Monday 19 February 2018

Mattress Mick: Epic hair, quickie mass and a jilted bride: the world is his mattress

With a new documentary on Mattress Mick about to screen in Toronto, Donal Lynch sat down with the Dublin icon

SLEEPING GIANT: Mattress Mick, aka Michael Flynn, at his Coolock store. Photo: Steve Humphreys
SLEEPING GIANT: Mattress Mick, aka Michael Flynn, at his Coolock store. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

It might be just as well Mattress Mick has already bought up the domain names containing his immortal moniker for the countries in the Far East. Because global domination now seems a matter of 'when', not 'if'.

A new documentary on the eccentric Dublin businessman is to screen at the Hotdocs festival in Toronto next week and Mattress - or Michael Flynn as he introduces himself - couldn't be prouder.

"A lot of people think I'm made up, a corporate character, but obviously I'm not," he tells me over coffee in his Pearse Street stomping ground.

"A camera crew followed me around for three years and they've put this piece together. It's already been sold to Finnish television. We're just hopeful that one of the major networks will buy it up now. It's really about how one man survived the worst recession of our lifetimes."

Survived and thrived. His business woes and money problems are now in the past - for a while the banks withdrew his credit - and the mattresses are walking out the door again; he'll help you test them on the floor of the shop ("the men too, I don't care").

With each passing year the sideburns get more absurdly fecund (he's not allowed cut them at this point, they're part of the brand), the self promotion more brilliantly ironic (budding pop stars can only dream of his YouTube hits) and his fan bandwagon is now standing room only - thank you Stephen Fry, Roddy Doyle et al.

He has help with the videos from filmmaker Paul Kelly - "baldy Paul" - but of course nobody could invent this hallucinogenic composite of Saul Goodman, Del Boy and John McCririck. It was a lifetime in the making.

Mick grew up in the inner city where his Dad owned a fishing supply shop and his mother's family owned a pub called Smyths on St John Rogerson's Quay.

He went to school in Synge Street and then to work for the Royal Trust Company, a merchant bank, on Dawson Street, but moonlighted at a market stall in the Dandelion Market on Stephen's Green.

When his Dad died, however, the burden of running the family business fell on him. He began selling furniture and bottled gas and for a few years it went really well.

In his late 20s he opened a second shop and that was when things started to wobble. "I took my eye off the ball. I started to enjoy myself a bit too much. Leeson Street was just starting to take off. I was good with the ladies. The secret was: loads of bullshit. Also I wasn't a bad looking guy either, to be fair. I had the hair even then."

His first girlfriend died of cancer recently after reaching out to him shortly before she passed away, which he found very hard. They had both married other people in the meantime, but you never forget your first love, he tells me.

In his 20s he was also engaged to be married to the daughter of a prominent Dublin family. "We bought a house out in Monkstown together and we had everything to do with the wedding booked. It was just five weeks away and the invites had been sent out. I felt that her family were taking control of my life. They had all the money and they didn't like what I did for work; it was fine when I was a banker.

"I'll never forget telling her. It was the hardest conversation of my life. I hurt her. I still loved her in my own way but I just didn't want to be controlled. It turned out ok in the end for her though. She married well."

She must be kicking herself when she sees the YouTube videos though (the latest features a Back To The Future themed song with the lyrics "I'll fly my mattress rocket to the matressy stars").

Handily for alliterative branding purposes, everyone in the Mattress family has a name that begins with 'M'. He eventually married Margaret, a Dublin woman, and they had a daughter Michelle, who is now a psychotherapist in England. Margaret and Mick had trouble having more children and after becoming involved with the Chernobyl Children's Project they decided to adopt a little Russian girl, Marina, who is now 20 and studying to be a personal trainer.

"I'll never forget the whole experience. The orphanage was so dilapidated. When we saw Marina's face it was just fantastic. You couldn't not take her. A lot of Americans in those years were going to Russia and finding kids to use their body parts - organ harvesting. We had to put their minds at ease on that score."

He is religious and goes to mass in the city centre in Whitefriar Street ("it's the fastest mass in Dublin"). He says he has no interest in doing the Eurovision but he does see himself as a sort of budding Michael O'Leary, capitalising on free publicity wherever he can find it.

He has registered Mattress Mick as a trademark now and the next plan is to licence it out to other furniture retailers around the country.

"It's not a franchise, but for companies who want to sell beds, they can licence the name. There is one in Cork and one in Kilkenny.

"They'll provide the merchandise and I'll provide the point of sale." And in lay person's terms, what does that mean? "It means there will be large cardboard cutouts of me. It will be a concession within their shop. Like, you know the way Brown Thomas has Helena Rubenstein within their shop?" I look at him, slightly dazed. "Exactly like that. Except, unlike Helena Rubenstein, I will make the odd appearance." and ShootAudition on YouTube.

Sunday Independent

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