'While many artists are conveniently and centrally located in museums and in art books on coffee tables, the Tentacle Sessions is dedicated to the assertion that a close encounter with a living artist also holds value.'—1999 promo for the Tentacle Sessions
In April 1999, the Laughing Squid Tentacle Sessions kicked off their third event at the Blue Bar in North Beach, featuring co-founding producer Michael McElligott, a.k.a. Mikl-em. Billed as a “poet, playwright, actor, performance scientist, webpage, fashion challenge, conversationalist, and people person,” Mikl-em presented on a disparate array of personal obsessions—beat poets, fringe theatre, and obscure Scottish cinema.
As a person with wide-ranging passions, a staggering intellect, and an insatiable zest for life, Mikl-em was a linchpin of Bay Area counterculture for close to three decades, from Laughing Squid to the Cacophony Society; the San Francisco Fringe Festival to Popcorn Anti-Theater; Burning Man to the Saint Stupid’s Day Parade. His ability to land in the middle of whatever was happening (and frequently producing it as well) made him the perfect subject for the Tentacle Sessions—a long-running series dedicated to celebrating the great living artists of our time.
Twenty-one years later—on Sunday, August 30, 2020, at the age of 50—this giant of the Bay Area’s storied underground arts scene passed away after a protracted battle with brain cancer. He leaves an incalculable void matched only by the enormity of his legacy.
As a multi-talented, multi-hyphenate, Mikl-em never stayed in any one particular lane. Freaky art happenings, poetry readings, comedy nights, theater performances, and cocktail hours were all prime Mikl-em territory. In recent years, he was the producer and host for the Long Now’s conversation series, the Executive Producer of Speechless LIVE at Public Works, the mastermind and writer’s-room wrangler behind Exquisite Corpse Theatre, a beloved DJ at Radio Valencia, a co-founder of the Anglerfish events page, and the secret identity of @bobkaufman on Twitter. Even as late as March, he was performing and producing at the Mission District’s Secret Alley, and was waitlisted for a spot in September’s San Francisco Fringe Festival.