How I Learned to Embrace a Former President
Thanks to Len and Cheryl Fischer of Benetrends and Jerry Darnell’s persistence, FT Publisher Mary Jo Larson was one of the 75 people who gathered in a small room at the IFA convention to meet former President George W. Bush and eat shrimp.
I had walked over with Mary Jo and through the open door I could see the crowd in their dark suits milling around in anticipation of having their pictures taken with the 43rd president, who was also the keynote speaker at the convention. Waiters in penguin suits passed trays of sparkling water, freshly squeezed juice and tall, thin glasses of bubbly champagne. Single jumbo shrimp, their tails ascending from shot glasses of cocktail sauce, adorned silver trays, along with mini bottles of Tabasco sauce for the Texans’ taste buds.
Franchising’s elite had contributed a minimum of $2,000 to IFA’s PAC (Political Action Committee) for the short reception right before Bush went on stage, but David French, IFA’s vice president of all things political, said many had paid north of $5,000 as part of their annual pledge.
I’m not a big fan of the former president, but I do like photo ops, so I was thrilled when I ran across W. in Smartleads USA’s booth in the franchise expo hall. He, too, was posing for pictures. While I debated whether it was worth $2,000 to have my picture taken with him, W. waved me over. “Nancy,” he called out, reading my badge from 50 feet, “come get your picture taken with me.” He did that little laugh so often imitated on “The Daily Show.”
I had my doubts that he was the real president until mid-conversation, when he started referring to me as “Janice.”
And not to brag, but my President Bush chatted with me much longer than Mary Jo’s did with her.
He even invited me to book his show with former President Bill Clinton—“Bill & George’s Excellent Adventure.” “Bush” met “Clinton” standing in line at an airport. His wife commented on how much the stranger looked like Bill Clinton. “I feel like I’m standing between two presidents,” she told the look-a-likes. “Clinton” was none too pleased to be told he looked like the 42nd president and asked her to stop it. But my President convinced him to embrace his outer Clinton. And the rest is history—or hysterical, depending on your sense of humor.
I may have been completely duped by W., except that John Geenen of UBS Financial Services, who is a Jack Nicholson impersonator, walked by and said, “I see you’ve met John.” (I know exactly two celebrity impersonators and they’re both named “John.” Does that mean that 100 percent of celebrity impersonators are named John, or that 100 percent of people named John are celebrity impersonators? Or is my math off?)
Turns out “Bush’s” real name is John Morgan, and nine years ago he was a self-proclaimed couch potato (or coach potatoe, if you’re Dan Quayle) when he looked in the mirror and discovered he looked a lot like the incoming president. But, as those of us who look like celebrities know, it’s not enough to resemble the person, you have to nail his or her mannerisms. Morgan definitely has (check out his Web site: georgebushimpersonator.com). He also makes his wife occasionally wear a wig to resemble former First Lady Laura Bush. I didn’t have a chance to ask him if he also has a Scottish terrier named Barney. From the podium, the real President talked about taking Barney for his first walk as an ex-White House resident and having to reach down with a plastic bag over his hand to pick up what he had been avoiding for eight years in office.
As I write this, I’m still waiting for Brad Kent, president and CEO of SmartleadsUSA, to e-mail me my photo with Bush. I only have the one Liz Anderson of E.H. Anderson PR took of me. And in order to not be one-upped by Mary Jo Larson, I, too, need an official portrait. Hers may have been with a seated president, but mine was a stand-up guy.
Keeping the hub busy
Nancy can be reached at 612-767-3200 or at email@example.com
My husband Ed is making noise about taking an early retirement buyout, so in order to keep him from my father’s fate—watching TV all day waiting for my mother to come home from work to make him dinner—I’ve come up with a few second-career opportunities in the franchise world for him:
—Bed warmer at Holiday Inn: A Holiday Inn in London is actually offering “human bed warmers,” a free five-minute service in keeping with the philosophy that a warm bed is easier to fall asleep in. The employee’s uniform is white, fleecy coveralls (hopefully with a padlocked zipper) and stocking cap, according to The Daily News. Job duties include rolling around in bed to generate heat between frigid sheets. Enough said.
—Tattoo removal franchisee: When my son was 12 and really into the rock group, Guns ‘N Roses, I told him that if he made it to 25 with no tattoos, I’d pay him $10,000. Fortunately, Zack didn’t make me sign anything, because he lived up to his end of the bargain. My mistake, however, was not making the same offer to his sisters. Therefore, if Ed became a franchisee of Tattoo Removal America, he could train on his offspring. But he wouldn’t have to stop with pro bono work: The FDA estimates that 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. My daughters exceed the minimum. On a positive note, I can say with pride that neither daughter got her tats in prison.
—Jewelry franchisee at the IFA convention: The snow storms that caused wives with sick children or wives having birthdays to resent their husbands enjoying cocktail parties, warmer weather and sleep-filled nights created the need for jewelry buying before returning home. This would be a perfect biz op for Ed. Hopefully the franchisor has a training program, because Ed has no experience in this area.
—George Clooney impersonator. Oh, wait. That’s not a franchise.