Crushed

A successful, prolific inventor reveals how not to create a new product

The projects continue: the LED stoplight idea, the Wagel, the board meetings with the San Francisco International Film Festival, which Skyy helps sponsor, and which will screen the film One of the Hollywood Ten,in which Kanbar has a cameo as a Hollywood producer. "All my friends say, "You were great, you were great,' but I don't know," Kanbar says. "I think I did a reasonably good job. I was playing myself."

And he's taking another crack at the beverage market. This month, Skyy Spirits will begin selling Vermeer Dutch Chocolate Cream Liqueur. The drink exists simply because Maurice Kanbar likes chocolate. And it's called Vermeer because Maurice Kanbar enjoys going to the Frick Museum in New York City, where he can see its collection of works by the 17th-century Dutch painter Jan Vermeer. So now when Kanbar goes to a cocktail party, he can continue to tell the same half-truth he always does when people ask him how he makes a living. "I don't say I'm an inventor," says Kanbar. ""Inventor' always leads to lots of questions -- people want to know what you invented. I actually tell them that I'm in the spirits business. That makes it very easy."

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