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The Many Lives of Mendoza

Cuban refugee. Ivy league preppy. Hippie commune resident. Modern New York artist. Retired photography prof. Successful Kickstarter campaigner and self-published author. Tony Mendoza has lived enough lives to fill a book. Or eight. A photographer and author, the 76-year-old places his striking color and black and white images alongside succinct paragraphs capturing specific memories. A [...]
Jeni Ruisch

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Cuban refugee.
Ivy league preppy.
Hippie commune resident.
Modern New York artist.
Retired photography prof.
Successful Kickstarter campaigner and self-published author.

Tony Mendoza has lived enough lives to fill a book. Or eight. A photographer and author, the 76-year-old places his striking color and black and white images alongside succinct paragraphs capturing specific memories. A flashbulb igniting a moment in time, spectacular or mundane. We identify with his images not because we have lived his life, but because he is our friend recounting his greatest hits. The stories with which we’re already familiar, but goad him into telling again and again. Mendoza tags his tales with an accompanying belly laugh that smacks the air above him and then drifts away like steam on a calm day. He drops bemused and casual conversational bombs—like trying to sail on a motorboat from Cuba to Florida when he was a young teenager, attending Harvard and Yale, and taking an elevator up to his loft past Andy Warhol’s parties nightly when he was a starving artist in New York.

To publish his latest book, “Pictures With Stories: A Memoir,” the Columbus resident and retired OSU prof forged his own path. Confronted by unresponsive publishing houses, he turned to crowdfunding. And after a successful Kickstarter, 2017 will see the print version of his latest set of tiny tales, as well as a show at Columbus’ Joseph Editions Gallery.

(614) was able to pin down the indefatigable Mendoza long enough to hear about his past and future lives.

How long have you been cataloguing things?

At some point, I started writing little stories with the photographs. I started doing that when I realized that maybe I had lived an interesting life. I say maybe because we all live interesting lives. I feel in a way privileged that I’ve lived many lives. I used to be an upper class Cuban in one life. I was a very spoiled kid and I was wealthy. I was a morally terrible person [laughs].

What was the worst thing you did when you were a kid?

When you grow up in a Latin culture and you’re a boy, you kind of have the run of everything. And you’re allowed to do everything. So from the moment I was 13, I had the run of the city of Havana. It was a center of sin in our hemisphere, and I participated in it [laughs]. At 18 I left, but living in Havana was a wild place. I gambled, I went to brothels, I drank. I did everything.

When you were a teenager?

When I was 13! [laughs]

When did the political climate change?

In 1958, Fidel Castro came in. And in 1960, I left. That was my first life, then I came to America. I quickly moved into the American thing because I had gone to a prep school. I totally understood Americans, what they were like and all that. I liked it. I liked the whole thing. I just moved into American society pretty quickly. I went through an Ivy league education. I went to Yale, so I became kind of a preppy, just automatically. I bought clothes at Brooks Brothers [laughs], went to Yale and went to all the girl’s schools for dates—Sara Lawrence and Vassar. That was my second life, as a preppy. Then the next step was, I went to graduate school and architectural school—and that was in Cambridge—and I got radicalized. At the end of that, I became part of the ’60s. So that was my third life.

When you say you understood Americans, what does that mean?

American culture, in my opinion, was clearly superior to Cuban culture. Cuban culture was very traditional, conservative and all that. There was a sense that you did what your father did. That also implied that you would also adopt their ideas. So there was religion and there was property, and there was conservative political ideology, and so on. When I came to the United States, I realized that you didn’t adopt your parents culture automatically. If anything, you rebelled against it. I kind of understood that right away. And people were very open, religiously and all that. No one really gave a damn about all that, and that suited my personality. Socially… the girls necked. Cuban girls didn’t, so I immediately took to that. [laughs] I immediately became an American at heart.

How did you become a part of the ’60s?

The ’60s changed me a lot because I basically got rid of all my conservative views pretty fast. I took to the idea that the ’60s was about exploring everything. Nothing was off limits. Drugs, sex, rock and roll, leftist politics, everything of that sort. At the end of that decade, I moved into a commune and explored that lifestyle of living with many people and trying things out. Nothing heavy—marijuana, acid, that kind of thing. And then my fourth life was… I became an artist.

