Thursday, January 8, 2004
Alexis Garcia lives a good life -- so good, he believes, that millions of television viewers would covet his very existence.
"I'm very successful and popular," Garcia said Wednesday as he lingered over breakfast at Milton's Coffee & Wine, 920 Mass. "I live on the beach. I surf. I wear shorts every day."
He wears a Rolex, drives a vintage Karmann Ghia Volkswagen convertible, and mingles with models and bikini-clad women at his beachfront restaurant in Puerto Rico.
As fine as the lifestyle is, Garcia isn't satisfied with it; he wants to spend more time with his 10-year-old daughter, who lives in Lawrence.
That's why, about three months ago, Garcia began a scheme to offer his life in Puerto Rico as a prize on a reality TV show, "Win My Life."
The winner, selected by a rigorous screening process yet to be determined, gets almost all of Garcia's possessions, including the car, the watch and his debt-free restaurant, Pinky's. The winner also gets Garcia's friends in Puerto Rico, and there are plenty of them, he said.
"My social life is incredible," he said.
Garcia, son of a Puerto Rican doctor, has experience with acting and film production in Los Angeles and New York. In early 2000, after moving back to Puerto Rico and trying unsuccessfully to start a film production company, he opened his restaurant in a beachfront area of San Juan popular among tourists.
"His business has made him into a little pseudo-celebrity down there," said his ex-wife, Rachel Dobbs, of Lawrence. "This little sandwich shop near the beach is just swarming with the beautiful people."
Garcia and Dobbs remain on good terms, and he travels here several times a year to visit their 10-year-old daughter, Willow. Recently he decided he was too far away.
"He's tired," Dobbs said. "He wants to do something different. That lifestyle takes a lot of energy, a lot of staying up late ... He's motivated toward something a little more domestic."
Dobbs suggested he auction the business online or sell it to the winner of an essay contest. He realized that whoever won it would win a lifestyle, not just a restaurant.
He secured an Internet domain, winmylife.com, and wrote a description of what the winner would get.
"I said, 'Hey, that sounds like one of those reality shows. You should go all the way with it,'" Dobbs said.
Garcia is now engaged in what he calls a "guerrilla marketing" campaign. He plans to go to New York next month and distribute materials on the street.
His hope is to build such hype around his Web site that soon network executives will be clamoring for it. If it succeeds, he hopes to make it an ongoing series -- perhaps with a Montana ranch lifestyle up for grabs the next time.
"I'm selling the idea, and I'm using my life as a guinea pig," he said.
So far, no one has bought the show. But he has attorneys, public-relations materials, a partner who's bought a 10 percent stake -- and an absolute conviction he'll succeed.
"I know that eventually, someone's going to buy it," he said.
When that happens, he's moving to Lawrence, where he plans to open a restaurant, but he said he would keep a home in Puerto Rico.