By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
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By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
Christopher Reeve, God bless him, is dead and wasn't available to appear as scheduled.
But Jerry Lewis is still kicking, Private Jessica Lynch made it out of Iraq, and Rudolph Giuliani, once the scourge of squeegee men, has turned Sept. 11 into a profession.
Each of the above, as well as retired General Tommy Franks and something billed as "Zig Ziglar, America's No. 1 Motivator" were among the featured speakers at the touring "Get Motivated" seminar that hit the Arrowhead Pond Nov. 15-16.
The Tuesday show sold out; I attended Monday, when attendance was estimated at 12,000. Police stood at intersections near the arena, directing traffic. Indoors, long lines for nachos and soda prevailed at the "Franks-a-Lot" concession stand.
The event was part salon, part self-help session, part infomercial. Get Motivated Seminars Inc., the sponsors, make more money from selling associated products than from the gate, a spokeswoman said.
Realtors and Christian-church representatives appeared to make up a significant portion of the Pond crowd. Tour buses carried "Re/Max" placards. Embroidered sweaters read, "Century 21." Administrators from St. John's Lutheran Church of Orange commandeered a bloc of seats. A man looking for a lost watch wore a large crucifix tattoo. A younger man wearing a "Kerry/Edwards" pin sported a dangling cross necklace. The realtors said they'd been marketed to, that two of the speakers were real-estate experts. The church folks just knew to come.
Standing on a stage beneath the arena's video scoreboards, center ice if the Mighty Ducks weren't locked out, the speakers played to the room.
"If man can take moldy bread and make penicillin out of it," Ziglar said, "just imagine what God can do for you."
Ziglar, it turns out, is the avuncular, 78-year-old front man of Dallas-based Ziglar Training Systems. He looks like Bob Barker and sounds like Dan Rather on crystal—of course, so does Dan Rather.
Zig Ziglar "You were born to win!" he said, "I'm in the life-changing business!"
Ziglar's an acrostics junkie. If some kid tells your child he's ugly, Ziglar says, inform li'l gullible that the word stands for "unusually good-looking youngster."
Ziglar's other advice includes exercise regularly, avoid stress and have a sense of humor.
After Ziglar spoke, Giuliani took the stage. Confetti dropped and a Sinatra cut bellowed. Ostensibly, the former mayor was present to lecture about management. He stayed on message, regurgitating the principles identified in his 2002 book, Leadership.
Given the Pond demographics, perhaps presumed 2008 presidential contender Giuliani was also looking to widen his voter base. If so, he hit mostly the right notes.
He praised Ronald Reagan. He talked about Israel. He said, "God bless you." He told a Ground Zero story about construction workers embracing George W. Bush. Giuliani's sole foible was telling an anecdote about Pope John Paul II. Better save that story for the Feast of San Gennaro.
Falon Paraso, a Get Motivated volunteer from the Master's Commission—an immersive Christian-youth program—said she'd been looking forward to seeing Giuliani. I asked the spike-haired, purple-shawled young woman what she thought of his having once shacked up with a gay couple?
"I believe gossip is wrong," the Rancho Cucamonga resident replied.
Paraso said that in addition to her fellow Master's volunteers, there were other free laborers on hand from Teen Reach and Mary Kay Cosmetics.
"Peter Lowe, he's a Christian," Paraso said, referring to the Get Motivated founder. "He wants all his volunteers to have the same joy, to have the same purpose in life: to serve the people."
Lowe's bio says he was born to missionaries living in Pakistan. He grew up in Canada and, combined with a lisp, carries the maple leaf accent. He resembles an orange-haired Gray Davis.
Lowe sat down to interview Private Lynch.
The 21-year-old West Virginian discussed her life-and-death misadventures in Iraq. Knowing what you know now, Lowe asked her, would you have enlisted?
"Oh, definitely," Lynch said. "I still miss it today."
Lynch walks with a limp and uses a silver orthopedic cane. Her legs are filled with rods and screws. She exited the stage to a standing ovation and a recording of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA."
Next, Lowe spoke. He said it would be "unprofessional" of him to talk about success without talking about spirituality. He showed a video of himself jumping, with a springy rope affixed, at a waterfall.
"Do you think it takes a little faith to bungee jump?" Lowe asked. "And I had to put a lot of faith in that bungee cord."
He said that what you believe is more important than just that you believe.
"Lord Jesus," Lowe said a little later, "I need you. I want you to come to my life."
A longer version of that affirmation was available on compact disc in the lobby.
Tamara Lowe, Peter's wife, emceed. After a lunch break, she hosted a beach party. Inflatable balls were batted about. "Surfin' Safari" blasted. And an insurance agent who looked like Peter O'Toole in My Favorite Year won a trip to Disneyworld by dancing with abandon.
Next up was Jerry Lewis. Pyrotechnics went off, and it was like the Lynch welcome all over again. Lewis, his voice still strong, opened with a joke and then kept them coming:
"Do you know why a cow wears a bell? Because her horns don't work."
"This firefighter had twins. He named one Josť and the other, Hose B."
And then the jokes came so quickly I'll have to paraphrase: How do Chinese parents name their children? They throw silverware up in the air, and when it lands, it makes sounds—chung, ching, wang, wong.
I'm riding the subway, and there's a young guy sitting across from me with blue, red and yellow hair. I'm looking at him, and he says, "What? You've never done anything wild?" I tell him, "Twenty years ago, I had sex with a parrot. I thought you were my son."
Pastor John McFarland of the Fountain Valley Methodist Church sat in the front row, just 15 feet from where Lewis and the other celebrities performed.
"I like to soak up the presence of successful people," McFarland said.
McFarland has been a pastor for 25 years, has five children, cares deeply about Third World poverty and never thought much about his own finances, he said.
Phil Town changed that. Following that stock-market investor's midmorning presentation, the pastor walked to a table, filled out paperwork and signed up—no commitment, he said—to attend a follow-up class.
"There's more in the scriptures about finances than about heaven and hell," McFarland said.
Ophelia Robles was also pumped up about the investing class. The Upland-based realtor leapt out of her seat in the first row of the regular Pond stands, hurrying to reach the nearby sign-up table.
"I just wanted to be the first," she said later.
Instead, the black-leather-jacket-clad Robles caught her three-and-a-half-inch high heels on the top of the Pond boards—like Sergei Fedorov catching a skate during a late line change. Robles tumbled to the carpet, and her cell phone went flying. She got right up and raced to the table.
"I was very excited," Robles said. "And motivated."