Norman: Famous 'Mickey' just a regular 'Mike' to me

Charlie Norman

Back in the winter of 1978 I had transferred to the Washington, D.C. area from Chicago as a relatively new employee of American Airlines. I was a flight attendant, and my newly appointed supervisor was a fellow named Mike Kuhn.

When I met Mike, right off I liked him — he was professional, yet easy going. Personable, yet knew his stuff. Mike was about 18 years my senior, but treated me with respect as the young adult I was, and I respected him for that.

Mike was just somebody you could talk to, and all my co-workers just felt, with Mike around, we were working toward the same goal of making AA an even better airline while making a decent living as well. The thing is, it wasn’t until months later did I find out that Mike was celebrity of sorts in his “previous life” as child actor “Mickey Kuhn” in the late 30’s, early 40’s.

Really.  In fact, here’s a guy I had actually seen on the big screen some 10 years earlier in Dallas when “Gone With The Wind” was re-released to the nation for the first time in a decade (1968). Who’d have ever ‘thunk” that? Yessir, he was in a couple scenes with ol’ Clark Gable (Rhett) and Vivien Leigh (Scarlette) portraying her nephew “Beau Wilkes” and son of Ashley and Melanie Wilkes.” 

Mickey was 6 years old at the time, and with Olivia de Havilland’s passing this year in Paris at age 104, Mickey/Mike is now the last/only surviving cast member from "Gone With The Wind" — the epic Civil War drama of life in the 1860’s South.

The 1939 movie won 10 Academy Awards, including “Best Picture.” But you know what’s great about Mike?  Mike’s just a regular guy who’s friends to regular people. One would not know of his “celebrity status” unless one delves deeper into this good man’s life.

Mike also has the distinction of being the only cast member from GWTW to have appeared in a later film with Vivien Leigh in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” He does remember Mr. Gable as being especially nice to him and Miss Leigh as someone who took him in and helped him feel at ease when filming his part. 

Hattie McDaniel was especially kind to Mike. So he has memories. Later in life he continued to stay in touch with Miss de Havallind over the years via phone, letters and email until just a couple years ago.

In 1979, I moved on from Washington to Nashville, and Mike moved to Boston in mid-management with AA. Whenever in Boston, usually just passing through, I’d seek out my friend there at the airport and we’d have a chance to catch up and exchange niceties. 

But then I retired and lost touch until about seven years ago. Through a little research I was able find a contact and reconnect with Mike.  He and his wife, Barbara, live in Florida in the winters/spring and then they head up to Boston area for the summers/fall.

A blessed life he’s had and he knows it. Wife Carolyn and I had a chance to have dinner with Mike and his wife when we took a trip to the northeast one autumn years ago. How beautiful and historic that part of our country is! 

At age 87, Mike’s had some health issues, but still gets along quite OK and feels blessed and grateful for all the things he’s been able to do in his storied life. But regardless of his notoriety, I‘d choose to be his friend anyway.

The way the world is today, we’d all be the better if we could be like Mike.

Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at chas234@windstream.net.