LAS VEGAS — Three minutes, a panel of studio heads and an audience. It was a seminar titled "Pitch Me!" and provided a firsthand look at the mix of ambition and desperation that fuels this annual convention of television programming executives.
After a lecture on the anatomy of an irresistible pitch, some of the thousands of hungry and wannabe television producers and scriptwriters entered a raffle. The lucky winners got that three-minute shot at possible fame and fortune.
At best, the industry heavyweights listened politely. At worst, they found the presenter boring. A gong banged. "Face time" was over.
Across the hotel, the Las Vegas Hilton, 60-year-old Lynne Rader launched her own high-exposure campaign. Seated in a battery-powered wheelchair, she wore a red velvet cape, a gold turban and a cluster of brown beads that dangled between her eyes. The Orlando, Fla., psychic avoided seminars on "The Pitch," and focused on being receptive to what she called "Syndication Energy."
"I'm different than a gypsy-type psychic," she said. "I'm New Age. I'm produced by Time Warner Cable."
Rader has already done lunch with the powers that be. Since July 1999 she has hosted "The Cosmic Zone Plus," her own weekly show on Time Warner Cable in Orlando. The popular public-access show attracts callers who need reassurance and guidance, she said. But their feedback is what brought her to the National Assn. of Television Programming Executives convention to seek a national syndication deal.
"I also did a show on the daily grind of being a psychic," she said, waving a fan of fingernails covered with chipped, sparkling nail polish. Rader did not bring business cards to this massive networking boondoggle. She did, however, come with counsel, Lawrence H. Haber, a former attorney for both Disney and Universal whose mother used to read Turkish coffee cups.
"Larry, this is a legitimate call," Rader said Monday night, laughing on a borrowed cell phone as people streamed out of the opening celebration. "I'm not drunk. I'm not kidding. Where are you?"
As it turned out, the 42-year-old Haber was drinking a Coke a few hundred feet behind her.
Rader admitted her talent is not consistent. She knew she was a psychic at age 10, when something that sounded "sort of sweet, like an angel," told her she'd "be giving many messages." Over the past 50 years that otherworldly advice has ranged from immediate and practical to nonsensical.
"That conversation you just had with that man," she told Haber. "Forget it. It didn't mean anything."
So far, she's performed thousands of readings, using Tarot cards, palms, astrology, numerology and the gentle voices. At a session titled "Muy Caliente! The U.S. Latino TV Market," Rader wheeled up to the front row to evaluate the karma coming from the panel of network moguls on the stage.
Afterward, Haber said Spanish-language networks might be receptive to her pitch, even though Rader doesn't speak Spanish.
"If we need to do dubbing or have someone else translate, it's still worthwhile," he said. "You find the market. You exploit the market. You go for it."
But Rader insisted she'll only consider a syndication deal if she senses positive energy emanating from the television studio president.
"I know this sounds arrogant," she said, "but it's important for me to pick who I want to work with. Integrity is important when you're helping people."