- Courtesy of Scott Jones
- RIP, Francis Michael “Midnight Mike’’ McEnerney, "the mad, knife-wielding professor of skid row ."
Earlier this week, Midnight Mike, a longtime affiliate of the Lusty Lady peepshows and legend of old Seattle, passed away. I only got to know him through others when I was working a story about the life and death of the Lady. He never wanted to talk to me, and I can't blame him. As a man who sometimes lived his life on the run, both from cops and from criminals—and who, by all accounts, didn't suffer fools—talking to some punk reporter was very, very low on his list of priorities. (He was also intensely private. Scott Jones, one of the Lusty's self-described "jizz moppers" says he helped get Midnight Mike an apartment in the downtown Diller building, right next to his own, many years ago—and then never crossed the threshold again until a couple of days ago, after Mike passed. His apartment, Jones, said, was spare. "Let me put it this way," he said. "You could fit all of his stuff into the trunk of a car.")
But this is how others remembered him at the time:
I especially wanted to talk to Midnight Mike, a legend of the old "Flesh Avenue" days who used to lead the night shift. One of the Lady's jizz moppers described him as "a walking Tom Waits song" with a raspy growl and a web of knife scars across his body, each one of them a story. (One of those stories involved him waking up with a steak knife in his chest after one of his girlfriends stabbed him in his sleep. He reportedly pulled the knife out of his chest, threw it across the room, and called a cab to take him to the hospital.) Supposedly, he could drink anybody under the table and would sit down at his favorite bar and stick his knife in the wood, just to keep it handy. The dancers at the Sunday barbecue trade favorite Midnight Mike quotes, imitating his gravelly rasp: "You gotta see booth 12. Looks like somebody dropped an M-80 in a can of creamed corn." And: "Back in the day, the dancers used to be hookers. Now it's students. I miss the hookers."
Keith Brown and Scott Jones, both longtime associates of Midnight Mike's have written remembrances. There aren't any concrete plans for a public memorial service yet, but if any emerge we'll post them on Slog.
Francis Michael “Midnight Mike’’ McEnerney, of Seattle, died Sunday, July 6, 2014, at Virginia Mason Hospital & Medical Center following a short illness. He was 74.
For most of you reading this, that will mean just about diddly-squat. That’s fine. Midnight Mike wouldn’t have liked you anyway. There were chunks of people like you in his stool.
But for a large number of us – the legions of weirdos, freaks and miscreants he took in over the years to work at the Lusty Lady Theatre in both its now-defunct locations in Seattle and San Francisco — he was a giant. And this gray world is that much blander now that he is gone.
Midnight Mike worked for The Lusty for decades, and was the Support Staff manager for as long as anyone can remember, responsible for cashiers, janitors and tech people who worked off-stage and with their clothes on at the storied peep show. He was an unapologetic drinker and an unabashed fighter prone to sudden, violent fits of anger and he bore the scars of many a knife fight to prove it.
He never met an unfiltered Pall Mall he didn’t like or a bottle of vodka he didn’t want to spend a little time with. He was also abundantly kind, unfalteringly honest and the most fiercely loyal man anyone would want to meet.
In his time at The Lusty, he didn’t just give us jobs – although he did when few others would have – he gave us an opportunity to be part of something larger, better and longer lasting than any one of us could have known at the time.
We were Midnight’s handpicked crew, a fraternity of real-life misfit toys, and he was our leader. He gave us jobs, yes, but he also gave us somewhere to belong. He gave us a family. For that, any one of us would have gladly followed him directly into Hell, if only he asked.
Midnight Mike wasn’t much for rules. But those he had were sacrosanct: Show up on time, don’t bring your personal drama to work and do your job. That was it. If you could handle that, you earned Midnight’s unending fidelity. He would back you up, fight for you, help you out when you needed it, give you the flannel shirt off his back, if necessary.
Midnight Mike had a voice like 40-grit sandpaper, betraying a life lived out loud. He frequently had a funny, usually filthy, joke, or a good story, often involving how he got one of his scars.
He read books like he drank: voraciously. He was keen on history, although there was no topic on which he was unread. He could wax philosophical with the best, if you caught him at the right time. He was the mad, knife-wielding professor of skid row. And we loved him.
It’s too bad you didn’t know Midnight Mike. You’d be a better person today if you had. But again, he probably wouldn’t have liked you anyway.
We will miss you, Midnight. We will miss you.
And from Scott:
Story: Mike told me that when the Lusty first opened it wasn't doing well. Bill, the owner, was paying employees out of his own pocket. Then, one night, a city light employee dropped a tool into the project he was working on. This caused a huge blackout. All the other strip joints and peep shows didn't have any power, except for the Lusty Lady. The place started making good money after that.
Another story I heard was about some kid was acting the fool at the SF Lusty. Mike told him to leave, but the kid wouldn't and it escalated to the point where the kid pulled a knife on Mike. Mike calmly looked at the kid and said he was going to look pretty funny with that knife sticking out of his ass. The kid look at Mike, probably noticed all the knife-fighting scars on Mike's face, and walked out.
He told me that he was born premature and was the first baby ever put into an incubator. Apparently he was put on display at a circus or fair. He apparently also climbed Mt. Shasta in California and signed the book at the peak.
Another story: He was in a bar somewhere in California and got into a bad fight with another guy. The guy threw Mike through a screen door. The guy saw what bad shape Mike was in and took him to the doctor. Then they went back to the bar and kept drinking together.
Mike used to walk into a bar and jam his buck knife underneath the counter so it would be near at hand in case he needed it. Apparently he forgot it one night and the bar had it mounted on a plaque.
If you took a Vets cab from the Lusty Lady in SF, the cab driver would almost invariably ask you: "Where's Mike?"
Mike passed out in a bar one night and the staff was too scared to wake him up, so they stuck him in a mop and broom closet where he woke up all confused.
Almost all of the support staff has had to take a loan out form The Bank of Midnight. It didn't matter how long it took to pay it off. He even paid for at least one guy's rehab.
Another thing we keep forgetting to mention about Mike was how brilliant he was. He was a voracious reader. He had two degrees, one in Spanish and one in History from what I understand. Apparently he would do the New York Times crossword puzzle by memory. A couple of the guys would try to take him on in the crosswords, but when he would check up on their work throughout their shift he would just chuckle and check off their mistakes.
That's just a few stories.
I asked Scott if there was any kind of "in lieu of flowers, please donate to such-and-such" message Mike would've wanted to get out there.
"I think if anything, he would've said, 'Hey—if your friend needs some money, loan 'em some money,'" Scott said. "Or maybe tell people to save their money and go to Mexico City. He loved that city."