My Breakfast With Chick.
I believe I posted this experience a couple of years ago, but I can't find it using the search feature, so I'll (try to) briefly recount what happened.
It was the year that Magic returned to the Lakers, after his "hiatus" to get himself treated after the HIV diagnosis. I had an idea for a product to be sold in the arena at the gift stands. It was a "Chick's Fridge" cap, that had a graphic embroidered image of the inside of a refirgerator containing eggs, butter and jello and a sewn-on flap that when closed over the interior contents, had the words "Chick's Fridge" on it. The idea was that crazy fans (like myself) would wear it, and when Chick announced, "this game's in the refrigerator: the door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard, and the Jell-O's jigglin!", everyone would slam the door shut on their fridge cap (it had a little velcro "latch.")
Anyways, goofy idea, whatever. Since I wanted to use Chick's name, I asked my licensing agent to try and contact him, to see if it would be alright. She called me a few days later and said that she had left a message for him and that he returned her call in prompt fashion. Chick thought the idea was funny and that he'd like to see it before he signs off on it. I said I could messenger a prototype over to him, but she said he'd like to have breakfast with you when you're available. When I'M available???
So fast forward a week. I walk into Nate and Al's in Beverly Hills at 9:05 a.m. and he's already sitting at a table with a newspaper and a cup of coffee, looking at his watch. Yikes. I walk over and introduce myself and he flashes a huge smile, askes me to please sit down, calls the waitress over and tells her to bring "my friend" a cup of coffee.
If I recall, it was the beginning of training camp, and before we talked business, he spoke openly and candidly about Magic's situation and the team's prospects for the new season. We had a good 20 minute conversation about basketball before my licensing agent (a very attractive) woman in her 50s arrived and joined us (late.) Chick had jokingly asked me beforehand what she looked like.
Bear with me as I digress for a moment. Years before, (when Kareen came into the league with the Bucks, and Chamberlain was our center,) my mom had numerous hip surgeries, concurrently within a few days of each other. It was a lengthy hospital stay for her, and she was a bit down emotionally. My mom, who passed away two months ago, was a HUGE Lakers fan. Even at an opera my dad had taken her to, she sat with an earphone listening to the Lakers game on a transistor radio. Gotta love that. Anyway, while she was in the hospital, I called the Laker's PR department and asked if Chick could mention her on the broadcast that evening. They said it was highly doubtful, as he gets tons of these kinds of requests for each game. I said thanks and faxed them the information anyways. Later that night, as my mom listened to the game in her hospital room, Kareem had just swatted Wilt's fadeaway into the seats (NOBODY does that to Wilt), Chick chimed in with... "And get well fast, Julie, the Lakers' family needs you back in the fold." Wow. I still have that recorded on cassette. Needless to say, my mom was beyond elated.
Back to Nate and Al's: So, we're chatting about everything and anything while we're waiting for my agent to arrive, and I mention the time, years ago that he gave a mention to my mom while she was in the hospital and how it lifted her spirits. He thinks for a brief moment, then says, "Yes, didn't she have hip surgery or something like that?" I was speechless. Here was a very busy man, who had great demands on his time, who remembered making mention of my mom many years before. Wow.
So, Shary (agent) arrives and the three of us order breakfast, eat, then turn our attention to the "Chick's Fridge" cap. Chick starts laughing, reaches across the table and puts it on my head, slams the fabric door shut and says he loves it! Anyway, to make a long story even longer, he says he'll put me in touch with the merchandise team and the people who run the concessions. I was very excited. After about 90 minues, we took our last sips of morning coffee, and he insisted on paying the bill. We walked to the parking lot together, exchanged warm handshakes and both said that we'd both be in touch.
Over the next few weeks, Chick helped connect me with the folks I needed to talk to. The project never got off the ground, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. I worked with the merchandising team, but the cap, as I envisioned it, was just too expensive to produce, and wouldn't bear the point of purchase price it needed to sell at to turn a profit.
Strangely, I was only mildly disappointed. For what had started out as a business venture, yielded a rare opportunity to meet a truly amazing, sweet, generous human being. That was the greatest reward of all.