As the owner of Gus Gus Fun Bus, Mike Arnold has been one of the St. Louis food and drink scene's biggest supporters, ferrying revelers to wineries and restaurants in his fifteen-seat party bus even as he propped up their chefs, brewers and bartenders on social media.
And so when Arnold was struck by a car Saturday near the Taste of Downtown STL event, those same people turned to social media to rally for his recovery. Tributes poured in on Twitter, with many tastemakers and journalists posting selfies featuring their bright yellow Gus Gus T-shirts. A GoFundMe set up by Troika Brodsky of the St. Louis Brewers Guild quickly raised more than $1,800 — a number still growing quickly as of press time.
Behind all the well wishes, though, was a very serious situation.
As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported, Arnold, 54, was near Kiener Plaza around 12:30 p.m. Saturday when police say an attempted robbery took place. Arnold was hit by a truck just after that. (Update: Police now say Arnold was attempting to film a carjacking, which involved an assailant pepper-spraying two women, when he was struck intentionally.)
His daughter, Molly Jones, told the paper that he was initially doing OK despite numerous broken bones — but took a turn for the worse on Sunday.
“He’s not doing very well,” she told the paper. “He coded (Sunday) morning and they performed CPR on him for 35 minutes. He’s not getting much oxygen to his brain. They are having trouble getting his oxygen up. We are worried about if he will pull through.”
That news had many friends and acquaintances reeling — and using their platforms to advocate for support.
@GusGusFunBus Hang in there Mike, StL needs you. Much love to you and your family, thanks for sharing your love for StL daily.— Baileys' Restaurants (@BaileysInStL) June 18, 2018
Get well soon Mike! Praying for a full and quick recovery.— David Choi (@davidchoiSTL) June 18, 2018
Best wishes to Mike Arnold and family of @GusGusFunBus , we hope he has a full and fast recovery.... still piecing together what happened after being out of town....Mike is the best and a great supporter of all things STL and MO!— Charleville Brewing (@CharlevilleBeer) June 18, 2018
All our hopes and prayers are going to this guy right now, Mike of @gusgusfunbus fame. He was severely injured this weekend and is in the ICU. He is one of the most genuine, kind people we know and is a beloved part of the St. Louis food scene.— We Eat Stuff (@WeEatStuff_STL) June 18, 2018
Get be… https://t.co/z01aEJ3Wkt pic.twitter.com/r4WbBtq6CP
Arnold's wife Suzanne wrote on the GoFundMe, "Our kids already know that Mike is the greatest dad, friend, husband, bus driver, and dad-joke teller ever. However, I think they will be so proud to experience the outpouring of love, concern, and assistance from this bighearted community.
"I want to celebrate the effect he's had on all those who consider Mike a friend, supporter, and advocate for their causes. In short, I want to honor him for being one of the best people I've ever known and probably ever will know. We love you so much Mike. Always."
Indeed, the family seemed to draw strength from the public outpouring. "We are keeping an eye on the love he's getting from Twitter and Facebook," one of Arnold's children wrote on Reddit yesterday. "It helps a lot, just seeing how loved he is."
For all the passion Arnold put into his Gus Gus tours, the bus was a side job. Arnold has worked at AAA-Auto Club for three decades as its direct mail coordinator. He originally bought the fourteen-passenger van in order to have enough room for his family — he and his wife, Suzanne, have eight children between them.
According to a 2017 Post-Dispatch profile, the kids named the bus when they were young, after the chubby mouse in Cinderella. Arnold was modest about what he later brought to the table as a party bus driver. "I'm just the ride to the fun," he said.
His many fans in local media would beg to differ.
Prayers going out to Mike @GusGusFunBus. He was a big part of one of my most fun nights...#BadMomsNightOut w/a bus load of crazy mom friends. He’s a tireless cheerleader for our area’s eateries, bars, wineries etc. We need him healthy! pic.twitter.com/5arMTMnTv0— Debbie Monterrey (@DebbieMonterrey) June 17, 2018
Everyone knows Mike would help anyone in an instant. @GusGusFunBus is a ray of sunshine and one of the biggest supports of local businesses. He’s a father and grandfather. His friend @TroikaB has set up a GoFundMe. @kmov https://t.co/dwNMr5r2Ms— Alexis Zotos (@alexiszotos) June 18, 2018
I used to use @GusGusFunBus as an example of amazing nontraditional social strategy in my @UMSLDigital class - someone who took the time to do the work to develop real friendships - so evident today as I see ppl react to the news. Mike, you are loved. https://t.co/nSVBeLrnyx— Danni Eickenhorst (@STLDanni) June 18, 2018
In the years since Arnold took Gus Gus into business as a party bus, he's been repeatedly honored as one of the area's top Twitter presences. An O'Fallon resident, he nevertheless staunchly defended the city — and kept a close eye on its newest restaurants.
But Arnold couldn't have been further from a snob. He was always, consistently positive, whether calling attention to one of Missouri's wineries or trying out.
Last week, he posted in classic style about one of his kids' new employers:
One of the boys just started working at @ImosOFallon. This could be dangerous 😄— Gus Gus Fun Bus (@GusGusFunBus) June 15, 2018
To contribute to Arnold's recovery, and for the most recent updates, please check out the GoFundMe campaign. A Meal Train has also been organized to keep his family fed.
Update: Several local restaurants are now hosting fundraisers on Arnold's behalf.
On Wednesday, June 20, Third Wheel Brewing will donate $1 from every pint or flight and 10 percent of all food purchases during Trivia Night.
On Thursday, the following businesses are raising money for Arnold:
- Main and Mill Brewing : Donating 15 percent of all sales
- Kirkwood Station Brewing : Donating 100 percent of beer sales from the Moore Bier Series. Begins at 5pm, also accepting cash donations on-site.
- Two Plumbers Brewery : Donating 15 percent of all sales
- Gioia's Deli - Donating 100 percent of profit from all sales at the Hill location, which will be staying open until 8 pm and featuring live music from Matt Dal and beer from 2nd Shift Brewing.
- Ferguson Brewing Company : Donating 15 percent of all sales
- Yoga Buzz at The Weingarten : Donating 20 percent of all ticket sales from an evening of Yoga + Wine.
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