The son of Lebanese immigrants, Michael Samara was born in 1924 in Oklahoma City. He started working in restaurants for his brother, Jake, at the age of twelve. He managed the Jamboree Supper Club in Oklahoma City and moved to Joplin, Missouri, to open and manage Mickey Mantle’s Holiday Inn for six years.
Mike opened the Celebrity Club in Tulsa at a location which was then “way out east” at 31st and Yale Avenue in 1963.
Beyond the Celebrity Club, Mike owned or had an interest in the Hilton Habana Inn, Big Mike’s Hamburgers, Utica 21 Club, and Sleepy Hollow among others. He was also part of the team that brought the first Burger King fast-food restaurants to Tulsa.
In 1984, Mike successfully campaigned for Oklahoma to pass liquor-by-the-drink. The Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission issued Samara the state’s first permit for liquor by the drink on June 19, 1985.
Even though his eyesight was failing, he would continue to put on a suit and tie every evening and go into his restaurant to greet his patrons until he was ninety-one years old. Mike was ninety-four when he died on November 1, 2018.