Helicopter sliders give man White Castle glory
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."