MILLINGTON, Mich. (AP) — What are the odds that a quirky stunt a quarter-century ago and a 60-year relationship with a fast food chain would result in national recognition and induction into the chain's hall of fame?
Ask Jim Work, a 69-year-old retired Livonia police officer whose story of a late-1980s helicopter delivery of some White Castle hamburgers earned him a place in the restaurant's history books.
Work was one of 11 honorees for 2012 selected out of more than 700 applicants for induction into White Castle's Hall of Fame.
"I don't even remember how I found out that White Castle had a hall of fame, to be honest with you," Work said. "But I submitted my story sometime earlier this year and they called me and told me how great the story was and that I was selected."
A panel of judges chose him and the 10 other inductees based on their brand loyalty, creative presentation, originality and their "magnitude of The Crave." In the 11-year history of the White Castle's Hall of Fame, 9,545 people have applied for entry, but only 91 have been chosen.
Work said his idea for the helicopter delivery stunt grew from his and his fellow police officers' love for the bite-size burgers. He and his co-workers often had impromptu gatherings to enjoy sacks of White Castle sliders.
"On midnight shift, we'd get four or five cars to meet up," he said. "Our code phrase was, 'Meet me at WC Field' and we'd say that so the captain didn't know where we were headed."
One of Work's fellow officers, Larry Brennan, was particularly obsessed with the burgers and was said to be a self-described White Castle addict.
"You couldn't catch this guy without a White Castle box in his hand," Work said.
Around 1985, Brennan quit his job at the Livonia police station and moved his family to Mesa, Ariz. Much to Brennan's dismay, there were no White Castle restaurants in Arizona at the time, so he could only get his White Castle fix when he came back to Michigan to visit his family and friends, Work said.
On one of Brennan's return trips, Work and other Livonia officers decided to have a picnic with Brennan and his family as the special invited guests, and that's when Work devised his plan.
Brennan could not be reached for comment.
"Me and another friend were co-owners of an air taxi service in Lapeer, so we had a helicopter," Work said. "I borrowed a White Castle uniform and wanted to get some sliders and have them flown in for Larry, because I thought that would be pretty cool."
Jim Work had a fellow police officer photograph the helicopter hovering above ground to prove that the didn't go against a city ordinance stating helicopters couldn't land in the city without a permit.
Courtesy Photo Work said he ran the idea past his lieutenant because at the time there was an ordinance against taking off and landing aircraft within the city limits.
"We had to submit a request for a permit to do it, but the lieutenant denied me permission to take off and land because he didn't like me very much," Work said.
Work said he found a way around the city's ordinance. He would take off outside of the city limits and, without landing, take the helicopter low enough to the ground to allow another friend to jump out of the chopper with the burgers in hand.
But there was still one more hurdle to jump.
"I read some more, and there was another law against ejecting from an aircraft and putting someone in danger."
Work enlisted the services of his police buddy Jimmy Dale Howton.
"He was awarded a Silver Star for his actions in Vietnam and he was trained to jump out of aircraft in the Army. I figured if I had him step out of the helicopter, they couldn't say someone was in danger because he was trained to do it in the Army."
The chopper was set to deliver the sliders just across the street from the picnic area and everyone at the picnic knew about the plan except for Brennan.
"Everything went just like it was supposed to, and I even had someone take a picture of Jimmy climbing out so they could see we didn't land," Work said. "Larry was shocked that we did it and he loved it."
He said that officers, especially in the '80s, get a bad rep as being addicted to sweets, but their craving for sliders is intense.
"Coppers love their White Castle. Policemen have a bad name for being doughnut crushers, but I'll tell you, we like our White Castles."
Work said he did face disciplinary action in the form of a citation for the stunt because his lieutenant denied the permit, but the citation was thrown out in court.
"I think the judge said something along the lines of 'Can't you people get along?' and that was that."
Work said that wasn't the only White Castle highlight of his life.
"I've been eating White Castle since they were a nickel apiece and a couple quarters could get you a full stomach," he said. "On my 50th birthday, someone gave me a bag of 50 and told me to eat it. I tried to get 50 of 'em down, but I could only get through about two dozen and that was the most I've ever eaten at once."
Living in Millington, Work said he doesn't get to White Castle now as much as in the past because the closest one is about 30 minutes away from him in Flint.
His usual order nowadays consists of a sack of 10 cheeseburgers, complete with the steamed bun, onions and a pickle or two. He said he's tried the frozen ones in the store, but they don't compare to the ones in the restaurant.
Upon his induction into the White Castle Hall of Fame, Work was invited to Columbus, Ohio, where he and the other 10 inductees were given plaques at a ceremony and other memorabilia commemorating their unique stories.
"Loyalty is a key attribute of our team members and cravers, and we strive every day to recognize their loyalty to White Castle," Richardson said. "The Craver's Hall of Fame is a chance for White Castle to honor customers who have gone to extremes to satisfy the Crave and recognize them for their devotion to our one-of-a-kind taste."
Some of the other 2012 inductees included a couple who drove 26 hours from Montana to Illinois to spend Valentine's Day at White Castle, two NYC Marathon runners who shared two sacks of sliders to salute a firefighter who died during 9/11, and a California man who got a tattoo of a pin-up model who was featured on a White Castle coupon.
Work said the hall of fame experience was a little odd, but he is, too, and to get inducted into a fast food's hall of fame, you have to be a little weird.
"There are 300-something people in the baseball hall of fame and there's a couple hundred in the football hall of fame, but there's only 91 of us in the White Castle Hall of Fame," he said.
After the ceremony, the group went to dinner at — where else? — White Castle.