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Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is the President of Intermat, Inc., a consulting practice that specializes in the intersection of media, technology and marketing. For two years, he produced the Emmys on the Web and supervised web related activities for the Academy, including for the 50th Anniversary year of the Emmy Awards. In addition to its consulting engagements, Intermat recently sold METEOR’S TALE, an unpublished novel by Michael O’Rourke, to Animal Planet for development as a television movie. Visit his web site at

Written on Rumors

Yes, there is a J Peterman. A real J Peterman, not one played by an actor in the re-runs of Seinfeld. I had breakfast with him this morning. A friend of mine mentioned to a friend of his that she thought we'd like each other. The friend of a friend put us together and we met this morning at his hotel, the Elysee on 54th, most famous as the hotel where Tennessee Williams died.

I know this because a producer I met years ago in Hollywood always stayed at the Elysee and always mentioned that he stayed in the hotel where Tennessee Williams died. I have repressed the producer's name. His legitimate claim to fame, if it was true, was that he was the man who originated the television movie. His other claim to fame is that he produced that awful series, Faces of Death, which was a big home video hit in the Far East. I can still see his face in the booth at the Beverly Hilton when he proudly told me that which was when I decided to do my best not to remember him.

Anyway, there, at the Elysee Hotel, I had breakfast with the real J Peterman. John O'Hurley evokes John and expands upon the real person, I suspect. The real John Peterman is a quiet, quietly witty man who is re-building his business after a rather spectacular bankruptcy. He will, I'm sure, do it.

We talked about many things but the thing we both agreed upon was that business was quiet. As in dead quiet. He's in retail. I'm in television. Both of us are witnessing the same thing. People are still being active but not much is really happening. No one wants to make any kind of decision until they know whether there is going to be a war or not. If you want to do anything that requires a new decision, don't bother. So lots of people are in their offices playing solitaire on their computers, waiting. Or working very hard to get someone to make a decision that they're not going to make. Or listening to why a decision that was made is "on hold".

The reasons are numerous but, at bottom, they are all about one thing: waiting for war.

The market in New York has been gyrating wildly with every rumor that sweeps down Wall Street like the bells of Trinity calling lower Manhattan to Morning Prayer. It went up on a rumor that bin Laden had been captured and went down on a rumor of an enemy submarine in New York harbor. [I am not making this up. Look at Thursday's Wall Street Journal. (Do the Iraqis even have a submarine?)]

New York feels…deeply threatened. And with good cause.

There isn't a local news show that doesn't start the day with a good healthy dose of disaster preparedness.

Nostradamus is making another appearance on the front covers of the cheesier tabloids.

New York's Mylar supply has been erratic since last week when a local news show touted blankets made of Mylar as a necessity for your personal disaster kit. There followed a run on Mylar blankets in the city. A college professor friend of mine was very, very proud he gotten the last of the supply at a 6th Avenue Army-Navy Surplus Store.

For goodness sake, I had to send away to California for ours.

So, while no business decisions are made, and when we're not playing solitaire, the city is out quietly stocking up…for we don't quite know what…but we're stocking up. Walking through Gristedes I see us all slipping an extra can or two of baked beans into our baskets. A little now… A little later… No one will notice we're building up the disaster kit. God knows we don't want the neighbors to know how deeply spooked we are.

Planning has shrunk from quarterly planning to daily planning. The market soared today because there was a delay until next week on a UN vote. Rumors are driving our financial realities in a way I have never seen before. We are living an almost surreal life, moving through a world where every one is going through the motions while all the time looking over their shoulders, waiting for the other shoe to drop.