Toni Mendez (November 2, 1908 - March 9, 2003) was an agent for writers and cartoonists handling negotiations, licensing and syndication/secondary rights agreements. In addition she became secondary rights representative of all properties for Field Enterprises, Newspaper Enterprise Association and Publishers-Hall Syndicate. Mendez played a key role in the formation of the National Cartoonist Society and was involved with the now defunct Newspaper Features Council. Among her numerous clients were Milton Caniff, B. Kliban and Frank Willard. She was involved with negotiating media tie-in deals for television series such as Steve Canyon, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet and All in the Family. Mendez was known for her stylish hats. Ted Rall concluded the acknowledgement for Wake Up, You're Liberal! (2004) by stating "During the last few years of her long, interesting and important life, my agent Toni Mendez encouraged this project as only she could. Toni, here's to you; I hope I did well".
Born and raised in New York City, she briefly attended Columbia University before becoming a Rockette. She then had a solo dancing career and eventually became a choreographer. This led to her involvement with the American Theatre Wing Hospital Committee producing entertainment for hospitalized servicemen during World War II. She recruited cartoonists to give chalk talks, and the ensuing camaraderie they enjoyed doing them eventually encouraged creation of the National Cartoonist Society. As the trouble shooter for the association she gained experience that allowed a segue into a career (as Toni Mendez, Inc.) handling business affairs for cartoonists and eventually branching out to also handling writers and illustrators.
She married Harry S. Dale, vice-president of the Book of the Month Club on September 17, 1958. Dale died on October 24, 1962. Mendez then married Samuel "Shap" O. Shapiro, vice-president and circulation director of Cowles Communications on April 14, 1965. Shapiro died on September 4, 1990.
Her niece is famed lyricist Cynthia Weil who cited her aunt as inspiring her own career, stating that Mendez "understood the creative soul".
She was a speaker at the 1995 Festival of Cartoon Art.
Editor & Publisher in its obituary reported, "She was involved with running her agency until the end of her life."
Bequests from her estate partially funded the launch of the National Cartoonist Society Foundation and production of the We Are Family music video, the latter of which became the object of controversy.
In 1972 the Newspaper Feature Council awarded her their Jester Award. Ohio State University in 1987 awarded her its Distinguished Service Award. She also was honored by the United States Navy and Anti-Defamation League.
- ↑ Milton Caniff An American Master Exhibit
- ↑ Mendez-Shapiro
- 1 2 Agent Toni Mendez Dies at 94
- ↑ Ted Rall. Wake Up, You're Liberal! Soft Skull Press , 2004. p.317
- ↑ Tales of the Founding of the National Cartoonists Society Part One of Three
- ↑ Tony Fletcher. All Hopped Up and Ready to Go: Music from the Streets of New York, 1927-77. W. W. Norton & Company, 2009. p.146
- ↑ 1995 Festival of Cartoon Art Speakers
- ↑ NCS Foundation Sponsors Kenosha Festival
- ↑ WAFF Music Video
- ↑ 'Gay Warning' Issued Over SpongeBob Video
- ↑ Distinguished Service Award Recipients
- ↑ Series 4: Memorabilia
- Biography of Toni Mendez from The Ohio University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum Collection Guide
- The Ohio University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Toni Mendez Collection Guide (primary source material)
- Mendez's brief auto-biography with portrait by Milton Caniff