Liz Mikel at Opening Bell Coffee, Southside on Lamar in Dallas. (Photo by Ron Thompson.)Before I started recording my conversation with Liz Mikel, we talked about her late friend, pianist Buddy Shanahan. His memory brought with it emotion. I asked if it upset her to talk about him. She looked at me flatly and responded with her eyes still flooded, “I’m talking about him, aren’t I?” And in that moment, I knew Liz Mikel doesn’t say anything she doesn’t mean.
Her mother was a PhD and sang opera. Her father promoted East Texas clubs on the “Chitlin’ Circuit”. Liz’s encyclopedic knowledge of artists who shape American culture comes from growing up around and knowing them. She has one of Dallas’ favorite local-girl-done-good career stories spanning neighborhood stages and regional theaters, Broadway and Hollywood.
We didn’t talk much about the entertainment business. We did talk about the days when people called her Elizabeth, though. Days when her mother encouraged her to follow her passion, when others thought a “big girl” who loves ballet should hold to different expectations. Years later, Liz would offer up the same encouragement to a young performer she met, insecure about her own similar stature. Liz told her, “Don’t let [anyone] put you in a basket of what their ideals are.”
I think Liz appreciates being a role model and mentor. Through most of our conversation she talks about the people in her own life whom she looked to for encouragement and were there for her during her times in need. She says, “We are God’s hands to help each other.” And indeed, I believe she means it.
“I made sure to always try to do my best, to give the most that I could. Somebody would have to recognize I didn’t belong in the back.”
— Liz Mikel
Pour a cup of coffee and listen to our conversation.