Roanoke loses beloved bouncer “Bear”
ROANOKE - On Friday, November 11 the Roanoke Valley lost one of its most well-known figures. Michael Anthony Russell, known to most simply as Bear, passed away from a heart attack at the age of 50.
It is hard to be above the age of 21 in this Valley and not know Bear. Standing 6 foot 3 and weighing 400lbs. it was simply impossible to miss him.
Michael “Bear” Russell, 51, had been a bouncer since he was 19. In Roanoke he was the most well-known bouncer, having worked in most every well known venue there is, or has been, in Roanoke.
For the past couple of decades he’s been the guy manning the door: getting lots of hugs and kisses from the women, and making sure that nobody slips by him without paying. If you’ve been to see a band in Roanoke, been to a bar that charged a cover, you’ve likely handed money to Bear at some point in your life.
In October we wrote about the upcoming “BearStock” to be held at Awful Arthur’s Towers. It was a benefit to help raise money for the loveable bouncer who had been ailing.
“He’s a very private man, “and he’s not telling us much” of what all is wrong said Barry Caldwell, General Manager at Awful Arthur’s, of Bear at the time. “He had to go into the hospital three months ago to have surgery on his feet because of stress fractures. There were complications” he said.
Carroll Bell, owner of the Coffee Pot on Brambleton Rd., remembers the bouncer who worked there for years fondly. “He was a great guy,” said Bell, “he was just a big teddy bear.” Though Bell only knew the bouncer professionally, he admits that he was “about as good as they come” and recalls his “big old Cadillac” being Bear’s trademark.
As word began spreading of Bear’s passing online comments quickly began piling up. People remembered him as “a gentle and loving giant,” a “sweet, sweet man with a huge heart,” and how nice he was, how he’ll be remembered. One comment even joked that “St. Peter just lost his job, and now it doesn’t matter who you know, it will be $5 to get into heaven, rest in peace bear.”
Awful Arthur’s is planning a memorial concert for Bear to be held on November 30 from 5pm – 2am for people to gather together, remember, and celebrate his life.
Story by Carrie E. Cox