“I bet you get a lot of crap about your name!” mused the car rental clerk while typing my driver’s license number.
When she eventually looked into my face, my countenance did not resemble my smiling automotive mugshot, but the eerie visage of a movie character who begin haunting Jamie Lee Curtis in a 1978, and subsequently me in real life encounters as this for the last 40 years. I have special responses for those who check my ID in travel.
There are ironies about my name. It’s not just that Michael Myers the fictional slasher killer is spelled exactly the same as mine — with one E — instead of the usual misspelling of MEYers. There’s confusion with the other guy. The human with the mini-me nomenclature — Mike Myers of “Saturday Night Live,” “Austin Powers,” and the rest. In many ways this reality has been nightmarish since we both arrived at The Second City theater in Chicago in the late ‘80s, are both SAG-AFTRA members, and have mutual acquaintances. Like, lukewarm introductions, “I thought you were Mike Myers, the actor.”
“I am Mike Myers the actor,” I explain.
“I mean, you know.”
Cue the chain saw.
Whether instigated by Austin Powers, The Slasher Killer, or my own insecurities, being me hasn’t been easy. I’ve often wondered about my identity. I cope by creating my own fun. The car rental clerk’s face responding to my deadpan? I howled. Muhahahahaaa! It hertz, don’t it!
Each October when there’s a Michael Myers “Halloween” bingefest or, better yet, another sequel (including this year, a Jamie Lee reprisal) , I’m tempted to make guest appearances and bag scads of candy from children fleeing my house. Yet, my skewed sense of self has created other opportunities. Like promotional videos and teaching about conflict management.
For those unfamiliar with my actual self, I‘ve had an eclectic professional career, noted by any number of assorted online profiles and resumes I’ve had to complete. “Actor” is among them. Look me up on IMDB. But don’t scour the films search for my scenes. If you blink, you miss me. The quarterly residual checks that arrive from my union don’t total the cost of the stamps. I’m sure there a Type-A accountant at Disney still trying to reconcile the one-cent check I have from 1999. It’s secure. I use it for show and tell. Call it “The Revenge of Michael Myers.”
With my name, I’ve had to laugh or I’d hurt somebody. Likely, me.
CHECK IT OUT: The Conflict Within: At-Risk Teaching with Michael Myers
Mike and Michael have been fairly interchangeable depending on the assignment and my stage of life. When I joined the Screen Actors Guild a decade before Mr. Powers came from Canada, there were a slew of Michaels in SAG. Alas, I reluctantly reverted to the three-named appellation given at birth though the middle name had its own baggage. (Another story.)
I settled on the three names, meandering through stage and film work at the same time the horror movie began franchising with sequels. The series has been beneficial. Each sequel afforded me a new marketing campaign: “The Return of Michael Myers,” enabled me to reconnect with casting directors and agents. I got chuckles, some auditions but no work. Thus, my different subtext uttering “The Curse of Michael Myers.” On the other hand, how many actors or teachers enter a room with their own theme song?
I don’t recall seeing one of the “Halloween” films, though I have a niece who vividly recalls me taking her and her sibs in their single digit years. Maybe the mental-me blocked it out. My siblings’ children hipped me to the fact that my name wreaks havoc. My Floridian brother’s kids began squealing when they discovered their uncle is Michael Myers. Like, really. scared of me. As they have aged, their fear has turned to torment. They take great joy in sending Michael Myers trinkets, memes and videos. The GIFs that keep on GIFing. Welcome to the dark humor side. I’m not certain if it’s the result of the gene pool, or if #TheFloridianBro threatened to have me come down there if they misbehaved. Vote now.
CHECK IT OUT: I Gotta Be We — The Michael Morphing Video
Truth, the nieces and nephs relish being participants in a family full of reel life malcontents. The height was the two years my younger sister’s son lived with #TheMrs and me. His name was Jason. Took a long time for me to realize why people refused to visit the home of Michael Myers and Jason. We lived on Horizon, not Elm Street. It’s not like the 13th fell on Friday when he lived with us. Okay, twice. Go figure.
The Terror of Michael Myers
Realizing that “Michael Myers” causes people to gasp — trust me, I hear it in audiences — has merit, such as when I’ve been an artist-in-residence in high school classrooms. Let’s just say that I’ve learned to use “Michael Myers” as a class management tool, even after CPS put in the metal detectors.
Alfred Hitchcock, the master suspense film director, said:
For me, the bang is the response to “Michael Myers” — either my response to their response, or their response to encountering the other me: Jamie Lee’s nemesis in the flesh…or latex as the face may be.
