Posted By thecircusblog on July 8, 2012
Posted By thecircusblog on July 8, 2012
I met Michael in 1963 at a Del Graham party at his home in Tarzana, Cal. Del was always throwing parties for his show biz friends although this party may have been his birthday. There were many of his television and movie celebrity friends invited. Michael along with his bodyguard, several others from the Nelson television show, along with many circus performers comprised about the hundred or so people attending.
Del had quite a large home and in the back yard he set up his flying rigging along with many other types of circus rigging, such as a trampoline, trapeze and cradle rigging etc. This is where the movie stars played. I am not being cheeky– many were serious about leaning aerial. As you may know, Del taught the Nelson brothers, Dave and Ricky the flying act. Ricky a leaper and Dave a catcher and I might add, a power house catcher. (In 1961 Dad and I worked with them in Hawaii. If I may say so…….it was a pretty fair flying act.)
In the late 1960’s Del also had his all-girl flying act. During the 1960’s there was a lot of interest in the circus business by the motion picture actors. I will never know what started it but it was a good thing for all concerned. It could have been the reason why Michael was at the party. He was very much aware of the circus and spoke and asked questions about it in a very inquisitive manner. He picked me out to do so, hence our friendship began.
Michael had some issues with his father, Charles Boyer. Before Michael could have any acquaintances with people, they must be approved by Mr. Boyer. Michael’s bodyguard was also a stool pigeon and would relay the activities of Michael. This was told to me by him after I invited Michael for dinner at our home in El Monte. I first had to go through Mr. Boyer’s interrogation–and believe me that’s what it was–before I was allowed to be Michael’s friend. No matter where Michael went or who he met, all had to be approved by his father. Michael was a great kid and to be honest with you, I felt sorry for him and I reluctantly accepted to visit with his father.
A meeting was set up one afternoon, a luncheon at the Nickodell Restaurant in Hollywood. I wanted to be on my best behavior but the more I thought about it and the purpose of this meeting it #*ty854)*g2b#@*% me off. As I walked through the doors of the restaurant I settled down when I saw Mr. Boyer at a back both seated with Michael. OK, I said to myself, treat this as if you’re in the center ring at one of the biggest shows you have ever done. Within a half hour I made a circus fan out of Mr. Charles Boyer.
Michael’s friendship with me and with my family grew to the point where he was always over for dinner. He sure liked circus chow. He said, ” Gourmet isn’t bad but this is food is wonderful.”
Michael had a beautiful little actress girlfriend that he was seeing without his father’s permission. On many occasions I covered for him when I was asked if he was seeing this girl. Mr Boyer did not approve of her. I think Mr. Boyer was worried more about his own image rather than Michael’s well being. Michael said this himself more than one time. In the spring of 1965 Dad booked several fairs and had told Michael that I would be on the road. I could tell he was upset by the news. His father was becoming more demanding and dictating his activities. He said, ” Sometimes I think live is not worth living.” His only source of freedom was to hang out with circus people.
One evening before leaving for the road I went over to his home in Brentwood to let him know I would be back in town in about ten or so weeks but I would stay in touch, and told him he could even join us for a week or more if he wished. I knew something was dreadfully wrong when I saw a 38 revolver setting on the coffee table in front of him. I knew that he had an argument with his father over his girl friend. These spats were quite frequent. I asked him what’s up with the gun, he looked up and said “there had been prowlers near here, just a little protection if needed.” I changed the subject.
“Hey Mike, lets take off and pick up your girlfriend then we will go have a bite to eat at Barneys Beanery,” one of our favorite places. It didn’t take long and off we went. That night was the last night I saw my friend. I learned of his death six weeks later while playing a fair in Utah. I never read the newspaper except to cut out show ads for their comments and photos. It was near the end of August when I happened to notice the small story concerning the death of my friend. He had committed suiside. He spoke too many times of how easy it is to pull a trigger. After all these years I write this true story about my friend. I do this in his memory.