I’m not sure if you’d call this a “celebrity” encounter. It was probably more like a tabloid encounter, or normal-schmoe-who-rose-to-infamy-under-bizarre-circumstances encounter.
For those whose minds aren’t immediately tweaked by the name Michael Fay, let me give you a gentle nudge: in 1994, 18-year-old Fay became one of the few Americans ever sentenced to caning by a Singapore court for alleged acts of vandalism he committed while living with his mother in the strict Eastern country. After an international outcry, the president of Singapore lessened Fay’s punishment from six hard smacks across the naked buttocks with a long white stick to four. President Clinton actually made a plea on the troubled teen’s behalf, which is interesting because Michael Fay doesn’t have breasts.
On May 5, 1994, Fay got what was coming to him (he later said the caning caused only minimal bleeding on his fleshy rear). That June, Mike was released from prison and returned to the U.S. to live with his father. Just a sliver of history in terms of America on the whole, but the frenzy of media attention has kept the imprint of Michael Fay impossibly fresh in my mind. I don’t even have to consult Google image search to tell you he looked sorta like Joey from New Kids On The Block (except mongolodier).
The official Fay timeline post-caning is sketchy at best, but I can tell you in 1995 Mike was residing in the greater Orlando area. I know this because that summer I visited Universal Studios for maybe the second time in my life and Michael Fay was my tram operator on Kongfrontation, the King Kong ride. I think I had heard rumors to the effect he was livin’ in my hood, but I was still shocked into silence when I entered the ride, looked up, and saw Mr. Singapore Cane Victim with his short curly ‘do and semi-crazed eyes. His name tag said Michael, which was all the confirmation I needed.
I nudged my pal Jim Raymond and tried not to be too obvious pointing at the guy. Jim’s jaw dropped. This lead to a strange Mexican standoff. Everyone on that tram probably recognized Michael Fay in an instant, and Michael Fay had to know damn well what kind of potential abuse he would be subjecting himself to working at one of the country’s most popular theme parks. He could see the morbid curiosity in our eyes as plainly as we could see the grit and determination not to crack in his.
Mike did a passable job navigating our fake Roosevelt Island tram through the glorious monkey-based wreckage of 1970s Manhattan. Like most teenagers working theme park rides, I wouldn’t have nominated him for an Oscar. Still, you have to hand it to Michael Fay for taking such an unprotected position that shortly after haunting the pages of the National Enquirer. It must have been his life-long dream to operate Kongfrontation. Kudos to him for trying to leave his ass-beating on the other side of the world.
As Jim and I exited Kongfrontation!, we were definitely snickering, and Jim may have actually muttered something about caning under his breath, but I honestly can’t remember. What I can say with absolute certainty is that I never again encountered Michael Fay in or around the City Beautiful. He (expectedly) fell back into complete obscurity, right along with the Jeff Giloolys and John Wayne Bobbitts of the world. I can’t help but wonder what the poor guy is up to today.
IF YOU have any information as to the current whereabouts of Michael Fay, please contact Robert Stack’s family. Also, I’d love to hear from anyone who actually worked with MF at Universal. I can’t even imagine what that hiring process was like.