rcoak

sneakers, brands, culture


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Cleveland-based Digital Marketer.
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rcoak

sneakers, brands, culture


07/09/2018 Culture no responses

Hallucinations, Instagram, Sex, $7m & Kasuma

Yayoi Kasuma

Those who’ve secured a ticket for Yayoi Kasuma’s Infinity Rooms exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art are in for a treat.  The shows opened Saturday, 07/07/2018 and runs through Sunday, 09/30/2018.  Kasuma first gained prominence in the 1960’s with the “Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field” exhibit at the Castellane Gallery (New York).  Her ability to create vibrantly constructed environments that feature full-length mirrors, densely arranged polka-dotted objects and flickering LED lights is unmistakable.  Kasuma’s mastery of immersive art by manipulating space and creating infinite reflections in solitary settings gives the visitor a personal experience. Her 66-year career, which has produced over 50,000 works, unofficially began with drawing polka dots at age 10 in Japan.  Today, Yayoi is the highest-selling, living female artist and in 2017 her own dedicated museum opened in Tokyo.

Kasuma’s popularity skyrocketed in the 2010’s when her art became more commercial by launching a Louis Vuitton collaboration.  Instagram’s birth and meteoric growth helped amplify her recognition. Kasuma’s work being participatory art bodes well in today Instagram’s crazed society, where she’s its most popular artist.  Hundreds of thousands of images can be accessed from filtering on #yayoikusama, #Kusama and #InfiniteKusama.  The exhibit’s individually timed viewings inhibit the perfect picture opportunity for art enthusiasts and millennials.  Kasuma gets advertised by each artsy, selfie which features her work as the backdrop. In turn, this fuels her success along with the exhibit’s instant sell outs and hour-long lines.

Interesting Kasuma facts :

5. Her obsession with dots resulted from hallucinations she started experiencing as a kid.

“I call them my repetitive vision,” she says. “I still see them. [They] cover the canvas and grow on to the floor, the ceiling, chairs and tables. Then the polka dots move to the body, on to my clothes and into my spirit. It is an obsession.”

4. Kasuma suffers from mental illness and voluntary lives in a Tokyo psychiatric hospital.  The nearby studio where she paints gives her a therapeutic outlet.

“I only slept two hours last night. When I get tired from making pictures, I find it really difficult to go to sleep. But it’s how I get away from my illness and escape the hallucinations. I call it psychosomatic art.”

3. Recurring themes of her work (aside from polka dots) are sex, nets and pumpkins.

2. In 1959, her paintings sold for $200 each.  In 2018, they sell for $7m and up.

1. In 1966, Yayoi was the first woman to represent Japan at the 33rd Venice 

06/01/2018 Shoes no responses

Nike’s Best LeBron Spots

We Are All Witnesses

In 2007, skeptics thought Nike was crazy for paying a high school basketball player a $90 million endorsement deal before his playing a single professional game.  Fifteen NBA seasons into his illustrious career, Nike’s faith in LeBron James was wise. As LeBron embarks on his 8th consecutive trip to the NBA Finals it’s fun to see the creativity Nike and its agency, Wieden and Kennedy has used to commemorate many chapters, sneaker releases and achievements of LBJ’s career in Miami and Cleveland.

I’d like to pay homage to my favorite player and brand by looking at Nike’s best LeBron spots.
_______________________________________________________________________

5.  LeBron in Miami

4. Witness

3.  Chalk

2. The Chosen One

1.  Cleveland’s 1st Championship!

01/03/2018 Business no responses

Technology Innovations at Adidas: 2017

2017 was a milestone year for Adidas.  The German brand’s ability to use new technology to innovate products and engage its audience along with savvy branding has ignited its rapid growth to improve its position against Nike.

Time Magazine nominated the Adidas FutureCraft4 Sneaker as one of 2017’s Best Inventions.  This is Adidas’ first futuristic shoe made from 3-D printing.  They partnered with Carbon, a Silicon Valley startup who uses light-sensitive plastics in their 3D printing process.  Its created from light and oxygen from a process called “Digital Light Synthesis” and allows for tailoring the shoe’s midsole directly to the consumer’s need.  This breakthrough innovation is revolutionary because Carbon’s technology cuts the time it takes to print the shoe’s sole from an hour and a half to as little as 20 minutes.  In the future there will likely be on-demand printing stations in Adidas’ retail stores.  

