You know when there’s just an instant connection with a person? A connection that makes you feels like you’ve known them for years. I had one of those on our first Bojangles’ TV shoot about a year ago.
During an early afternoon break in the shooting, I decided to check my messages on my iphone. As I was deleting a generic Viagra e-mail, I heard a deep baritone voice say, “I really like your hat.”
I looked up and saw a very large man. He stood about 6’ 4” and weighed somewhere around 240. He was wearing jeans, a blue work shirt, a tan denim jacket and a well-worn sweat-stained cowboy hat. His face was the color of baseball glove and a bushy white handlebar mustache surrounded the most genuine smile I had ever seen.
“I like yours too,” I said back to him.
“Well, I wasn’t fishin’ for a compliment. I just had never seen one of those hats before.”
I had to think for a second what cap I was wearing. I glanced up and saw the white underside of the brim and remembered that I was wearing the baseball cap that I had bought at The Masters.
“Did you go to The Masters?” he asked.
I was kind of embarrassed at first and couldn’t really believe that a real life cowboy would be interested in my cap. A cap that basically said, “I went to the Masters and you didn’t.”
“I did. I went to the Thursday round this year.”
“I've always wanted to go to Augusta. How’d you get the badges to get in?”
This guy knew a thing or two about Augusta National.
“Those badges are about as rare as hen’s teeth,” I said trying to fit in as I leaned against his chicken coop. “I’ve lived in Charlotte about 15 years and had never so much as sniffed a badge until this year. Our insurance agent called asked if I wanted to go. I, of course, said yes.”
“Well, where did he get them?” he asked.
“His grandmother lives in Augusta and has had the badges for about 35 years. She doesn’t really have any interest in going anymore so she likes for her grandson to share them with people who have never been before.”
“That’s really cool. Did you see Tiger and Phil?”
“Sure did. That was cool. But the most amazing thing wasn’t the players. It was the place. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“I heard it’s the most finely manicured golf course in the world. Not a blade of grass out of place.”
“That’s true, but that’s not what amazed me. What amazed me was that there isn’t a single piece of advertising in all of Augusta National.”
A puzzled look came over his face.
“That’s right,” I said. “At the concession stands, there weren’t any Budweiser or Coors Light signs. Not even on the taps. The taps had white cards on them and in black magic marker was written Beer, Light Beer and Imported Beer. No logos. The potato chip bags didn’t say Lays. They said Potato Chips or Barbeque Potato Chips.”
“There wasn’t a giant American Express logo on the Leaderboard. It just said “The Masters.” There wasn’t a Rolex logo on the clocks. There were no logos anywhere. None. I felt like I had gone back in time to the 1940’s.”
“I think it’s the only place in the world without advertising. Ads are everywhere. They’re even out here on your beautiful ranch.”
“There are no ads out here.”
“Sure, there are," I said. "Look at that craft service table. There are logos all over it. Cliff Bar. Wrigley’s gum. Coke. Chiqita Bananas.”
Gary laughed and said, “Well, that craft service table isn’t here everyday.”
“And when you finish your shoot, they’ll be gone. Tomorrow this ranch will be returned to its natural beauty.”
“Wow. Sometimes I think it would be great if advertising didn’t exist at all,” I said.
“But then you wouldn’t have a job.”
“And we wouldn’t be renting your ranch today to shoot these Bojangles’ commercials.”
We shared a good laugh. Then my headphones buzzed and Craig, our producer, was calling me back up to the set where we were shooting.
I stuck out my hand and said, “My name’s David. I hope to see you later on this afternoon.”
He shook my hand and said, “I’m Gary, nice to meet you. This is my ranch so if you need anything today, just let me know.”
I headed back to the set. I didn’t see Gary the rest of the day until we were done shooting. As we were packing up to head back to LA, I shook Gary’s hand and said, “Gary, thanks for letting us use your ranch.”
“It was my pleasure. This was a lot of fun. It sure doesn’t happen everyday.”
“I bet you’re glad of that.”
“Well, yeah.” he replied and laughed.
“I was thinking about it and I want you to have my hat.” I said as I took The Masters cap off my head and handed it to him.
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I know I don’t, but I want you to have it.”
Gary broke into his giant gentle smile again and said, “Thank you, thank you so much. Well then. I’m going to give you my hat too.” And he took off his crusty cowboy hat and handed it to me.
I was blown away by his kindness.
“Thanks so much,” I said. "Gary, you should keep it because I know that, honestly, I’d never wear it. You use it to keep the sun off of you. What good would it do me? Shield me from the florescent light in my office?”
He laughed and I handed the cowboy hat back to him. But he put the Masters cap on. He wore it well.
We shook hands and said goodbye. I hopped into our rent-a-car and started back toward Los Angeles.
As we drove out the driveway in our Kia Sonata, I saw Gary waving to us in my rear-view mirror. What genuine good guy, I thought to myself. He really likes that hat. I felt really good about giving it to him.
At least I did until the irony hit me: The Masters allows no advertising. And I had just littered Gary’s pristine ranch with their logo.