My first encounter with iconic Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs went down at Pennylane Records in Westport…
It was in the mid-1980s and I was a promoter of mostly alternative rock musicians in an era when local radio had zero interest in those artists outside of hit makers like Duran Duran and Simple Minds. I needed a vehicle to reach the target audience for those acts. And while there wasn’t a whole lot to Pennylane’s in-house KC Pitch monthly contentwise- there were really no other viable options.
Or so I thought…
However, I couldn’t even get a return phone call to buy an ad for my first concert. So afterwards I tracked down record store owner Hal Brody and pitched him on my concept for expanding the Pitch. To transform it from a record store rag running mostly "house" ads for Pennylane and bar ads for a handful of Westport clubs like the Hurricane and Lone Star into something more closely ressembling what it is today.
In other markets, small, homegrown hippie rags had evolved and continued to evolve into broadbased alternative newsweeklies, I told Brody. They covered the fine arts, dining, a far wider swath of entertainment and edgy, often controversial news stories. And the Pitch could do the same in Kansas City where there was money to be made and fun to be had.
Brody took me up and I began working with his merry band of record store employees to grow the mag.
They were an enthusiastic lot and were further heartened by a Christmas gift Brody got that year he didn’t know what to do with.
It was the very first Macintosh computer.
Brody brought it down to Pennylane and bestowed it upon messrs Scott O’Kelly and Donna Trussell, then the keepers of the Pitch flame.Needless to say, they were thrilled. And then and there, in that inglamorous basement beneath Pennylane, desktop publishing in Kansas City was born.
I’d attended a personal computing class touting IBM’s first PCs a couple years earlier, but had not been much interested. The little Mac kind of got me going though – I say, kind of.
Because embarrassing as it is for me to admit, it took a wrestler by the name of King Kong Bundy to actually get me in the game.
But the King & I didn’t last long or go very far and it was quickly back to Job’s Macintosh forever more. I’ve never owned a PC since, nor will I. And in a dumbed down way, I’ve tried to follow in the footsteps of Guy Kawaski, the former Chief Evangelist at Apple. Converting friends and family to the Mac.
Can you believe it? I even got Craig Glazer to by a MacBook earlier this year and he only learned how to spellcheck a handful of months ago.
I bought the first true Apple laptop, the Powerbook 170, the minute in came out in 1991.
For a then, not-low price of $4,599. I even thought it was cool that it had been assembled in Ireland. And I wrote the vast majority of my Kansas City Star columns on it for several years starting in 1992. It wasn’t easy though, because I then had to load my columns onto a floppy disk and transfer them to the ultra crappy computers Star reporters had to work on for way too many years.
Years later I bought the very first iBook, literally on my way out of town to cover the KC Wizards championship game and MLS Cup victory in Washinton, D.C. in 2000. Plugged that puppy into a phone jack in the press box at RFK Stadium and emailed story after story to the Star sports desk.
Via dial-up, of course. And while that sounds pretty arcane today, it was cutting edge at the time.
Year after year I waited and watched as Jobs unveiled the new Macs I came to know and love. He put on that little dog and pony show the public now knows so well for the tiny cadre of Mac fanatics. Long before the iPod, iPhone or iPad.
By dumb luck I purchased the very first iMac at Comp USA in Overland Park the day it came out in August of 1998. It had been sold out in advance but I just happened to be there when a manager learned someone had defaulted on their order.
Jobs had been kicked out of Apple for being a jerk in the mid-1980s and unlike his rep today had been rendered a falling star.
Back then nobody thought or knew he’d ever amount to anything much again. He was pretty much a loser. However by 2007, the suits had all but ruined Apple and the conventional wisdom at the time was if Sony didn’t buy it, Apple wouldn’t be around much longer.
That’s when Apple threw caution to the wind – having nothing to lose – and brought Jobs back.
For a buck a year.
Which seemed ultra cool and very cheap but only because – as we would later learn – Jobs had calculated a way to make tons more dough by playing a game that now allows billionaire Warren Buffet to pay taxes at a lower rate than his secretary.