Books & Talks

Paul Allen Talks Yachts and Gates at Town Hall

The Microsoft cofounder and philanthropist shows off his lighter side.

By Annie Rose Favreau April 25, 2011

"At some point when I was a teenager, I thought, programming or music? Programming won.” —Paul Allen at Town Hall Seattle, Apr 22, 2011.

For someone usually described as reserved, Microsoft cofounder and Seattle native Paul Allen showed off his lighter side for a sold-out Town Hall crowd on Friday night. Let it be said that the man who owns three of the world’s largest yachts isn’t afraid to laugh at himself—and poke a little fun at fellow cofounder Bill Gates, too. Who knew Gates once tried to eat chicken with a spoon?

Moderated by GeekWire’s Todd Bishop, the conversation didn’t shy away from serious topics—including Allen’s recent bout with cancer, and the media controversy about his new and decidedly candid memoir, Idea Man, which details his scuffle with Gates over Microsoft ownership. “You are faced with a decision… Are you going to make [the memoir] unvarnished, warts and all?” Allen said. “I wanted something of substance, something that was accurate, something that was honest.” He was equally frank the rest of the evening:

On whether the memoir jeopardized his friendship with Bill Gates: “I don’t think so, but I’m sure there are things in the book that Bill wants to discuss… That discussion will be very, very intense.”

On the good ol’ days at Microsoft: “It’s good to go back to those halcyon days of when you were 20 and you go into the office and Bill is asleep in a doorway…”

On his yachts: “They’re too big and they’re too many of them. Do I need to say anything else?”

On the South Lake Union Trolley, aka SLUT (which Allen owns): “I haven’t ridden the trolley yet… I was always more of a monorail type myself.”

Star Wars, Star Trek, or Battlestar Galactica? “All of them.”

On submarines: “It turns out if you go about 1,000 feet down, it’s really dark. The animals are really strange. But put on some Pink Floyd and it’s fantastic.”

On the search for extraterrestrial intelligence: “It’s a very, very long shot. If they do hear something, they’re supposed to call me.”

On cancer: “Whenever you go through one of these treatment regimens many things are completely out of your control. You just have to be patient… On the other hand, realize that if there isn’t a positive outcome, your time may be limited. It makes you that much more focused on realizing your dreams and hopes. All of our times on this planet are limited.”

On Seattle: “It’s home. This is home.”

On Twitter: “I was thinking, I should send out some tweet saying, ‘Bitter billionaire retires. This is my last tweet. Look out Howard Hughes. Going to Vegas today.’”

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