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When I was "recruited" (drafted, shanghaied, roped into, you get the idea…) to work on the "E!" convention in 1998, my first assignment was to make the travel arrangements for the cast & crew members who lived out of state, among them Ron Pinkard ('Dr. Morton').  While discussing his travel arrangements one day, he brought up the list of cast & crewmembers who, at that point, were scheduled to attend the convention &, more importantly, who wasn't on the list.  I remember vividly the way he asked me, in great disbelief, "But, where's Mickey Michaels?  You can't have this without Mickey-he was the most important person on the set after the director!  You've got to get Mickey Michaels there!"  After assuring Ron that we would, I hung up & promptly called Rozane, one of the co-chairs, & said to her, "Ron's pretty upset-you've got to find Mickey Michaels & get him there."  Now, there's a reason we call Rozane "The Bounty Hunter" & she certainly earned her nickname that day.  (I'm convinced she knows where Jimmy Hoffa is & one of these days I'll get her to 'fess up, too!)  Within half an hour (if even that!) she had not only found Mickey, she had talked with him directly, confirmed he & his wife would come to the convention, & secured a promise of an additional donation of some of his memorabilia for the auction, which took place after the Awards Ceremony.  From this somewhat inauspicious start, Mickey & Barbara came into our lives.

On Convention Sunday, during the open house @ LACoFD Headquarters, I was fortunate to be able to spend several hours with Mickey while he, Dick Friend, and several of the show's technical advisors, including Bruce Mortimer, swapped stories about their days working on "E!".   During the early pre-production days, Mickey did a number of ride-alongs with the squads in service at the time, including some with Bob Beliveau, one of the first 6 LACoFD PM's licensed in California.  Recently retired as a Chief with LACoFD, Chief Beliveau is also known to "E!" fans as 'Craig Brice's' long-suffering partner 'Bob Bellingham'.  Chief Beliveau is also possessed with what can only be described as a typical FF's sense of humor.  Mickey said that while doing ride-along's to capture stock footage of wildfires, one of Chief Beliveau's favorite past-times was to wait until the camera crew was in position with camera rolling & then call in a helicopter water drop on top of them!  (After making sure he was well out of splash range, of course!)   Mickey said they'd be digging mud out of all the camera equipment for days!

 

As those of you who were there that day, or have seen the video tape or pictures from it know, Special Effects artists from Universal Studios were on hand to rig a group of junk cars to explode; various units from LACoFD, including "Engine & Squad 51" would then "respond" to extinguish the blaze.  Mickey & I spent quite a bit of time watching the folks from Universal loading all the charges, quite a lengthy process for something that literally took seconds when detonated.  After all his years in movie & television production, Mickey was able to give me a step-by-step explanation of everything these men were doing.  It truly is magic how they are able to make something so obvious (when you know where to look for it, that is) disappear completely.  After the explosion, LAPD's helicopter, which had apparently been in the vicinity, came by to see "what those crazy Counties were up to", as Mickey put it with a chuckle.

One of my clearest memories of the convention (which isn't saying much since I don't remember most of it-my nerves over having to give that speech during the Awards Ceremony saw to that, unfortunately) actually involves Barbara.  Somehow I wound up babysitting the green room and handing out the ID badges for the "E!" cast & crew members as they arrived that Saturday morning.  The badges themselves were hung on loops of elasticized silver cord; not surprising, between all the cords and badges, it didn't take long to turn into a big tangled mess.  Barbara & I were sitting on the couch in the green room chatting while I attempted to untangle them when one of our invited guests walked in (I don't remember who it was, of course).  I managed to find the correct badge, & more importantly, extricate it from the rest of the pile and jumped up to deliver it to the guest.  When I got back to couch, there was Barbara with the whole jumbled mess in her lap calmly sorting them!   

