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APAR's WORKING WEEKEND: Let Us Now Praise Lay Leaders

21 Sep, 2001 By: Bruce Apar

This past Thursday evening in Los Angeles, the Video Industry AIDS Action Committee (VIAAC) proudly held its fourth annual Visionary Honors testimonial fundraising dinner at The Four Seasons Hotel.

It is a time when we need to look to leaders, but I’m not speaking of elected officials. They are expected to lead lest they be ejected from their perches of privilege by a dissatisfied electorate.

I’m talking of everyday private citizens with whom we work and play. It is these people who inspire with the accumulation of the smallest actions, who lead others around them in more meaningful ways than any scripted rhetoric read off a teleprompter can, no matter how stirring — or necessary — its language.

In keeping with the continuing somber mood of those who are girding for an era of renewed courage and commitment to this nation’s lofty ideals, instead of commenting on business matters this week in this space, I am indulging myself by printing remarks written to introduce one of those leaders at the VIAAC event.

As I could not be at the event due to the volatile state of air travel, the introduction below was read by my good friend Kimbirly Orr, director of group sales in Advanstar’s Entertainment Group and a member of VIAAC’s steering committee:

"Colleagues, Friends, and Esteemed Members of VIAAC — the video industry’s first — and only pure-play charity.

My sincere congratulations to all of the 2001 Visionary Honors recipients, including Ben Feingold (Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment), Eileen Fitzpatrick (Billboard), Shane Rasmussen (Buena Vista Pictures Distributon), Don Rosenberg (Advanstar Communications), Steve Scavelli (Flash Distributors) and UCLA AIDS Institute.

Like everyone here tonight, and in the country, I only can hope and pray for more peaceful times to prevail. As often as I travel to Southern California from my New York base, it is both ironic and painful not to be with you on this important evening — especially since, like my soulmate Kimbirly, I have particularly personal attachments to two of the honorees.

You’ll hear more about Steve Scavelli from Kimbirly, but suffice it to say he’s one of the most unforgettable people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

During the two decades we’ve both been in this business, Don Rosenberg has been many things to me. A contact at suppliers HBO, Fox and Epic, a source and news subject as head of VSDA, a worthy competitor at Video Store when I was at Video Business and, for the past 18 months, a colleague at Advanstar. Above all, to me and to others who know him well, Don is a role model.

He’ll be the last one to accept that, thanks to a genuine humility that is just one of his defining qualities.

Don epitomizes what the VIAAC Visionary Honors are all about. As Ellen, his mate of 22 years, puts it, Don is a hands-on kind of guy with anything he does, and he does a lot. He can’t keep busy enough.

He has an intensity and a heart of gold that extends from his devotion to family — children Amanda, Evan, Drew, and wife Ellen — to pursuits such as coaching youth sports, competing in and influencing a tough marketplace like home video and contributing his considerable efforts to charities like the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and, of course, VIAAC.

In fact, over the years, Don, a member of VIAAC’s steering committee, has donated advertising and convention space to this charity valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For Don, life in general is not simply about winning at what you do; it’s about playing by the rules and treating people with integrity and compassion.

And people can not help but respond to those qualities, which this world could use a lot more of right now.

While I regret not being there to shake your hand myself, Don, you can be sure no one tonight is applauding more vigorously than I am for a person it is my honor to introduce."

And now, it’s time to take your bow.

Comments? Contact Bruce directly at:bapar@advanstar.com

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