Dobson Left Mark Quietly A cable heavyweight that, most likely, you never heard of passed away last week. And the fact you didn’t know him was just the way he would have wanted it. Dan Dobson was the quintessential behind-the-scenes guy, a selfless, aw-shucks cowboy whose area of genius was, quite simply, getting things done. And while you might not have ever heard of Dan, you knew his work. Every time you went to the National Show and set foot on the exhibit floor or attended one of its highly theatrical sessions, you saw the kind of impossible things Dan made possible. As founder of Dobson & Associates, a company that produces trade shows for NCTA and CCTA (among others), Dan routinely performed miracles, and perhaps even more impressively, inspired others to do the same. Or as Jim Mooney, former NCTA president, related through an apocryphal dialogue between Dobson and himself: "Dan we need an elephant." "That’ll be expensive." "I know." "OK." I first became aware of Dan Dobson while working at CTAM, where Char Beales would routinely conjure up his name in the days leading up to the CTAM Summit. And what’s important to understand is that, although I always remember Char referencing Dan, I cannot recall any specific reference. That’s because each time she mentioned his name, it had to do with something so small, so detail-specific, that it immediately left my mind. And that’s what made Dan unique. Not only could he find you an elephant at a moment’s notice, but while looking for it he could remember to call the electricians to let them know there is a light bulb burned out in the men’s room in the South Hall. C.J. Hirschfield, who worked with Dobson on the Western Show for years, loved his calm, unflappable manner, as well as the fact that he was a man of his word. "I think it was the Texan in him, but he was always so calm and never about high-drama," she said. "And you could do a multi-million dollar deal with Dan on a handshake. He had so much integrity." Since she and her staff were loading the tractor-trailer last week for National, I didn’t get to talk with Barbara York about the loss of her friend and colleague. And while she issued a heart-felt statement, I’m sure it didn’t scratch the surface of her sadness. As Mooney described the relationship between Barbara and Dan, it was much like the eastern concept of yin and yang, with one perfectly complementing the other. "Barbara designed those shows, and Dan somehow made them happen. He was a make-it-happen sort of guy." Beales recalled how Dobson was one of the National Show’s early porn police, having been assigned the dubious task of monitoring just how far the new X-rated networks could push the envelope as exhibitors. Of course, she also explained that he quickly grasped the value of having booth space close to an adult network and began marketing such space as high-traffic areas. And the first exhibitor he got to bite? Mother Angelica and EWTN. There is tragic irony in the fact that Dan died so close to the National Show. Yet, in keeping with his style, the show, like life itself, will go on. Dan’s son, Yancy, will be there, and Dan’s number two and long-time source of inspiration, Carol Sullivan, will take the company’s reins. But make no mistake; there is a void in this industry that will be hard to fill. Dan Dobson would hate that I’m writing this, but it’s true. Or as Mooney said: "Dan was a man full of pride, but without ego."

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