The faces, bylines and staff-box names come and go (and come back again) at OC Weekly, but through it all the best alternative newsweekly in Orange County that is based near the corner of Kalmus and Red Hill has only had one circulation director, Mike Menza.
Employees learned in an email from group publisher Beth Sestanovich that Mike lost his battle with cancer Tuesday night. Many of us did not know that he had cancer, that he was sick or even that he had taken leave from his job overseeing delivery of the Weekly to newsracks all over Orange County, Long Beach and beyond.
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Starting at LA Weekly 19 years ago, serving as circulation director of our big sister paper and taking on the added OC responsibilities when we launched a few hundred yards from our current location in mid-September 1995, Menza battled uptight businesses, anti-newsrack regulators and a sprawling coverage area with no real downtown core to find the places he could have his team of drivers drop off copies of a paper that took off faster than anyone anticipated.
One thing editorial types have always dealt with here are callers, sources and story subjects who need direction finding our newsracks, have suggestions on where our paper should be stacked or tip us off to gremlins illegally making off with all copies to prevent aggressive reporting from reaching the masses. We'd dutifully pass these inquiries on to Mike and--being the cynical bastards we are--we'd often assumed a guy in LA would have no idea how to handle such matters. So we'd often be pleasantly surprised when Menza would tap into--as our sister paper's Steven Mikulan put it last night--"an encyclopedic knowledge of where every one of both Weeklys' thousands of bundles of papers went, how well they moved in each venue and what kind of return rate on unread issues we could expect." Mike was always, as the kids say, on it.
"The consummate professional, Mike never let anything get in his way of making sure the Weeklies got out each week and were circulated in such a way that returns were the lowest possible in each market," Sestanovich wrote in her email to employees of both papers. She went on to says Mike was also a musician and golfer, that he hailed from a big Chicago family, that a funeral mass takes place in the Windy City Saturday and a memorial service is tentatively scheduled for May 9 in LA.
There is one other thing Mike will be known for in Orange County as long as those of us who remember back that far are still around: his skills at third base and ability to wrangle ringers for OC Weekly's softball team. Thanks to these contributions, we kicked ass in a Press Club tournament in our early days. In my reply to Beth's email, I mentioned one other thing I'll recall about Mike: he sure looked cute in his baseball pants.