24 years ago today, September 16, 1989, we celebrated the opening of The Creative Network Studios, Inc. Although our blogs are normally written by others working for us, today I felt it would be appropriate for me to personally share a few of the highlights of these past 24 years . . . it also gives me a chance to thank our parents, Herman and Jenny Ison and Marvin and Gretna Morgan for their lifelong and loving emotional, spiritual and financial support.
Our grand opening party was on Friday night, September 16th, a week before the infamous Hurricane Hugo hit the eastern coast. We hosted over eleven hundred family and friends, most notably the Honorable Governor Jim Martin and his bodyguards, the Special Effects Master of Ghostbusters, models styled in an Alexander Julian Trunk Show, Chress Horne of US Helicopters and other Charlotte dignitaries under dramatic cinematic lighting, both inside and out front. The Hollywood Rentals premier searchlights piercing thru the huge fog machine was so effective someone called the Charlotte Fire Department, fearing our building was on fire, only to find there really was something “SMOKING” at 4202 Barringer Drive and it continues to do so these many years later; the imaginations of a wonderful gathering of creative minds and spirits.
We moved into our building on March 1, 1989 and began renovating a 20,000 sf lamp factory until it matured into a two-sound stage fully-equipped film studio that was to be later exclaimed by a dear friend and famed actor Jack Palance during his first visit in 1998, “you promised me an experience but I had no idea it’d be anything like this.” Shoot, just thinking of Jack’s endearing expression as he sat at my desk taking in the photographs that line my shelves, remind me of so many landmarks and the goosebumps they inspired.
November 22, 1993 we produced The America’s Awards for Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the author and inspiration of The Power of Positive Thinking. This live 2-hour event aired on The Nashville Network and was hosted by Willie Nelson and Phyllis George featuring over 30 headline talents honoring six unsung American Heroes. Prior to our involvement, it had simply been a luncheon held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. We felt the country needed this kind of motivational program and took a gamble to buy the air time, pulled favors from friends such as Jim Owens, Bill Turner and Mae Axton in Nashville and put together one of TNN’s highest rated specials for that year in less than 30 days. Wow! – it seems impossible to think we pulled it off considering the financial significance it required, but Ed Hamilton of First National Bank not only attended the live performance but held our hand throughout to make sure our doors didn’t close. It was this kind of faith and help that has made it possible for so many wonderful things to be produced out of that original 20,000 sf space.
Action Lane Furniture, became one of our first major advertising and marketing clients whose relationship spanned a decade and saw our combined efforts increase their value from $250,000,000 to almost twice that in less than three years, and within ten years, over a billion under the Furniture Brands International banner. That success made others take notice and allowed us the opportunity to work for and with HGTV, CBS, FOX, USA Network, Pontiac Motorsports, Hancock Fabrics, Diet Coke, McDonald’s, White Castle, Marathon Oil, Wal-Mart, Lyfe Kitchen, Belk and Dillard Stores, Italian Vogue, Speedway Motor Sports, Inc. and fortunately many others that provided moments of great triumph as well as learning pains.
Looking back over our highlights, I linger on the memory of Johnnie L. Cochran and our relationship with The Cochran Firm. A year prior to Johnnie’s passing in March of 2005, one of the national partners called per Bruton Smith’s prompting, emphatically requesting Charles to direct Johnnie for what would be his final national campaign for his firm. Remembering the white Ford Bronco chase of June 17, 1994 – we never imagined we would be so intricately involved in promoting the life and legacy of Johnnie L. Cochran thru television advertising and later thru the production of tributes for the National Bar Association and ultimately his funeral. His landmark accomplishments and heart to make positive changes no matter what the public may think taught us morally to never judge a book until you’ve personally read it from cover to cover.
Our most recent adventures have us developing Vegas Entertainment Network and all the discovery of self and work that that entails, as well as the rewards; both in business as well as friendships nurtured. While I have dedicated my energy to the continued success of The Creative Network Studios, Charles has been pursuing his love of making movies through Horse Head Pictures. A little known fact that he helped develop the North Carolina Film Commission back in the 1980’s further validates his love of filmmaking and belief in the talent that resides in our state.
Speaking of which, I will close my CNS anniversary tribute by acknowledging the incredible talents that have given CNS its unusual vibe when you walk thru its door; Mack Pittman, Ray Stephens, Richard Israel, Jeff Hamrick, Tim Mills, Leigh Ann Yandle-Perry, Dee Barton, Caroline Beacham, Cindee Joye, Ralph Woolaston, Jeff and Doug Pentek, Charles Holloman, Doug Harmon, Les Farfour, Kim Swartz, Susan Hill, Mark Allen, Joyce Owens, Ditto Dalcher, Keith Green, Jay Rich, Caroline Fox, Michael Underwood, Jacques Lambert, Phil Smoot, Wade Austin, Kevin Stolpe, Haydon Lane, Randy Belk, Rodger Painter, Kelly, Debbie, Katherine, Heather, Judson, Zoe, Carey, Drew, Rebubbles, Fabianna, Ryan, Laine, Scott, Cindy, Ava VaVoom, Mimi Cha-Ching, Morris, Ronnie, Tracy, Byron, El, Colby, Michelle, James, Schaner, Chelsea, Glen, Alison Clark, Terry, special thanks to Martin and Randy, and with sincere cherishment (found in the dictionary according to Jan) Mike Hudson, Nathan Wheeler and Jen Smith . . . over these past 24 years the attitudes, creative genius and loyalty of these and many other former employees and free-lancers have made it so rewarding and in the words of dear friend and mentor Bruton Smith, “it’s not work when it’s FUN.” So, I’m off to another Monday and the FUN that lies ahead . . . on this September 16th.
Thanking God in all things,