For 15 years I had the pleasure and privilege to be Forrest Gump representing the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co restaurant. During that time I had more than 1 million interactions on the bench with tourists and fans of Forrest from all over the world.
The best part of portraying a fictitious character was having people believe the character was real. And I was the character. Even if it was only make believe.
The character was and is beloved. People showered their love for Forrest on me. I instantly felt the love from people who only minutes earlier were strangers. I was able to return a genuine feeling of love to them. I can’t think of a better job to have in the wide whole world.
Monterey and San Francisco California were my home stores. When there wasn’t a special event going on, I was at one of those two locations every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons from 12 noon to 5pm. My job was to sit on my buttocks and act dumb – nice work if you can get it. My very own mother said, “Steve, you have a gift, use it.” I think it was a compliment.
Over the years I also helped open a total of 22 restaurant locations in the USA and 8 international locations. I visited the three Hawaiian Island stores every year for 12 straight years. I learned to say life is like a box of chocolates in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian. I could say hello, thank you and goodbye in a dozen different languages.
The most wonderful thing about Forrest is he didn’t fit a demographic. He was esteemed. He was loved by young and old … and everyone in between, men and women, people of all religions, races, and orientations. Forest was – and still is – simply beloved.
I’ve included a few articles from my SpeakingGump blog that include some of the lessons learned from being an impersonator. But the most important thing I learned was to be in a good mood when it came to perform. If I was having fun, then everyone else was having fun. Now that’s a pretty profound observation coming from a guy who was gifted at sitting on his buttocks and acting dumb – and that’s all I’ve got to say about that!