'My interpreter of the world'

New Times' friends and family send founder Steve Moss off with stories, laughter, tears - and a shot of whisky



Last Friday, we said goodbye to Steve Moss.
It was quite a gathering in the ballroom at the Madonna Inn: There were current and past employees, friends, family, and members of the local media - about 200 people in all. There were hilarious tales of Moss' exuberance and wit. There were memories of how much he meant.

There were also three beverage choices: water, champagne, or a shot of Glenlivet, a Scotch whisky that Moss was particularly fond of.

It was Glen Starkey, who's written for New Times since 1990, who opened the memorial with a toast. He said he'd read works by classic poets looking for just the right words for the occasion, but in the end realized that Moss wouldn't have wanted such "pretentious twaddle."

So instead, Starkey lifted his whisky and said, "Those who die don't really die if they live on in the hearts of those who love them. Steve lives on in our hearts."

Moss, who was born in 1948 in Riverside, Calif., started New Times in 1986, the Santa Maria Sun in 2000, and invented the world-famous 55 Fiction contest in 1987. He was found dead outside his San Luis Obispo home on April 24. According to preliminary information from the county coroner's office, Moss' death was natural; they'll release a full report within the next two weeks after a pending toxicology report is finished.

After the toast, Alex Zuniga, who's worked as New Times' art director since the first issue, described Moss with adjectives followed by vignettes: brilliant, humorous, adventurous, loyal, curious, challenging - "He would stick to guns until he was right," he said at one point, and the room cheered, laughed, and clapped in response.

Passionate, talented, tormented: "There are few of us who really knew what he was going through over the last few years," Zuniga said, referring to Moss' lifelong struggle with clinical depression and epilepsy. But, he continued, that's not the legacy he would have wanted us to focus on; that's not what was important to him.

"He directed, I produced. He wrote, I designed. He led, I followed," Zuniga said, his voice thick with emotion. "He was my biggest fan. How cool is that?"

After photographer Christopher Gardner's slide show of Moss' life, there were more tears. At one point in the afternoon, attorney Scott Radovich read Kioren Moss' description of Steve and their fellow siblings' upbringing in a house full of art and creativity.

It was Kioren's words that summed up the feelings of many people in the audience that day: "He was my interpreter of the world."

The next day, we buried Steve. It was a small graveside service under a hazy sky, a few yards away from the final
resting place of Alex Madonna - a man Steve often ribbed
in the pages of New Times but considered a personal friend.

There were more stories and more poems. We cried, hugged, and left mementos on his casket. We'll all miss Steve a lot. ³


Staff Writer Abraham Hyatt can be reached at ahyatt@

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