Wednesday, May 11th, 2005
Nashville was a blast. Along with many old faces, I enjoyed meeting La Shawn Barber , Les Jones , Staci Kramer , Robin Burk, Jeffrey Henning, Donald Sensing, BL Ochman, Tom and Red, Dana Blankenhorn and Bill Hobbs Bill Hobbs.
There were many memorable moments, including Dave Winer’s, to me, off-key suggestion that the event kick off by singing Dixie. Instead we settled on America the beautiful. The “disagreement” session was the ultimate in synecdoche, summed up here and with an overview here. This could be a best-seller — where are the podcasts?
The highpoint for me was meeting aspiring blogger John Jay Hooker, a 75-year-old lawyer who showed up at the conference and, as the session “disagreement” reached one boiling point, said things like as “sometimes you can’t call a son of a bitch a son of a bitch without calling him a son of a bitch” and “you have to learn to disagree without being disagreeable.”
Later, a bunch of bloggers spent a couple of hours imbibing with Mr. Hooker. He told us about a) founding HCA, the company that has put Bill Frist on track for the White House b) making STP a profitable company and c) his friends Jimmy the Greek, Warren Beaty, Bobby Kennedy and Mohammed Ali. Fantasist or voluble multi-millionaire? Here’s his bio:
In 1961, he was appointed Special Assistant to Robert F. Kennedy which led to his involvement in the Baker v. Carr case. In 1962, Hooker became general counsel for the Nashville Tennessean. Also in that year, he was endorsed by Senator Kefauver and the Nashville Tennessean to run for Governor against Frank Clement for the Democratic nomination. Hooker chose not to run in that election, but did run and lose in 1966 against Buford Ellington for the Democratic nomination.
Moving away from politics, Hooker started Minnie Pearl’s Chicken in 1967. This venture proved to be disastrous. Promoters had used the country singer’s name to sell area franchise agreements, then reported millions in uncollected fees as revenue to drive up their stock price. The business failed amid several lawsuits.
In 1968, Hooker founded the Hospital Corporation of American along with four other individuals. Continuing with his political career, Hooker secured the Democratic nomination for Governor in the 1970 race, but lost to Republican Winfield Dunn. Moving on with his business pursuits, he became chairman of the board of STP Corporation in 1973. He remained in the position until 1976, when he left to run for the U.S. Senate. Hooker lost to James Sasser in the Democratic primary.
In 1979, Hooker organized the sale of the Nashville Tennessean to Gannet Corporation. In this deal he put together a syndicate that bought a part interest in the Newspaper Printing Corporation which owned the Tennessean and the Banner. He also became the publisher of the Banner. In 1982, Hooker sold his interest in the Banner and became chairman of the United Press International. Two years later, Hooker again made a foray into fast food and opened Hooker Hamburgers. In 1986, just two years later, he sold this business.
Some Hooker yarns: “My father liked to entertain and he liked to drink whisky. If you’d have come over to call on him, he’d put a quart of Jack Daniels in front of you and a quart in front of himself. That was OK, because he was a 1/3 shareholder in the company, so he was keeping it in the family. Now my father’s doctor was Dr. Frist, Bill Frist’s father. Dr. Frist told my father, ‘you have two choices, you can either stop drinking or you can die.’ My father told him, “Doctor, I have a third choice: I can get a new doctor.'”
Hooker said running a profitable venture was a lot like fishing, “first, you need to find the right fishing hole. Then you need the right fishing partners. Then you need the right bait.”
He went on a stem winder about the glories of blogging and its future immense impact on the business of marketing. “A lot of money will be made from this, I tell you.” (Several people were filming him — I hope the video will surface. Here are a couple of photos of him at the bottom of this post: http://www.webraw.com/quixtar/archives/2005/05/blognashville_saturday_pictures.php )
So: is blogging the next HCA or another Minnie Pearl’s Chicken? Given the number of calls Blogads fields these days from avaricious VCs and investment bankers, I fear the latter.
Here are some photos by Donald Sensing.
Glenn Reynolds, self-professed dilettante and rabid early adopter of new media tools and techniques, shot video throughout, then edited and posted within hours after the event closed. Here are some links to various feeds.
Asked by videographer Reynolds whether there’s a business model for blogging, Dan Gillmore offered this poignant response: “There better be a business model, or it will be community theatre for the whole world.”