Gary outside his apartment above the Dixie Taverne. Photos by Gary Mader and Jimmy Bower
Following Hurricane Katrina, Eyehategod singer Michael Williams was missing, feared dead. The apartment he shared with his longtime girlfriend Alicia Stillman on St. Andrew’s in the Lower Garden District was completely destroyed. After five days of trying but failing to contact him, bandmates Gary Mader and Jimmy Bower were shitting themselves. Then they found him—in jail on felony charges connected to narcotics and looting.
Gary Mader: I live above New Orleans’s Dixie Taverne (it’s like NOLA’s CBGB) on Canal Street near the city’s French Quarter. That part of town got battered by the hurricane. Thankfully, me and my wife made it out before the shit really hit the fan.
As we were leaving, the skies were already gray and the wind was gaining strength so knew we’d made the right decision. We don’t really have any more personal belongings aside from what we brought in our little piece-of-shit car.
Once we got out of harm’s way, me and Jimmy started making calls to see if anybody had heard from Mike or Alicia. But nobody had. Everybody feared the worst. After a few days of freaking out, we found out that somehow Mike and Alicia had survived the destruction. The downside was they had been left quite literally with absolutely nothing of material value in their lives aside from the clothes they were wearing.
Jimmy Bower: Mike and Alicia told me that all around them it was pure horror. There were dead bodies, fires, gunshots going off, rapes. It was basically humans being human in a survival situation. It was sad, very sad.
Gary: Once everyone who could get out got out, the city erupted into chaos and there was no help in sight, just a lot of photo ops for public officials. It quickly became every man for himself, and that included law-enforcement officers. It was help yourself or die, literally. If you are really poor, and your resources are limited, you were left to die. (At least until federal aid turned up two fucking weeks later.)
What happened with Mike is that he and Alicia kinda stumbled on a Walgreen’s being looted….
Jimmy: The cops told Mike to get what he needed. The fucking cops were looting as well. They were trying to help people, I guess.
Gary: What happened next with Mike and Alicia is hard to say because of the pending charges. I believe that they simply did as the cops told them, and took some supplies from the pharmacy of Walgreen’s. Now because of the state of emergency, they were kind of legally entitled to possess the different substances they took from the Walgreen’s.
By the way, the cops-looting story is nothing. People should know that there are so many things that happened in New Orleans you will never read about now because they are trying to gloss over the situation. Like the story where the cop allegedly shot the guy who raped a seven-year-old girl in the Superdome so he could stop a howling mob from tearing the guy to pieces? That one never got out.
So, phoneless and carless, Alicia and Mike made their way to a little-ass country town called Morgan City, where they somehow got enough money together to get a motel room for the night. The mistake they made here was when Alicia decided to take some of the pharmaceuticals they brought with them from New Orleans and tried to sell them to a kid on the street she’d never met before.
Gary’s grandma’s house. This is what’s left of Mike William’s apartment. This is the letter Mike sent from jail. Click to enlarge.
On September 6, the following article was published in the Morgan City News: “Officers… arrested Michael Williams and Alicia Stillman, both 39 and both of St. Andrew Street in New Orleans for possession of drug paraphernalia and possession with intent to distribute.
“Officers investigating a complaint that Stillman was trying to sell illegal narcotics to a juvenile at a local motel located Stillman walking on state-road 182. A subsequent investigation found her in possession of three pills, Schedule 3 narcotics, and booked her into the Morgan City Jail.
“Morgan City officers also found Williams in the motel room with [an] assortment of other drugs. Morgan City Police Chief Jim Christy said several bottles of cough syrup containing codeine were found that Williams said he had picked up off of a sidewalk in front of a looted Walgreen’s store in the New Orleans area. Both suspects remain incarcerated pending bond proceedings.”
Michael Williams: I’m in St. Mary Parish Lockdown facility. Unfairly of course, for ALLEGEDLY having a bit of narcotics in the hotel room we fled to from NOLA. All accusations are false, of course. I’m about 80 miles outside the Big Easy. An unfortunate turn of events indeed. Pending my case, I have no immediate plans but to get back on the road, on tour with EHG. Oh yeah, and to keep my life on the straight and NARROW.
Fucking lame. New Orleans police? A joke. Only when the army and National Guard came in did things slightly calm down I hear. They started shooting looters only then. The police chief has resigned and over 200 officers are under investigation. Typical N’Awlins. That’s not to mention the coppers that have either deserted their posts or are missing. Apparently, our house did catch fire. As I’m in jail I’m not 100 percent sure. If it didn’t burn, I’m sure it was looted. Either way we’ve lost it all, probably.
Jimmy: Mike says he’s pretty happy in the jail. He says it’s like a hotel compared to his last place. We’re telling everybody who wants to write to him not to send anything but letters. We don’t want him to get in any more trouble. So no mentioning the name of the band in the letters or sending him any books about drugs. We’re working on getting him some good legal representation and we need to raise some money to help him out.
Gary: I was able to get back into my neighborhood today. I had to sneak around the military checkpoint. The waterline on the side of Dixie Tavern was about six feet high. The bar is ruined; it reeks of shit and decay. I really don’t want to move out of there, though, because we get to jam in our living room and if we can’t do that, we’re going to have start paying for rehearsal space and we’ve never really done that before. I want to get back to playing my guitar at 11. All I’ve got now is this fucking acoustic.
The city is still under martial law: curfews, red berets, and the notorious NOPD roaming the streets.
The police in New Orleans have a bad record already, so I won’t delve into that. I will say that there were some good guys who did their best to protect the city in the face of absolute anarchy. There was no chain of command, no communication other than person-to-person, and 200 officers walked off the job in the midst of it all. The Army did their job when they were allowed into the city. Had they been deployed earlier, the body count would have been halved, but our local and state officials had too much pride to admit that they had lost control of the city, and innocent citizens died because of that. Once the city was secured, the situation did spiral out of hand on the enforcement side. The military presence confiscated legally owned arms from citizens, took water and food from those who were literally dragged from their homes, and illegally confiscated generators. They denied the press access to certain areas so that the rest of the world could not see just how much death happened here.
Jimmy: When we get Mike out of prison and back playing, I’m gonna write the ugliest, most degrading, rude shit I can. Our governor is an idiot, and so is our president. We have a third of our nation’s oil reserves down here. You think they would have done it better. New Orleans is now a third-world country. Got any pills?
COMPILED BY ANDY CAPPER
Serving Time in Morgan City: Free Michael IX is out soon on Press Pause Media / Cassettes. Check eyehategod.com for more details. They also have ways you can buy Mike’s book of poems and lyrics, Cancer as a Social Activity.