SURFSIDE BEACH, S.C. – Mickey Spillane, who created the hard-nosed detective Mike Hammer of novels, movies and TV, was remembered Saturday as a writer, actor and TV pitchman who, loved kittens, fishing, Frosted Flakes and, above all, his fellow man.
“He was probably the most humble celebrity that ever lived,” said his widow, Jane, following a 45-minute memorial service for the writer at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Amid laughter and tears, about 150 people attended the memorial to remember the writer who died July 17 at the age of 88. He had lived in the Myrtle Beach area for a half century.
Rand Frink, the presiding overseer of the congregation, recalled how Spillane helped build the Kingdom Hall in the 1980s and always volunteered for the trash detail because, Spillane said, it kept him humble.
The congregation chuckled when Frink recalled Spillane liked to say he sold more Miller Lite beer than anyone in history. Spillane used to appear in commercials for the brewing company.
A simple wooden box containing Spillane’s ashes rested on a small table along with several pictures, including one of Spillane in a trench coat and hat in the movie role of Mike Hammer. The gray fedora with a black band that Spillane wore in the picture was also on the table.
There were no Hollywood celebrities in attendance. Jane Spillane said they will be invited to her home later.
“Just the sort of thing where everybody gets out there and talks about the funny stories and laughs about Mickey,” she said.
“We will all remember the kind, generous, humble and giving spirit” of Mickey Spillane, Frink said. “Although famous in the eyes of men, Mickey never acted like a famous person. He was always just plain Mickey.”
Spillane was always the first to help other members of the congregation, spent hundreds of dollars to save stray cats and loved Frosted Flakes, fishing and cars, Frink said.
But Spillane was also deeply religious, Frink added, sharing some of Spillane’s favorite passages from the writer’s well-worn Bible, which had verses throughout highlighted with yellow marker.
Spillane’s stepdaughter, Britt Ellinger, said it was Spillane who fought back tears when he gave her away in marriage nine years ago.
When Spillane started dating her mother, Ellinger was a schoolgirl and didn’t really know Spillane was a celebrity, she said.
“He came to pick her up in the pickup truck and said ‘Do you need anything from the A&P?’ ” she said. “Mom would go running out. That was how they dated.”
Jane Spillane said her husband’s wish was to have his ashes spread on the waters of Murrells Inlet off the fishing village of the same name where the couple lived.
She arrived at the service driving Spillane’s white Ford F-150 pickup truck with a camper top and 118,000 miles _ a truck Spillane always referred to as his Carolina Cadillac.
Jane Spillane said her late husband was a pack rat with all sorts of items stashed away in his study, including the manuscripts for at least six unpublished books and several screenplays.
“He saved so much stuff, you don’t know. He saved it all,” she said. “My mission in life is to keep Mickey Spillane alive and I hope we can do a museum or something.”
Spillane also saved a Jaguar that the late actor John Wayne gave him, Jane Spillane said.
“People loved him from all over this land and I thought it would be a wonderful thing to do a museum,” she said.