By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
He left TOPPS in 2001 -- causing a bit of a civil war between those who supported him and those who wished he'd go away -- but he didn't slow down at all. (The "civil war" also keeps boaters from wishing to be quoted by name.)
On big weekends at the Turtle Club, for instance, the boats can be lined up four or five abreast at the dock, and the partyers clamber over the other boats to get to the bar.
"I was climbing over his boat one time and the hatch was open and there was this woman with five guys on her," says one boater. "She's moaning and all, but five minutes later she's out of the boat screaming, 'You fuckers!' So I don't know what was going on."
Nixon loved being the center of attention, and was genuinely liked by a lot of people. "He was a really good guy that most everyone loved," says the boater familiar with the TOPPS episode. "He'd spend money on people. If people needed money, he'd loan it to them. He'd do everything in the world for you if you were a friend."
But the diverse views of Nixon quickly emerged on a message board on the KHOU-TV Web site after the station reported the accident.
"He left all TOPPS in mourning and is headed to more drinking and drugs; those in mourning will only regret [losing] the free drinks and X," one anonymous poster said.
"No! Mike did have friends that were not paid for," said another. "Yes I believe he is alive and yes I believe he was not honest with some of his business dealings but with me he was always honest and above board."
Minnwest Bank would disagree.
In a suit filed after the crash in Harris County District Court, Minnwest Bank attorneys state that allegations may be forthcoming about "forgery, fraud, civil conspiracy, perjury and knowingly filing false records." (No criminal charges have been filed and, despite rumors, the FBI is not involved in any search for him, agency spokesman Bob Doguim says.)
On August 5, the bank sent Nixon a notice of default, giving him ten days to rectify the paperwork problems. Some folks on the lake claim rumors began circulating at that point that Nixon was planning another disappearance, although others dispute that.
At any rate, on the night of August 27 he gassed up his boat at the Three Amigos fuel dock and told employees there he was taking it out for a test before a planned trip to Lake Travis (a trip for which, it turns out, there's no record of the usual boat-slip reservation he used).
People who saw him that day noticed nothing unusual. What was unusual to many was that he went out into the Ship Channel alone that night. In terms of his personality and his boating safety habits, one says, such a move was entirely out of character.
"One thing he couldn't ever be was alone," the boater says. "If everyone was too tired on a Sunday and wanted to go home, he'd go with them. He could never go to his apartment and be by himself. And he was never on that boat alone. If he was out at night he'd have a spotlight and someone to hold it, looking for crab nets or obstructions."
That night was different. It was an emotional period, no doubt, for Nixon -- besides the bank notice, it was close to the anniversary of the death of his teenage son in a motorcycle accident 15 or so years earlier; it was also getting close to his own 55th birthday.
What happened in the Ship Channel isn't clear, except the fact that the powerboat was doing doughnuts and a long, elephantine barge could do nothing but head straight toward it.
And a body wasn't found.
And the legend of Mike Nixon, King of the Lake, grew ever larger.