Getting to Know: Sir Mike

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Columbia may depend most on its students and faculty, but there are many members of both the Columbia and Morningside communities who make the years here a little more enjoyable. We at Bwog feel they deserve a little time in the spotlight for all their hard work. Today: Sir Michael of Carman

Sir Michael Layne puts a little soul into Carman Hall residents’ daily grind from his post at the security desk. “What’s up, baby? Haven’t seen you in a decade, man,” he offers to a flustered first-year hustling past. The mellow sound of Motown soothes the lobby; The Very Best of The Temptations rolls from track to track.

Hailing from Panama, Sir Michael came to New York in pursuit of musical dreams. After his traveling vocal group, ­The Flames, disbanded in Mexico, he took the opportunity to cross into the United States. The year was 1970, and the man came to America wearing his “singing suit” – complete with bow tie and ruffled shirt. “People were lookin’ at me funny,” he recalls. “I took the Greyhound, saw the country, was forced to – didn’t have enough money to go any other way.”

For nine years, Sir Michael has been with campus security. Working at Columbia allows him to continue his musical career as a self-described cover artist. Recording with fellow musicians in a friend’s basement studio, he often works all night long, building tracks from the bottom up. The 2007 release of his album Easy is the fourth installment to a growing discography, which includes Cruisin’, Got to Give It Up, and Rhythm Master of Love. He plays piano, guitar and bass, but he is most striking with his vocals: calm and cool – like every time he swipes you in.

Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan and Prince number among his many favorite artists, but his voice reveals a nostalgic strain when speaking about music. He reckons back to the times he would hang out backstage at the Apollo with the likes of James Brown, “It was cool to meet them, just normal people. They got lucky – now making big bucks and bein’ famous.” Content to be settled, however, Sir Michael doesn’t worry about where his music might have led: “Life on the road, man, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” Plus, being a security guard isn’t a bad daily routine. He speculates, “I especially like being around freshmen. It’s a lot of fun…fun for me to see them grow. Then they come back and say ‘what’s up?'”

So next time you’re strolling past Carman and you hear that soulful sound emptying from those lobby doors, don’t hesitate to stop in for a couple of tunes. As for Sir Michael’s own musical pursuit, there’s certainly no end in sight. “It’s all about the music,” he says, “I have a musical mind.”


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  1. wow  

    really well done, bwog. Y'all should be proud of yourselves.

    and one more thing: I found a pair of glasses on the lawn that straddles Furnald/Lerner/Journalism last weekend. Pretty feminine looking, brown/tan leopard? print,say Dakota D58 on the inside. They are definitely prescription. Bwog hasn't posted my find so I inform you here.

  2. these

    should have pictures

  3. Mike is  

    Amazing. I am so happy Bwog took the opportunity to interview him.

  4. dont hate me for this

    there is no "e" in "suit". geez.

  5. Sir Michael  

    is one of the best parts of Carman and Columbia, hands down. He's the nicest security guard anywhere.

  6. pascal

    is actually nicer. but michael is a close second. and Rhythm Master of Love is a decent CD, though the case is totally hilarious.

  7. Mike  

    is the man. great article. keep it up bwog!

  8. Alum '07  

    Lived in Carman back in 03-04. Hat's off Sir Mike!

  9. Mike is the MAN  

    Keep it real mike!

  10. Love it  

    I love this new Bwog feature, though I do agree that there should be accompanying pictures.

    Next up: Pascal? The guy who works at Pinnacle at night? The guys at JJ's maybe?

  11. Varun  

    Absolutely loving these profiles! It's so good to hear about each person's diverse background. Good work, Bwog!

  12. seriously  

    I love Mike. I'm so glad you guys interviewed him! He was the best part of Carman.

  13. cc 09

    definitely one of the best people at columbia! he played three campus shows over the past 4 years...hopefully he'll play again this year!!

  14. Lili

    This just made my day.

  15. Ryan  

    Nothing brightens my day more than getting that pound from Mike. Everyone should invest in his CD, too, it's great!
    Good work, bwog- I'm really enjoying this series.

  16. hmm

    Bwog has some serious Mike bias. There are other security guards, many just as awesome as Mike, all of whom are less pushy about selling you their cds. Just saying...

  17. WOW  

    Hey DAC, whoever you are, prob the best written bwog post i've seen in a while. EXCELLENT job!

    I'm nominating you for the bluetzer.

  18. OH MAN  

    Sir Mike is seriously the most amazing man on this campus. Also, Cruisin' is a very sweet album. I was lucky enough to find a SIGNED copy, and I will cherish it forever. The man's a star.

    And good job Bwog!

  19. dude  

    Rudy is the best security guard ever. You should interview him. http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=2221711151&ref=ts

  20. probably not  

    as well known as mike but damon over at ruggles deserves some acknowledgement. The dude memorized everyone's name by the end of the first day of school.

  21. sophmore  

    I stopped by to visit Sir Michael and he still remembered our handshake.

    Great man, great article

  22. frosh  

    i love michael layne! he is the coolest cat ever. the fist pumps make my life

  23. Seriously  

    I miss Mike so much! I'm so glad Bwog decided to interview him, and I had no idea he was so involved with music.

  24. Spencer  

    This series was a great idea Bwog! Michael is a great guy. He's always willing to start a conversation. As for other great security guards, I have to nominate Dennis in McBain!

  25. Anonymous  

    great article. thoughtful. provocative. honest. sir michael.

  26. Mary  

    Bwog, these profiles are awesome and I would love to see more... it's cool getting to know a little bit more about people you pass by every day. As for Sir Mike... I'm proud to say that I got not one but TWO fist bumps from him yesterday.

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