The (ever-changing) time of our lives

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cindy Hart must have been setting us up when she said her favorite movie was “Dirty Dancing.”
The scene Thursday was the Rowan Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards ceremony — usually a dry affair but reinvented this year as a gala occasion, black tie optional. Credit goes to new Chamber President Elaine Spalding, outgoing chairwoman Hart and others who apparently believe it’s time for the local business community to loosen up.
To that end, an improv comedy group called Now Are the Foxes engaged Hart and her successor as chamber chair, Mark Seifel, in some banter on the Lee Street Theater stage. That’s when the subject of movies and “Dirty Dancing” came up.
You remember the movie, with stars Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey dancing into film immortality to the tune of “The Time of My Life”?
With award presentations and other business to cover, Hart’s favorite movie was all but forgotten as the chamber gala neared its close. Then one of the Now Are the Foxes players, Jen Atizer, started talking about how the chamber’s enthusiasm had inspired her. “I really want to be a part of it,” she said, moving to center stage.
Cue the music.
People caught on as the first strains of the “Time of My Life” music track came over the speakers.
“Now I had the time of my life,” Atizer sang. “Did I mention I am unemployed? I swear, it’s almost true. Someday I will work for youuuuu…”
Having a great singing voice helped. From wanting “some Duke Energy” to rhyming “truck designer” with “Freightliner,” Atizer introduced us to a uniquely Rowan Chamber version of the song.
She claimed to have been fired from Cheerwine for adding some real wine, and belted out a new slogan for Salisbury-Rowan Tourism: “Stay with me to-niiiight!”
She finished by jumping from the stage into the waiting arms of a fellow player — “the lift,” according to “Dirty Dancing” lore. As comedy would have it, Atizer executed the lift more in the style of Lucille Ball than Jennifer Grey, but that just made it better.
All in all, it was a fun evening that reflects changes taking place at the chamber under Spalding’s leadership — an organization that does serious work but tries to have fun, too.

Another chamber function Thursday — with a different chamber — took place in Concord as the Leadership Cabarrus class turned its attention to the media.
After visiting Charlotte TV and radio stations early in the day, the class ended with a session at the offices of the Independent Tribune newspaper. There I was part of a panel that included I-T Publisher John Dunham, Jason Huddle of Cabarrus magazine, David Baxter from Cabarrus government’s communications department, radio commentator Robert Raiford from the John Boy and Billy Show and our moderator, columnist Mark Washburn from The Charlotte Observer.
Like Leadership Rowan, Leadership Cabarrus helps current and rising community leaders broaden their knowledge of the community.
When the Cabarrus classes started years ago, the media panel mostly gave advice on deadlines, press releases and how to manage bad-news situations like layoffs and plant closings.
In recent years, we’ve focused more on the changing media landscape and our role in it. Instead of advising the class on how to release news, we talked Thursday about the many ways to consume it — in short, any way you want it.
One class member asked if he was the only person who drove over the papers in his driveway each morning only to immediately go to the newspaper website once he arrives at work.
No, he’s not alone. The getting-to-work hours around 8 to 9 a.m. bring peak traffic to our website. And on smartphones, Facebook and Twitter, our reach keeps climbing.
But ink on paper is still popular — a tangible news product that requires resources and commitment.
For chambers of commerce, for leaders and for businesses like newspapers, the only constant is change. The challenges are serious. Now and then, we all need some comic relief.
Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.