Downtown diners might not remember his
name, but over the years, there is a good
chance that Michael Schmidt once served
them dinner. The 45-year-old Minneapolis
waiter died of lymphoma June 14.
Schmidt worked for many years at Downtown's
now-defunct Nankin Restaurant, for
nine years at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, 920
2nd Ave. S. and at the time of his death had
worked for four-years at Manny's Steakhouse,
1300 Nicollet Mall.
He was well known among the Downtown
restaurant-worker subculture, and the subsubculture
who were "votaries of Ganymede"
(Zeus's cup-bearer, the patron saint of waiters
who pray to him for good tips).
Friend and neighbor Teresa Piper said, "My
mom used to say that he reminded her of a
dumb blonde because he was just happy and
bubbly and really didn't care if his basement
was flooding or that small trees were growing
in his rain gutters. He was such a nut, all he
really wanted was to have a good time."
Manny's General Manager Randy Stanley
was also Schmidt's boss when he worked at
Ruth's Chris. He said that over the years,
Schmidt served enough beef to equal a large
"He was always very accommodating,"
Stanley said. "Sometimes in a stressful situation
he would turn his palms up, make a face
and say 'whatever.' But in a pleasant way, not
in a dismissive way, as if to say 'let's get
"He carried that attitude right through to
the end," he said. "Our chins hit the floor
when we heard that he died. There was no
indication that he was that close to death."
Piper recalled that many years ago she took
Schmidt, who was gay, as her date to a Wisconsin
wedding. Near the end of the ceremony,
he stood with a crowd of women trying to
catch the bride's bouquet. He caught it, and an
anxious Piper had no idea how the crowd
"Everybody got a big kick out of it," Piper
said. "He then danced with the gentleman
who caught the garter. I still have a picture of
him dipping Schmitty on the dance floor."
Piper told a story she heard from Schmidt's
sister Kim, who was with him when he
"She could tell he was in between two
worlds," Piper said. "He was gone and then
he'd come back and then he was gone and
he'd come back again. 'Mike,' she said, 'do you
see Grandma?' When he said, 'I do.' She said,
'then go to her.'"