Net Views: A Web Q & A Profile–Dot-comedian has real Amazon story

"At right, Dana Greenlee at her Tacoma studio, LoudVox. It started with a devotion to sixty-hour work weeks. It grew...

“At right is Dana Greenlee at her Tacoma studio, LoudVox. (Photo by Bonnie West) It started with a devotion to sixty-hour work weeks. It grew to a slavish love for the king of dot coms. Hundreds effortlessly soothed, rabidly angry customers during the two-month-long Christmas season. Such is the Internet reality of Amazon.com employees – or what’s left of them after this January’s 1,300 layoffs.This was also the reality of actor/comedian and playwright Mike Daisey, who worked for Amazon.com during two of its tumultuous early years. Daisey tells the real story of Amazon.com, blending insider info with irony, humor and reflections during his one-man stage show 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com.Now that his non-disclosure agreement has expired, he can really talk–about Amazon.com and the cult of personality that is Jeff Bezos, CEO/Founder of Amazon.com: Q: What did you do at Amazon.com?A: I lived the full spectrum of the new economy. I came to Amazon in Customer Service, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Answered a lot of email, a lot of phone calls. And worked my way up to Business Development which is the complete opposite, where I’m not sure I ever did anything. But we brokered a lot of business deals, connected Amazon to other websites and ethereal work that I’m not sure is even work. It was such a strange and absurd experience in such a weird company that I fell so in love with. I felt compelled afterwards to examine how I came to be so enraptured with them.Q: You worked in Amazon’s headquarters, the former Pac-Med building, with its God-like perch high on a hill looking down on Seattle.A: I always referred to the building as the Fortress of Solitude. A freaky art-decoy, Lex-Luthery, IKEA-fied place with all of its plate glass, thin wires and all that exposed duct work. I don’t know what it is about tech culture that makes everyone want to expose their duct work, as though everyone is working so hard they don’t have time to cover up the ducts. Q: Did you meet Jeff?A: Yes, many times. I spilled coffee on him once. That was the closest we ever came to having an intimate moment.Q: What has been the Amazon reaction to your one-man stage show 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ Amazon.com?A: In a New York Post article Amazon spokesman Bill Curry said he had seen my online film and said it was funny. I’m thinking of putting that endorsement on my next poster. Q: What about your one man show?A: I take the audience through my entire force of being at Amazon. I talk about what it’s like to leave Amazon and how difficult it was to adapt to normal life. I also read letters I wrote to Jeff Bezos. I was too chicken to send them to him.Q: Give us a taste of one of your letters to Jeff.A: Speaking of indulgent, what’s wrong with your money. I realize you drive an Acura and rent an apartment to ‘keep it real’ in front of the troops. The truth is, you’re worth between $11- and $40-billion, depending on how many people like you on any given day. If I were you, I’d take $10 billion and dump it into building an enormous robot body. Q: Tell us about your short film Rear Entry: An Unauthorized Expedition Into Amazon.com.A: I still have my employee badge since Human Resources didn’t show up at the exit interview.We took a camera and walked through the front doors, filmed all over the place, went up to the 9th floor which has a great view of Seattle. No one was there. We went into a conference room where a meeting just ended. We talked about how everyone had left business cards from Merrill Lynch and Solomon Brothers on the table and that actually got picked up and carried in the Wall Street Journal as being partial confirmation of rumors they’d heard that Amazon was having trouble with refinancing. Q: What are you doing now?A: We’re taking the one-man stage show on the road to Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City. If the numbers work out, we’ll have a national show filmed in Seattle.We actually filmed a couple of my 21 Dog Years stage shows and cut them together. Go to my website at www.mikedaisey.com. Q: What’s going to happen to the Internet?A: As an institution, the Internet will be fine. It will be here long after everybody who thought they’d make millions of dollars are gone. Q: What’s the future of Amazon?A: I don’t know. It’s almost like having an elephant at a tea party. The company is so large and has such a great brand but at the same time has such an unbelievable debt. I can’t fathom who would want to purchase or merge with them and take on that debt. Laying off workers and shutting down distribution centers will make them lightweight but it goes directly against their mantra to get big fast and grow and expand. I went to Amazon and really believed that we were going to change history. What an end for this dream. (Mike Daisey recently signed a book deal with publisher Simon and Schuster). Dana Greenlee, who is president of LoudVox.com and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, will be writing a technology column for Friday editions of the Index. WebTalkGuys, which features technology news and interviews, can be heard Saturdays from 11 a.m. to noon on KLAY 1180 AM in the Tacoma/Seattle area. Past shows and interviews are also webcast via the Internet at: http:www.webtalkguys.com. “

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