Celebrating Mike Miles: Stories from 52 years at the Paramount Theatre
After 52 years, technical director of our lead stage crew at the Paramount Theatre, Mike Miles, is turning in his backstage pass for retirement. Mike is the definition of hard work and dedication, and his contributions will leave an indelible mark on the people's theatre and all who step through the door. Read the full Q&A below and join us in honoring Mike!
"Mike Miles is one of the most incredible people I have ever had the honor to work with. He has stewarded the Paramount Theatre stage for 52 years. He has dedicated his life to the arts, bringing together remarkable artists and patrons to this community's benefit. He has never made things about himself - that's something the best of leaders are about. In fact, the Paramount crew reflects his dedication and strong values. That saying "the boat that carries us needs no sail" - well, Mike's been our boat! A remarkable captain and one who we will miss dearly and someone who inspires us to carry on with passion here at the historic Paramount Theatre!"—STG's Executive Director, Josh LaBelle.
Q: Can you share your journey on how you ended up working at the Paramount?
In 1970, while in high school, I bought tickets to see Dave Mason, and the show was canceled. To get my refund, I was directed to the Paramount offices. The management team was in the office, and they straight up asked me if I would be interested in working for them. Back then, the Paramount management team was all young people and the nature of the load-in/load-out was grueling. I think what first attracted them to hiring me was my 6'8" stature.
Oftentimes, we worked load-in, ushered or worked security, and then did the load-out and janitorial duties. in the 70's, working 60-90 hours a week was common. As it became apparent that I was able to organize and run a crew backstage, I became part of the team. I even earned the ironic nickname "Tiny". There were many long hours at the theatre, but the music I witnessed made every minute worth it. Plus, being at STG has introduced me to EVERY form of entertainment imaginable!
Q: What is something you learned during your time at STG that you will take away for the rest of your life?
52 years is a long reflection to pinpoint just one thing. I went from high school to Paramount University. When I started working at the Paramount, it was run by Pine Street Limited. There were no cell phones or computer. All contact was by phone, fax, or snail mail. That said, I've made lasting friendships from working alongside union brothers through thick and thin. I've also made amazing connections with industry folks from different departments.
As technology grew and after many regime changes, cosmetic cleanings and one modest remodel before the Star Series in the 80s (including Red Skelton), Seattle Landmark Association was born. SLA was the precursor to STG. To be a part of the team that Ida Cole pulled together and to witness the Paramount Theatre get restored to be the gem of Seattle made me even prouder to work for STG. As the Paramount grew to be the second busiest venue in the country, I learned the importance of staying organized and ahead of the game. I will take that with me for the rest of my life.
Q: Regarding the endless amount of hard work that you have contributed to STG, which achievement or project are you most proud of and why?
We were getting the dimensions for the sets before the new Phantom of the Opera came. The set included opera boxes that were too long for the elevator and too wide for the ramp. We were stymied. Then, one day I came up with a solution in a dream, and I presented it to the production crew. I had a hole cut at truck dock height, built a platform, and lowered the opera boxes to the stage. It worked perfectly and is something we still use today. Mounting Broadway shows to get ready for performances is also something I will always be proud of. When Young Frankenstein came to the theatre, we had to cut traps in the stage floor. Being able to collaborate with productions on behalf of STG and adapt the theatre to the production's needs solidified the pride I've always had working at the theatre. I've always enjoyed representing the theatre in the backstage area. I like having the ability to make shows feel welcome, so they want to come back.
Q: What ignited or started your passion for working in an arts and entertainment non-profit (STG)?
The transition to working for a non-profit such as STG was very easy for me. It provided me with the opportunity to work with like-minded people and continue to share my expertise. I also really appreciated that STG has a variety of performances, there's a different show every day. If something (anything) was happening at the Paramount, that's where you would find me.
When I started at the Paramount, the goal was to grow the organization's income in order to develop programming and support everything that went into it. As the years passed, it became clear that the historic Paramount would be a Seattle landmark. It made sense to brand it as the people's theatre, because that's what it literally became. The focus that STG's puts into all communities with its diverse programming and outreach is something that really kept me here.
Q: What has been the most rewarding part about working at the Paramount Theatre?
I met my wife, Debbie, while working at the Paramount. She was the assistant theatre manager in charge of ticketing, and we flirted on aisle 2. I asked her out and our first date was October 6, 1977 to be exact. We went to see Junior Cadillac at the Camelot. When we got married on August 20, 1983, the theatre was the backdrop for our reception. Fast forward to 2017 and our daughter also married in this building I often call home.
When my career began, I was the first one in and the last to leave, which continued for probably 40 years. I sacrificed a lot of family time because of the requirements my job had. Now, I remind my crew of the importance of family life, as the job can be all-consuming. That said, it's been rewarding to have made a difference for the Paramount and to receive kudos for a job well done.
Q: What are you looking forward to most in the upcoming years?
Drawing on 52 years of memories and developing my contacts in the industry, I'm considering collaborating to write a book about my experiences. Of course, I love the thought of continuing to attend shows at the Paramount Theatre, along with the Neptune and Moore. I also envision many relaxing months in San Felipe and spending time with my family.
Q: What are some of your favorite shows that you have worked at the Paramount Theatre?
There are too many to list. A few highlights include Warren Zevon, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, the Eagles, Bob Dylan, and Prince. In the early days, the excitement of seeing up-and-coming acts, or staples like Stevie Wonder, made my work extra memorable. I ran a crew that was able to beat the odds and complete a load-out in record time, even with a handicap like our ramp. Being able to watch from the wings and see the artistry up close, sweat and all, are memories I will never forget. I remember working the show for Red Skelton, and when he came to the theatre, he told the audience "They have a guy backstage who is big enough to open his own state." I also will never forget when Bob Dylan nodded at me for guiding him and his manager to the theatre when they got lost.
Another memorable show moment I recall is when Lynyrd Skynyrd played the theatre— and in those days the band was paid in cash. The next day, the band met up with Charlie Daniels to play a charity softball game on their way to Saint Louis. When Charlie Daniels showed up to the theatre, Lynyrd Skynyrd's band manager had left the briefcase with the $15,000 in cash on Charlie Daniels's bus. I was flown to the gig to deliver the cash. Times were very different back then. My time at STG has been filled with shows that are arena quality. I had the best seat in the house.