Tell me about your breakthrough moment in New York.

I had this box of really good cat pictures. I spent like two years and took like 10,000 pictures of this cat. Photographed him every day. I knew pretty fast I had a project that was gonna fly, because people really admired the pictures. Even good galleries in New York gave me a show of cat pictures—which is rare. I took it to publishers, thinking “This is clearly a book.” I got rejected like 30 times. I went to everybody in New York, and everyone rejected it. Then somebody said: you can’t publish a book of pictures if you’re not a famous person. If you’re Ansel Adams, you can put a bunch of pictures in a book and then publish them. But if you’re Tony-Mendoza-I’ve-never-heard-of-you, you can’t do that. You have to have a story, a text. The book has to be interesting to read and see. There has to be writing in this thing. After so many rejections, that made perfect sense. It was interesting, cause up to that point, I never saw myself as a writer. I saw myself as a photographer. I basically holed myself up for a while and started coming up with the text. The first publisher who saw the project with the text said “This is great, let’s publish it.”

With that success behind you, why did you turn to Kickstarter?

Stories, my previous book, got reviewed in Time, Newsweek, Vogue, New York Times Book Review—all excellent reviews. All the viewers loved what I do, photographs with little stories… I figured, “Hell, I’m just gonna write publishers and say, ‘I’ve brought my Stories book up to date. I’ve written new stories.’” And to my amazement, no publisher wanted to publish it. The Museum of Modern Art owns 65 stories in the permanent collection, and people aren’t interested in this? [laughs] F*ck this. I’m gonna publish it myself.

Mendoza will release his latest book, Pictures with Stories: A Memoir in the fall of 2017. His show at Joseph Editions will open Thursday, September 14. More info at josepheditions.com.

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Weekend Roundup: 5/29 – 5/31

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With Ohio slowly starting to fully reopen, initial in-person gatherings have trickled into our news feeds.

Below are a few things you can check out over the weekend if you’ve been itching to leave your house and are capable of following COVID-19 guidelines.

Friday

Fair Food Weekend @ Oakland Nursery

One of the most disappointing summertime cancellations was the axing of the Ohio State Fair. For those still wanting to get their elephant ears or deep-fried oreo fix, Chester Foods will be bringing a pop-up food truck to the Oakland Nursery. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, fried oreos, fresh-cut fries, and lemonade shake-ups will all be on the menu. Fair food will be set up on both Friday and Saturday.

Time: 12 p.m. - 8 p.m. | Address: 4261 W. Dublin Granville Rd.

Saturday

Sonic The Hedgehog/Jumanji: The Next Level and The Hunt/The Invisible Man @ South Drive-In

With movie theaters in Ohio still closing their doors, the drive-in revival has been sweeping the state, nation, and world. Once drive-ins were given the go-ahead by DeWine, South Drive-In began to provide the double feature experience to eager moviegoers. Admission is $9.50 on Friday/Saturday and $7.50 on Sunday for those 12+, $2 for ages 5-11, and free for those under 4.

The showings for this weekend are as follows: 

Screen 1:

  • 9:05 p.m. Sonic The Hedgehog (PG)
  • 10:53 p.m. Jumanji: The Next Level (PG-13)
  • 12:56 a.m. Sonic The Hedgehog (Friday/Saturday only) 

Screen 2:

  • 9:25 p.m. The Hunt (R)
  • 11:05 p.m. The Invisible Man (R)
  • 1:09 a.m. The Hunt (Friday/Saturday only)

Check out the South Drive-In website to see what social distancing guidelines need to be followed.

Time: Arrive 1-2 hours prior to first showing | Address: 3050 S. High St.

Sunday

Reggae on the Patio @ Skully’s Music-Diner

If you’re in search of a relaxing Sunday, look no further than Skully’s. The music venue/bar will be opening its patio for those to have socially distance hangs, drinks, and wings. Skully’s will be setting the mood perfectly for a chill Sunday by spinning reggae music all night long. Get yourself out of the house and go catch some island vibes.

Time: 7 p.m. - 2 a.m. | Address: 1151 N. High St.

