Originally posted on April 25, 2008
As most of you know my hero since I was 15 years old has been Michael D. Eisner. Today was the day I dreamed about all my life- the day I finally met my hero. For those of you who don’t know how much this means to me- let me give you a little back story.
When I was fifteen, I saw him for the first time on TV when I was watching the American Teachers Award on the Disney Channel. It struck me how his eyes seemed to shine with the love of his career. Everything came together for me in that moment, and I instantly knew what I wanted to be. I formed a dream to become a corporate executive for the Walt Disney Company, but I knew that I could not merely have a dream and hope it comes true. I had to also dedicate and motivate myself to ensuring its existence. The next day, I went to the library and researched anything and everything I could get my hands on about the Walt Disney Company and Eisner. I quickly discovered that he was at the forefront of the one of the most legendary corporate turnarounds of the 20th Century and this intrigued me. I saw him as this creative genius whose success and perseverance clarified to me what was waiting for me in my future.
I proceeded to write down the steps necessary to reach my goal, including seeking out my weaknesses and overcoming them. During my high school years, I overcame my fear of public speaking, and strengthened my leadership, teamwork, and communication skills as avenues to ensure my future success.
At USC, I followed the same route and accomplished everything I said I would since I wrote that list… including choosing a college in the Los Angeles area near the entertainment industry and landing internships after my sophomore and junior years in college. It was during these internships that I realized it no longer mattered what company I worked for, as long as I worked with films. And I soon realized my passion would lie in marketing them.
I knew that when I formed my dream that I would confront many obstacles, but I also knew that I would never cease finding ways to improve myself and to acquire new goals and aspirations. I know that sheer luck would not provide me with success. It would be achieved by the result of hard work, a relentless desire to succeed, and an incredibly strong sense of self-worth. Michael Eisner taught me all of that through following his career, reading his books, etc. I could not think of a better role model to have in this lifetime than the one I found in him. I even had a vendor make a sticker three years ago for me that says “Michael Eisner Rocks” that I could put on my car to support him during the times when everyone seemed to be criticizing him.
So that brings us to today! Today Eisner was getting his Star on the Walk of Fame and my amazing friend, Fernando got me access to the VIP area. I arrived with my wingman, Steve and we patiently waited for the ceremony to start. All three of Eisner’s sons were walking around and greeting family and friends. Apparently, they submitted Eisner’s Walk of Fame entry without him knowing it and he was completely surprised. The Chamber of Commerce dude came out and told us all “not to be afraid to cheer when we heard something we liked.” So that’s all I needed to hear. First he introduced the Disneyland Band who came in from the El Capitan Entrance playing “The Mickey Mouse March,” and then Mickey and Minnie came out and stood in the back and responded animatedly to all the actions on stage. Bob Iger came out and introduced Eisner who got big applause from the crowd and I took a million pictures. Iger talked basically about how much Eisner rocked and how he turned around Disney while Eisner stood there next to him smiling at his friends and family. John Travolta was introduced next and got the most cheers. He talked about how Eisner helped shape his career, etc. Eisner spoke after Travolta and delivered an eloquent speech about how he could not have accomplished what he did at Disney without Frank Wells and what a legacy Walt Disney created for them to work with, etc.
When he was finished, the entire audience was sprayed with color confetti in the shape of Mickey Mouse Ears. Eisner stepped down from the podium and started walking around to talk to his sons and friends. I was cheering during his speech so this woman in front of me knew I was eager to meet him. She pushed me in front of her so I could have a good chance to say hi when he came over my way. I gave Steve my camera and asked him to take pictures if I met him. Right as he was coming my way, I inched my way up to him and he said “Hi Sue” to some woman next to me. Then I made my move. I said, “Hi, I’m Becky from Sony Pictures. Congratulations!” He smiled and shook my hand. And then I asked, “Would you sign my book?” He said “Sure” and took his book “Work In Progress” and my pen from me. I said “You’ve been my hero since I was 15” and he smiled and signed his name on the intro page. As he was signing his name, I could feel tears coming from my eyes and thought to myself, “Oh god, Becky. You need to find the nearest exit route! You have to abort! Get out of here before you start crying!!” So I said “Thank you” when he handed the book back and he smiled his warm smile and said, “My pleasure.”
I took the book and ran over to Steve and was so excited. Then the tears started coming and coming and I was furiously wiping them away. I was so embarrassed that I was so overcome with emotion but this was my hero. If I could have met anyone in the world, living or dead, I wouldn’t choose Ingmar Bergman, Vincent Van Gogh, Thom Yorke, James Cameron or even Albert Brooks. It would be Eisner. Steve and I started laughing at the fact that I was standing in front of his ceremony crying. I finally got it together and asked Steve if you could tell I had been crying and he said, “Well yeah…unless you were sprayed with mace by security.” Outstanding…and God knows why I said I was from Sony- maybe I thought it added some legitimacy. We stuck around, took more pictures and watched Eisner get interviewed by all the news channels. Finally we got a picture of his star and left for lunch. When lunch was over, we went back and took more pictures of his star.
It was a great day and even though I dorked out, it was worth it to say I had the guts to walk up to the man that changed my life and tell him he was my hero on probably one of the biggest days of his life. It was extraordinary to be there and I’ll never forget it.