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Cover Story

Mormon Celebrity Meltdown Page 3

A drug-fueled journey through LDS film

By Stephen Dark
Posted // December 14,2011 -

Friend Nate Keller points out Birkeland has never lost his faith. Even when he was deep into partying and drugs, Birkeland never said such a lifestyle was the right thing to do, Keller says. “He’s really looking for a real deep jolt that can just help him to become back as he was.”

Birkeland says he found that “jolt” leaning over the edge of a Mount Timpanogos cliff face. Something extraordinary happened, he says. “This unbelievable wind, this pressure,” blew him back. “I went slam, backward, down on the ground.” He lay there, stunned, even as memories played out before him.

He was 6, lying on a dock by a lake in Tennessee, “the trees and the grass greener than all, the water clear, the sun perfect. It’s my first memory of peace.”

Then he was on his mission, being told by the spirit that possessed a woman he was exorcising, “If you do not stand firm, we’ll have you.” That was replaced by a Scottish elder at the LDS missionary school reducing Birkeland and other young missionaries to tears with his passionate teaching. Birkeland witnessed again the birth of his children, and with it, “the most peaceful feeling.”

As Birkeland climbed down the mountainside, he wanted a new life. He moved to Sandy, changed his e-mail, temporarily closed his Facebook page and changed his phone number—the latter a not- uncommon occurrence, say friends. “I went off the grid,” he says.

But even after disconnecting himself from the world, his trials continued.

In 2008, Birkeland was charged with theft for allegedly stealing a professor’s laptop. Angie Larsen was anchoring Channel 4 news when she did the story on her friend’s arrest. “It was shocking. It was hard for me to get the words out.”

After years of breaking the law, Birkeland admits, he went to court for a crime he insists he did not commit. He nevertheless pleaded no-contest and was sentenced to 12 days of work diversion and put on probation. “It’s one of the best things that happened,” he says now. “I didn’t get away with something I didn’t do.”

Along with producing and hosting local TV shows, Birkeland also went into mortgage refinancing with a friend of 17 years. But after two years, that business relationship ended abruptly, along with a stormy four-year personal relationship with a Brazilian fashion store owner. Despite these setbacks, he remains upbeat about the future, focusing in part on his own life story. He intends to make a documentary—What Makes Me B—about his journey back to his church. Very few of those excommunicated, he says, return to the church. “They feel like there’s no hope, that they will be judged for the rest of their lives.”

Dutcher argues Birkeland’s comedic talents “are for a bigger audience, better movies. His time is better spent, and his talent better appreciated, elsewhere.” That’s a route that Birkeland’s fellow Singles Ward stars Swenson and Heyborne have profitably taken. Will Swenson was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in a Broadway production of Hair, while now-Los Angeles-based Kirby Heyborne, despite criticism in Utah of his appearance in a Miller Lite commercial, was picked by directors The Farrelly Brothers (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb & Dumber) to act in their upcoming comedy The Three Stooges.

The main prize for Birkeland—at least for now—is returning to the LDS Church. “Got to get that Holy Ghost back, man,” he says. “But coming back, it’s the hardest thing.”

He met with a church authority, who instructed him to make a list of 10 things to give up and 10 things to take up. He chose to give up coffee and take up praying.


While Birkeland wants to bear his testimony at the Midvale singles ward he attends, his excommunication forbids him from bearing his testimony and taking the sacrament. Twice, church authorities have told him he is not ready to be re-baptized. But in early December, however, he writes in an e-mail that the LDS Church has decided he can be re-baptized. “April 2012, baby. I’m back.”

But some of his friends wonder how deep the change has really been. Tim Treadway has been friends with him for 22 years. “I care about him,” he says. But he worries Birkeland is running out of options. While “deep down he wants to get to a better place, he doesn’t have any idea how to get there.” Treadway fears Birkeland may not “have the humility to accept what it’s going to take to truly get there. I think he’s still lost.”