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SoHud Collective provides fresh, stylish open-air experience

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The fear of ever going back inside of a building that’s not your home has become a general widespread worry. Open-air markets and garage sales are going to be a hot commodity this summer, and one new company has already taken a proactive and stylish approach to fill that need for consumers.

SoHud Collective is one of the first Columbus-based companies to corner this emerging market. The boutique pop-up shop, founded on the principle of friendships formed around fashion, art, and plants, hosted their first event on Saturday, May 23. 

And oh yeah, free lemonade.

An assortment of deep vintage finds at an incredibly reasonable price will leave you walking away with at least one purchase. The first installment took place on the corner of Hudson and Summit, across the street from Evolved Body Art.

The idea of a pop-up shop at this corner may be a new idea, but the format has been around for ages. Why SoHud Collective is important right now boils down to the consumers’ desire for an out-of-house experience and the employees’ obvious shared compassion for each other and thrifting.

“Fashion has been the glue to our friendship,” said the SoHud Collective, made up of Taylor, Connor, and Hayden. “We thrift together, we borrow each other’s clothing, and we send each other pictures of our outfits before we leave the house.”

A company formed on friendships in the SoHud region, the group behind this passion project has a specific goal in mind when passing down their used goods: keep the SoHud community stylin’. 

“Some of us have lost our jobs due to Covid-19, and this was a great way to keep our spirits up and redirect our attention to something that truly fulfills us,” the SoHud Collective said.

The items featured in the monthly pop-ups are passed down from an assortment of thrifting havens. Closets. Basements. Other thrift stores. Grandmas.

From shoes to shirts, Atari systems to board games, SoHud Collective is elevating the thrifting experience in the time of coronavirus.

“Currently, our focus is on elevating our display and merchandising technique to really give the people an experience and a fierce outfit and home decor to create that perfect photo for Instagram, the SoHud Collective said.”

SoHud Collective would like to thank Evolved for letting it use its parking lot for May’s edition of the pop-up. With a goal to have an installment of SoHud Collective once a month, the pop-up shop will return to the same location on June 27 (11 a.m. until 7 p.m.) and 28 (11 a.m. until 4 p.m.). 

A charity table where all proceeds will go to clothing the homeless LGBTQ youth in Columbus will be present as well. 

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Loop Daddy invades Columbus with first-ever drive-in tour

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The return of live music is going to be one of the trickiest industries to transition back into business as usual, if that will ever be the case. We’ve seen people getting creative, building concert stages within their own homes via live streaming. Some have participated in virtual festivals, probably the sector of live music to take the biggest hit.

But when an industry made up of innovative creatives always trying to come up with the next big idea is faced with incredible hardships, they respond with quick-witted imaginative solutions.

One of the first trends that popped up in the revolution of bringing back live music was the implementation of drive-in lots. Luckily for Columbus, the darling of the internet DJ scene Marc Rebillet aka Loop Daddy will be taking his first-ever drive-in tour through the Buckeye state in mid-June.

Captivating audiences with his participatory DJ scratching and immature antics, extremely goofy sex appeal, and sleazy porno stache, Rebillet was an act poised for a breakout summer before the pandemic shut music concert venues down. If you have access to a car, though, you’ll still have a chance to catch the wild virtual sensation.

On June 14, Rebillet will be pulling up to the South Drive-In for the third stop of his Drive-In Concert Tour. Rebillet will also be showcasing short films as part of his drive-in experience.

As far as sound is going for these events, a lot of drive-ins are opting to go the radio transmission route to encourage people to stay inside of their vehicles.

A very few grouping of tickets remain, which include three-person and four-person car passes. Tickets are running $40 per head (plus additional fees), which seems to be the average across the new wave of drive-in concerts. Two-people/one-car tickets have already sold out.

If you don’t want to miss out on this unique opportunity, act right now. Tickets can be purchased at:

https://nightout.com/events/marc-rebillet-drive-in-tour-columbus-ohio-south-drive-in-presented-by-hotbox/tickets.

Social distancing guidelines are outlined at the point of purchase.

The South Drive-In is located at 3050 S. High St. Doors open at 8 p.m. with the show beginning at 9 p.m. Attendees need to arrive before 8:45 p.m. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

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