Michael Higby, 1964 – 2015

By Joseph Mailander

I am so sorry to confirm here what so many have already heard. A friend has spoken to Michael Higby’s father within the past hour, and confirms that Michael passed away yesterday, of an apparent heart attack.

If there are people in Los Angeles who don’t need publicists to be larger than life anyway, they all at one time or another floated into Michael’s stable of friends and characters — and Michael himself was largest character of all. Indeed, everyone who has touched the civic life of Los Angeles became more than just a name to Michael; they became a character in Michael’s life, and he made them all feel so. Some didn’t like it, but all the rest of us sure have appreciated learning through him to come to know what we do know about how our City works.

Michael was a rare breed of person, self-reliant yet exceedingly generous. He almost said nothing about his illness in the whole time I knew him; he had to be profoundly coaxed to do so. His self-reliance despite being saddled with lymphedema early on, and even his care-taking efforts towards the end of his mother’s life, are a model of self-effacing endurance and an astonishing achievement of human spirit.

I know that wherever writers are, and wherever politics are, there are hypocrisies—mine own could sink a supertanker—but Michael’s passing is not the time to rankle these among ourselves; yet Michael was able to stand above even these with dignity and grace. When Michael’s blog MayorSam came along, I was an abundantly enthusiastic supporter, and he was perfect for the role of impresario. LA needed—and still needs—a tabloid, and Michael was the City’s top master of the trade.

I have another larger-than-life friend, the writer Rodger Jacobs, with whom I have a running joke about writing as a function of writing what you know. If you’re having a bad week, you are telling up to 80% of what you know. If it’s a good week, it’s only around 20%.

Michael told so much more than other journalists in the city, and yet he always seemed to skate by, telling about 5% of what he knew. And so, that’s what Michael Higby was ultimately to Los Angeles, and what I invite you to remember of him too: he was in his generous core of being a writer, and a very excellent one.

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