In September Adidas surpassed the Jordan Brand as the second most popular sneaker brand.  The creation of Adidas’ “Boost” midsole can’t be understated in powering the brand’s impressive growth, making it the “crown jewel” of the Adidas empire.  Adidas collaborated with with BASF (the leading chemical company) to blow up and reshape a material known as TPU into miniature energy capsules, which make up a white, spongy, styrofoam-like midsole.  The innovation of this pillow-like cushioning system makes for a more comfortable shoe.  Adidas’ Innovation Team conducted rigorous testing and the Boost foam is believed to yield the highest energy return of any running shoe on the market.  Temperature testing also showed that Boost foam is also three times more temperature resistant than standard EVA material.

The Boost midsole cushioning system is a common feature in Adidas’ top three selling shoes from 2017: the UltraBoost, the NMD and the Kanye West designed “Yeezy” Boost 350.  While the UltraBoost has been widely called “the world’s best running shoe”, the NMD and Yeezy Boost are marketed more to fashion and design-minded enthusiasts.  Kanye’s involvement with the brand creates instant marketability for these products and helps Adidas’ versatile nature and substantial growth as a lifestyle brand.

In 2017, Adidas also leveraged emerging technologies for brand building.  For their launch of a female focused studio Space (May, 2017), LDN in London, Adidas used a Facebook chatbot instant messenger to ease the booking process for its free fitness sessions.  The brand achieved high user engagement from offering this singular interactive tool.  “In the first two weeks alone 2,000 people signed up to participate, with repeat use at 80%. Retention after week one was 60%, which the brand claims is far greater than what could have been achieved with an app.”

In May, Adidas affirmed its commitment towards its sustainability efforts with its collaboration with Parley for the Oceans by using plastic debris in the ocean to make three different versions of the UltraBoost.  On average, the shoes reuse 11 plastic bottles per pair and feature laces, heel lining and sock liner covers that are made from recycled materials.  The shoes were an instant hit and Adidas surpassed its yearly goal of selling 1 million pairs of UltraBoost sneakers made with ocean plastic.  

The brand’s “Calling All Creators” ad campaigns are brought to life by some of its physical, manufacturing and design projects. The recent opening of its Speedfactory warehouses in Germany and Atlanta allows it to use a lean workforce with 3-D printing technologies, robotic arms and computerized knitting to make running shoes.  This enables speed so the brand can react to consumer demands in days and eliminate the headache of shipping delays and expenses.  In March, the opening of its secretive Creator Farm warehouse in Brooklyn serves as a thinklab where designers can create any innovation from an array of machinery and materials.  An amount of Adidas’ success from a design standpoint is fueled by its three top designers, Marc Dolce, Denis Dekovic and Mark Miner who all left Nike in 2014.  

Similar to the dominance Nike experienced in the 90’s with its invention of the Nike Air, Air Max cushioning midsole in its products, Adidas now has its breakthrough invention.  Adidas’ recent technological advancements and accolades are impressive.  By innovating its approach to digital, design and manufacturing processes the brand has achieved extraordinary results in 2017!

07/24/2017 Sports no responses

Kyrie, say it ain’t so

On Friday afternoon a text from my older cousin Ryan, addressed to my brother Conor and me, flashed up on my screen.  Ryan lives in New Jersey and is as devout of a Cleveland sports fan you will find, living in town or otherwise.  Conor and I live in Cleveland and this text chain has provided a great way for all three of us to celebrate very historic and happy sporting moments with the Cavs and Indians while also allowing us to relieve ongoing frustration and depression from the frequent, troublesome Browns moves both on and off the field.

His text read, “Cavs implosion begins. Wake me up in 6 years. I fully blame Gilbert. But LeBron has a massive hand in this mess. Could have signed a lifetime contract with Cavs and been flexible to add stars forever. Now, this mess.” I didn’t know what he was referring to after I completed reading it.  I immediately went to Espn on my phone and read the headline “Kyrie Irving demands to be traded from the Cavs.” The all too familiar feeling of disappointment in the realm of hometown sports fandom settled in.  Any Cleveland fan born between the years 0f 1976 and 2016 knows this gut wrenching sensation that stings you at first, slowly subsides and then leaves you in a state of mild and dreary discombobulation. It’s akin to getting dumped in the form of a text message.

