Tuesday, November 15, 2011

About Michaelangelo Price
Mike Price is a long-time stand up comedian, newspaper columnist, talk show host, screenwriter, disk jockey, racehorse exercise rider, poker dealer, and Vegas pit supervisor. His book, "If You Can't Keep A Job, Become A Writer," should have been written by now.  - Mike's autobiographical quote.

Mike Price
Photo by Wayne Williams
My friend Mike Price died yesterday at the young age of 80.  To some that is a long life but Price was just getting started. 
I remember the moment I met Mike Price. My friend Marsha Posner Williams introduced us during the late 70's in Las Vegas at the tennis court of the Hilton International hotel. I was the opening act for the Osmonds that summer, Marsha brought her friend Mike to see the show. 
Marsha and Mike were already long time friends by then. Marsha was Mike's greatest supporter, friend, fan, and perhaps the only woman to remain so till the end of his life. 
Mike was an orphan who grew up quick and tough.  He knew all the street and carny cons but preferred to make his living with a joke and a laugh. I'm not sure how many times Mike was married, I lost count some where around the fourth wife.   He never knew his real family, Marsha was his *only* family. Before getting the job on SOAP and working her way up to "Emmy Award winning producer",  Marsha was the personal secretary for Price.  She could type as fast as he could talk even correcting the jokes as he dictated them. Till his death Marsha continued to correct Mike's mistakes and was always there for him with laughter and support.
Mike helped me develop my Darwin the Monkey act. I remember making some moves backstage at Harrah's with Darwin, showing Mike this new puppet.  Mike laughed with the high pitched whiskey cackle of a guy who has seen and heard it all and said, "That's it... that is it. That's funny." And he was right, Darwin was born at that moment attitude and all. Mike knew funny and would tell you if it was or wasn't with equal weight and observation. 
Mike was a great writer and great student of comedy. He loved to teach it, analyse it, write it and glamorize the best of it. His life was a divine comedy itself.  When people asked him what  television shows he had written for he never got past his Rocky and Bulwinkle credit. For my generation and anyone who still knows that show, it was one of the hippest comedies of its day.  To write for that show gave any writer an awesome pedigree.
Mike lived in a one bedroom apartment in the back of a bar called Chez Jay in Santa Monica before he moved to Reno.  There was only one chair in the living room servicing a small desk with a typewriter. He said he didn't want meetings to go on for very long so there was no place for anyone else to sit down.  Outside his front door, scrawled in the sidewalk when  the concrete was wet...  the phrase, "Life is like an unfinished......". It was Mike's handwriting and his credo.
Before computers and track fed paper printers, Price would type on telegraph paper fed through his IBM Selectric. This continuous roll of paper let him type and write without the need to replace a page. He said to me once that he should get paid by the inch. 
His last show was at a Reno Comedy club around his birthday in July of this year. He was still working on his act in search of the perfect line with the perfect timing.
He joked to Marsha a few years ago that after he died he wanted to be cremated. Then he wanted his ashes made into a Snow Globe. A few days later I designed this "Memorial Snow Globe" for Mike.  He liked it and laughed... that was Mike's greatest compliment.
Rest in Peace my friend. 
As you were,
Jay

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jaaay,

Great writeup, thanks for laughing with him, and us.

We will all miss him dearly.

Wayne

Roomie said...

R,
We are sorry for the loss of your friend, Mike Price...I am sure that his respect and love for you was equalled only by yours for him....loved the idea of the "snow globe"....perhaps that's what you can do for me when my time arrives..(not yet)...and just put "Roomie" on the bottom....
Carry on,
TB&tb

BarryF said...

Great piece, Jay. I had heard of Mike and never met him.

Anonymous said...

I took a comedy writing course from Mike in the 1980's.
Great experience. I wish IMDB had more about his career. I think he deserves it.

Elgin Alway said...

Hey man. Mike was both a teacher and a friend to me. I miss that angry old guy. We used to sit for hoursat his place talking comedy and friendship. Damn I miss him.