Greg Packer is probably one of the most popular names in print that you've never heard of. The Huntington, New York, native has been quoted over a hundred times in various news outlets on subjects ranging from the Super Bowl to the iPhone to the pope.
Packer is a retired highway maintenance worker. In an interview with the New Yorker, he reveals his media placement strategy.
"It's always been a case of right place, right time, knowing where reporters are going to do their jobs for the day," Packer explained. "My strategy would be to be in the front row — just be myself, show how happy I am to be in the front row. That usually attracts the attention of not only the crowd around me but especially reporters themselves."
The first time Packer saw his name in print was when his new hobby took on a life of its own.
"I couldn't believe that I made a major newspaper," he recalled of the moment, in which he told the Tampa Tribune in 1995 that "Jewish people are fans of Pope John Paul II." "That made me feel like I accomplished something."
Packer went on to meet four presidents and two popes, and attend three World Series and two Super Bowls. While the retiree might not be expected to be the biggest Whitney Houston fan, he attended the singer's funeral in Newark, and the Los Angeles Times quoted him in one of its stories. Packer was also the first in line at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to buy the original iPhone.
Packer's words became so ubiquitous that his name caught the attention of others in the media. Ann Coulter wrote a column about him in 2003, and it spurred a New York Times profile. That same year, the Associated Press asked its reporters to stop using the "man on the street" in articles.
The 49-year-old regards the AP memo as an accomplishment, too.
"I don't think what I do is odd, but I find it hard to believe some people do out of jealousy and madness and just not having any idea about me," Packer said.
It is almost unfathomable that we have no idea about a man whom we've read so much about.