Duran Schmidt is pretty much oblivious to the curious looks he gets whenever he heads to work. He gets the looks because work for him means dressing up as a life-sized gorilla, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and other characters. Which costume he gets decked out in all depends on the day.
Duran Schmidt is pretty much oblivious to the curious looks he gets whenever he heads to work.
He gets the looks because work for him means dressing up as a life-sized gorilla, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and other characters. Which costume he gets decked out in all depends on the day.
Schmidt runs a company called Greetings in the Grass & Singing Celeb-O-Grams. He decorates yards for people with "over the hill" birthdays and dresses as Santa Claus for corporate parties. He serenades people in hospitals and entertains small children at birthday parties.
Schmidt, a Washington native who now lives in Peoria, has been running this business for about two years. He has a steadier job as the manager of the shoe department at Kmart, but it's his singing job that really gets the blood rushing.
"I love it, it's really rewarding to make people happy," said the 39-year-old, who dabbles locally in stand-up comedy and has taken improv classes at Second City in Chicago.
Schmidt has dressed as "Mr. Happy" - a big yellow character that he created - to sing to clients in the hospital. Recently, he donned his gorilla outfit and busted into a conference room on the 12th floor of the Fulton Building to sing a personalized happy birthday message to radio personality "Danger Dan" of WXCL-FM 104.9 "The Wolf."
Schmidt also has an intriguing option listed on the fliers he and two staff members spread around town: revenge greetings. For revenge greetings, Schmidt will deliver a dozen dead roses to your ex, along with a song tailored to fit your needs.
"To be honest with you, no florist will work with me except for a couple of ladies at Kroger," he said. "They're the only ones that'll work with me, all the others take it really, really, really personal. I've been kicked out of all the florists in the area. So I work with Kroger, and the nice gals there, they sell them to me at a discounted price."
A staff member is present to document the event and snap pictures. With the revenge greetings, it's led to some awkward moments.
"(Most people are) kind of shocked - with their mouth open, in shock," Schmidt said. "You've got to be on your guard for that. Sometimes you got to sing fast and get the heck out of there. They don't like the picture part."
Schmidt said he doesn't get a ton of requests for revenge greetings, which kind of makes sense. Who wants to drop $85 on someone who is out of their life forever? But there are plenty of costumes in his bag of tricks that sell just fine - like Marilyn Monroe.
"I was almost beat up at Bar Louie," said Schmidt, who showed up there for a birthday party in his Monroe apparel: a red dress, high heels, a blonde wig and a purse. He brought laughs to the party, then was on his way out of the place when he turned a few heads; Schmidt is 6 feet 2 inches tall.
"The (birthday party) loved it, but then I was walking out and all of a sudden I'm some weird transvestite," he said. "I haven't done that costume since."
But maybe he should. Schmidt said he has noticed that for some reason, whenever he portrays a female character, it's a big hit with the ladies.
"I don't know what it is," he said, "but it's the ultimate babe magnet. Girls give me phone numbers, they're flirting with me and hitting on me. If I knew why, I'd write a book and be on 'Oprah.'"
To learn more about Greetings in the Grass & Singing Celeb-O-Grams, call (309) 453-7257.
Danielle Hatch can be reached at (309) 686-3262 or email@example.com.