"He just makes everyone happy," says Jeff Rudd, owner of the Treasure Trove, an open-air bar and predominantly local hangout on AlA two blocks south of Las Olas Boulevard. "He's here every day, like a fixture on the beach." Rudd estimates that he's poured Mickey well over 1,000 beers in the past decade (all gratis) and says that Mickey will be welcome as long as he owns the bar.

"Mickey is the first on the scene and the last to get mean," says Ryan Bloom, the night manager at the Beach Package Store, the liquor store at the corner of Las Olas and A1A.

Chrys, the bartender at the Pirate Republic Bar, says at least three people ask about him every night. "Mickey is everybody's favorite Fort Lauderdale character," she says. "A lot of people think he's homeless or some crackhead, but you know he's not, right?"

A couple poses for their picture. Mickey's drawings dot the walls of many beachfront bars.
Photo by Michael McElroy
A couple poses for their picture. Mickey's drawings dot the walls of many beachfront bars.
Mickey with his wife, Cathy, in their Victoria Park neighborhood.
Photo by Michael McElroy
Mickey with his wife, Cathy, in their Victoria Park neighborhood.

"That guy is a landmark around here," says Blake Wareham, a bouncer at quintessential pool hall/pinball mecca Dirty Blonde's.

"When he's not at the beach, it's like the beach is missing something," says Smoky, who for six years has sold hats he makes out of palm fronds in the alley next to Dirty Blonde's. "No matter what mood you're in, when you see Mickey, he puts you in good spirits."

Marie Correa, a promoter and hostess at nightclub Exit 66, says it's hard to imagine a day at work without seeing Mickey walk by, his cigar box, papers, and beer in tow. "Even if you think you're not going to see him one day, he pops up right around the corner."

As Dave Cassel, a regular at the Elbo Room, the area's oldest watering hole, says, "It's like he walks from bar to bar all day, sprinkling his good charm on all the drunk people. He's like the patron saint of Fort Liquordale."

But not everybody adores Mickey. Some bouncers tire of his drunken antics and hearing the same bad jokes day after day. The nighttime door guys at the Elbo Room sometimes won't let him in. One bouncer calls him "an annoying crackhead." A doorman at the swanky Ritz-Carlton says of Mickey, "We'd certainly like to discourage that element here."

At the Treasure Trove one night, Mickey approaches a blond and asks if she's a mail-order bride from Russia.

"I've been to Russia," he says, "when it was still behind the Iron Curtain." He brags about having fronted one of the first punk bands in the United States: "Before the Sex Pistols, before the Ramones, before any of them," he said. He said he'd played at CBGB in New York, that he'd been on some big TV show in the early '80s. That he graduated from a great art school in Boston and even taught for a little while at Harvard.

They're stories the regulars have all heard. Few of them probably thought there was a chance the stories were true.


Each day, Mickey wakes up around 9:30 a.m. and eats either eggs or lox for breakfast. Around noon, he packs his cigar box and his papers into a canvas satchel and bikes to the beach.

One of his first stops is the liquor store, where he buys a bottle of Beck's and makes a phone call to his wife. If his cigar box is beer-drenched or beaten up, the guys at the liquor store give him a new one. As a matter of fact, Mickey gets all his materials from people in the neighborhood. Chrys, the bartender at the Pirate Bar, buys his crayons. "Every time, he opens the box like a little kid opening a Christmas present," she says. Jeff Rudd, owner of the Trove, gave him a new bicycle for Christmas last year. He says it goes back to the tradition of saloonkeepers taking care of their drunks.

On the hunt for his next caricature subject, Mickey ducks in and out of every bar and drops by every bit of outdoor seating. "When one group wants one, everybody wants one," he says. "And when nobody wants one, it's the same way."

He works his way from the Treasure Trove up the beach to the Elbo Room, to the people drinking outside touristy restaurant Spazio's, to the alley in front of the Pirate Republic, to the tables in front of Dirty Blonde's, to the patio of Exit 66, to the gallery in the Beach Place shopping center — where people call down to him from the third floor, "Hey Mickey!" He waves back, hops on his bike, and pedals away — to people sipping cocktails out in front of Cantina, to the upscale, Mediterranean-styled Casablanca Café, up to Sunrise Boulevard, to McSorley's Irish Pub and the Caribbean-flavored Parrot Bar, then all the way back again.

