The ROCK STAR
BY ELLEN GILLETTE
An interview with Michael “Spaz” McGoorty is an exercise in patience as well as humor. “I’m the best multitasker you’ll ever see,” he says while texting and answering a phone call. Well known throughout the Treasure Coast and beyond for his singing, acting and comedy, McGoorty — like many residents — was not always a Floridian.
Born in Chicago, McGoorty grew up in Detroit, joining the U.S. Navy in 1974. “I was Popeye. Literally. A boatswain’s mate.” That wasn’t his intention, however. “I was lied to by a recruiter,” he says with a laugh. “He told me I’d be singing in a rock and roll band for the Navy. How could you say ‘No’ to that?”
When McGoorty boarded his ship, however, he was handed a mop, not a mic. “Boatswain’s mates take care of the ship, painting, other maintenance duties. Eventually I ran the ship’s radio and TV station, but that wasn’t my job title either. I was supposed to be a journalist!” They messed his orders up so badly, he says, “that I made some noise about it and they let me out.”
Making noise has been a significant part of McGoorty’s life. For 40 years, he has sung lead with the Detroit-based band, Cadillac Kidz. “Years back, there’d been some dissension in the band, and my job moved to Florida in 1986. I wasn’t happy about it, but I’m still in the band. I go back and forth now for concerts.”
In Florida, McGoorty is affiliated with Cadillac Bratz and simply The Spaz Band, playing for private functions and at local bars and restaurants. Cadillac Bratz was a fixture on Florida’s concert scene at one time, whether opening for bands or headlining. They played frequently at Disney’s Pleasure Island and were featured on “Club Jam,” a television show. Their 1991 hit “Fasten Your Seatbelts” was popular enough to get airplay on every major radio station in the state.
McGoorty also started performing with community theaters, which led to his nickname. “Someone said, ‘Whoever that is singing, he’s all over the place — spastic.’” A soundman called him Spaz and the name stuck.
In 1995, McGoorty played Judas in a production of Jesus Christ, Superstar at the Barn Theatre in Stuart. His friend, Mark Sandro, played Jesus. It was so well-received that the Barn wanted to extend the run. “The theater was making money, but we were losing money, not able to work around the schedule. We did the extension, but a year later, we did the show ourselves.”
McGoorty and Sandro, along with director Marc Clark and musical director Peter Jones, started Shiloh Productions. Jesus Christ, Superstar was their inaugural production, followed by A Christmas Carol, La Cage Aux Folles and Amadeus. “The whole town was talking about how amazing Shiloh was that first season.”
Jensen Beach’s Sharon Taylor remembers those days fondly. “I’d seen Superstar and happened to spot Michael Harrison (King Herod) one day. I introduced myself — he was in rehearsal for La Cage and said there might be a part for me. Spaz was so much fun, a real PR person. If he had nothing to do, he’d find something to do.”
Even though Shiloh’s last show was produced in 2010, many in the area still equate McGoorty with Shiloh. Increasingly, he is associated with Led Zeppelin. McGoorty always enjoyed performing the 1970s megaband’s music and when a tribute band, the Pure Zeppelin Experience, asked him to sing lead for them eight years ago, there was no turning back. “We do about 10 shows a year, all over — the Kravis, Paladium, the Sunrise and Lyric, Seminole casinos, Hard Rock Cafe in Tampa, Maryland, Detroit. We’re looking into the possibility of London, Atlanta and Pittsburgh.”
The Pure Zeppelin Experience is affiliated with Artists for Multiple Sclerosis, which raises money for disease awareness and research. Recently the organization brought Journey, Boston and Styx tribute bands to the Lyric, emceed by Casey ’n’ Spaz Comedy. Yes, that Spaz.
“My nephew Casey (Peruski) was doing stand-up at the Improv in West Palm and he was really good. I’ve always been funny, playing with the audience, so we put something together. We did Wednesdays at St. Lucie Draft House, Mickey Finn’s in Port St. Lucie, shows at the Improv.” Eventually, Casey ’n’ Spaz Comedy started offering headliner shows at the Sunrise Theatre Black Box in downtown Fort Pierce twice a month. They also host shows at other locations, the latest being Drift Kitchen & Bar at Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa in Jensen Beach.
McGoorty stands out in any crowd with his tall, lean frame and signature ’70s mop of long curly hair, combining talent, humor and a generous heart — along with that crazy ability to multitask. There is no one else quite like Spaz. Or as his cartoon counterpart Popeye would say, “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam.”
MICHAEL JAMES MCGOORTY
Lives in: Port St. Lucie
Occupation: Entertainer, prime vendor for the U.S. government
Family: Five brothers and sisters; two daughters
Education: Attended University of Nevada, Las Vegas “for a minute”
Someone who inspires me: “Single moms.”
Something most people don’t know about me: “I’m very quiet.”