Milford Fortenberry, a salesman at Glenn Polk AutoPlex in Gainesville, never planned on being a movie star but in the George Clooney movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou” filmed in 1999, he practically stole the scene from Clooney with his three lines.
Clooney’s character, Ulysses Everett McGill, used a particular hair pomade called “Dapper Dan”. Unfortunately the pomade vendor, Fortenberry, didn’t stock that brand, would have to order it and would have it in two weeks.
The petulant Clooney, as McGill, bemoaned the fact that they were so far out in the sticks his “Dapper Dan” hair pomade had to be ordered.
“Well, ain't this place a geographical oddity,” McGill said, “Two weeks from everywhere!”
Fortenberry might say he was born two weeks from everywhere in sparsely populated Tylertown, Miss. where he graduated from Tylertown High School in the early ‘60s and went on to receive his degree from Mississippi State University, where he studied public speaking and animal science.
“I did participate in two school plays in high school and won the state public speaking award,” Fortenberry said.
Pursuing animal husbandry, in 1976, he was named the “Outstanding Farmer” for the state of Mississippi. Starting with 16 jersey cows, he said he created the largest herd of dairy cows outside the state of Florida, a well supplied dairy cow mecca.
“When I got the part for the movie in 1999, I was actually working at the Mississippi fairgrounds where I was approached by a woman wearing one of those old fashioned poke bonnets,” he said.
“She came up to me as I was walking across the parking lot and asked me if I wanted to wait in a line to maybe be in a movie,” Fortenberry said. “I told her I wouldn’t stand in a line to be in any movie. Next thing I knew I had a speaking part and was in wardrobe sitting next to Holly Hunter.”
“I didn’t know who she was either at the time so we were just chatting when in walked this young man wearing a cap who introduced himself as George,” he continued. “I didn’t say much so he introduced himself as George Clooney.”
Fortenberry told Clooney that his daughter was really excited that he was going to be in this movie with him.
“Clooney said that he was awfully glad that someone in my family was excited about it,” Fortenberry said.
Fortenberry had nothing but good things to say about his movie experience and that George Clooney was super nice, even sending a Happy Birthday cake to Fortenberry’s wife on her birthday.
“She was very sick at the time and it really cheered her up to get that from him,” he said. “She passed away a few months after that.”
Fortenberry said that after his farming experience, his automobile sales success was punctuated by hard work, setting goals and always remembering that the customer was number one.
He said hard work kept him motivated to accomplish many of his honors in his life. He is in the 1996 Guiness Book of World Records for selling the most cars sold at one time by one salesmen at a time.
He is also in the Ford 500 Club for selling 500 new fords in one year and has appeared in automobile and life insurance commercials.
Before moving to the North Texas area, Fortenberry even dabbled with his own newsletter he published four times a year.
“I had 6900 people on my mailing list for the ‘Fortenberry Focus,’” he said. “Many were customers that I had sold cars to and they liked to keep up with me, my family and information about cars and the automobile industry.”
“I like repeat customers,’ he said. “I always try to keep them coming back for more.”
Perhaps if George Clooney ever reprises his role as Ulysses Everett McGill and comes back for more “Dapper Dan” hair pomade, chances are that Fortenberry will get it ordered and will have it waiting for him, two weeks or not.