For many, it is hard to believe it has been ten years, but on the afternoon of August 21, 2007, West Hollywood nightclub Micky’s caught on fire shortly after opening on a Tuesday afternoon.
Luckily, nobody was injured that day. Lives were, however, disrupted, as employees scrambled to find new work and the community sought out a new meeting place for nearly two years.To mark the anniversary, we spoke to Theron Hatch, who was working as a bartender when the fire broke out and to two employees–Jason Beers and Johnny Markoudakis–who worked at Micky’s at the time and still work there today to share their memories and thoughts on the fire, the club and gay West Hollywood.
THIS IS WEST HOLLYWOOD: What was your first reaction once you realized Micky’s was on fire?
THERON: Everything happened so quickly, from the moment I saw the fire, I yelled out to my co worker Enrique and then it was pure human instinct to get everyone out and fight the fire if we couldn’t.TIWH: How did you find out about the fire?
JOHNNY: I had just been sitting at home when I started getting texts from from friends saying that Micky’s was on fire. At first, I thought it was joke until coworkers called and said to turn on the news. There it was in ABC 7. My stomach dropped.
JASON: Well…..the fire happened on a Tuesday which was then (and still is) my day off. I was at the gym and had gone in around 3:30pm. Back then nobody was really using their phones at the gym to listen to music so I left my phone locked up in the car. When I got out of the gym about an hour later I had about 25 text and voicemails.
TIWH: What was the first thing you did when you learned about it?
JASON: One of the voicemails was actually from our manager Maryann, who was telling me in a calm sort of voice that yes there had been a fire, but that she didn’t want me to come down, that she needed me to go home and stay by my phone and that she would be calling me with updates. I started to do as I was instructed but then my phone began to ring off the hook with co-workers and friends who were all headed down to West Hollywood.
It was decided to meet up at Eleven Bar and we would gather there and watch as our livelihood slowly disappeared in front of our eyes. When we all got to Eleven Bar it was pretty clear right away that this was a much larger event than what we all first thought. Over the course of that afternoon, most of the staff of Mickys slowly arrived at Eleven Bar to watch as the fire department tried to put out the fire ( I remember that it took several hours, going a long time after sunset.) …We all took turns talking to the local TV news stations that had arrived to cover what we all knew now to be a very large, devastating fire. Eleven Bar…fed our whole staff dinner and even drinks as the gravity of what was happening next door started to sink in.
JOHNNY: The first thing I did was to call our General Manager, Mary Ann. She told me to come over that night and that’s how I ended up on the local news.TIWH: Micky’s was closed for nearly two years. What did you do during that time?
JOHNNY: At first I went over to work at RAGE for a month then Eleven offered me a job so I worked there for 18 months.
JASON: I told (Micky’s owner) Michael Neimeyer that I didn’t want to work anywhere else but Mickys and it was decided that I would stay on and work to help get the bar back open just as soon as we possibly could. We all began to work on different things and the project that I first worked on was getting a calendar of the Mickys guys produced and put together to try to raise money for the bartenders who were now mostly out of work. I shot most of the photos right at my place and we got a new vodka label to pay for the production of the calendar and we sold them around town. We didn’t really make much money from the project, but everyone who participated got a cut of whatever the final sales were, and most of the local businesses were more than happy to sell them for us knowing that most of our staff were now out of work.THERON: While most everyone went out and sought employment at other neighbouring establishments. I actually took the fire as a sign to go out and try something different. So, I went to Paralegal school and worked briefly as a concierge at The Four Seasons on Doheny.
TIWH: How long did it take you to realize how big of an impact the fire would have on you personally?
THERON: It didn’t take very long at all. When you work for tips, unemployment doesn’t cover much. So, the urgency to gain employment is, or was on my top priority.
JOHNNY: For me, it was immediate. Even though we didn’t know exactly how long Micky’s would be closed, I knew it would be a big hit. Financially, I had just bought a home and needed the income. But the emotional impact was even greater because of my relationships with our customers—they’re like family. So losing Micky’s for almost two years was like a giant hole in the community.
JASON: I remember looking over at one of my fellow bartenders who was in tears about 10:00pm (the night of the fire) and when I went over to console him he told me right then and there that he had NO savings and he wasn’t even sure how he was going to survive the week, let alone pay rent at the end of the month. It was at that point that I realized just how terrible this fire was going to be for some of the guys I worked with.TIWH: Would you say that those few minutes changed your life in a significant way?
