My name is Ray Hart. I was born in Chicago and still reside in the southwest suburbs. I’m married and have a son, three step kids ,and four wonderful grandkids. I was a Union local 17 pipe insulator for 35 years and retired in 2007.
For the past four years or so I have been dressing like the iconic Iron Mike Ditka. It all started a while back. I was on a boat in the locks of the Chicago River when people started yelling “coach, coach” and “Hi Mike”! Not sure what the heck they were talking about at first, then I quickly caught on. More and more people confused me with the Coach.
That Halloween I bought the infamous sweater vest and went to my neighbors Halloween party, it went over great! My wife talked me into going downtown to Mike Ditka’s restaurant dressed as the Coach when I knew Ditka would be there. I was a little nervous but did it anyway. I sat by the bar upstairs about 10 feet from Ditka. He looked my way and said, “hey you’re a good-looking guy”. I responded with “You’re not so bad yourself Coach”. He invited me to sit at his table for a while. Later my wife joined me and Ditka was nice enough to get up, come over by us, sign my wife’s Ditka jersey and take some pictures with us. Great guy!
Since then I have had many occasions to dress up as the Coach in look-alike contests such as ‘Ditkaween’, a Halloween tradition at Ditka’s in Oakbrook IL. I have also made appearances on WGN, WFLD’s inside the Bears, Fox News and Comcast Sports Network. I have also been on NFL network, ESPN, ESPN2, and have articles written about me in the Tribune, The Daily Journal, and even got in the New York Times. When the NFL draft came to Chicago it was fantastic! I almost felt as if I were the real Coach. I must have taken a thousand pictures over the four days it was down there with many fans. “It’s great to look like the coach and be from Chicago!”
People said I should get paid for what I do so I recently decided I would.
It’s been fun and I hope to have the opportunity to make Ditka fans happy. They seem to enjoy it and so do I!