Shy they are not.
"Who'd like to read their poem?" asked Bruce Brazo, chairman of the International Platform Association's poets division.
From behind rows of sweaty silver pitchers filled with ice water to clear froggy throats and tightly pinched larynxes, hands shot up forcefully.
One by one the speakers took the platform, reading their ponderously titled works such as "Life," "space" and "y?", which at one point reads: "Do not exclaim with an O, Things R as they R."
Ellen Stewart of Texas introduced her poem with lengthy history of how it is the culmination of 50 years' work and eight filing cabinets.
"Ellen. . ." Brazo murmured, urging the speaker to speed things up.
"Oh, I won't be long. I won't be but five minutes," came the empty promise.
Getting a word in this week at the Hyatt Regency maybe somewhat of a challenge. The lecterns are reserved straight through, as 1,000 delegates to the annual IPA convention -- buyers and sellers in the lecture circuit market -- meet to present and evaluate this year's models. On parade will be all manner of speakers and show business attractions -- including the likes of G. Gordon Liddy and Blackstone the Magician -- that fill bookings at colleges, fairs and civic clubs across the country. And there are a fair number of agents on hand who make a dollar by matching attractions to auidences.
Last night, the speech-making led to a mixed bag of Americana waiting to go on before the convention. An American soprano, trained in Paris, was delivering an operatic solo. Meanwhile, backstage, Andrea McArdle, the original Broadway "Annie," was dancing with two young actresses currently playing orphans in the show on Broadway. Blustery journalist Jack Anderson was posing with delegates who simply demanded snapshots. And Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was mumbling poet Edwin Markham's "The Pilgrim."
Another speaker, President Carter, was at the same time capturing national television audiences, and Byrd phoned his wife to ask her to record the speech. Anderson had dispatched reporters who would fill him in on the speech later.
"Of course I would like to see it, but I made this commitment six months ago," said Anderson, maintaining the platform speaker's loyalty to a booking.
On stage 9-year-old Jennie Babo and Randall Anne Brooks, 12, joined with McArdle in predictably cute songs and dance.
Following them came Anderson, who according to the IPA is the most sought-after speaker in America. In low, throaty tones, Anderson told a tale of Carter bumbling and conflict of interest in the manner one would use to tell a ghost story.
"What it really boils down to is the competency of the president," said Anderson of Billy Carter's Libyan ties. "We have a president who allowed his brother to get involved with the most irresponsible of leaders."
In the classic style of great orators, Anderson overran his time limit, leaving one convention official wailing to his superior: "Did you ever try to cut off Jack Anderson?"
With time short, Byrd scatched his prepared speech and took a more personal approach, recounting the night his foster father bought him his first violin which cost two month's wages. The story then rambled into the energy crisis and a pitch for fuel conservation. And finally, Byrd wound into an inspirational story of an Iranian immigrant who came to college in America and became a nuclear physicist and a naturalized citizen.
"He left behind his family, his fireside, his friends. I tell this story all over America and not just because he is the father of three of my grandchildren. But this typifies what can be done in this system with the drive and the willingnes to achieve that goal."
Then Byrd, who was introduced as being known as the fourth most important man in Amercia, took up his fiddle and, hooting like a hillybilly, sang: "Goin' up to Cripple Creek to have a little fun/Goin' up to Cripple Creek, goin' in a run."
And that about wound it up for the evening's entertainment. Earlier, at a "punch and munch" party in the hotel, T. Willard Hunter, dressed in a Prince Albert coat and sting tie, explained, "I do serious subjects humorously, but Fourth of July oratory is my specialty. My subjects are the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Will Rogers, sort of great Americans."
On July 4, 1979, Hunter spoke for three hours straight. And in February he made a whirlwind tour of 10 New Hampshire Rotary Clubs.
"This is a great place to make contacts, lots of agents around to talk to," said Hunter, whose words cost $150 a night plus expenses.
Nearby, two businessmen in suitcoats and ties were surveying the prospects. Eighteen-year-old Mark Slonim and Randy Weiner, 21, directors of the lecture series at Philadelphia'sHaverford College, said they would most like to bag Independant presidential candidate John Anderson for a speech at their college, which has an enrollment of 1,000.
"We're going to listen to the speakers, maybe get under the table with some of the agents," said Weiner, while Slonim spoke as a consumer: "You have to listen to them. Just because someone is famous doesn't mean they give a good speech."
In an afternoon theater workshop longtime trooper Cassandra Brothers, 84, launched into a 10-minute performance of "Husbands is Husbands," a black dialogue which is only one of 200 readings she can recite by heart.
Using a walker to move across the stage, she launched into singing "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen," but before she got the first line out, the microphone slid down into its stand until it was waist-high. Recovering like a pro, Brothers continuted the speech, and at the end announced she eventually would like to play a character from "White Oaks."
"I forget her name, but I saw Ethel Barrymore play her years ago," said Brothers. "But I'm too young to play that character. She was 104."
Brothers then introduced Dave Sudy, an actor she works with at a dinner theater in Elyria, Ohio. Sudy, who works in a clown outfit, had lost some sleep the night before.
"Like many actors," said Brothers, I got hungry around midnight last night and said I wanted a hamburger. Dave went out to get me a hamburger and at pistol-point he was attacked and robbed.
"But today the show goes on."