Jim Parshall is a GEICO senior systems security analyst. He also routinely dresses up at the Gecko at local events. “I am an overgrown kid at heart (my cell phone case has Winnie the Pooh on it),” says Parshall, who has made over 100 appearances in costume as GEICO’s green spokes-reptile. GEICO More asked Jim Parshall how someone gets to be the Gecko, and how it really feels to be green.
GEICO More (GM): What attracted you to being the Gecko?
Jim Parshall (JP): I knew how much my kids liked the Gecko commercials. I saw an internal company email about needing a Gecko for Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s annual Christmas party on Capitol Hill for disadvantaged children and I called. I was the first respondent and got the gig.
GM: What events have you attended as the Gecko?
JP: I have been on the National Mall as the Gecko, Freedom Plaza, Children’s National Medical Center, Nationals Park, Silver Spring Thanksgiving Parade (in a red convertible), YMCA Turkey Chase, even a Villanova University men’s basketball game in Atlantic City. I have even attempted to return the serve of an internationally ranked tennis player while in costume.
GM: What’s your fondest memory of being the Gecko?
JP: The 2005 Children’s Hospital telethon on WUSA9 TV here in D.C. GEICO was presenting a check and we were in line to go on air. There was a young man and his mom on air ahead of us. He is a teenager now, in school, though when his seizures started, he was not expected to live beyond 18 months. As he was coming off stage, he saw the Gecko and gave me a huge, linebacker-quality hug and asked for my autograph. Three weeks later, he and his mom were at GEICO for our Children’s kickoff event. I was the Gecko that day, recognized him, ran over to him (as was best possible with those huge feet), and through his mom, indicated that I remembered him from earlier and wanted his autograph. That autograph is in my cube to this day.
GM: What’s it like inside the suit?
JP: In one word, a blast. OK, that was two words. I get to represent the mascot of a company that has been very good to me as an associate and that I am proud to say I work for. Almost everyone who sees the Gecko wants to either have their picture taken or has a nice word to say about our commercials or our company.
GM: How do you capture the Gecko’s personality?
JP: When I step into the suit, I remember that inner kid in me. I like to dance when I am the Gecko. (One of the earlier Gecko commercials had him doing the moonwalk.) When I am in costume, my handlers know to tell me about the kids, so that I make a point to at least wave to every child who calls out to the Gecko. Most get a high five or a hug. Lots of pictures get taken with the Gecko, and in the costume, I am always smiling. I know the camera can’t see my smile, but I feel like the body language is complete that way. Honestly, I really love being the Gecko and have had many great experiences. I was even invited to my high school here in D.C. to be the Gecko and got to greet my favorite teacher in costume. Kind of cool.
By Sam Song