Tag Archives: magic

Your Trash, Her Treasure

April 9, 2017 by
Photography by Keith Binder

Even on a blustery, freezing January day, as Christmas lights still twinkle from neighbors’ homes, it’s Halloween inside Diane Hayes’ apartment.

Enter into her abode, which is located in the 105-year-old West Farnam Apartments off Dewey and 38th streets, and you’re confronted with fortunetellers and witches and skeletons, oh my! The 1,800-square-foot place is spacious, with floorboards that squeak and much of its early 20th-century charm still intact, but it’s Hayes and her often-merrily macabre refurbished artwork that makes the apartment truly spellbinding.

“For a while, I tried to keep all my work hidden in one room, but then I said ‘Oh, to hell with it,'” Hayes says. “By the time they carry my body out of here, I suppose things will really look strange.”

Hayes lives to make the old new again. From turning a vintage side table into an animatronic fortuneteller to using antique alarm clocks to create mini terrariums that depict tragedies like the Titanic sinking and Lindbergh kidnapping, she uses her creative magic to take everyday objects and turn them into art. A strong believer that “décor shouldn’t come from Bed, Bath & Beyond,” Hayes scavenges through Goodwill, antique shows, and online to buy things only for their pieces and parts.

After purchasing an item, she stows it away and lets ideas start marinating in her head. Once inspiration strikes, the tinkering begins.

“It’s not my thing to come home after a long day and sit down to watch TV,” Hayes says. “I’m always putting something together.”

While she displays most of her work in her home, she does sell some items on Etsy and has donated pieces to benefits for the Nebraska AIDS Project and the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

If she isn’t selling or donating a piece, chances are it will end up in her year-round Halloween-themed office. Teeming from floor to ceiling with things that go bump in the night, this room is more fun and festive than frightening, as most of her collection reflects Halloween styles that were popular in the 1950s and ’60s. And come Halloween night, Hayes is the ghostess with the mostess, inviting around 80 costumed party guests into her apartment to have their palms read by a fortuneteller and watch silent films like Nosferatu.

“I love the Halloweens I grew up with,” Hayes says. “It’s such a fun time of year, and it doesn’t have the stress or religious and political connotations of Christmas.”

Beyond Halloween, living in Omaha’s first luxury apartment building offers its own inspiration. Built in 1912, the West Farnam Apartments house the city’s oldest working elevator.

“You can hear those 100-year-old gears cranking and groaning, almost like a tiny factory that’s come to life,” Hayes says.

Perhaps, this explains her next project—refurbishing an old clock complete with its own ancient gears. Some projects she completes in a day, others she’s always working on, always tinkering. This clock’s finish date is yet to be determined, and to Hayes that’s just fine.

“It’s been an unfocused life,” Hayes says, “but I’m not sure I’d want to do it any other way.”

Visit etsy.com/people/halloweenclocks for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

The Golden Rule of Marketing

December 20, 2016 by

There is no shortage of bad marketing to lampoon, nor is just a small amount of it targeted at women. When writing this column, I worried that some readers (not you, of course) might take my attempted satire seriously—seeing it at best as a middle-aged white guy mansplaining the finer points of selling to the gender that is not his own; or, at worst, a guide worth following. Besides, if I can’t end with the literary equivalent of Slim Pickens riding off into the nuclear sunset atop an H-bomb, what’s the point?

Nonetheless, as the Brand Brief is geared—however dubiously—towards offering helpful advice for my fellow marketers, I will attempt to shed some light on advertising to women. All I ask is that you please read the entire piece before tweeting me a stink eye GIF or Willy Wonka meme. Thank you.

The foundation of any successful advertising campaign, to women or otherwise, is what I call the Golden Rule of Marketing. I call it that because it’s a wholesale appropriation of the Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12 and formerly taught in kindergarten before the New Math confused society’s collective moral compass or something. In this case, the Golden Rule of Marketing is defined as “market unto others as you would have them market unto you.”

The beauty of this purloined proverb is that, when followed, one avoids committing any number of marketing sins. Do you want to be shouted at? Then don’t shout at the consumer. Do you want to watch a boring ad? Then don’t create boring ads. Do you want more spam? Then go forth and spam not.

Applied to the specific task of marketing to women, the Golden Rule of Marketing actually keeps it more generalized, forcing you, the marketer, to consider your audience not as a collective group sporting double-X chromosomes, but as individual human beings. Like, I assume, you are. Treat women like the people they are and not the bottomless pool of profits you hope them to be.

Of course, we see painful violations of this spread throughout the advertising landscape. Often, this involves a headline that sounds like it came from Oprah’s third cousin thrice removed. And unless you really are The Oprah, calling someone “girlfriend” while marketing wrinkle-free business attire just doesn’t ring true. In fact, it signals that your brand isn’t strong enough to have a real personality of its own and, instead, is content to glom onto an individual’s or subgroup’s cultural cachet in hopes that it rubs off on your company in a lucrative way. Which it won’t.