“Really?…Really?”  I continued thinking to myself.  At first I couldn’t register the soul-crushing news that Kyrie, one of the most talented, young and rising stars in the game wanted to part ways from an Eastern Conference powerfully perennial team that features arguably one of the two-best players ever, that made it to three consecutive NBA finals. Kyrie’s heroics in the closing seconds of the ’16 NBA Finals against the vaunted Warriors dubbed such a gusty play the “Biggest Shot in the History of the NBA.”  This stroke of genius, inspiration whatever you want to call by Irving ended the Cleveland curse and provided unparalleled, euphoric happiness, celebration and joy for Cavs fans everywhere.  It was a moment unlike any other and for some that celebration will never “officially” end.

The older I get the more cynical I’ve become with sports. One of my favorite movies expresses this idea so effectively.  In the Bronx Tale, the infamous neighborhood gangster/antagonist “Sonny” chats with an adolescent boy “Colagelo, (C)” about C’s affection for the New York Yankees and their star player, Mickey Mantle. Out of frustration Sonny poses a very poignant question to C, “Why do you like the Yankees so much kid?  Mickey Mantle don’t pay your rent.”  This oversimplifies the fact that athletes back then and still today make a ton of money.  At times I definitely become hostage to this same Italian machismo, and indifferent mind frame to aspects of American culture, Hollywood influentially uses to portray such high profile Mobsters.  I often question myself and overall my substance as a person for being so drawn in to a team I love so dearly in the Cavaliers.

I should have seen this coming, but I didn’t.  I definitely am disappointed in Kyrie, but just as my bitterness faded with LeBron in 2010 it hopefully will follow suit with the premature exodus of this phenom.  The complete joy that I experienced the night Kyrie hit that three over Curry was unspeakable. Kyrie Irving will be intrinsically linked to the biggest moment in a lot of Clevelanders lives and needless to say, the happiest night of my life.  And for that Kyrie, I am very thankful.

07/21/2017 Business no responses

Crush it!

Gary Vaynerchuck’s “Crush it!  Now is the time to cash in on your passion,” was a fairly informative, entertaining and quick read.  “Gary Vee” is Vaynerchuck’s internet persona/platform that he uses for bestowing business and life lessons to his large group of followers.  The DailyVee is a vlog that are snippets from any of his meetings, mentoring sessions, travels and keynotes.  With these he tries to hammer home firsthand, valuable lessons about developing content, social media strategizing or really helpful self-help like habits to live by.  Gary’s got a captivating, no nonsense personality that’s definitely part of his shtick, but he deserves to be listened to from the amount of success he’s experienced.  His family migrated to New Jersey from Russia at any early age and his dad’s job as a stock hand at a liquor store enabled Gary to be in the position to have the ability to transform the business into the eventual wine multi-million dollar company, Winelibrary.com.  As one of the first retail online wine shops, he was a pioneer of internet marketing and mastered google adwords, email marketing, youtube and facebook marketing.  As an angel investor in companies like Twitter he’s amassed a great amount of wealth so much so that he constantly talks about wanting to put himself in a position to buy the New York Jets, which he declares has been his ultimate lifelong dream.  He’s also written a number of best sellers, created VaynerMedia to monetizes this content and has also recently started a sports agency, VaynerSports.

The three key things I learned from this book were:
1.  You gotta hustle- No matter what you do give it your all and never let up.  A lot of the good opportunities he got were due to his being aggressive, persistent and going against the grain. Find a job or an interest that you like so you won’t be one of the idiots constantly saying “Happy Friday”.

2. Be patient- If you are launching a venture don’t expect success is a quick timeframe. Continue to hone your craft, keep developing your skills, rinse and repeat.

3. Good content is king-Due to the ever changing landscape of digital media there’s a much great importance on video and audio.  Be articulate and creative, and do something different than the masses and just keep pumping it out.

05/11/2016 Culture no responses

Kasumi.

Kasumi.

