The Amazing Mario — As You've (Probably) Never Seen Him Before

Photo courtesy Special Collections, University of Memphis Libraries

In the February issue of Memphis magazine, I tell the story of one of our city's most fascinating characters, pizza-pie man and health-food guru Mario DePietro.

Now, I'm not going to give anything away here. You'll have to wait for the February issue. But what I wanted to share with you is this very bizarre photo, which I found in the Special Collections Department of the University of Memphis Libraries. Special Collections, as I hope you know by now, acquired all the old photo files of the Memphis Press-Scimitar, our city's afternoon daily, which folded in 1983. I have turned up wonderful photos of people, places, and events there.

And sometimes those files give you — and me — a glimpse of the minds of the Press-Scimitar editors. Now, as I just told you, Mario was a health-food guru, and so I suppose that at some point the newspaper decided to feature him in a story, and so they sent a photographer over to snap a picture of him. And either the photographer — or, as I suspect — Mario himself — decided he would pose shirtless.

But that just wouldn't fly with the newspaper editors, who had somebody in their art department painstakingly retouch the photo, by painting in what seems to be a tuxedo. They didn't have to paint the whole thing on him; the photo (if it ran at all) would have been cropped to make it look like Mario was fully dressed. In a nice tuxedo complete with bow tie, no less.

I've seen other examples of retouching in the Press-Scimitar files. If a woman's slip was showing in a photo, they would always black that out. Stray hairs or flecks of lint on somebody's dark suit — also erased. Little things, mainly, but nothing quite like this.

Read all about Mario, shirtless or not, in our February issue.


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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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