Having written for companies whose target customers were either mainly women (Walmart) or almost exclusively women (Beauty Brands), I can guarantee you that no one ever gets upset at or tunes out from messages that are smart, interesting, and focused on solving a problem or fulfilling a desire. It’s the awkward, tone-deaf sucking up that does you in.

Today, we live in an increasingly fractious and fractured society. One in which, from a marketing perspective, it is easy to assume every sub-niche of an already divvied-up demographic demands a certain level of magic “ingratiation” dust to be successful. But while we should always strive to know our customers and relate to them on their own terms, we would be wise to always think of them as people first and purchasers 143rd.

Do that, and your marketing to women or men or millennials or boomers or Oprah groupies has a much, much better chance of being golden.

Jason Fox is the founder of AdSavior.net and the chin behind @leeclowsbeard.

Jason Fox is the founder of AdSavior.net and the chin behind @leeclowsbeard.

Amazing Arthur

October 16, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Amazing Arthur once took the stage seconds after attendees learned that a co-worker was being taken off life support (“How do you pick up from that?”). He has managed countless hecklers and worked around endless interruptions like ringing cell phones and wailing babies.

Offstage, there’s “helpful” criticism from people who don’t get jokes, such as his tagline touting “As viewed on YouTube 9 times!” or the fake anti-theft tag on his jacket. He’s had to listen to people appraising his looks while he’s standing right there. And he has to constantly deal with the disappointment of event organizers when turning down perpetual requests for free performances.
With his education degree, he could spend his days in a relatively calm and climate-controlled classroom, but Amazing Arthur just can’t stop doing what he really loves: entertaining. And being amazing, of course.

“About a decade ago, I came up with ‘Professional Showoff.’ It’s all-encompassing and you know right away this guy does something, he’s a showoff of some kind,” he says. “And it’s easier than saying, “Comedian, mentalist, magician, juggler, it-just-goes-on-forever.’”

Using the stage name Arthur Fratelli (he’s Arthur Silknitter, Jr., in his civilian life), the Papillion family man makes a living doing hundreds of shows a year all
over the country, managing his own marketing and serving as his own agent.

“I’ve been doing this since I was in high school. I used to go the Old Market and street-perform and it slowly gained steam with the clientele as people would ask for my card. I work mainlyword-of-mouth now,” Fratelli says.

Then he quips: “I think 99 percent of it is good looks. I’m extremely attractive.”

He may not take himself too seriously, but Fratelli is actually a serious businessman, offering his
card to everyone he meets and constantly thinking of the next booking.

“Seriously, I’d say it’s just the tenacity of working. The more you work, the more you work. I just do a good show and the calls come in,” he says. “It takes time and consistency. I try to give you a good value for your money, try to offer a variety of things, not just magic.”

Fratelli’s versatility means he can customize his performances for the client’s audience. and his business has expanded to handle bookings for other entertainers, like his real-life sister, balloon artist Poppin’ Penelope.

The father of “three beautiful children, four total” (he admits that his wife doesn’t really love that line) is also already grooming the next generation. Fourteen-year-old son Joey has taken the Fratelli stage name with his own juggling act (his first paid gig was at 13), where the years of watching his dad perform have paid off in a stage presence beyond his years…never mind the fact that mom and dad still have to drive him to and from shows.

Fratelli says the neighbors may get a little nervous when they spy flames in the backyard, but he assures them that Joey isn’t just playing with fire. Well, he is sort of playing with fire, but it’s all part of taking his juggling to the next level, and the proper safety precautions are in place.
With Joey stepping into the flaming hot spotlight, 11-year-old juggler-in-training Lauren has taken her brother’s place as Dad’s occasional audience plant, with Fratelli letting his audience in on the joke sooner or later with the line, “I’ll bet her father is really good-looking.”

As for the other two, Fratelli reports that his four-year-old daughter is still completely unimpressed with the family business at this point, but “my nine-year-old is very eager.” So if the youngest doesn’t warm up to the notion of professional showoffery, it would still work either way: the family could eventually become the Five Fratellis or top out as the Four Fratellis, both in the spirit of Amazing Arthur’s confessed love of alliteration.

No two shows are ever the same, Fratelli says. He makes a point of staying up on pop culture so his stage patter is topical, and he relishes improvisation and audience participation.

“A lot of entertainers who are onstage live perform as if it’s a movie. They press ‘play’ and it’s the same scenes at the same time. If something happens—a phone goes off, somebody leaves, somebody walks in—I have to incorporate it; that’s why I can’t do a rehearsed show,” he says. “I have to be able to work with the audience.”