Working at Southwest, you never know what opportunities each day will bring. Those opportunities can be particularly exciting when you are an Attorney for Southwest! For me, the people-related opportunities are the best. As you're about to hear, such people stories are nothing short of pure entertainment--American Idol style!
A few weeks ago, a fan of Taylor Hicks called Southwest. Lucky for me, being a fan of his myself, the call was directed to my department. Our receptionist, Teri Lambert, took the call. Seems Taylor Hicks was coming to town, and this fan wanted to make sure we knew about Taylor's Southwest connection.
Taylor auditioned for American Idol in Las Vegas, Nevada in October 2005. Now, if you know your Taylor Hicks trivia, you know he is not a Vegas native. Rather, he is from Birmingham, Alabama. So, how do you suppose Taylor got to his auditions? Hmmm...two Southwest cities...a travel voucher from Southwest due to his earlier New Orleans flight being cancelled because of Katrina... You guessed it! He flew Southwest, of course!
According to Taylor in his book, Heart Full of Soul, when he told his Dad he was going to audition, his Dad asked why he didn't just buy a lottery ticket. After he won, Taylor explained that he viewed his Southwest voucher as his winning lottery ticket, and he sure wished the folks at Southwest would hook him up with a copy so he could frame it.
Teri relayed this to me, and nothing more need have been said. We were on a mission! Fortunately, Teri's father was in the entertainment business, and she knew the ropes of how to get connected. Within ten minutes, she had already talked to Taylor's agent, and we had a plan. We would pull together the electronic ticket information, voucher, and a few special items to make the frame complete and surprise him by presenting it to him before his August 31 concert in Dallas at a "Meet and Greet." Now, we just had to wait until the big day arrived, and hope no one let the cat out of the bag to spoil the surprise.
The anticipation was killing me. I planned on taking my six-year-old daughter, Nicole, but was afraid to tell her too soon just in case the plan fell apart. You see, she's a HUGE fan of Taylor Hicks. When American Idol first aired the auditions for the 2006 season, she picked Taylor out to win immediately. He had her at, "Hello." When I finally told her, I asked her, "What would you wear if you were going to meet Taylor Hicks?" She answered, "A ball gown!" (You'll note in the picture, that's not what she ended up wearing.)
The big day finally arrived. Off we went to the House of Blues to meet Taylor and present him with the framed items which included his electronic ticket information, a voucher with his flight information, a photo of Nevada One, and quote from his book with a signed message from Southwest's President, Colleen Barrett. "Taylor, From our Heart to Yours, Thanks for flying on our LUV airline - come back soon & often! xoxo, Colleen Barrett, President, Southwest Airlines." In addition, we took him a Southwest golf bag and bags and bags of peanuts. I had done a little research and knew he loved to play golf, and we figured he could use a snack on his bus trips. Our entourage consisted of me, Nicole, Teri, and another of our American Idol-loving Attorneys, Michael Aubuchon.
In addition to us, there were about sixteen fans attending the Meet and Greet. These weren't just any fans, but true blue, soul searching fans of the highest order. Jonelle, the fan who had initially called Teri, was even present. The fans we met were charming. They were the type of people who fill your heart with joy just listening to them and sharing their excitement. They all knew the "Taylor flew on Southwest and wanted a copy of the ticket" story, and their eyes filled with tears of happiness when they found out the folks at Southwest had come through for Taylor. (No kidding, tears were shed!)
After descending the stairs, we entered the double doors into the main floor of the House of Blues. Taylor sat behind a table looking fantastic. His fans went one by one to sit by him, say a few words, obtain an autograph, and have photos taken. We had been saved for last. We were trying to hide the presents, and it seemed he kept looking curiously over in our direction. What could those folks be up to?
When it was finally our turn, I was given the honors of being the spokesperson. After we all shook hands and introduced ourselves, I explained we were the folks from Southwest that he mentioned in his book, and that we were there to present him with what he had described as his winning lottery ticket! We made the presentation. Success! He was surprised, and . . . he was thrilled!
Taylor was a pleasure to meet. He was genuinely thankful that we made the effort for him, and, in turn, made us feel special and appreciated. And, the biggest prize for me as a mom was how he paid attention to and talked to Nicole. Needless to say, she was beaming the whole time.
We were given tickets to stay for the concert. Tremendous performance! And, I was able to meet even more fans. Shout out to Cliff who's been to numerous Taylor performances across the country with his wife; and to Lola, who flew all the way from San Diego for the concert. Indeed, shout out to all of Taylor's fans! And remember, when you are checking out Taylor's next gig, check to see if you too can fly Southwest Airlines to get there! Soul Patrol!