One name artists are intriguing.  Kasumi is a Cleveland based one, with original roots to Japan, whose background, story and rise as a globally recognized artist despite any formal education is interesting.  As the product of a mother and father who had respective professions as a musician and rocket scientist, Kasumi attributes her love for the arts and an organically curated skill set to her parents.  Shockwaves, a critically acclaimed experimental film as well as collaborations with Grandmaster Flash and DJ Spooky show her versatility in works which generally draw out abstract themes. Her imaginative and internationally respected work in film, video, music and live performance is supported by an extensive list of prestigious awards, grants and fellowships. Kasumi’s work recently shifted towards showcasing the rhythmic gestures and body language of iconic figures like Elvis, Rita Hayworth, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.  

The Process

“It all starts with a question,” she exclaims, when describing her artistic process.  This mantra helps me simplify the complexity behind the making of an obscure Marilyn Monroe neck gesture, which she morphs into a beautifully fluid and colorful media clip. Kasumi calls this a “loop”, a definite motif seen in her work and one repeats to the point where one can’t tell the beginning from the end.  She searches for the perfect movement from clips that exist in the public domain (Youtube and Archive.org) and through a technique described firsthand as “motion masking” she cuts it out with painstaking precision and multiplies the clip through a software interface all the way into a pattern that mimics the movement of an awesome wave. Her intentions as an artist help punctuate the originality of her work and for the sake of her brand she declares, “The language of my work are gestures.” Kasumi elaborates, “It’s these gestures and the communicative nature of body language that’s so strong and telling and maybe provide reason for why Elvis or James Dean became icons.”  By knowing how an artist thinks I’m able to gain insight into the genuine curiosity that drives Kasumi’s creativity and this makes for a much more enjoyable experience in viewing her art than doing so uninformed.

IMG_3068

Global Appeal

A collection of impressive, video art works make up Kasumi’s “Perpetual Series”, is displayed in the lobby of the sleek and tallest skyscraper of Austria, DC Tower 1, in Vienna’s Donaucity. A number of the well known venues internationally where her works have been showcased include the Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, the Württembergischen Kunstverein Stuttgart, the Cleveland Museum of Art, EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center), Unpainted Media Art Fair (Munich, Germany), Museum of Contemporary Art (Krakow, Poland), Itau Cultural Center (Sao Paulo). Kasumi revealed to me, “My biggest following is in Germany, where experimental art is very popular.”  The fact that her film Breakdown, the 2010 Vimeo Remix Award Winner has 2,236,317 online total loads globally with thousands of views in France, Russia, Uzbekistan is testament to her art drawing global interest.  

Breakdown (geographic stats)

Challenges

From spending time in her studio where I’ve witnessed her process and the work done to create a number of these multimedia pieces, my amazement is from the reality of her techniques and skills as an artist being completely self taught.  She’s resourceful and motivated to the point of using Youtube to practice and hone the skills relevant to any technique she’s eager to learn.  In our conversation she hinted that her intentions were not to prove anyone wrong nor did she use those who viewed her background to lack legitimacy as any motivation. Kasumi simply loves making art and has stayed the course throughout her career by continuing to harness her inspirations.  When prodded about the difficulties of being an artist, she alluded to the challenge of making money along with, “…being in abject solitude day in and day out.”  From attaining a degree(s) and the connections made within that process, Kasumi thinks it would be easier to sell and exhibit her work saying, “Friends take care of their friends.”

Mysterious background

Kasumi told me that her background of European, American and Japanese ancestry informs who she is as an artist.  When I prodded her about the name “Kasumi” she didn’t seem interested in talking about it.  I’m incredibly curious about how one can assume a one word name, curating a mystical identity such as hers and also, the point at which her surname ceased to exist.  She did concede, ” ‘Kasumi’ is just symbolic of the fact that I’m at one with my work.”

Is it tough being creative?

“I have more ideas than I have time to do.  Before I go to sleep every night I write down the things I want to get to the next day.  Sometimes I get to them, sometimes I don’t.  Those ideas inspire new ideas.”  The phrase, “What if?” motivates her to constantly evolve her work and presents endless possibilities for making new art.  “…What if I color this differently?  What if I stagger this differently?”

