I read with some sadness about the death of Michael Biles, he was in a collision with a bus and unfortunately, at the tender age of 39, he succumbed to his injuries.
I first met Michael in 1991; he would have been around 14 years old.
From what I learned Michael had, up till then, had a pretty tough upbringing, at that time I worked at a leisure attraction on the Essex coast which was a magnet for many disaffected and rebellious young people. One of these boys was Michael, a product of modern life and something of a first for me, I hadn’t personally known people up till then who looked at life in the way he already did, although I was to meet more and more of them during my time in Essex. Was it the place, the circumstance or the fact that in the early 90’s those that felt outsiders were able to express themselves in a way that was foreign to me? It could have been any or a combination of all those things but it was obvious Michael was going to achieve a level of fame and/or notoriety; many said he would come to a bad end.
Early in the piece Michael drew some ground rules, after one particularly unsavoury incident I had asked Michael to leave, he refused and I started to escort him off the premises.
On the way I stated (I was 40 at the time, fairly fit and was not too worried about confrontation) “I have a good mind to take you outside and give you a good hiding, maybe it will knock some sense into you”. Michael, looking me straight in the eye replied, without any trace of irony “I don’t think you could, but give it a go if you want to”.
Michael was right, even then I wouldn’t have been able to fight him, even if I had actually meant what I said, he was tall, strong and, even at that early age, totally fearless. What came out of this over the next couple of years was a grudging respect, some even said I had a level of control over his actions when they impacted on me and the business I managed and its true, the police occasionally came to me if they couldn’t handle him and I managed to convince him to do what they wanted him to do. I liked Michael and I think he liked me. I was certainly capable of talking him down when the red mist kicked in, something very few other people could do.
Over the next 5 years or so Michael cemented his place in local folklore, his run ins with the police were the stuff of legend and it was during this period that he is said to have attacked two grown men with a sword, causing them serious injury. He also took on one of the most fearsome doormen in the area, refusing to be beaten even though he was knocked down several times and should have given up.
As happens things changed, I moved on and bumped into Michael infrequently over the following 10 years or so, he always had a hug and a “How’s it going man” for me, but in this intervening period Michael had set out on his path to Legend.
Michael, to many on the “right” side of the law, including the police and business owners, was a walking nightmare, there are many stories about his exploits some no doubt embellished, others all too true and in total far too many to recount, suffice to say he became what was once known as a “face”.
He certainly hospitalised several people, sometimes took on the wrong challenge, it is rumoured that he supported himself, when not in prison, by dealing drugs and possibly even carrying out violent acts for money.
There is no doubt he took vast amounts of drugs himself, and the last time I saw him he was a shadow of his former physical self, his face was scarred and he was what you would call “wired”.
He hadn’t been out long but he seemed to have changed a little He said that was his last time inside, that he was going to get himself together, settle down and get out of “the life”, he may well have meant it but there were things and people that would never let that happen.
Hence we have a young man, a man for our times even, who could have been something that he wasn’t but unfortunately became the myth that was created around him.
No one will ever really know whether the fight with the bus was a tragic accident, a psychotic belief that Michael could take on anything, or a cry for help.
Many people will, no doubt, be saying “Good riddance to bad rubbish”, many others posting on face book will continue to see him as good, loyal, caring, honest and fiercely protective of his friends, a Legend for our time.
I will miss him.