Michu (Mihaly “Michu” Meszaros) died Monday at the age of 77. Even though he stood a mere 2 ft. 8 in. tall, he truly was a giant in the world of entertainment.
The Hungarian-born performer first came to prominence in the 1970s when he was asked to join the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, quickly becoming one of the most beloved circus performers in history, capturing the imagination of thousands, including a teenage Michael Jackson.
In the 1980s Michu was the man inside the ALF costume for the first two seasons on the popular NBC sci-fi sitcom. He also appeared in “Big Top Pee Wee,” “Freaked” and “Warlock: The Armageddon.” Jackson even hired Michu to appear in one of his famous Pepsi ads.
I had the pleasure of meeting Michu at The Hollywood Show in Los Angeles just a few months ago. Through the help of his manager Dennis, he discussed his legendary career, including his two seasons on “ALF,” and why the “King of Pop” didn’t have to die.
Question: What do people say when they meet you?
Answer: They are excited. I’m excited that they are excited. They ask me questions about my career in the circus, my time on “ALF” and my friend Michael Jackson. He told me I was his hero.
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Q: What was it like working on “ALF,” and was that costume uncomfortable?
A: It was hot. They were trying to keep it a secret that I was inside the costume. My manager took this picture of me in the costume holding the head. He knew that the show would be very famous and wanted proof that I was inside of ALF.
Q: How many seasons of the show did you do?
A: I left after two years. They fired me. I never found out why. Overnight it went from me being in the ALF suit to no more!
They were trying to get me out after the first year. They wanted to use puppets and robotics. The producer didn’t like me for some reason.
I told my manager, “He doesn’t like me. He’s gonna fire me.” I’m very sensitive, and I knew it. They started making some kind of robot.
Q: Did they pay you residuals?
A: They had to pay even after I left because there were scenes shot they kept using in later seasons — in the opening credits. So I got residuals. But not the big one. Later the show got to be so big.
Q: Are you known around the world?
A: In Europe I am not known as Michu. Because “ALF” was so popular they call me “Alfie.” When I’m live on the TV in Europe, I’m called “Alfie.”
Q: Are you still traveling around the world?
A: In the past few years I’ve slowed down, not traveling so much. I’m 77 now. Retired. I still do one or two autograph shows, but it’s a rare occasion.
Q: How did you first meet Michael Jackson?
A: In Ringling Brothers Circus I was the top star. Michael was 14 years, and he came to see me. Years after we become friends, he had Pepsi hire me to be in the second of his Pepsi commercials. He told me then he saw me as a kid. He told my manager Dennis, “When I saw Michu, he became my idol.”
Michael said he couldn’t tell that to the media because they would make fun of him. “Michael Jackson has an idol who is the world’s smallest man?” They would have had a field day.
When I met him, he told me a big secret.
Q: What was that secret?
A: Micheal said to my manager and me, “Do you know where I got the idea for my costumes, the military uniform? I got it from you, Michu!” Because I was dancing in a Hungarian military costume as the star in the circus. Michael saw that and wanted to look like me.
Q: You must have been sad when he died?
A: Too bad that they fed him with the drugs.
I’ll tell you something, because [my manager and I] spent more time with Michael than some of his family combined. He was not taking drugs his whole life. Only normal stuff. Then they started pushing him that he needs to take pills because he is too tired. And the addition comes. They keep pushing him. I say, “You don’t need to go do the tour ,Michael. You make enough money. Slow down. Cool it.”
They kept pushing him. Then they kill him. See how they do it is when stars start complaining that they can’t sleep, they say, “Talk to the doctor and we’ll get you some vitamins.” Vitamins?! They they get addicted.
Then the star says, “Get me some more of those vitamins.” Sometimes the star will recognize that they were filled because they look at the prescription and know it’s not under the name of the star [but by] somebody else. I told Micheal, “Watch out! Elvis Presley was killed this way.”
I don’t care for the Hollywood people because they can hurt me. They use people and throw you away. Like me with “ALF.”
Q: Why didn’t you sue the creators and producers of “ALF” for breaking your contract?
A: Our lawyer said, “You’re gonna sue them. We can sue and maybe win some money from the contract, but if you do, Michu, you are never gonna work in Hollywood again.”
No star who sued a production worked after that. That’s why I was so quiet about it and respected the producers. Doesn’t make a difference. Even Charlie Sheen was fired. Hollywood can’t be trusted.