By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Marcia always called her "Cyn" when talking about her, especially the last year or two, which always grated on my nerves. I subconsciously resented that nickname and always thought, "It just isn't right to call someone 'Sin' who was the exact opposite of that!"
Marcia is Ms. Grand, our publisher. She has something in common with yours truly, the staff of TWICE, much of the media who has covered the CE industry in the past 20 years and the industry itself. We all loved "Cyn," Cynthia Upson that is. That's why Saturday, Feb. 17, 2007, has been a particularly painful one for her friends, colleagues, family and, most importantly, husband Don and daughter Sarah. Cynthia died that day at age 49 after a battle with lung cancer.
For those of you in the industry who didn't know her, Cynthia joined what is now the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) in the mid-1980s and became one of the industry's great "Pied Pipers." She effectively told the industry's story nationwide and worldwide for two decades. Technically speaking, Cynthia became the communications and public relations guru for the association, but she was much more than that.
Cynthia picked a perfect career for herself, communications and public relations. She knew how to bring people together. She understood what the media's role was in covering the industry, empathized what your job was, and presented the industry's and/or CEA's message to you in a professional, easy-going manner. I worked with her for several years, but when I joined TWICE in 1993, and we became the official daily for the first time in 1994, I really understood her professionalism and understanding of what the other guy might be going through.
That Cynthia was intelligent, charming, funny, understanding, beautiful, had a tremendous laugh, could gossip (and hold a secret) with the best of them, and led by example were just a few of her talents. And that she's Italian (and I'm half-Italian) had no effect on my objectivity concerning CEA and the industry. (I think.)
She was diplomatic, yet Cynthia said what she felt and what she thought was right.
Cynthia joined CEA when CES had two shows, one in Las Vegas in January and the dear-departed Summer CES in Chicago. She promoted those shows with the help of the great staff at CEA and her friends Gary Shapiro (who introduced her to her husband Don), Karen Chupka and CES founder Jack Wayman. When COMDEX challenged the supremacy of CES Cynthia was there to put out CEA's message and to get more TV coverage of CES, both local and national, than had ever been seen at that time.
Later on, after she left CEA to go with Don and their daughter Sarah to Virginia's state capitol of Richmond, where Don became a member of the state government, Cynthia freelanced for CEA and beat the drum for digital TV and HDTV over the years.
When she left CEA in 1999, Marcia, TWICE founding editor Bob Gerson and I decided to give this special industry executive a TWICE Distinguished Achievement Award. Usually that award was given to people who were retiring. She had several more years of promoting HDTV and CES coming along.
I had the pleasure of presenting Cynthia with our Distinguished Achievement Award during CES in 1999. When I was asked to be a speaker at a celebration honoring Cynthia and her 20 years of service to the CE industry on Sept. 16 last year in Washington, I panicked. What can I say in a few minutes? Luckily I saved what I said in 1999, which was still true then, today and always:
"For anyone who has had the pleasure of working with Cynthia since 1986, the story has never been about her, but the industry that she represents. Over the years, Cynthia has been a publicist, confidant, advocate, diplomat, sounding board, troubleshooter, and chief cook and bottle washer for the industry.
The impact of her work has been that more people know about this industry's products and technology than ever before. She has created awareness in the national media about the technology and magic the CE industry provides, which has befitted everyone."
It was a privilege to be a small part of that special evening for Cynthia. I think I can honestly speak for all the toastmasters that night that we were relieved that we didn't have to follow the speech by Cynthia's daughter Sarah, who spoke so wonderfully about her mom.
Then Cynthia spoke eloquently and passionately about the Lung Cancer Alliance (www.lungcanceralliance.org). The dinner was in honor of her, but in keeping with her character, she agreed to being honored if it became a fundraiser for the organization. Given who it was for, the dinner was a great success for the organization and a fine tribute to a great lady. Please visit the Lung Cancer Alliance's Web site to find out more about this terrible disease, what we all can do to help those afflicted with it, and how to fight to eliminate it.
The condolences of TWICE and anyone who had the pleasure, the privilege of meeting and working with Cynthia over the years go to Don, Sarah, her parents Joseph and Diana Saraniti, and her brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews.
The family will receive friends from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 pm on Monday, Feb. 19 at the Bliley Funeral Home, 3801 Augusta Ave., Richmond, VA. A service is planned at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at St. Bridget's Church in Richmond. For more information, contact the Bliley Funeral Home at (804) 355-3800
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.