Charlotte-area man pops the question beside his work vehicle. Nation says, ‘Hot dog!’
(The Charlotte Observer) - Zach Chatham became an instant national celebrity this month.
Jimmy Fallon even mentioned the 22-year-old Charlotte-area man on The Tonight Show.
Hannah Fogus, by the way, said yes.
She was shocked when Chatham pulled the Wienermobile into the park on Aug. 26 and got on one knee in the parking lot to propose.
They’d discussed getting engaged, but not right away, not outside the Wienermobile at America’s most famous park, said Chatham, who lives in Indian Land, S.C., 20 miles south of Charlotte.
Chatham’s friend, Rob Osborne, was in on the plan. He and his family flew in to be a part of the special moment. Osborne shot the video that soon made it onto Fox News and other major media outlets.
“And the weather was absolutely perfect,” Chatham said. “Partly cloudy, right around 80.”
Oscar Mayer quickly latched onto Chatham’s idea. The company’s Wienermobile brand tweeted a photo of Chatham’s proposal to its 25,400 Twitter followers.
The brand also created an online application for others to schedule their “will you marry me’s” at one of its 27-foot-long hot dogs.
“Our main man Zach n Cheese is getting hitched!” the Wienermobile brand tweeted on Sept 9, referring to Chatham’s professional nickname. “Not to take credit, but we’re a pretty good wing bun.”
Two days later, Fallon was humorously promoting the idea on his show.
“Oscar Mayer ... sells proposals?” Fallon’s show tweeted Sept. 11 to highlight a segment in which Fallon wisecracked about Chatham’s proposal.
“I’m into this,” Fallon quipped. “It’s a great way to show your future wife that she should be the one to handle the money.”
Chatham said he took no offense. He found Fallon’s remark “a creative response” to the idea of planning your wedding proposal at a Wienermobile.
And, he said, Fallon’s reaction “emphasized how big of a deal this engagement is for him to comment on it.”
SELECT FEW GET TO DRIVE A WIENERMOBILE
Oscar Mayer debuted the Wienermobile in 1936, “during the height of the Great Depression,” according to OscarMayer.com.
Thousands of recent college graduates apply to drive one of the vehicles each year, and the competition is intense.
Chatham said about 4,000 applied this year for the 12 available jobs as a hotdogger, the name for those selected to drive one of the company’s six Wienermobiles in various regions of the country. About 7,000 applied the previous year, he said in a phone interview from Omaha, Neb., where he’ll be until Sept. 28.
“It’s more competitive than (getting admitted to) an Ivy League school,” he said.
“I couldn’t believe I got it,” he said. “Even to get an interview was a huge thing.”
The job lasts about a year and is one of the best positions someone fresh out of college and pursuing a career in marketing can land, Chatham said.
Drivers are teamed in pairs and do speaking engagements while representing Oscar Mayer 24-7, he said. Families come up to you wherever you go, so your personality must shine at all times.
The most common question he gets: “What exactly do you do?”
The most unusual: “Are you and your partner dating?,” referring to the woman driver with whom he’s paired.
“You’re the face of Oscar Mayer, appearing on TV, radio, in the press and at events,” Chatham said.
“Somebody who’s a stick in the mud probably wouldn’t be great for the position,” he said.
HOW HE GOT THE WIENERMOBILE JOB
Chatham credits internships during his studies at the University of Alabama for his selection.
His most memorable internship involved assisting 'Bama head coach Nick Saban with marketing efforts to attract recruits.
He worked for the football team as an assistant to the marketing coordinator and an intern on the graphic design team.
He spent lots of time on the sidelines during games producing videos of the recruits and their families.
He met fellow student Fogus at the university his junior year. Fogus, a Dallas, Texas, native who lives with her family in St. Augustine, Fla., has been hired by a healthcare company in Boston, Mass., he said.
GREAT-GRANDFATHER DROVE WIENERMOBILE, TOO
Chatham credits his dad, 44-year-old Josh Chatham of Indian Land, with spotting the Wienermobile job application on Facebook. His mom is 44-year-old Mandy Chatham, and his sister is 26-year-old Bethany Singler, both also of Indian Land.
Only when his dad mentioned the job application did it click with Zach Chatham: His great-grandfather, Lon Baisden, now in his 80s and living in Monroe, Ga., had driven the Wienermobile in the 1970s.
“I said, 'That’s funny, that’s what Gige (pronounced GEE GEE with a hard ‘g’) did,'” he told his dad, referring to his great-grandfather by his nickname.
As a boy, Zach Chatham knew his great-grandfather worked for Oscar Mayer. He’d bring home Oscar Meyer brand toys for him to play with, but Zach Chatham said he didn’t know at the time that Baisden drove the Wienermobile.
Only as Zach Chatham grew older did he learn that, he said, and only when his dad mentioned the job application did it come to mind again.
“This is a really, really good job,” Zach Chatham said his dad told him.
He applied in February and learned he got the job on March 30.
He said he’s not allowed to disclose how much the job pays, only that it’s “competitive pay.”
His internship experiences got him the job, Zach Chatham said, but “I definitely used that as leverage in the interview process.”
The gig lasts until June.
WHY HE CHOSE YELLOWSTONE TO PROPOSE
He’s driven the Wienermobile — it’s 60 hot dogs long, he said — to such cities as Duluth, Minn.; Fargo, N.D.; and Bozeman, Mont.
Yellowstone National Park, which is mostly in Wyoming and partly in Montana and Idaho, was the perfect stop to propose, he said.
The park is a national icon, he said, much as the Wienermobile is, too. “No better match, in my opinion,” he said.
And “there’s no better symbol of longevity than the Wienermobile,” Chatham said