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Published: Tuesday, 7/7/2009

Toledo firm gets prime role in Michael Jackson's memorial

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Millions of viewers across the globe are expected to watch Tuesday's memorial service for the late pop star Michael Jackson.

If all goes well, none will notice the role of a Toledo-built product scheduled for debut on stage at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

Telepromptermirrors.com of South Toledo has sold and shipped two of its new teleprompter stands to organizers.

The units, made up of metal poles attached to semitransparent panes of glass, are to help the day's tribute speeches flow smoothly.

Although it's not the first time for the young company's glass-based products to appear on national television, the memorial service will be the biggest live demonstration of the firm's goods.

The company and its six employees received the telephoned order on Friday at its headquarters at 4731 South Ave., just hours before the holiday weekend.

"They [colleagues] walked in the back room and said, 'I need two of these for Michael Jackson,' and my jaw just dropped," recalled Adam Cramer, inventor of the specific "Presidential" model teleprompter stands.

Common at big award banquets and embraced by big name politicians, teleprompters allow speakers to deliver prepared remarks without having to glance at notes or wait for cue cards.

And recent U.S. presidents, as the model name suggests, have been big teleprompter fans.

The transparent devices are usually visible to a live audience but not a television audience.

Although President

Obama has not used Telepromptermirrors.com equipment, the company's 30-year-old founder, James Baker, said he believes that the current president's well-publicized use of teleprompters has aided his business's sales figures.

"I would definitely say that Obama has made it much more visible," said Mr. Baker, an Ann Arbor native whose favorite Michael Jackson song is "Billie Jean."

Most network coverage of the memorial is to begin at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

More than 1.6 million people registered online for a chance to attend the ceremony and 8,750 names were chosen to receive two free tickets.

The tickets will admit 11,000 people to the Staples Center plus an additional 6,500 in an overflow section next door.

Officials are anticipate massive crowds and are encouraging fans without tickets to stay off the streets and watch the ceremony on television.

Due to the holiday weekend's shortened shipping schedule, the company's $350 teleprompters are not expected to arrive in Los Angeles from Toledo until very early this morning.

Still, Mr. Baker said he expects his teleprompters to make it on stage by show time.

Telepromptermirrors

.com, which says its ships 40 to 60 devices a week, is one of about 35 Web sites owned by Mr. Baker's Reflective Security LLC.

The company also produces various types of two-way mirrors in its 4,000-square-foot South Toledo facility for products such as hidden televisions and hidden cameras.

Each product has its own Web site.

Mr. Baker said he sold security mirrors when he started the business five years ago in his parent's garage.

Through Internet marketing he gained customers, expanded into other glass products, and about 2 1/2 years ago moved facilities to Toledo to take advantage of the city's large supply of inexpensive industrial space.

Mr. Baker, who estimated annual revenues at about $700,000, said the rise of user-generated video content such as those on YouTube seems to have increased teleprompter demand as more speakers aim to produce polished video presentations.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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