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Survival of the fittest

Insights on why bunnies will be extinct, and why neon is meant to be lit.


I stumbled upon the Gold's Gym neon sign in my hometown of Woodbury, Minnesota -
without my camera. The "G" had burned out and the sign read: "Old's Gym." "I'm
thinking about joining that gym," I told my husband. He looked at the sign and
asked, puzzled, "Why would you join a gym for GM cars?" He had a point. I'm much
too young for a gym that caters to old people. The next day, when I did have my
camera with me, the sign was back to being Gold's.

It reminded me of the Big & Tall store in Denver, which sported a burned-out "g"
for the longest time. Every time we passed it, I'd turn to my son and give him a
marketing lesson: "Bi and tall is much too small a market segment to cater to."

Unfortunately, Zack never went into marketing, so my maternal counseling was
wasted. My younger daughter left home with: "Never buy an unlined jacket"
and that's apparently  all the takeaway value she received from my 18 years of
on-site mothering. When I asked for a couple more examples of "things my mother
taught me," she said she'd get back to me. I'm still waiting.

Guess I should pay more attention to what's lit up, and less to what's burned

Tame by bunny standards

When I was in college, Playboy was risque, and pretty much the only porn nice
people were aware existed. The magazine always cleverly incorporated its bunny
logo somewhere on the cover. I came up with the idea to have the Playmate of the
month make the peace sign, which looks like the bunny logo (try doing this as a
shadow puppet and you'll see how brilliant this idea really was). Of course, I
never shared it with anyone. Who do you tell you're thinking of cover ideas for
Playboy magazine when you're at U.C. Davis, the safe, non-Berkeley University of
California campus in the '70s? Two months later, the very cover I imagined hit
the newsstand. That's when I began lusting after a career as a magazine editor.

I was reunited with Playboy recently when I attended the Athlete Investor Show
at The Palms in Las Vegas. James Franks, VP of franchising for Red Mango, asked
several people at the reception following a day of talking franchising if they
wanted to go to the Playboy Club. I was the only one who showed. I have a
feeling that going to the Playboy Club with a middle-aged woman with a notebook
is not every franchise salesman's fantasy. James, however, was too polite to
dump me.

We met at 7:30, only to discover the club didn't open until 8 p.m. That was our
first clue that we were not hipsters.

Our bunny, however, was adorable. I felt very maternal toward her; I can't speak
for James. We heard her entire history, the history of the club, what it was
like to tryout for the job and why all the pictures on the walls were fully
clothed women (gambling and nudity can't share the same room in Vegas, but that
law apparently doesn't apply to restrooms). We weren't monopolizing our bunny. As
I mentioned, we were there at 8 p.m., which in Vegas is known as amateur hour.

Fortunately, James and I are no strangers to the nightlife. To wile away the
time, James played Blackjack and I watched. I played a couple of hands with his
money, but it made us both nervous. I don't like games that involve math and he
didn't like losing his money.

After a couple of hours, we went to check out Ghostbar. It was much wilder and
the skimpily clothed dancers made the bunnies in their one-piece bathing suits
with the puffy-cotton tails tacked on look prudish. This is where we encountered
the athletes from the investment conference,  not at the Playboy Club.

Years ago when franchisees first started joining IFA, someone snarkily referred
to them as the "tame" ones. That's what these Playboy bunnies have become.

The world has passed Playboy by. The club in The Palms is billed as the only one
in North America, but that's not because it's exclusive, but because it's the
only one that hasn't closed. According to my cab driver, The Palms is where the
young crowd hangs out on the weekends. My prediction: The Playboy Club will be a
short-term tenant.

But don't take my word for it. Our Franchise Finance & Development Conference
will be held at The Palms in May.  And if you can stay up past 10 p.m. (don't
show up at 8, you'll just humiliate yourself), go see it for yourself. And then
tell me what you think. But don't send me an e-mail, I expect you to take me
with you. Why should James Franks have all the fun?

Political humor

I took a couple of days right before deadline to attend the Coalition of
Franchisee Associations' Inaugural CFA Day Forum in Washington, D.C. I came home
for one stressful day of deadline and then headed out to San Diego for the IFA
convention - no wonder my dog Daisy doesn't recognize me when I come home from

You'll have to wait for the April issue to read coverage of both events, but I
wanted to preview some of the fun facts I learned in D.C.

When you get directions from MapQuest and it tells you the two addresses are
four minutes apart, that's driving time - at 60 miles an hour. Good thing I like
to walk, because four minutes took me 35 minutes, which is not bad considering I
only had to ask for directions five times.


Nancy Weingartner

Nancy Weingartner, Executive Editor

Nancy can be reached at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com

At the meeting, Washington-insider Michael Dunn announced a Washington lending
institution had just issued new presidential bonds: the Bush bond, which has no
interest; the Quayle bond with no maturity; and the Clinton bond with no

Dunn's definition of a lobbyist is "the person you hire to protect you from the
person you elected."

And, before you can claim you know your representatives, you have to pass the
"sidewalk test," Dunn told CFA. "If he (or she) is walking down the street and
he doesn't know you by face and name, you don't have a relationship with that
lawmaker." How can you solve that? Give money.

The CFA event was filled with great information on lobbying, and on how to be
successful at franchising. I don't like to promise more than I can deliver, but
if I were you, I wouldn't vacate the building until the April issue of Franchise
Times hits your desk.

I know I'm not planning on leaving work anytime soon. Sorry, Daisy.

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