Verne Troyer was best known as “Mini-Me” from the Austin Powers movies, but for many L.A. nightlife figures he was a friend — a real friend with a disproportionately large heart and an equally huge appetite for all the fun that life had to offer, especially in this city. Troyer, 49, died over the weekend due to what the latest reports indicate was a “very high” amount of alcohol in his system. He had struggled with drinking since he became famous and battled depression in later years as well.
The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office told People this week that the case was “reported as a possible suicide,” but at the time of this writing the final cause of death is undetermined. It can take more than a month to get results from toxicology tests, the coroner’s officer said.
As L.A. Weekly’s intrepid nightlife reporter, I attended the city’s wildest parties and clubs throughout the late ’90s and early 2000s, when Troyer’s fame was at its peak, and it seemed he never missed a velvet-roped bash in Hollywood. I once likened him to a mini Paris Hilton, as the pair were the two most ubiquitous faces at the nightclubs and fetes that were then part of my beat.
The few times I met the actor, I remember thinking that his size — he was 2 feet, 8 inches (81 cm) tall — and manner brought out a notable tenderness in others. This was nice to see in the pre-Kardashian, “new” reality TV–obsessed club scene typified by MTV’s The Hills, and amid the look-at-me showdowns that occurred almost weekly between Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan at Brent Bolthouse's clubs, corporate-sponsored soirees and the like. Troyer hung out with both hot-mess starlets (for photo ops, anyway), but it was much more endearing to see the tiny actor with the big burly dudes (football players, rappers) who would carry him around with them everywhere. It made for a surreal and ironically Austin Powers–esque sight for all.
According to Troyer’s good friend Ava Berman, who owns Velvet Margarita Cantina with her husband, “Big Daddy” Carlos Adley, Troyer started being carried around this way at the Viper Room one night when it was a packed house and walking in the club was dangerous due to his size.
“He didn’t like to be held like a baby, or on the shoulders, more on someone’s arm,” Berman recalls of the many times Troyer visited her Hollywood restaurant or her and Adley’s Vegas clubs, Backstage Bar and Fremont Country Club. “He had a special chair he'd use, and he would be partying and have all these girls around him. … We’d always look out for him. He had a lot of people who cared about him.”
Berman, who was pals with Troyer before he did the two Austin Powers sequels, says the Michigan-born actor was a stuntman (standing in for children) before his big break with Mike Myers. It is little known that he stood in for the baby in John Hughes' film Baby's Day Out or that he dressed in a panda costume for The Amazing Panda Adventure. Other roles included Dunston Checks In, Jingle All the Way, Men in Black and My Giant. His post–Mini-Me movie appearances included Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and TV appearances such as The Surreal Life and Celebrity Big Brother in England.
According to his friends, Troyer was extremely funny and kind, but he had dark moments stemming from a complex childhood that included an Amish upbringing and some obvious personal conflicts that came with his stature. L.A. life, it seemed, helped him move on from his past, though. His kin posted about his death on his Facebook and Instagram on Saturday, stating, “It is with great sadness and incredibly heavy hearts to write that Verne passed away today. Verne was an extremely caring individual. He wanted to make everyone smile, be happy, and laugh. Anybody in need, he would help to any extent possible.”
Berman and Adley say they plan a special tribute to their departed friend at their upcoming Cinco de Mayo party. That's also Velvet Margarita's annual anniversary event, at which Troyer participated in the celebrity poker tournament every year. More details on this to come.