SEATTLE, April 23, 2008 – The first time I met Stephan Miller, it was in another digital lifetime, almost a decade ago, at a precursor to Scout.com. Company executives were all abuzz about his visit to the Emerald City. To us, his arrival meant the advent of the NFL online network. The place was rife with anticipation.
Finally, it was Miller time. A gushing executive prepped me, “He’s so cool. Wait until you see his glasses.”
In whisked Stephan Miller, bespoked in his gold, Al-Davis-lookalike wraparound frames, flowing mane and tattoo-emblazoned arms. In my misty, watercolored memory, he appeared with an entourage, a squadron of Hell’s Angels, maybe, though now I’m sure it was probably one or two fellow NFL publishers.
“What’s the big deal with this guy?” I wondered.
Nine years later, I know exactly what: Nothing and everything. Miller was one of the first pieces of the puzzle put in place by Rivals.com founder James C. Heckman and is the father of much of what makes up the essence of the Scout.com network – its community and interactivity, mostly, but also its scrappiness and work ethic.
Killed on Tuesday when bitten in the neck by a Hollywood grizzly he was handling, Miller would own up to none of the aforementioned. He was as humble as pie, with a heart bigger than anyone I’ve ever met. He called me his “brother,” and we’ve said “I love you” more than any other friends I know. Of course I know he has other friends, just as dear, who feel as special and singular as I. That was Stephan Miller’s magic.
Miller, who would have been 40 in May, is survived by his immediate family of rocker-chick wife Elizabeth, whom he adored along with their children, Liam and Katelin. He lived in Canyon Country, Calif., some 35 miles north of Los Angeles. At the time of his death, Miller was with his cousin, Randy Miller, 42, shooting a promotion at the latter’s Predators in Action center up in the San Bernardino mountains.
Connecting people and fusing them into online communities, Miller was a principal of Superfusion, Inc., which founded the original NFLfans Network, which was acquired by Rivals.com in 1999 and moved to Scout in 2001. Miller also founded CapitolPunishment.com, a fan website that covered and discussed the Washington Redskins, and was stamped with Miller’s unique combination of graphics and features, paired with interactivity and a vibrant, caring community that lives on today at WarpathInsiders.com on the Scout.com network.
At Scout.com, Miller was the director of network development, guided the professional sports sub-networks and spearheaded all online-community efforts. He was almost legendary for his availability around the online sports network, which stretched coast to coast and operated 24 hours daily.
Miller developed the flair with which he tackled all his endeavors while the marketing director for Original New York Seltzer, a family business revived dramatically in the ’80s on a clever, grassroots basis. During that stint, supervised by his uncle, Alan Miller, with whom he was extremely close, Miller worked with celebrities in the film and music industry, and stayed connected. He also began delving into the Internet while working as an exotic animal trainer and stuntman for film, television, and live shows.
No wannabee Hollywood star, Miller has credits in such films as The Jungle Book: Mowgliís Story, The Postman, Hollywood Safari, and The Island of Dr. Moreau. He most recently appeared in the critically acclaimed HBO series Deadwood, capitalizing on his ability to morph into a scruffy, curse-spitting character. Miller also had been working on his own film, Corpse.
Miller also leaves this world known for his love of gadgets, skulls and creative jewelry, three-wheeling with his family and recent infatuation with 1950s music as a stress reliever. One to try anything, he once suffered a broken tailbone while skateboarding with his son, Liam. After leaving Scout.com in November, Miller pursued horror projects such as Girls and Corpses Magazine and the Underground Horror Movie Network via his company, Gunslinger Media, and with close friend and business partner, Anessa Dobberstein, another original at Scout.com. Miller also was the CTO at Sharenow.com, a next-generation social network based in Los Angeles.
Underlying all of Miller’s undertakings was his unabiding love of animals, whether they be the young family dog, or the 5-year-old grizzly, Rocky, who caused his death. It also has not been lost on Miller’s friends that he went out dramatically, forever linked to a bear he helped raise and which won acclaim in the recent Will Ferrell film vehicle, Semi-Pro.
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized, but anyone near the Los Angeles area is advised to stop and raise a glass at the Rainbow Room, on Sunset Blvd., one of Miller’s favorite places on earth. There, with its teeming energy, celebrities, rocker scene inside and hip-hop crowd outside, you will find a perfect encapsulation of Stephan Miller, a man who could travel with any crowd.
He will be missed by every single one of them.
Glenn Nelson was the editor-in-chief at Scout.com for the first six years of its existence.