“I said, ‘If it wasn’t for everything else that went wrong in my life, life would be wonderful...’ Somebody said, ‘That would make a great bumper sticker.’ ” Rodney ‘Smokie’ Bourgeois, owner, George’s Restaurant
“Business is great.”
“People are terrific.”
“Life is wonderful.”
Those three lines of text adorning vehicles from Baton Rouge to Baghdad were a way to keep a positive outlook, says the man who first put them on a bumper sticker.
“Places were closing right and left,” Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois said of the period in the 1980s when he first began printing the bumper stickers.
“I went broke,” he said, but still managed to hold on to George’s Restaurant on Perkins Road.
Bourgeois was at Lake Ponchartrain with some friends when he came up with the slogan, he said.
The group was commiserating about how bad things had gotten in Baton Rouge at the time.
“I said, ‘If it wasn’t for everything else that went wrong in my life, life would be wonderful,’ ” Bourgeois recalled. “Somebody said, ‘That would make a great bumper sticker.’ ”
Bourgeois came back home, arrived at the final form of the slogan and printed 1,000 in, “I guess, 1987,” he said.
“We started giving them away,” he said. “People were taking them right and left.”
In the 25 or so years since, Bourgeois estimates that he has printed and distributed more than 50,000 of the bumper stickers, all of them given away.
“If you send us a self-addressed, stamped envelope, we will send you two bumper stickers,” he said.
The bumper stickers have spread far outside of south Louisiana, Bourgeois said.
“I have been in New York City and seen them, I have been in Oregon and seen them,” Bourgeois said.
“In the first (Persian) Gulf War, there was a picture of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle and it had one on it,” he said. “I have seen them on the back of Abrams tanks.”
Bourgeois said someone had sent him a picture of one inside a hospital in Baghdad’s “Green Zone” during the most recent conflict in Iraq.
“I gave one away the other day at the gas station, a guy asked me about it,” Bourgeois said.
The slogan has been copied so much that Bourgeois trademarked it in 2009, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.
Bourgeois has created a second bumper sticker, which reads: “Eat well, exercise regularly, die anyway, so enjoy.”
The slogan sprang from a relationship with an ex-girlfriend who was athletic, Bourgeois said.
He tweaked it to add the final line to make it more “upbeat,” he said.
Bourgeois, who serves as a Metro councilman representing a south Baton Rouge district, is known for his colorful personality and homespun witticisms.
In 2009, he said the Metro Council needed to “put a ‘whoa doggie’” on a proposed bond issue.
More recently, he compared both the Library Board of Control and downtown riverfront projects to children who repeatedly ask for candy and toys.
Councilwoman Tara Wicker, who did not know until the June 27 council meeting that the bumper sticker originated with her colleague, said she wasn’t surprised.
“It sounds like the laid-back attitude that Smokie tends to have,” she said. “I had no idea (the bumper sticker) was his,” she said.
Bourgeois said he tries to maintain the upbeat attitude of the slogan.
“It just became very popular,” he said.