Guest column: TAFF dancer story an attempt to create ‘bad PR’ (opinion) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Guest column: TAFF dancer story an attempt to create ‘bad PR’ (opinion)

Todd Offenbacher
Guest Column

I would like to respond and provide some facts that were not reported in the Tribune's front-page article that featured the Tahoe Adventure Film Festival (TAFF) on Dec. 15. The Tribune has supported and reported on the TAFF for 15 years, and I am grateful for that support.

I believe reporter Claire Cudahy had well intentions and that she wrote her article in an attempt to address a local concern related to an even more important national issue. However, this story was pitched to the Tribune by someone with ill intentions toward the TAFF and myself. This person also operates a local public relations firm. I would like to let the public, our community, and TAFF supporters know the facts and clarify the accusations around the entertainment at this year's event.

I received an email from Lara Miller on Dec. 11 with demands to stop using female entertainment at the TAFF. I immediately responded, asking if she had attended this year's event.

She replied with: "No, I vowed not to go after last year."

In her email on Dec. 11, she stated her intention to take her concern to the media, stating: "I'll be writing an op-ed for several papers, including ones in Sacramento and South Lake and would like to include a comment from you on whether or not you will continue to include go-go dancers in your program. Any non-response will also be part of the record. I would encourage you to address the concerns publicly. A simple 'I will not continue to use go-go dancers in a program meant to be inclusionary' would suffice and would avoid future bad PR for you. For reference, there are many comments on your Instagram post."

This very personal attack felt like bullying and intimidation to me, and not at all an effort to discuss how the TAFF — and the entire outdoor industry — can take part in the cultural shift of consciousness happening today and how we can do better and become real leaders in this historic moment of awareness.

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While I agree that we should be having conversations about shifting historic marketing norms and openly discussing what is acceptable behavior in the workplace and on the trail, that won't happen through personal attacks on social media and threats to destroy each other's careers and businesses.

As a long-time member of our supportive and welcoming community, and as a public figure who created the TAFF to celebrate our amazing mountain lifestyle, I was shocked at Ms. Miller's tone and unwillingness to even discuss her concerns with me.

Ms. Miller did not want to have a conversation with me, or a civil discussion, she jumped directly to personal attacks and threats to create a shock-and-awe campaign. No discussion, simply do this or else.

The Dec. 15 article came out on a Friday. Following publication of the article, Ms. Miller used her personal public relations status and proceeded to contact every single sponsor of the TAFF. She attempted to use the Tribune's article to intimidate our sponsors to stop supporting the TAFF, and if they did continue their support, they too would be subject to, as she put it in emails to each sponsor, "the same future bad PR."

Ms. Miller's attacks on social media and the misleading of our local newspaper were a deliberate attempt to hurt my family and me financially. During this time Ms. Miller has posted on social media that I was "racist, homophobic, and massively misogynistic." All accusations that are not true and that I find very offensive after working to build a career around showcasing our vibrant community, guiding athletes of all ages, genders, and skill levels in the mountains, and a personal reputation prided on celebrating our diverse and welcoming mountain culture.

I have since been approached by others in this community who have experienced similar attacks on their businesses from Ms. Miller. She has gone on to threaten all of our upcoming TAFF Road Tour stops with similar intimidation tactics and tensions of creating "bad PR."

I would like to make it clear that the TAFF Road Tour stops have never featured professional dancers. The TAFF Tour will, however, feature films highlighting women in action and adventure sports, the same theme of this year's TAFF event inside MontBleu.

I want to make it very clear to everyone who has seen this terrible series of events play out on social media and on the front page of our local newspaper that I have included professional dancers and other local entertainers at our event for 15 years.

This festival has always been a celebration of our unique South Lake Tahoe lifestyle with entertainment, music, comedy, animation, film and photography. We do this in Lake Tahoe's largest showroom inside the MontBleu Resort and Casino. We will continue to produce a program that includes a variety of different outdoor sports, that is diverse, inclusive and always entertaining for all who attend.

Todd Offenbacher is an adventurous world-traveling skier and climber, and has worked as a host for Lake Tahoe TV for 18 years. He is a 10-year volunteer and board member at the Sierra Avalanche Center. Todd spends his spring and fall seasons guiding ski / sail mountaineering trips to the Svalbard in the Arctic, and Antarctica for Ice Axe Expeditions. Todd has a young daughter, has been married 15 years, and is a 21-year South Lake Tahoe resident.