After the convention, Rozane, Tangee, & I were privileged to stay in close contact with Mickey; once or twice a week, I would pick up my phone & there he'd be, calling from whichever set or production company he happened to be at (generally, it was the one serving Krispy Kreme donuts at the time-he was nuts about those!)  Some days, usually because my "real" job got in the way, our chats would be short, but others would last upwards of an hour or so.  We talked about lots of different things-films & TV shows he had worked on, shows currently in production, my upcoming trip to LA, the latest goings-on with "Project 51" (Mickey was asked by one of the original planners to work on "Project 51" since, at the time anyway, the plans called for a faithful recreation of the "Station 51" set @ The Smithsonian & let's face it, who would possibly know more about that than Mickey, right?) ; you name it, we talked about it.  The bio Erika & Rozane have on their "E!" site for Mickey doesn't even begin to do justice to this man's fascinating background or his incredible personality.  Bet you didn't know he was a clown with "Ice Capades" at one time, did you?  Yup, though it took me a few minutes to realize that really was him under all that make-up the first time I saw a picture of him in full clown-regalia.    

On March 19, 1999, at approximately 1 pm, the phone in my office rang-it was Mickey.  Though he told me where he was calling from, I can't quite recall where he said he was-it was either Premier or Wilcox, I'm pretty sure.  We talked for well over an hour that day, mostly about the trip to LA I would be making in a little over 3 weeks (he was threatening to meet me at the Burbank Airport with a flower in his teeth!) & the Academy Awards which would be held the following Sunday.  No matter how many times I asked, & how many different ways I tried, he wouldn't tell me whom he had voted for (Mickey was also a member of the infamous "Academy" Oscar winners thank while accepting their awards).   I asked him if he was going to the Awards, since he was a member of the Academy, and he said absolutely not.  He'd gone the times he was nominated (yup, he was nominated for several Academy Awards, as well as multiple Emmy Awards), but he said he enjoyed the whole thing much more from his living room.  It wasn't as hot & the view was better!  I was so looking forward to hearing Mickey's take on the Ceremony when we talked the following week, but, as many of you know, that wasn't to be.  Rozane called the next day with the terrible news that Mickey was gone.  On the flight from San Diego to Burbank 3 weeks later, I kept thinking about Mickey and a part of me kept hoping that, somehow, he'd be there, as threatened, at the airport with a flower clenched in his teeth.

Throughout his life Mickey was an avid photographer-Barbara says that if he saw a plane or a boat anywhere, he'd have to take a picture of it.  Following his days on "E!", the same could be said about fires, fire trucks, firefighters, or any combination thereof.  In the box of pictures she gave me there were literally hundreds of pictures he had taken over the years of brushfires, structure fires, and a multitude of LACoFD & LAFD responses.  Included in the box of pictures was what I think were the pictures from the last roll of film he shot (based on the developing date).  While there were a couple pictures of Barbara, the majority of the shots were of working fires-it struck me then just how strongly the "fire bug" had bitten Mickey all those years ago when he was working on "E!".   

The pictures displayed here were taken on the set during filming of 2 episodes from seasons 2 & 3-can you guess which ones?  I especially got a chuckle out of all the pictures of Randy working with the Hurst Tool (aka The Jaws).  By the end of the sequence it seems like just about everyone on the set that day was involved in "helping" him.  During those days, there was a regular softball league at Universal Studios with most of the shows filming there fielding a team; according to Marco "We were the reigning champions on the Universal lot".  If the pictures Mickey took are any indication, it does look like they had a lot of fun, doesn't it? 

Before you get to the good stuff, there are a few thank you's that must be said.  First & foremost, to Barbara Michaels for her generosity in sharing these pictures with the entire "E!" community.  Next thanks to everyone for helping to put names with all of those '70's hairstyles!  (Feel free to drop Erika or Rozane a line if you can put a name to a face, btw!)  Thanks to Erika & Rozane for doing all the hard work to make this available to everyone, not the least of which was the hours of picture scanning by Rozane.  Finally, to the photographer extraordinaire himself, Mickey-I miss you, I love you, but I'm still mad at you for not being at the airport that day.

 Enjoy!

 Laura J. Aguiar

Rozane and I would also like to thank Barbara for being so generous and sharing these with the fans and Laura for arranging everything.  But most especially Mickey (for just being Mickey).  Here's where you can read Mickey's interview.  

If you enjoy these photos, please leave Barbara a note thanking her for sharing them.

 

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