He draws a group of teachers having frozen margaritas outside Rock Bar. Then four college students in bathing suits and backward hats. Then a biker and his wife. An older couple from Plantation. A group of port workers sharing beers after a long shift. A lonely-looking man with a bartender. A personal trainer and a waitress showing some out-of-town friends a good time by the water. Hour after hour, day after day, he tells the same jokes and the same stories about his past.

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My Voice Nation Help
18 comments
srawapril
srawapril

We just received an honorary Mickey Clean drawing Friday night on our weekend get away to Fort Lauderdale. His presence is priceless and unforgettable. We tip him a $20.00 but would have given a $50.00 if we had not already spent it. The entertainment was worth every cent. And, I'm framing the pic!:) If you ever get this opportunity, don't judge the book by the cover- or, you'll miss an amazing experience!

April & Ajay

Susanne Duell
Susanne Duell

A few years ago when I visited my daughter in Fort Lauderdale we were approached by this Zen like character....outside the kava bar he just rode up on his biycicle with his box of colorful Crayolas and stack of wrinkled plain white paper and asked if we would like a characture drawing....he did an outstanding job of drawing us! I have never forgotten that remarkable meeting*;-)

Geordie McNeil
Geordie McNeil

Thanks for the Psychology 101 lesson asdf jkl; but you're way off the mark. Most people are cool. In fact you're probably a pretty nice person yourself. But if you were aware of the history I have with this moron you'd understand. Despite the comments on this page, most people I know feel the same way about him.

Patty
Patty

This is a beautiful story about one of South Florida's beautiful souls. If you love Mickey like the rest of us, join the Facebook group dedicated to him.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/...

Stuart
Stuart

Good reporting but overdone writing. Too many adjectives. Trying too hard. Where's the editor?

asdf jkl;
asdf jkl;

People like Geordie are what's wrong with Fort Lauderdale. Most of the people in these bars are laid back and cool with everyone else. Most people love Mickey. But then there total dicks like this POS who just like bring everyone else down. Sorry your wife left or your parents didn't love you or your boss is an ass. Sorry your life sucks dude, try not taking it out on everyone else.

Geordie McNeil
Geordie McNeil

I sure did. Why not? It was your sandbox. That wet spot you were rolling around in wasn't from the rain.

Geordie McNeil
Geordie McNeil

Sure did--why not? It was yours. That wet spot you were rolling around in wasn't from the rain.

Franklyn
Franklyn

Geordie, I bet you pissed in the sandbox a lot as a kid.

Geordie McNeil
Geordie McNeil

The door guys at the Elbo are absolutely right. This moron is an annoying crackhead. He intrudes on people's privacy, interrupting conversations to draw doodles I could have created in kindergarten. His "caricatures" look nothing like the people he's drawing. He once said "If I was a good caricature artist I'd kill myself". I offered to pay for the schooling.

Dave
Dave

I've been hanging out at these bars for the last 8 years and I've always wondered if anyone else saw the magic in this man. He is sweet and funny in a place where you expect people to be cold and mean. I've always wondered if his stories were true. Thank you so much for this great article and all the research! I will never forget this story.

Chrys
Chrys

Great article, I amhappy I could contribute somehow.Love Mickey, just told him last week that all the caricatures up my walls will make me money someday...Chrys - Pirate Bar

AC
AC

Anyone who has met Mickey knows how wonderful he is. Anytime I see him I buy him a beer and ask him to tell me a story. He doesn't have to get bigger. He's great where he is. I hope he sticks around doing exactly what he has been for 40 more years. I have introduced more people to Mickey than I can count and they all love him too.

Jon
Jon

Amazing article! I can't believe Mickey Clean is still alive and doing crayon drawings in South Florida! This is literally the first time my Google Alert on Mickey Clean has gone off for a year!

James Ibber
James Ibber

Beautiful story. He's a very interesting man, maybe the saddest happy guy I've ever met.

Mig
Mig

Mickey was supposed to play a Sailboat Bend block party 2 years ago, and apparently forgot (after multiple reminders). If he wants to make make it big again, I suggest trying to remember dates of gigs. We still love him anyway.

Great article. A lot of stuff I didn't know about him.

 
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