Building the American Dream: "Big Mike" Harrah PDF Print E-mail

Mike grew up in middle class Whittier and like most California kids in the early sixties loved surfing, playing music (drums) racing cars, motorcycles and boats.  In 1969, just after high school he had enough money saved up to buy a one way (Standby) ticket to Hawaii, traveling with only with a duffel bag and his surfboard he was going to surf for the rest of his life. Big Mike soon realized his workaholic personality just didn’t fit the Surfer dude lifestyle and soon came back.  He started a framing company in the early seventies called Harrah Construction Company, starting with a 10,000 sq. ft. house he built with a helper on weekends and evenings after working as a framing contractor on other jobs. Never afraid to get his hands dirty he is in the mix on every endeavor, even today.   From one custom house to One Broadway Plaza Big Mike builds anything.  In fact Big Mike is now constructing the tallest superstructure in the history of Orange County in Santa Ana, California. His passion for racing, boats, cars, speed ski racing and riding motorcycles has also grown through the years.

A professional S.A.G. (Screen Actors Guild) card holder since 1997 as a major motion picture Helicopter stunt pilot and a dare devil sports man who drives alcohol fueled dragsters, professionally raced G.N. (Grand National) Drag Boats speed ski racer, of which he holds 2 National and one world record, and pilots his own Cobra TAH1P military helicopter as a stunt man in Hollywood action pictures such as "the Hulk" and "The Siege". Big Mike epitomizes the American Dream: dream big, work hard and never say a soldier in the army of the Lord... his resiliency paid off. He has had some major hard falls but gets right back up for the fight. Through financial hard times and a near fatal Helicopter accident Big Mike stands tall.   Big Mikes favorite motorcycle is a custom built V8 powered “Vanquish” built by Mike Kelly, a Boss Hoss Dealer and self proclaimed gear head from Marco Island, FL. The definition of Vanquish is "total domination" and the ability to crush one's opponent.  One look at the Vanquish V8 motorcycle shows that the name is fitting.  The bike is powered by a custom built all aluminum 427 cubic inch World small block.   “It’s not everyone that has the stomach for 600 horsepower bike with 550 ft. lbs. of torque or the wallet to spend 6 figures on one, but when they call you Big Mike, you’re 6 foot 6 inches and weigh.... well let's say just north of 300 pounds with 20" tend to like big things” states Kelly.  When Big Mike called Kelly, an instant understanding and connection was clear, this bike was to be Ultra custom.  Custom paint, custom camshaft, custom fitted alligator seat, and a very big shot of Nitrous Oxide just in case something very special pulled up next to Big Mike.  Needless to say, Big Mike has vanquished all possible threats on the street and at the track with his brutally fast V8 bike.  The bike is geared to run 120 mph in first gear at 7,000 rpm and will hit 200 mph in second at 7,000 rpm.  Ask Big Mike what his favorite machine is and he will tell you "my V8 bike".  Mike tries to have a Motorcycle at his out-of-state construction projects whether it’s his Harley Electra Glide Bagger in Hawaii or a Bourget T6 Retro in Arizona..   Big Mike is a rider through and through.
Big Mike is a Builder of dreams.  One of his personal favorites is his restaurant Original Mikes, which he and his construction company - Caribou Industries - built, at 100 S. Main Street in Santa Ana, California.  Resurrected from the ground up this gutted, boarded up and condemned building for over 20 years was an Automobile sales and service building, once served as a "Buick" dealership, originally built in 1919.   In late 1923 it became the first horseless carriage motorcar company in Orange County. Today it is known as Original Mikes which hosts numerous events from corporate parties, Bike night, Police and Fire, Make a Wish Foundation, Boy's and Girl's Clubs, Orange County High School of the Arts, and many others of "Big Mike" Harrah charity sponsored events.  "Big Mike" likes to give back to the community and the children of Orange County.  "Big Mike" say's after all "Today's Youth are Tomorrows Future".

Original Mike’s has become a well known motorcycle destination hosting such rides as: the Ride for Autism and Ride the Coast. With two indoor performing arts stages and one outdoors, three bars two private dining rooms one with a wine cellar, a cigar Humidor and  2 wood burning fireplaces, all surrounded by the largest 360° Jumbotron Mega T.V. on the west coast. Considered by many Orange County bikers to be the ultimate Sports bar, which may be an understatement.  The huge facility has a 1,500 person capacity with a massive parking lot.  Big Mike received his certificate of occupancy on September 10th 2001.  The next day America changed forever but Big Mike’s resilience paid off again and he celebrates original Mike’s 10th anniversary bash with his mottos “Start the Party" and "Go Big or Go Home”.
Yes he is Santa Ana’s largest commercial developer and is currently building Orange Counties tallest structure at 37 stories. He has over 4,000,000 sq. ft. of buildings.  Yeah, he looks like a big scary biker but truth be told,  most big scary bikers love to be Santa Clause at Christmas.  Big men usually have big hearts.  In 2000 Big Mike got involved with the Orange County High School for the Arts (OCHSA). He  was blown away by the talent of the kids he met during a tour of the Los Alamitos School and took their school campus and future expansion problem to heart. The school had the rug pulled out from under them at the last minute when the City Council decided that their expansion would create too much traffic. Mike purchased a building for 4.5 million and retrofitted the schools expansion plans to fit it. He put up all his own property and additional collateral for a 16 million dollar construction loan and then brought in a 191 man Caribou Industries construction crew to renovate the building. Right in the middle of the project Mike had a near fatal helicopter crash flying from Reno, NV.  He broke his back, both legs; both feet; punctured a lung and dislocated a shoulder. The accident couldn’t have come at a worse time, if the school wasn’t ready to open in September it would lose state funding, since Mike had a 16 million construction loan in his name, it would have ruined him. But even from his hospital bed he made sure the school opened on time.  Orange Counties most talented students are now able to pursue their dreams because of Big Mike.

Whether sitting in on drums for Righteous Brother Bill Medley or on his custom Vanquish, California 502 HP Boss Hoss V8, custom Bourget motorcycles or building the tallest building in Orange County "Big Mike" dreams big, works and play’s hard and looks forward to a long Bike ride every Sunday morning.