RIP: Mary Herczog

Yesterday was Mardi Gras. Yesterday lives changed. Yesterday we said goodbye.

Yesterday I dropped over to see my friend Mary Herczog. As I was emailing Jane and Gregg at FDL that I thought the end was nigh and that I wouldn’t be in much shape to do Late Night we got a shout from the bedroom to come down immediately. And so she passed.

It was 11:11 am. Mardi Gras. Beautiful, timely and fitting.

Mary had a house in New Orleans, was married in Eunice, Louisiana during Jazz Fest, rode as part of a Mardi Gras krewe–documented in her wonderful travel book Frommers New Orleans–and had the joy of seeing the Saints win the Super Bowl this year.

She and her husband Steve Hochman were models of a loving, caring relationship, a partnership of spirit and flesh, each complimenting the other, bringing out their strengths, balancing their energies. Together they traveled the world, exploring the relics of saints, the sights and food of foreign lands while venturing into the interior mysteries of life and death and love eternal as they spent the last dozen years with the uninvited spectral guest of cancer.

And oh how she loved food. And punk rock. And jazz. And books. And people. And clothes. And Las Vegas which she also documented for Frommers. History and parties and theology and philosophy and pop culture and and and…Mary loved. Mary lived. And loved living.

Mary lived with breast cancer for 12 years. She had cancer; cancer never had her. Her essays showed a fierce love of life, a delicate yet no-nonsense sensibility, wit, charm and a graceful annoyance that cancer, chemo and radiation interfered at times with her plans and actions. She chronicled her first and second encounters with cancer in a series of Los Angeles Times articles.

The third time, which she dubbed Cancer the Extended Dance Remix didn’t stop her from continuing to strive; she received her Masters degree in theology and philosophy on Saturday February 13 at a ceremony held at her home and her thesis will soon be published in a journal of such things.

During all this, Mary and Steve traveled to Bali, Bugaria, Egypt and elsewhere exotic– while with her best friend Rick she embarked upon Plucky Survivors, an annual traipse through the weirdnesses of America. Her last Plucky trip was through Los Angeles the Friday and Saturday of Super Bowl weekend and included a stop at the Museum of Death. Because really, why not.

Active in the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles she was the docent for the mausoleum tour at Halloween and modeled in their fashion shows. This year I held a Day of Dead party–Kogi BBQ truck with Korean tacos and a 30 person stretch limo to transport us all to Hollywood Forever for the celebration. The line outside the cemetery was a block long to see the displays of community altars, but Mary spotted the bacon wrapped hot vendors outside and suggested, well insisted, we stop for a snack. Miraculously, for such things happen with Mary, we were able to just stroll inside and wander through the beautiful memorials.

Every Oscar night, she and Steve hosted a party where guests would bring foods that reflected the nominated movies. It was easy for the foreign film categories–just bring food from that country. But oh the dreadful puns that arose from plot points and characters–and if my mind wasn’t so woozy I’d share some with you. But because Mary so loved a party, the Oscar event will be held again this year. She’d be really annoyed if we didn’t! I’ll be live blogging the Oscars this year from the soiree and posting picture of the silly feast beforehand.

Mary was a big proponent of breast self exams–she was 33 when she found her lumps and was diagnosed with stage 3A. So please fondle bosoms in her honor. And LIVE every moment, embrace every event, every chance with joy and vigor and fearlessness, with hope and love.

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.