There’s no business like show business.

A word or two about the car show while I have a minute to breathe. Tomorrow’s the last day, after which I hope the feeling returns to my right arm. (As an always-on-deadline blogger, I shlep my laptop around all day. By noon, it starts to feel like a corpse.) I was thinking today about the staging of the show, which is never more evident than in press week, when new models are being rolled out in splashy press conferences. Many people find cars exciting, but the bottom line is, it’s hard to unveil a piece of machinery stylishly. There’s a thin line between stylish and ridiculous.

Buick showed a concept — that’s a model that’s not in production, still in the thinking-about-it stage — SUV called the Enclave. It was preceded by a series of vignettes with various Buick operatives talking about icons of American design, about the genius in the details, the thought that obviously went into the process — a Les Paul guitar, an iPod Nano and an Eames chair. Then out rolled the Enclave, accompanied by models and swirly new age Enya-style music. The girls fluttered their veils, the car was shown in all its glory, and the audience was left to think, the next Eames chair? We shall see.

Mercedes had dancing girls at its rollout. Dancing boys, too. They were dressed in flowing blue dresses and curiously modest blue suits. The technology being shown was Mercedes environmentally friendly Bluetec diesel engine. The dancers were dancing all bluey around the stage, and then, and then! They’re wearing dolphins! They’re wearing clouds! We realize they’re wearing blue-screen blue, the blue that’s invisible to TV cameras, the same technology that allows your weatherman to walk into a pulsating storm cell on the map and not get wet. The female dancers gracefully reached up to their shoulder blades (which is hard to do, gracefully) and unfolded yards of batwing veiling; the men’s full-coverage suits finally made sense. Evidently the Bluetec is so environmentally friendly, it encourages dolphins to swim with it.

The Americans were, by and large, less artsy-fartsy. The Camaro went for noise, and it seemed to work, because the Camaro concept was the day’s big-excitement event — Chevy passed out periscopes to those far back in the crowd so they could see. The other big talker was Chrysler, which drove a Jeep through the plate-glass windows in the front of Cobo Arena. (See the video here.)

Clouds of steam are popular. So are models that rise from below the stage while music pounds. Less fancy is the whisked-away cover, yanked swiftly into the wings or rafters. Multiple video screens, strobes and lasers are routine. The slow reveal — a car that rotates from behind a semicircular screen, a la “Let’s Make a Deal” — is a biggie.

Music is top volume. Techno music is big, although a few of the brands skewing to younger drivers seem to favor a bouncy pop single like Beck’s “Summer Girl.” Aston Martin premiered a concept with an operatic soprano’s aria — maybe a lament for James Bond, lost to BMW. But the best was the anonymous band that plays behind a scrim at the Chrysler events. (I call them the New Chrysler Players.) Today, for the Jeep, they were going with a country-rock theme, and played the Eagles’ “Take it Easy.” With one key lyric change: I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see / It’s a girl I see, in a Grand Cherokee, slowing down to take a look at me…

Yeah, if they’d sung it straight, that would have been embarrassing, eh?

In other news at this hour, I finally saw “Million Dollar Baby.” I have some thoughts. Later in the week, maybe.

Posted at 9:34 pm in Popculch |

One response to “There’s no business like show business.”

  1. alex said on January 10, 2006 at 10:52 pm

    Let them flutter their veils. Bring on the smoke and mirrors for that matter. That blob of a Buick is no Eames chair, nor will it last anywhere near as long.

    I just bought four Eames chairs and an Eames coffee table, all ’60s vintage and immaculate, which is to say indestructible and therefore negligibly marred. These are pieces that by their unique design and construction have become classics in their own right. That Buick SUV will never be a classic. That Buick is the automotive equivalent of a Barcalounger and will, like its counterpart, end up in the trash in six years if it doesn’t completely disintegrate and go horribly out of style sooner.

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