Chamber's Musical Interlude Ends on a Sour Note : $20,000 Is Gone, and Maybe the Production Company for Trade Show That Never Was

Times Staff Writer

Almost a year ago, the Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce paid a company $20,000 to organize a musical trade show and two-day concert on the beach next month. The chamber expected $600,000 in profits and planned to use the money to build a headquarters.

Then came the bad news: The company said it couldn't find sponsors for the event in time and it would have to be postponed until October, 1987.

Now the chamber can't find the company, a Cypress-based firm called Creative Concepts Productions, and officials are worried that there is not enough time to organize an event next fall. They want to know how Creative Concepts spent the money.

"We aren't going after these guys to discredit them or anything else. . . . We just want to know that our money was spent wisely," Chamber President Gerald Compton said.

Michael Neipris, a special-events consultant with Creative Concepts until he left the company in April, said the money was spent on unsuccessful attempts to line up sponsors.

Specifically, he said in an interview, the money paid for salaries of about 15 staff members, telephone calls and production of a full-color brochure to show potential sponsors.

Neipris, 26, said he believes the company is no longer in business.

Reached at his home in Long Beach, Neipris said the company did not make a profit on the deal and said he regretted that the event did not come off.

"We laid the cards on the table and let them know that they're taking a chance," Neipris said, "that they're paying me $20,000 to try to find sponsorship. . . . We worked hard. I wish we would have gotten it, but we didn't."

Neipris said he feels that he has fulfilled his responsibilities to the chamber. "If somebody came to me with the money to put the show together, fine. I'd be happy to do it," he added.

Neipris also said the company was hampered by the chamber's restrictions on potential sponsors, especially by banning alcoholic beverage companies to sponsor the event. Compton agreed that the restriction probably hurt the effort.

"I think, personally, they tried to do it but ran into some difficulties because of the restrictions we put on them," Compton said.

Compton said he considers the expenditure--which amounted to 14% of the chamber's 1985-1986 budget, a bad investment. But, he said, "the Chamber of Commerce is a business. If any organization has the potential to try something that has a potential downfall, it's certainly the Chamber of Commerce. The city's not going to do it. . . . I think in order to make money, you spend money."

Compton and Bill Fowler, chamber executive vice president, said the chamber checked out the company before hiring it. Creative Concepts had successfully organized and worked on similar events, including a tall-ships cruise from Santa Monica to the Long Beach Harbor during the 1984 summer Olympics and a July 4 celebration in Hawaii the next year, the chamber officials said. "It wasn't as if they had just fallen off the orange truck or something," Compton added.

The company notified the chamber in April that the show would probably have to be postponed until 1987, Compton said.

"We were a little upset about that, but not too upset--that sometimes happens," he said.

Creative Concepts notified the chamber four to five months ago that it was working on other events out of state and would not be back in the area until July, Compton said. When chamber officials did not hear from the company by August, they left daily messages on the company's answering machine and sent four letters, but have not gotten a reply, Fowler said.

Now Compton said he believes it is getting too late to plan an Expo for October of 1987. He wants the list of potential sponsors contacted by the company, which Neipris said he does not have.

The concerts were to be "mellow, popular music" with "easily recognizable names" performing, Compton said. The chamber planned it for October to help businesses in a traditionally slow time, he said.

"I think it had a lot of potential," Compton said. "I don't know if we're dead yet . . . (but) in the long run, we're probably going to be better off starting with a little smaller scale and build from there."

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