From Sharing to Social Climbing… How to Degrade an Industry

by Bill Beatty

It is with sadness that I write this article but it’s necessary. I will start at the beginning.

In 1982, I was introduced to balloon animals at a video night club. This was back when MTV was just starting and they still showed music videos. This night club showed music videos on a big screen instead of playing records. The guy that was a video dj that night, was dressed as Spoon the Clown (Sure wish I could find this guy, to thank him.) I had seen Louis Long (Teeny the Clown) twisting balloon apples at Safeway stores back in the mid 60’s but Spoon showed me about balloon animals. I asked Spoon if he would show me how to make an animal. He SHARED with me the basic pattern and gave me 260’s, which were Ashlands. Qualatex wasn’t even on the scene then. I then went to the magic store and got some cheapo make up, a bag of Ashlands and two balloon books, One Balloon Zoo by Jimmy Davis and Dewey’s Bubble Buddies by Ralph Dewey (Dewey’s was a toughie to start out with, but I hung in there.) The point here is that from the beginning, Spoon SHARED. Jimmy and Ralph shared through their books

I took those ideas, went to the swap meet and slung balloons, within a week of twisting my first balloon. It was a blast! I looked for others that I could hang with. Others to share and learn from. I found out about the Lakewood Clown Alley and there I met some nice people that not only shared but also taught me things like powdering make up, movement and other entertaining principles. We even had a guest speaker, Leslie Homan who wrote for this magazine called Laugh Makers. I thought WOW! I got to get that! So I subscribed to Laugh Makerswow! What a treasure trove of ideas and they even had a guy, James Tiny Payne, who wrote cool balloon articles. These people in this magazine that wrote these cool articles were doing it for the love of the art, not for any recognition. It was so cool that they wanted to share to better kid show entertainment.

A couple years later, I saw that Laugh Makers had a conference! Wow! People like Tony Borders, Bruce Charlie Johnson and …gasp! Marvin Hardy, a balloon guy were teaching there! In 1987, was the first Laugh Makers conference that I attended and I was hooked. The very first day, there, just after I had registered, I had a bloody noseno big deal, but both Cathy and Bob Gibbons saw it and were so worried! They went way above and beyond and made me feel so “special” and cared about. At the conference, there was sharingand more sharing.and moreI didn’t see people trying to get known, trying to be seen but just people gathering together. Was there balloon jamming? Oh yes! Even Marvin Hardy, the balloon star, would jam with us at night. Michael Decker, Joe St Marie, David Bartlett..all awesome balloon people just sitting and jamming with each other till the wee hours of the morning.and we shared. At that time, there was NO other conference around like that. However, after I believe, five years, they stopped. Too many other conferences popped up and that took away from the draw. People tried and still try to replicate what they had, but none have succeeded. They did have one more weekend thing (In fact, it was at this weekend one that I first met Larry Moss. I believe this was right before he started the HQ).

It was in 1992, I had seen that James “Tiny” Payne, had died. I submitted a proposal to what I wanted to share with others and how I saw the balloon column going in the future. Apparently, she liked it and I started writing columns for them in I believe 91. I just wanted to share ideas and be part of the sharing that became Laugh Makers.

I also saw T Myers start up T and Jam.a gathering of balloon twisters.I never did go to one of those but thought, for balloon twisters? What a wonderful idea! A conference dedicated to just non rounds and how to entertain with them! From what I saw, there was more sharing but I also saw competitions as part of that. I had seen competitions as part of clown conventions in various areas that included balloons. You see, at Laugh Makers, there was no competitions. People did not need to prove themselves, or better themselves. People were accepted as they were and at what level they were at.

Competitions. People say they are used to better themselves. They are to challenge you to be better and up your game so to speak. I don’t like them. I never have and never will. IF we are truly sharing and caring, then why the competitions? Can you better yourself without winning some award? Of course you can. As competitions became more and more prevalent in most all conventions, I also saw another ugly specter raise its head. Social Climbing.

Social climbing is what I call the effort of trying to do things, to “get known”. People think they can become “somebody” if they win a competition. They feel that must make them better than others who don’t compete or don’t win. I have seen this industry go from being the open handed sharing to the closed fist of keeping ideas to yourself. Why?

So many have been hurt by a lot of things. I can give you examples of many people who have shared their ideas. They then see someone else take their ideas and offer them on DVD’s or free tutorials. People have used and abused the sharing of others and claim it is their own, and not give true credit to who inspired them or taught them the concept. If they got the idea from someone, adapted it and made it their own, they at least need to acknowledge who inspired them. But no, too many claim it’s “another original” that they came up with. Personally, to me, there is NOTHING truly original, that it is all adaptations of someone else’s idea. Even David Ginn, in a recent workshop, acknowledges who inspired him for an idea

Social climbers also want to saddle up to the stars, and become friends because they think they can help them “get to the top”. After they get to the top, they forget who got them there. No, they forget who HELPED get them there. Like a turtle on a fence post, they had help to get there. I see, as a result of this social climbing, less and less sharing of balloon ideas. Like a friend of mine said, people don’t share because why should they share if everyone else is gonna be using them or even doing the same stuff they are? People don’t share like Marvin Hardy or Spoon the Clown did with me years ago. They keep it to themselves. They withdraw. Instructors at conventions teach their classes but you don’t see them hanging with the newbies in the jam rooms. They have special invite only things happening. They don’t approach the anxious new balloon twister in the corner who is waiting for SOMEONE to approach them. Marvin did that a lot at conventions. He just shared.

My point in this article and my hope is that we all get back to not worrying about arriving at the Mecca of balloons. My hope is to try to reverse direction in our industry, that the flavors of the month, get up and help those who are newbies. I wanna see us get back to open sharing and not worry about what we can get. Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything you want in this world, if you help others get what they want.” I like that the organizers of Twist and Shout are expecting certain things from their instructors this year. They are expecting them to hang in the jam rooms and not just go hide in their rooms. They are making an effort to break the cliquish ness of our industry. Now, if these instructors don’t go to the jame room and just hang with each other, and hang with those who are new to conventions, then that’s real progress.

The most important part is this reversal of social climbing is you. Don’t worry about becoming the next big thing in ballooning. Don’t worry about if you have won so many competitions. Worry about becoming the best YOU can be. Learn stuff for you, that YOU can use. Worry about helping others and sharing with others what you DO know. Approach others. Be more open and remember in the big picture of it all, it’s just a balloon.

Keep on Twistin!

Bill Beatty
Aka Dr. Twistin