Partnerships

She’s recently made a fruitful connection with someone that makes media players.  Up until now Kasumi tells me, “there’s always been a little glitch somewhere in my loops.”  This contact has created a player that will show her loops perfectly, and now her loops are “…frame accurate, down to the molecule.”  This is an example of what she considers a very successful art/ technology collaboration. This breakthrough has allowed her to now make wall hanging pieces that are to her specifications and moving ahead she thinks it will drastically improve her work.  The aforementioned Austrian skyscraper still has a 35 foot video wall (pictured directly below) where her work loops indefinitely.  She’s on contract and in the process of making new work for that project.  Also, this coming July her art will be featured in Chicago at the Catherine Edelman Gallery.

proserpine in vienna full wall installation

Kasumi’s art is worth checking out and I recommend looking at the great content on her website and facebook page. Kasumi’s path, which defies the requisite degrees to attain prestigiousness and relevancy in the art world is empowering.  What turns some away from this industry is at times, the stodginess and condescending nature of gallery owners, artists and wealthy collectors.  Kasumi has a way that undermines any of these stereotypes and the authentic method she makes art as well as the her no-nonsense personality is what I like most. If one wants to learn more about her in Cleveland, she’s recently been on display at the Transformer Station and Spaces Art Gallery.

moca installation

Kasumi @ MOCA

03/31/2016 Culture no responses

Lebron, Narcissism and Twitter

Lebron, Narcissism and Twitter

The power of Twitter stems from its ability to output information on a global scale far quicker than any other media outlet.  When looking at events like the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony and the 2016 Oscars, which generated 9.6 million mentions and 440,000 Tweets per minute respectively, shows just how a great of a tool it at times can be.  The way Twitter can unite millions of people around these spectacles and allow for anyone to take part in the conversation who holds an interest in a common two or three hour event as it unfolds is spectacular.  On the flip side Twitter at its low point is rooted in the fact that the nature of a singular tweet serves no greater purpose than the equivalent of a facebook status update (LeBron is working out with DWade, LeBron is Batman).  Not only does following athletes or celebrities become an annoying routine, but just as bad is the wave of offline attention, analysis and ripple in the news cycle that’s created from the likes of a Lebron tweet.  

In short, even if you aren’t on Twitter and don’t succumb to following celebrities you’ll still be subjected to the media coverage from their foolish behavior.  Lebron has consistently tweeted some pretty stupid stuff in the past few weeks.  Whether it’s a cryptic message directed at Kyrie Irving in lieu of Steven A’s reporta showing of desire to partner with fellow Olympic teammates, or his sidestepping the media in response to the fact he unfollowed the Cavs directly speaks to Twitter’s power to broadcast narcissistic behavior.  The subsequent and consistent wave of news that always tends to follow stupid tweets of his like these show there’s less of a fallout, but more of a reward issued to temperamental superstars for the childish ways that they think.  It’s probably painful for Lebron to witness the commanding nature in which Stephen Curry has dethroned him as the league’s best player.  As I sat at a Cavs game with my brother last week I asked him what to make of all this Twitter nonsense.  He decided that Lebron can’t stand all of the positive media attention Curry gets and to compensate for it, he tweets the most asinine of things.  Anything short of Lebron delivering Cleveland a championship a ring I really can’t imagine following his Twitter account nor paying attention to his behavior on it.  

02/01/2016 Fashion no responses

Tinkering with Greatness

Tinkering with Greatness

Tinker Hatfield’s contributions to Nike constitute the most illustrious and famous run of a sneaker designer ever. As the architect of Nike’s first signature shoe line, the “Air Jordan”, his artistic skill would be equally matched from Michael’s brilliance on the court over time. Hatfield’s concrete speckle, infrared colors, translucent soles, and patent leather are just a few of the popular motifs seen repeatedly across his 26-plus designs to the extensive Air Jordan line.

Looking back to when their partnership began in 1988, this union seems mystical. Together they’ve catapulted Nike to its position as the most dominant global athletic apparel brand ever and just last year the Jordan brand sales exceeded $2.6 billion. The Air Jordan III commemorates their first collaboration. Maybe it was a good luck charm of sorts. In this shoe, Michael made his 1st All-Star appearance, won the Slam Dunk Contest and earned All-Star MVP honors. Flush with the Jump Man logo, clear air pockets, and elephant print, these elements established an identity for the Jordan Brand simultaneously to the unveiling of Tinker’s skillful artistry to commemorate his very first design.

