(Originally appeared in Mutant Renegade Zine #11, Summer 1999)
I first became aware of Erica Lopez when I picked-up her novel, Flaming Iguanas, which tells the story of Tomato Rodriguez And her cross-country motorcycle adventures. The combination of text, line drawings, rubber stamp art and serious dose of attitude had me hooked. I then sought out her other releases, a collection of her cartoons called Lap Dancing for Mommy, and a book on the further adventures of Tomato called They Call Me Mad Dog! I then sought out the wit behind these fun reads, and got the opportunity to speak her.
MRZ – Tell me a bit about yourself?
EL – Oh no, I can’t. After three books and thoughts of the next one (HOOCHIE MAMA: The Other White Meat—god I LOVE that title, I say it all the time and want to title everything that name) I’m soooo bored with myself, I’ll fall right to sleep. But I’ll be more than happy to tell you all about someone Else.
MRZ – Tell me about the strangest person who has had the most influence on you.
EL – Hmmm… Can’t really jam you up. Coming up around the backside. Hmmm… Most influence? I’d have to say my two friends Mark Lammers and Kris Kovick. Kris just lost a breast to cancer and she made jokes about making a lampshade out of it, or a purse for Mark. And Mark’s super special, too. He pokes my thighs and tells me to go to the gym so I can get ready for the Donner Pass. He says “it’s be eaten or eat.” I say because he goes to the gym and gets massaged routinely, that HE’S ripe for eating. He’s got tight butt and thigh meat to die for. But he says I’d have to catch him first. I tell him that he’s got to go to sleep sometime.
MRZ – When did you first discover your flair for art and writing?
EL – When I was a little kid. I titled my cartoon book LAP DANCING FOR MOMMY because cartooning is what I did to get her attention, and often times we grow up still doing the very things that got our folks’ attention. It wasn’t until later that I started breaking windows and running away. Poor mom. But thank God I didn’t grow up to break more windows. For a while there, guess it could’ve gone either way. That’s why my Quaker mom actually considered sending me to a military school.
But around the third grade, coming across a few garbage stacks of “Oui” and “Viva” skin mags at my next-door,pervert neighbor’s really changed my creative life. Come to think of it, our neighbor at the time was a woman who listened to lots of Olivia Newton John. What the hell was SHE doing with those? Hmmm… ever notice as you get older, all sorts of things from your past start making sense? Sure, my neighbor had long feathered blonde hair and talked in a southern accent, but she also had a rough truck driver voice. Hmmm. Anyway, so I read the magazines and felt okay for being such a raunchy kid at eight. I picked out what kind of nipples I wanted when I got boobs and in the photographic spreads of couples fucking in the back of limos, I kept my knees together and wouldn’t leave the room.
Now I’m thirty-one and nothing’s changed. I still choose the kinds of nipples I want when surgical techniques make them possible, and I fast forward videos a lot, squeeze my knees together and still refuse to leave my house. Yep. It’s a pretty writer’s life, I tell ya. Best thing about it is that you can be home to watch porn in the middle of the day and none of your neighbors are home to walk in on you or knock on your window.
So that’s how I discovered my, uh, “flair” for art and writing. Nice that you use the word “flair,” instead of something meaner like “protection.”
MRZ – How much of you is Tomato Rodriguez?
EL – NONE of me. (Heh heh heh.)
MRZ – Hmmmmmm. If that’s so, then where do you draw your inspiration? Are your adventures similar to Tomato’s ?
EL – Sadly, yes, I’d have to say so. All of that bad, awkward sex is unfortunately very, very real in my life. I wish I could say that were fiction for the laughs, you know? My sex life is already full of rim shots (pardon the pun, as I’ve now gotten over my fear of rimming. It’s great, you girls. Don’t be afraid. Pretend it’s a lifesaver and you’ll be more than fine because it’s like food). Anyway, so yeah, there’s a lot of truth: I just never killed the cat. I don’t think I could handle such a thing. This past winter I left the window right up next to my bed open because a spider had a pretty web there. I didn’t have the heart to rip his world apart when it stayed there through the winds and the rains. I just pulled out my down sleeping bag to put on top of my down duvet so I’d stay warm until he moved on. And what else isn’t true? I just had to change some names like Mark Lammers to “Bark Flammers” so I wouldn’t get sued, you know?
MRZ – I’ve read that you’re getting ready to go to Mexico. Is this excursion related to the book? or are you going there on a mission to wipe out the Chihuahua population at its source?
EL – I’m afraid it’s too far gone for closing any Mexican barn doors on the hideous Chihuahua population. God, they’re creepy rat dogs. Yeah (my trip is related to my new book), and I’m also going to the Mojave Desert to interview some old Burlesque dancers. I want to know more about what it’s like to be sexy and get old.
MRZ – You said your next book is going to be called HOOCHIE MAMA : The Other White Meat. (HOOCHIE MAMA in itself makes one feel powerful when saying it), is the book going to be the further adventures of Tomato? more lusty cartoons? or something completely different?
EL – More adventures of Tomato. She keeps me out of the house, and I’d be watching too much “Murder She Wrote” if it weren’t for her insatiable appetite for some kind of adventure and existential crisis. It tires me.
MRZ – Have you ever been to jail? and if so, what for?
EL – I’m not tellin’. A girl’s gotta have SOME secrets, even though my tits are always right out there. Even prostitutes have to eroticize secret parts of their bodies, like earlobes, to maintain some privacy.
MRZ – I once asked Laurie Anderson this question and now I’m going to ask you. Brian Eno is into smells. What are you into?
EL – I wish you’d told me what Laurie Anderson’s answer was so I could get an idea of what I should be into. Hmmm. I think I’m into really long and pretty, Rapunzel-like pubic hair because it’s just not out there, and I’m into the idea of the perfect breast lift without those ugly anchor-scars, and I’m into getting a new motorcycle, I’m into rediscovering good peanut butter, good books, and time to look at the sun without going blind. Suntans. I’m definitely into getting as Island Girl dark as I can. Some dark people want to stay as light as possible, but I want to get lost against a chalkboard. Not the green kind. The BLACK kind. Power to the people, babe. The renters who are getting kicked out on their asses.
MRZ – What type of bike to you hope to get? And what about a motorcycle appeals to you?
EL – I’ve got my money on a Triumph Thunderbird Sports bike. And what appeals to me about a bike? It makes you even BIGGER.
MRZ – And finally, can you give me some words of advice about life.
EL – To tell you the truth, I haven’t got a goddamn clue. When I try and act like I do, I step on the business end of rakes and when I try to regain my balance, I get the other foot stuck in an open paint can.