The Big Pitch

by Brian Clarey

Phil Town paces like a panther on the squared platform at the center of the coliseum by Brian floor. His back is broad Clarey under the jacket of his fabulous dark suit; his thick shock of salt-and-pepper hair holds a soft wave; his jawline makes a perfect square. His shiny shoes cut a swath through a ground covering of confetti, ejaculated when Rudy Giuliani took the stage an hour or so earlier to kick off the Get Motivated Business Seminar, this all-day event that has got the Greensboro Coliseum buzzing like an orchard hive in springtime. They’ve been flogging it on the airwaves for weeks with buzzwords and name drops: Business! Leadership! Motivation! Rudy Guiliani! Colin Powell! The guy who landed his plane in the Hudson River! You could get a passel of tickets — enough for your whole office — for less than 20 bucks. And this place is packed. Traffic on Lee Street played hell with the morning commute; the parking lots are full at $10 a pop. Inside, seating areas on the floor and the mezzanine and the upper level teem with ambitious humanity: middle-aged men in golf shirts and pleated pants, cadres of note-taking women, entrepreneurial types and many who wear the forlorn look of the recently unemployed. They’re here to get fired up… or, at least, get a glimpse of a man who ran for president. But I’m not here to see Giuliani. What did the guy do, anyway? Gentrify Alphabet City and run the hookers off Times Square? And let’s face it: By our community standards, Rudy Giuliani is a tranny. And you can forget Colin Powell too. I don’t need a lesson in leadership from a man who gave false testimony to the United Nations at the behest of his Peter Principle president. Lord knows what the guy would say for a paycheck. Besides, anyone can report on whatever canned remarks these two jokers might give. The real action is in the undercard — the speakers who underwrite the entire venture for a chance to get some face time with the crowd of hooples, perhaps 15,000 strong, after they’ve been primed to action by the marquee names and motivational speakers on the bill. I’m here to see the Big Pitch. And right now Phil Town is spinning a work of art. “You’ve got to think about what you want,” he’s saying. “I mean, do you want an SLK-350?” Silence. “That’s a car, people,” he laughs. “Well… does anybody out there want a new pickup truck?” This is answered with roars from the assembled. Town holds his hands out wide. “My people!” he exclaims. “I got a Ford F-350 dually pickup,” he says. “Oh yes, King Ranch.” They’re listening…. He quotes from the Gospel according to Warren Buffet regarding “margin of safety,” and intones well-timed aphorisms: “Eighty-five percent of the money in the stock market is managed,” “The big guys can’t do it because they’re too big,” “This is not rocket science.” The PowerPoint slides click off on the big foursquare screens above the stage and positioned at each end zone — stock charts and performance charts and market estimates and indices. And that’s not all: There are photos of Town himself on horseback, strapped into a snowboard atop a snowy peak, astride his Harley Davidson in Sturgess. “I like to ride horses and snowboard,” Town says, and it’s hard for him not to be smug. “This is how I pay for it.” You think he needs to be here? Phil Town is rich, bitch. Even if he didn’t stack so much paper from the market, he’d still be rolling on the cash his New York Times bestseller, Rule #1, throws off. Rule No. 1, he reminds you, is, “Don’t lose money.” Phil Town could buy your whole neighborhood. He could kick your ass, too; Phil Town was a Green Beret and a river guide. And he could probably bang your wife — that is, if he hasn’t already. He lays the pitch: an investment system that utilizes an automated software package and clear indicators, which look like green arrows on the stock chart, delineating the perfect moments to buy and sell. It’s a system based on market timing and incremental gains to generate cash flow, and he says he maintains his own fortune by using it for about 20 minutes a day, beating the big investment funds every time. “People have asked me,” he says, “‘If that’s true, why don’t fund managers use the arrows?’ The answer is: He is the arrows.” And then he makes his proposition: a two-day workshop held by Wealth magazine valued at $1,995, and it just so happens there are nine of them running right here in the Triad between May 30 and June 9; online tutorials that will show you how to use your home computer to build your fortune, normally $995; and a threemonth subscription to Wealth magazine’s online investor toolbox, which would normally run you $149. That’s a $3,139 value folks, but as a special deal for participants in this seminar, he’s going to drop the price of the whole package down to $299. Still not interested? Well how about this: If you are willing to sign up today, right now, for this incredible batch of products and services, Phil Town is going to give it to you for just $99. Out in the concession ring, long tables hold graduated stacks of clipboards, each holding a pen and a contract for the Wealth Magazine Investor Education program with the listed price of $299 crossed out and a handwritten “Only $99” underneath. And they stream from the arena, bunch around the tables with hands outstretched, snapping up clipboards like each one is the last pancake on the platter, copying down Visa numbers and filling out checks. The rest mill around the concession ring, buying $8 box lunches, scanning the crowd for familiar faces, lost in the rapture of imagined fortunes, yearning for a bigger and better deal. The crowd is a pickpocket’s dream, but picking pockets is a loser’s game. In the end, it’s a lot easier when they give it to you freely.