JOHNNY: At that point, I realized that you can’t take anything for granted. The shit can hit the fan at any moment even if it’s not your fault. I had to learn how to plan ahead and keep savings for a rainy day and so you can say it’s made me more responsible.
THERON: Yes! Being in that close proximity to what could have been a much more disastrous event, has definitely made more aware of safety in the workplace as well as home.
TIWH: How did the West Hollywood community react to the crisis?
JOHNNY: The West Hollywood community was devastated. People didn’t really know where to go or had to agree on a new place to meet friends. For nearly six months it’s all people talked about. Everyone thought it would reopen quickly but we on staff knew it would be longer. Mickys has a special place in this community. It’s the place where you start and to end up. Unlike other places, the core of our clientele live or work in West Hollywood so we have a special place in this City.
THERON: The community came out with open arms. I remember many of my co workers obtaining im- mediate employment from many of the communities other businesses.
JASON: The City and everyone was doing what they could to help us but it just seemed like things were taking forever to get the smallest things done. Everyone in West Hollywood was very supportive and seemed like they were just as eager for us to re-open as we were. I received many notes and emails from longtime customers that felt that Mickys was “their place” and just couldn’t wait for us to open our doors again.TIWH: Were there businesses or people that stepped in to help out Micky’s employees in a way we might not know about or remember?
JOHNNY: Mary Ann worked with many of the nearby clubs to help us find work. Many of us ended up at Eleven—now Flaming Saddles—and others went to The Abbey or Faultline.
Even Faces in Sacramento invited our staff to come up to work one weekend and paid our expenses. It was such a success that they kept bringing me back every weekend. That’s a testament to how connected our LGBT community is. People hundreds of miles away reached out to help when we were in need.TIWH: How has Micky’s changed since the fire in the last ten years?
THERON: I don’t feel Micky’ has changed all that much, aside from the face lift. When the bar reopened two years later, I felt like it was received with mixed reviews from the regulars, but it didn’t take too much time to get it’s groove back.
JOHNNY: Micky’s is totally different. We went from wood paneling to sleek steel and lighting. We had been a local bar and now it’s a hotspot—more of a nightclub than before—but several of us on staff are still around a decade later!
JASON: There have been lots of changes in the ten years that we’ve been open. We now take credit cards, something we never did at the old Mickys, that has been a huge change in and of itself.
It seems like our crowd is in a constant state of flux…..always getting younger. It seems like now the crowds like to come out much later than they used to. Even on the nights when we do not have after hours the crowd still likes to get to the bar around 11:30-midnite. This is something that I have noticed is happening a little bit with each passing year, and if we eventually start staying open till 4am as has been talked about I think you are going to see the crowds start getting to the bar even later still.
Another big change that unfortunately happened a few years ago is that our long time Operations Manager Dennis Cross retired and our longtime General Manager Maryann McClintok passed away rather unexpectedly.
I talk to Dennis every once in awhile and he and his partner John are enjoying his retirement up on a farm in Oregon.
Losing Maryann however was a real shock to those of us who had been at the bar along time. She had not been in good health for several months after taking a fall, but I when word came down that she had passed away, well that was blow for all of us in the Mickys family. Maryann was the person who hired me (as a security guard) way back on Superbowl Sunday, 1994, I always remember that date, cause I’m from the Buffalo NY area and that was the last time Buffalo ever played in the Superbowl! She took a chance on me and was really responsible for giving me my start out here in LA. I miss her a lot, even to this day.
…(Current managers) Aaron Bradshaw, Adam Eramian and Jefferson Hitchcock all go above and beyond the scope of their duties to work with our staff and customers to make sure that Mickys is constantly working towards the future and ensuring that we will be able to handle whatever the changing demographic of West Hollywood has to offer. It may sound like a cliché but the group of guys that I work with at Mickys really are like a second family.TIWH: How has West Hollywood changed in the last decade?
THERON: More straight women everywhere!
JOHNNY: Since 2008, the LGBT community has been more accepted in society and we are seeing more straight people coming into our clubs at night. Our community is welcoming more and different people and we are more accepting than before.
TIWH: Thank you for sharing your memories and thoughts!
Do you remember the Micky’s fire ten years ago? Personally, I was also at the gym and saw the smoke as I left Equinox. Like Jason and others, I met friends at Eleven since Santa Monica was closed between Larrabee and San Vicente, then later ended up somehow at Beige at the Falcon nightclub on Sunset… What are your stories or memories? Share them in the comments below!
PHOTO GALLERY OF MICKYS BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER FIRE.