Years ago I obtained a Michael Myers movie mask. I don’t know if I bought it, or it was a gift. Nevertheless, it’s been a gift of sanity. Maybe because we grew up watching TV hosts in ghoulish makeup make horrid puns and double-entendre quips between scenes of classic “scary” movies, or maybe because #MyBrotherTheCop would show me crime scene photos or tell me stories police stories as if he were doing standup, but I gravitate toward what’s called “dark humor.”
(Horror hosts and #OfficerFriendly aside, my wife knows, “You’re a sick man.”)
As such, I derive glee from watching the responses of people encounter The Masked Michael Myers. I’m anticipating the bang — the punch line — even when the mask is my Buster Keaton countenance.
Special Guest Star…
Masked Michael is apt to show up anywhere, usually around my house, though he has often been seen in familiar haunts where friends and family congregate…say, #TheDghtrUnit’s college campus, our church youth group. He event walked the village streets Trick or Treating one yea , and, recently, auditioned to be himself in a film. Let’s just say when Michael Myers auditions, casting directors scream.
It’s Michael Myers Time!
Masked Michael and I both know that comedy is about timing, meaning there are times when Masked Michael wants to make an appearance he thinks is funny, but I Michael must keep him locked up. Examples: Masked Michael has stopped handing out Trick-or-Treat candy at our house (until the high school kids come); going back to the church for Trunk-or-Treat (there’s only one Holy Ghost on that campus). Though tempted, I kept him locked up when we were visiting Moody Bible Institute lately, even though the school name perfectly described our feelings at the time.
Notably, Michael doesn’t travel on October 31.
Halloween with Michael Myers…Really
It’s against my rules to travel on Halloween because, like the rental car lady, airline security cannot pass up a chance to tell me — and each other — that I’m getting on a plane.
Actual scene before at Midway:
Laquisha, look! It’s Mikka My’s. See!
MALE TSA walks two lanes over to show Mikka My’s I.D to LAQUISHA
CUT TO: Sardine-packed security line behind MIKKA MY’S ready to riot and The Monster toward the tar and feather pit. Except it’s on the other side of SEC’URITY.
Had they only known Masked Michael was in my carry-on. The rage on my face was Michael purely mine.
Another Halloween at O’Hare. It was a dark and quiet night. I had left Michael in the car before the trip. Having returned, Michael wanted out. Between the parking stall and the payment booth, Michael emerged. His white, surgical gloved-fingers handed over his ticket and credit card. The #FemaleAttendant handed back the card and receipt. Michael leaned out the window to thank her, in mime. Michael doesn’t speak. The fluorescent booth bulb glowed off his pasty face. The whites of his eyes and bags of his brown skin protruded through the vision opening until making eye-to-eye with the attendant.
Her shriek woke up dogs. She spoke in tongues. Who anticipated such an attractive woman knew so many synonyms for fecal matter and fornication? She called Jesus, who help her laugh through tears to assure me, and #BoothAttendant three booths down, she was all right. Michael drove on.
Several blocks later, waiting for a red light to change, Michael casually turned his head toward a car to his left. The passenger’s scream was muffled by the windows. I realized, Michael was still driving. After making the turn, Michael pulled to a side street. I wrestled off his mask and began to pray: Lord, please let me not get pulled over in this suburb and have to explain why a black man is driving around in a Halloween mask on side streets.
Michael doesn’t drive anymore.
The Discipline of Michael Myers
#TheDghtrUnit doesn’t say Michael caused some of her high school friends to stop coming around, but I suspect. It might have to do with the her party only for her freshman BFFs. Upperclassmen were off limits. It was an outdoor party, but everyone who was supposed to be there had to come through the house to the back yard. This was clearly understood. #TheMrs and I left the kids alone, letting #TheDghtrUnit and guests police themselves. Therefore, when the first profane lyric blared from the speakers, the child who hooked up the playlist apologized and changed the selections. A cool, no-parent party.
Around dusk, cars began showing up and parking on the street. The backyard was getting fuller, but no one came through the house. None of her friends drove yet. This meant one thing: Upperclassmen. Boys. That meant one other thing: bootlegging.
Halloween XI: The Boos of Michael Myers
Michael put on his full regalia: overalls, black leather coat, latex gloves. He carried a flashlight as he exited the house, walking along the perimeter of the woods. Stealth Michael occasionally popped out from behind a bush, a tree and a trampoline. Girls shrieked. Michael smiled — inside. #TheDghtrUnit killed the joke.
“It’s just my dad,” Head shake: “Dad.”
Freshmen have no wit.
Michael vanished into the woods. The flashlight pointing upward toward his face, his coat camouflaged. Michael’s head seemed disembodied. Floating. From distance, he heard, “What’s that?!” His cue to move. He turned off the flashlight and heard, “Up there!” The kids at the fire pit by the deck — the BOYS — pointed toward where Michael had been. The grassy. I turned the flashlight on Michael’s face in the new location.
