Twenty years ago I started to work professionally as Forrest Gump. Here is that story.
“It was twenty years ago today.”– Lennon & McCartney
The first line of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
The Start & Big Picture
Twenty years ago on March 29, 1996, my professional career as Forrest Gump began.
It was the grand opening of the first Bubba Gump Shrimp Restaurant in Monterey, California. The rest – as they say – is history!
About 2 weeks prior to that day, I called the operators of the brand-new restaurant and said, “You’re not going to believe this, but I look exactly like Forrest Gump!” They were hesitant, but I insisted that I come to Monterey and meet them. I arrived a few days later and as luck would have it, they were conducting a trial opening for new employees and their families. So the restaurant – while not yet open to the public – was filled with people.
I walked in and started going from table to table. The entire dining room erupted into applause. I greeted people and chatted them up. After working the crowd and visiting each and every table, I asked for the name of my contact person – we still hadn’t met. I was introduced and then handed off to the corporate marketing director. The two of us left the dining room and went to a separate office away from the noise of the restaurant.
I did something smart prior to arriving for that first meeting. I brought 3 pieces of paper with a few words and bullet points. Each piece of paper was a simple idea.
- Idea #1: Hire me for the upcoming Grand Opening on March 29, 1996
- Idea #2: Hire me for the grand opening for the 17 future restaurants you’ve announced that will open over the next 4 years
- Idea #3: Hire me to work on Saturdays and Sundays in Monterey to greet the crowds for the next several weeks
While they didn’t agree to anything at that moment, they eventually agreed to all those ideas and much more. Here are a few highlights:
- I worked every Fri/Sat/Sun in Monterey and San Francisco for 10+ years … my home stores
- I opened 22 USA and 7 International locations during the next 15 years.
- I visited Hawaii’s 3 stores each year for 12 years straight years
- I made 10 international trips
- I appeared on hundreds of TV and radio shows promoting new locations throughout the world
- I guesstimate I had my photo taken with more than a million people during the 15 years
But the most important thing that happened was this:
- 1 million plus people had fun meeting ‘Forrest Gump’
- I had a lot of fun
I wasn’t doing anything significant like solving an important issue of our time like hunger or world peace, but Bubba Gump was feeding folks and together we we were all having fun.
I joked that my job was to sit on my buttocks and act dumb. Heck, I’m good at it … it comes natural.
In the movie, a tearful Forrest speaks to Jenny at her grave and asks, “Jenny, I don’t know if Momma was right or if, if it’s Lieutenant Dan. I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”
Looking back, I don’t know if I had a destiny to become Forrest Gump or if it all just happened accidental-like? It probably was both.
There is more … stay tuned for Part 2.