Tinker’s creativity came to life in the drawings he created for each release. He channeled his inspiration taking aspects of Michael’s life into and integrating them as design elements. For example, the heel tab of the Jordan VI was symbolic of Michael’s Porsche and that same shoe features a vibrant neon, infrared shade. Tinker used influence from World War II with a part of the Air Jordan V’s makeup. Mimicking a design element of the mustang fighter plane, he used similar “teeth”, which appear on the shoe’s midsole. Tinker pushed innovation and technology to revolutionize basketball shoe design and in the process distanced Nike heights above the boring, status quo styles seen from the competitors (Converse, Adidas, Avia). He used non-traditional fabrics, such as a connected aqua boot, lightweight mesh lining, perforated leather, cris-crossing velcro straps, tongues constructed with square holes, and air padded soles. Similar style elements that Tinker has created also power the current designs of Nike’s other wildly popular Air Trainer, Air Max, Roshe, Huarache and Air Vapor Tour (Federer) lines.

Throughout the countless designs Tinker created for the Air Jordan line, there was never the slightest hint of a dud. The sheer volume of work and sustained quality, which he devoted to the Jordan brand makes Tinker one of the best shoe designers ever.  From looking at all of his subtle, futuristic, bright, bold and sleek designs it’s rewarding to see his creative appetite, and vision manifest itself in the shoe’s aesthetic.  MJ and Tinker’s  relationship encouraged each other’s best work. Aligning with Hatfield’s inspirational design efforts, the fruits of Michael’s labor garnered 6 rings, 5 MVPs and 14 All-Star appearances.

Hatfield’s vow was to make a sleeker and better performing basketball shoe with each new release of the Air Jordan. To basketball players and sneaker fans the Air Jordan XI ‘Concord’ is regarded as one of the best shoes ever. Michael would voice his feedback for various improvements before any of the upcoming models were released. Tinker’s Concord design fulfilled Michael’s request for a “shiny shoe”.  With its final design Tinker created the first basketball shoe ever to incorporate patent leather along with a carbon plate in the shoe’s midsole.

Any figure relative to the magnitude of Michael Jordan, whose shoes have sustained such popularity, even 16 years after retiring is a reality that’s unfathomable for any brand. For Nike and the Jordan Brand’s sake it helps to have a figure comparable to MJ endorse a brand from the onset, be overwhelmingly successful throughout their career (to the point of “greatest ever”) and continue with the promotion brand afterwards. If Tinker didn’t possess an insatiable appetite for creativity it’s speculative whether the Jordan label would achieve such notoriety. The success of the Air Jordan was influenced by the monster of a marketing machine created to promote it by leveraging filmmaker Spike Lee for several commercials. Lee’s inclusion of the shoe in the film Do The Right Thing was seen a seminal moment for the integration of brand endorsements into mainstream and hip-hop culture. For these reasons I don’t think the Jordan brand simply sells itself.

Nike follows a calculated schedule for the retro Jordan releases. They are made with the slightest material and color variations from the original drops. When Nike launches a new pair Air Jordan’s it’s very difficult to secure a purchase, despite their typical sell price ($190). These drops around the world attract crowds of crazed, sneaker heads.  Usually the inventory sells out in a matter of minutes.   It’s safe to say the body of work put forth by Michael and Tinker marks them as the best of their craft in basketball and sneaker design. Today, royalties Michael has on the Jordan Brand generate him an estimated $60 million annually and Tinker holds the Vice President of Special Projects/ Design title for Nike. Of course it’s exciting to have been part of the Air Jordan generation and to have watched him play, but I feel just as lucky to have witnessed the Tinker Hatfield’s designs.

Untitled

MJ and Tinker collaborating on the Jordan VI

Concord

The Jordan XI Concord

12/02/2015 Culture no responses

Harlem Lacrosse & Leadership

Harlem Lacrosse & Leadership

Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership’s growth and success is an inspiring story. I have been so impressed with all of the things I have learned about the organization.   Continue reading

09/13/2015 Shoes no responses

Agassi – Loud & Bright

Agassi – Loud & Bright

Andre Agassi’s embarrassing account of his former wife, Brook Shields insisting he wear platform shoes in order to match her height on their wedding day is hilarious. This, along with many other self deprecating stories make up his tell all autobiography, Open. Continue reading