There is no life I know,
To compare with pure imagination.
Living there, you’ll be free,
If you truly wish to be.
—Pure Imagination (song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory).
To innovate in the AV industry is a laudable feat. To introduce paradigm shifts not just once but in wave after wave is quite another thing entirely.
George Feldstein was in many ways the audio visual industry’s Willy Wonka, a man of ceaseless passions and the determination to make a vision into a reality. In what could be described as a slight anti-authoritarian streak, Feldstein seemed to never like hearing that things were ‘just done (x) way.’ Change was not something to fear but the life’s blood to being alive.
Why not have a wireless color touch screen, a new robust category cable video distribution system, a surround sound processor and amplifier to rival an audiophiles dream — or a full FCC compliance lab on premise. Everlasting Gobstoppers and chocolate waterfalls, nothing was impossible.
Working for Mr. Feldstein at Crestron could be a daunting experience for the uninitiated. He was demanding, and single minded on a hundred ideas at once. You did not have to agree with him but one needed to be be ready with all the facts, information and proofs. Feldstein came by his opinions by deep study of the issue or technology and would press a counterpoint until he exhausted all angles.
In a debate he wanted you to prove your point beyond all measure, if you could. This was not about winning — it was about truth. This culture ran through the company — be damn sure you know what you are talking about. From engineering to support, the unwritten motto was to be ready to work hard, learn if you did not know and work hard and teach if you did.
If you had the chance to sit with him at lunch, which George often did with training classes, you would hear him discuss ideas from the practical to the fantastical. One favorite topic was the making of a sound system which used the materials of the instruments to reproduce the music. Another was a humidification / air purity system which utilized natural processes and materials.
At Crestron’s InfoComm ‘14 party, Mr. Feldstein came on stage to do the yearly anticipated banter and shtick with Randy Klein and the audience. The crowd laughed and cheered, enjoying the moment as big as George’s grin. As the group headed off stage George turned to us, breaking free from the group, and in a slightly tremulous voice said, “Thank you all, you have made all my dreams come true.”
It was goodbye.
Forgive me if I weep a little in sadness and celebration of a life well-worked. George gave us all a golden ticket and now Wonka has left the building.