a payroll that travels nationally, saying the same things and selling books and tapes after - screamed at the crowd, which is unfortunately also his style on television.

"You're all winners," he yelled upon wresting the mike from Tammy Lowe, who had changed out of gold lamé and now was sportin' a black glitter outfit.

Vitale then thanked the greatest people in the world, his mom and dad, who taught him not to believe in the word "can't."

Vitale said anybody with enthusiasm and energy could be a success.

He said red, white and blue, and people cheered.

ESPN got a big hand when he mouthed those letters.

He said Lance Armstrong's name, and that damn near brought down the house.

He said he's written six books - six more than he's read, he joked, making me want to run right out and get all half-dozen of 'em.

He said we could all win in "the game of life."

Speakers all day simply screamed how great they, we, the country and Lance Armstrong were.

It was a lowest-common-denominator rally. No facts, just brag.

Later, some local business folk told me they got to take their entire company inside for $50; tickets evidently weren't selling, and so the house was papered some.

But there were enough customers (P.T. Barnum had a better word) that Get Motivated kept the tent up and did it all again the next day.

Tammy Lowe, I'm sure, told Tuesday's crew they were Seattle's best and brightest, too.

If she said it, it must be true, right here in the greatest city, in the greatest country, in the greatest world.

Dennis Wilken can be reached at[[In-content Ad]]