On the first day I moved into "Studio 11", I ran into Oliver and had our first real conversation. Within five minutes, I was told of the time he was at a party and was twice hit over the back with a folding chair. As a sheltered child of the suburbs, I was absolutely riveted by Oliver's wild stories. In the ensuing two hours, our conversation veered over a medley of topics, including kung fu, women, freemasons and his belief that "Babylon 5" was one of the best shows on television. It is safe to say that from the very first time we talked, that I could say Oliver Mendoza is the most interesting person I know.
Life in "Studio 11" was one of the greatest times of my life. Although we were living slightly above the poverty line, in an apartment that was too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, we had fun and we churned out a ton of artwork. I'd like to think that those guys made me a lot more fun to be around and that I in turn made them work a little harder on their art. It was funny how these guys who I was not exactly close to became more than friends to me. They were the brothers I never had. Somewhere along the way we affectionately started calling Oliver ---F#@king Ollie. It started with a statement like "F#@king Ollie didn't clean his dishes", then the next moment he would be telling us some ridiculous joke that had us all laughing in tears. Soon we would be turning to each other and all we could say was "F#@king Ollie".
After college was over, we all remained very close. Jeff and I eventually became roommates again in San Francisco while we were working in the animation industry and Ollie started to focus on his photography. I think we were all beginning to find our direction. Jeff developed a passion for story boarding, I wanted to pursue a career in children's book illustration and Ollie wanted to photograph beautiful women. Although we had branched out and gone in different directions creatively, we were still close as ever. When I broke my ankle and came down with the flu the following week, it was Ollie who came over and brought lunch and groceries. He was a fixture in our house. Ollie even had a set of keys to our place and would often use our pad as a set for his photo shoots. I recall one more than one occasion, spotting a beautiful model online, and doing a double take when I realized that profile pic was taken in my room. All I could say was "F#@king Ollie".
This past Saturday, Oliver collapsed after a photo shoot on Ocean Beach. He passed away shortly thereafter. His passing has left myself and the rest of our circle in a state of shock and devastation. He was a talented photographer, a larger than life character and a perfect friend. In the last day or so, several people have asked me what he was like. I tell them that if your life was played out on a stage, all of the actors would fight for the role of Oliver and the audience would love him most.