Angie Larsen disagrees. She characterizes Birkeland as an “unstoppable force. He has been kicked down, beaten and broken, much of it his own doing. But he has this undeniable strength, this spirit, and he continues to fight back. His goal in life is to help people laugh, find humor and joy. I think that’s his life’s calling.”

However, as with so many famous comedians with dark sides, Birkeland finds his own funny-man persona irksome. He says, “I became the court jester” to friends who were interested only in him making them laugh, not in hearing about his ongoing struggles. “No more Michael B, no more funny, crazy guy,” he says. He is tired of “everyone putting quarters in this monkey,” he says, violently clapping. “Everyone wants me to be the funny guy. What do I want?”

His American dream, he says, “is to entertain people, then go home to a life that I find beautiful, to a wife and children.”

Despite the ups and downs, the angst and the anger, he says he is at peace. “I am a good man,” he says, paraphrasing advice from his father. “Now it’s time to become a great man.”?

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Posted // November 16,2012 at 10:02 I just think that no one has the right to jugde him. If his repentance is true or not, only Havenly Father can know. I truly hope he's trying to change his life to fit to the Kingdom and I wish, as member of The Church of Jesus Christ, which we claim to be true, we stop jugding people and help them to get better!


Posted // March 5,2012 at 15:31

My life was severly affected by Michael Birkeland's sociopathic behavior.  He seems to have a taste for married women.  Using his mormon celebrity status, he gained my wife's confidence and seduced her.  I walked away from the marriage and a multimillion dollar business due to disgust over his actions. He is still with my exwife and claims he has been working for Bohme boutique since 2008, so many lies.   when i confronted him, he threatened to call police.  a coward and a sociopath, Michael is a horrid excuse for a human being.  i will stand behind my words or sign any affidavit.


Posted // June 9,2013 at 00:01 - the world has sociopaths and conartists, i am sorry your marriage had to suffer, i heard this jerks xwife is so digusted she wont talk about it


Posted // March 30,2013 at 09:41 - Hahaha he banged ur wife? Don't blame mike for pounding her blame that lil piece o meat dangling between ur legs! If u can't please em then leave em! More power to ur x! Hahahah fucker


Posted // May 26,2012 at 13:29 - Wow, Mr. Bohme, we need to talk. So sorry for your situation.


Posted // March 3,2012 at 15:19

   It makes me sick to read that such an evil, treacherous person is going to be baptized again.  His stormy affair with the Married Brazilian is still going strong.  Abusing celebrity status to bed married women is not a sign of decency.  Please quit ruining other families before claiming change of heart.


Posted // June 8,2013 at 23:55 - Messing around with women is pretty low. Runnin away from the husband is weak. Getting rebaptised is a sham


Posted // December 30,2011 at 21:52 Michael performed comedy at a fundraiser for our non-profit in 2005.  He was gracious, genuine and compassionate.  Kudos to him for sharing his struggles and desires for his future and faith.  Gives each of us the challenge to be as transparent and raw about our shortcomings.  Much success to you Michael on your journey!


Posted // December 30,2011 at 18:18 B is my friend and brother. I wish the best for him, but his issue is trying to be what he is not. The Mormon way has never been his path. It's like jamming a square peg into a round hole. I truly believe that if Michael would accept a healthy, responsible alternative to Mormonism, he would do amazing things in a normal world outside the mindscrew of Utah's strange beliefs and culture.


Posted // December 30,2011 at 18:40 - Thank you Brad B for proving my point about how judgemental and ugly Utah is. You are the epitome of it all on your own!! The fact is, Michael willingly put his life, faults and all right in the face of everyone, knowing darn well the crap he'd have thrown at him in response, and yet, did it anyway. Tracy, I agree with what youve said and am grateful to know there are people out there that see that side of Michael I've known most of my life. He's got a huge heart and means well, but still "just a man". He's screwed up, and probably will again, just like the rest of us. Point is, he's taking responsibility for his actions and the nay sayers need to shut the hell up!! I'm proud to be his friend! Yes, Brad, I said FRIEND. you should try it


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