SEATTLE — When Mike Miles looks out at the Paramount Theatre, an entire lifetime stares back.
"I think I was 16, and they asked me if I wanted a job, and I said yes," Miles said. "I've done security, I've done clean-up, I've done maintenance, I've done the stage.”
He worked his way up to stage manager and has overseen the historic theater’s shows for years.
After more than half a century at the venue, he's had countless encounters with entertainment icons.
"Carol Burnett — real nice, personable,” he said, then gestured to a poster in his small backstage office. "That's Bruce Springsteen’s signature, and this is a picture from that show."
He met President Obama, twice.
“He's very jovial, friendly,” Miles said. "He remembered my name when we were in the elevator. And I don't think he had this written down anywhere."
When Miles posed for a photo with Adam Sandler, the comedian shared a memorable story.
"He said, ‘First time I started on 'Saturday Night Live,' my dad said take a lot of pictures. I didn't. I'm so mad at myself. So anytime someone wants to take a picture, I tell them this story and I take a picture,’” Miles recalled.
The Paramount is also a place of personal milestones for Miles. He celebrated his wedding reception inside the theater, and years later it would also host his daughter's wedding.
He said it’s impossible to choose a favorite memory.
"I can't pick out just one. There's so many,” he said. "We are the people's theater, we always have been. We do all types of shows. We'll do a poetry reading, we'll do a rap show, we'll do Broadway the next time. I was here for PiL when they tore up the front of the pit railing and took it with them. Seats were smashed. So I've seen the damage that can be done — but you still want those artists to be able to come and play and for the people that come to enjoy it."
His passion for the venue is heartfelt and sincere. But after 52 years, Miles is taking his final curtain call and retiring.
"My friend Ian Gardner is taking my position and he has this so well-handled, or I wouldn't feel comfortable enough to retire and leave the theater,” he said, his voice catching. “It means a great deal to me. It's been my whole life. I haven't neglected my family but there's been plenty of times they came down here because I was with this family."
Miles’ last day is January 13 – Friday the 13th, by his own choice.
In honor of his service, the Paramount’s marquee reads “Thank you for setting the stage for 52 years.”
"That's one of the things I'm going to miss is driving down that street and seeing the marquee itself, in general,” Miles said. "We're one of the last big marquees downtown, and it's a beacon."
In retirement, Miles plans to split his time between Seattle and Mexico and work on a book. He'll also attend some Paramount Theatre shows.
"It'll be the first time entering the front of house as an audience member," he said.