Bubbly Downtown waiter dead at 45

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July 5, 2004 // UPDATED 2:20 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Bob Gilbert
Bob Gilbert

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

through this.'

"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

would react.

"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.'"