Michael began walking toward the house, downhill. Some of the kids — the BOYS — moved toward him for a closer look. Michael came closer. The BOYS stepped back. Michael closed to see the BOYS throw things toward him. Most missed. The BOYS — shouted. Eventually, one projectile hit him, or so thought the BOYS. Michael collapsed, rolled downhill and stopped, facing the house, the flashlight glaring on his guillotined head. No one came to check on the body and after a minute, his light went out.
As the kids tried determining what had happened, #TheDghtrUnit opted to play along, mostly because she was annoyed: 1) That Michael had shown up; 2) That there were people at the party who should not have been there. She knew that had THEY not been there Michael would have stayed inside. Maybe.
Let’s Hear it From The Boys
In the darkness, Michael and I walked by behind the bushes and trampoline to the front yard. This was not a front-yard party, yet the BOYS had begun congregating there. Right or wrong, fair or not, BOYS hanging out in front of a house can be trouble. It just be’s that way some times. This, Michael and I knew from experience. Plus, since we both knew the family could be legally liable for under age drinking according to the Village’s Social Host law, the imbibers had to be ferreted.
Michael joined the group standing by the tree adjacent to a neighbors yard. They were huddled, close enough to pass a bottle, but not doing so. They welcomed Michael, told him how cool he was, and made other small-talk banter, hoping to engage him in conversation. Michael doesn’t speak. He does, however, sniff. After a few fist bumps, and whiffs of mixed stale ale, Michael and I returned to the house to put him away. En route, we informed #TheDghtrUnit: “Somebody’s got booze here.”
“I’ll take care of it,” she said, quietly relieved Michael and I intervened. Soon after, she moved the party to the park down the street.
Daylight brought discoveries. Some of the things some people did allowed #TheDghtrUnit to become more savvy about associations. Our neighbor returned a partially drunk bottle of Jack Daniel’s left behind a tree on his property.
“At least you could have invited us,” he said after I explained how Michael had distilled the drinkers.
I discovered the projectiles heaved at Michael: Marshmallows.
#TheDghtrUnit had only one other party until graduation, though she had lots of social gatherings. She’s never said she didn’t have parties because Michael showed up, and so he has appeared at some of her social gatherings, usually those involving #TheTwins.
#TheTwins’ are #TheDghtrUnit’s tough but sensitive girlfriends since junior high. Their animated responses prick encountering Michael are too tempting to leave unteased. They prick the darkness of my funny bone.
The #TheTwins visit, Michael’s apt to sit behind them in the darkness of the kitchen while they watch TV in the den; appear looking in the window from the deck as they dined; stand on the landing by the coat rack as they arrive or prepare to exit. Any more , #TheDghtrUnit takes #TheTwins & Co. to the basement where it’s easier to hear me coming. Ironically, where they hang out is not far from where Michael hangs his head.
Michael: By Any Other Name
People often ask which name I prefer. “Is it Mike or Michael?”
It’s a simple, yet complex answer. Michael is the professional me, and yet me. Mike is the me me with professional me stalking. Mike re-emerged after I became involved in ministry. Our pastor at the time preferred Mike. So, Mike returned. Sorta like Abram became Abraham; Jacob became Israel; Cephas became Peter. And then came Saul. In short, Mike and Michael became interchangeable, mostly because I recognized my identity was not in a byline or screen credit, but a simple statement by Saul in a letter he wrote as Paul:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (Read For context.)
Our friends Pam and Kurt have been instrumental in allowing me to accept my dual identity that’s not such a secret. Pam, who does a lot of the graphics for our ministry work, frequently illustrates my challenges with MPS — Multiple Personality Syndrome — by creating unique gifts featuring both Michael and Mike Myers for my schizophrenic art collection. Pam’s art, as all art should, helps me be at peace with myself. (Or it that, piece?) As a going away present when my church ministry ended, our friend Garry Hall edited a highlight reel of where Don Pardo introduced ME! It was a healing moment bring all of my personas together.
Thank you for indulging this journey of identity, all designed to answer he question of the woman at the rental agency: it’s easier to take a lot of crap about your name when your identity is in Him instead of stuff. So, Mike or Michael? I’m fine either. I’ve been called worse. As for now, with Oct. 31 passing, I have to get prepared for my next assignment. Can you imagine Michael Myers as Santa? Ho-Ho-muhahaaaa!
Before I go, I have one other thing to get off my chest: If #TollBoothLady, and #DrinkingBoys, #TheTwins and even #TheDghtrUnit will vouch for my character, why does Jamie Lee keep blocking my calls?