Colourful characters don’t come much more kaleidoscopic than the indomitable Mike Wiand.
The former US spy – better known for founding legendary Leeds nightclub The Warehouse – has died aged 70, after losing his battle with pancreatic cancer.
Mr Wiand’s Facebook page has been flooded with tributes since his death, proving what a lasting impression he made on the people whose lives he touched.
“A great friend, mentor and wonderful kind sharing human being,” says David Aarons. “Thanks for all the fun times at The Warehouse,” adds John Leigh.
He was born on January 2, 1944, in Nebraska, in the United States, and moved to North Yorkshire in the late 1960s to work as a spy having gained a degree in Russian from the University of Wyoming.
He met his first wife Denise at The In Time club in Leeds and together they opened two Damn Yankee burger restaurants, first in Harrogate and then in Leeds, following up their success with The Warehouse, which opened its Somers Street doors in 1979.
The venue, which is celebrating its 35th birthday this year, played host to a range of influential and groundbreaking DJs such as Greg James, credited as the first DJ to mix records, Danny Pucciarelli, Ian Dewhirst, Steve Luigi and Roy Archer.
It was also a popular hangout for bands and musicians such as Marc Almond of Soft Cell, George Michael of Wham!, Paul Young, The Village People, Depeche Mode, Whitesnake and George McCrae, many of whom became close friends with Mr Wiand.
The Stone Roses, Pulp and Oasis also gigged at the famous venue in more recent years, when it was under different management.
Today, The Warehouse operates as a DJ-focused club once again, attracting big names such as Fatboy Slim.
Mr Wiand’s son Dean said: “Dad had so much passion, heart and creativity, plus he was generous to a fault and the sort of extravagant 1970s-type showman you just don’t get any more.
“He really knew the music industry and sound systems, too, which is one reason people flocked to The Warehouse.
“I remember the likes of George McCrae and the Village People staying at our family home in sleepy little East Morton, near Bingley, when they’d been performing at The Warehouse. The house was often like a circus!
“Somers Street was a bit of an obscure location for a club and there wasn’t much advertising for the opening night, but word got out and people were queuing round the block to get in, with about two thirds being turned away because it was so packed.”
Former wife Denise said: “The Warehouse was so happening and edgy. It was exactly right for Leeds at the time. People came from all over to experience it because they loved being part of the cultural change that was going on.
“We never imagined the place would be such a huge success when we opened it, but everyone has such fond memories of the music, the atmosphere and Mike himself.
“Mike was fun and controversial and everyone smiles when they think of him. He had such presence and heads would always turn when he walked into a room. He was part of everyone’s life, not just in Leeds but Yorkshire, too.
“We had 20 years of fantastic marriage, filled with fun and smiles.
“The Warehouse is part of Mike’s legacy.”