It’s ULTRA-cool to be the AV Guy |

It’s ULTRA-cool to be the AV Guy

Barry Smith

Aspen, CO ColoradoA few years ago I was working at a political fundraising event. I was there in my capacity as an AV Guy, my job being to set up the PA so the request for funds could be clearly heard by the hordes of wealthy Democrats who gathered in the cavernous Aspen living room. Easy gig, and I managed to get myself invited to partake in the appetizers. Hooray for Democratic fundraisers. The Republicans NEVER let the hired help near the shrimp.While scarfing down snacks, I strike up a conversation with the Secret Service guy. There were some midlevel politicians in attendance, so security was necessary, but it was a casual enough affair that he could loiter by the snack table with me. As much as I love telling people about the high-octane world of audiovisual, I was far more interested in tales of life in the Secret Service, so I was asking him all kinds of questions – background checks, training, hours, benefits, what kind of guns do you carry, etc. …We chat for a bit, and he’s totally friendly and doesn’t seem to mind my schoolboyish questions. He tells me a bit about his background, including the fact he used to work in military intelligence.Suddenly, it hits me – this guy must know about conspiracy theories, right? I mean, he’s in the business, in a way. Before I tell you what happened next, you need to know about me and conspiracy theories – specifically that I know just enough about them to righteously argue either side. So if, for example, you think the 9/11 attacks were an inside job, I’ll scoff and point out how many people would have to have been involved. Ever try to keep a secret at work? Impossible, right? However, if you think that everything Fox News tells you about 9/11 is true, I’ll scoff (yes, I do likes me some scoffing) and steer you toward many convincing and well-documented Internet sites that will blow your mind. It’s been said a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. But if all you want is to be righteous, a little knowledge is plenty.So, I’m no conspiracy buff, merely a hobbyist, and as I stand there at the shrimp table with Mr. Secret Service agent, I may not have used my best discretion in choosing my next question.I’d recently been reading about MK-ULTRA, the mind control experiments the CIA performed back in the ’50s. There were congressional hearings about this program in the ’70s, so it’s a bit too mainstream to be a true conspiracy theory, but there’s still lots of mystery around it. It was a long time ago, and this Secret Service guy seems cool, so what the heck …”Hey,” I said, through a mouthful of shrimp and cocktail sauce, “what do you know about this MK-ULTRA thing?”He froze. His smile, slight though it was, left his face. He leaned over toward me, reached out and tapped me twice on the leg, which I thought was a very strange thing to do, but I guess it’s Secret Service code for “this conversation is over, and I’ve decided to let you live.” Then he flashed me what I considered a threatening look and walked away.Okey-dokey, then …I’m no stranger to being ditched midconversation, but usually there’s at least some sort of lame excuse given, like “My boyfriend’s here; you have to let go of my hand now” or something like that. It’s awkward enough to be left standing in the middle of the room, especially when you’re in full conversation mode, but let me tell you, that awkwardness is compounded when you’ve just been given a subtle threat by an armed agent in response to asking a harmless question about the goings on of the government, the government which, in theory, is supposed to be looking out for you. I stood alone in the middle of the room, trying to act like I was through talking anyway. Yep, just me, standing here, alone, not in the least bit concerned about nasty governmental mind-control experiments performed on unwitting U.S. citizens. Nope – just hangin’ out, eatin’ some shrimp. Lots and lots of shrimp.Barry Smith’s column appears on Mondays. Read more on Barry’s blog,