Ronzo: The Gateway Drug to Cool
Oxford is more than a town, much more. It's a way of life, a place built with words that holds the heart, mind and spirit of those who call it home whether for four years or a lifetime. Oxford is at the crossroads of Southern culture, class and cuisine. The storied buildings around the picture perfect town square seem to hold the key to Southern culture, equally embracing learning and leisure. In many ways Oxford is a dichotomy, simultaneously offering stimulation and serenity, creativity and calm. Oxford is a state of mind, a gateway to some and a lifelong home to others. It's a place where all four seasons take a firm hold, accentuated by football games, festivals and friendships.
Oxford is full of stories that resonate with a tenor that can only be found in a town that reverberates Southern charisma and charm. Enjoy the slices of life that follow as they are but snapshots of the town and university we so deeply love and admire.
- Texas Visionary Brings Development, Love to Oxford
- Ronzo: The Gateway Drug to Cool
- Ron Shapiro, one-of-a-kind ‘cultural ambassador’ for Oxford, Mississippi, has died
- Four Decades of Oxford’s Square Books
- Tailgating Goes Above and Beyond at the University of Mississippi
- At Ole Miss, evolving perceptions both outward and inward
- Week 6: What Happened To You On Saturday?
- Real Estate Students Network With Wine-Tasting, Plan Future Goals
- The Anatomy of a Field Storming: The Fantastic Saga of the Ole Miss Goalposts
- Hotel for College Towns Coming to Oxford in 2015
- Harvest Supper: An Unforgettable Night
- Movie Magic
- Who Remembers the Rebel Deli?
- American Atlas: Oxford, Mississippi
- The Sounds and the Fury - Down Home with Ole Miss, Beauty Queens and Literary Greatness in Oxford
- Are You Ready to Ryde?
- Ole Miss, MSU Real Estate Producing Grads Schooled in the Art of the Deal
- About Oxford
- Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace and Rebels Boat Race Longhorns 44-23
- Top 10 Best Small Towns, 2013
- Throwback Friday
- Oxford Takes the Tailgate
- Of Parties, Prose and Football
- A Sincere Thank You To The Good Folks of Ole Miss
- America’s Best College Bars
- New Oxford High School Under Construction
- They’re Bitin’ at Ezell’s Fish Camp
- Oxford Ranked as Nation’s Second-Best College Town
- Best of 2012- #4 Oxford Ranked as Nation’s Second-Best College Town
- Oxford Tourism: ‘All Good News’
- Best Breakfasts Around the World
- Take Monday Off: Oxford
- The Grove at Ole Miss
- Goose Creek Club Breaks Ground
- Inside Forbes: On a Visit to Ole Miss, a Look Into Journalism’s Past, Present and Future
- Forward Together: We Are Ole Miss
- Ole Miss National 60 Second Spot
- Sorry We’re Open
- Tailgate Movie
- Ole Miss Football: Vanderbilt Highlight ‘13
- The Tailgating Experience at Ole Miss
- The Pride of the South: From Dixie With Love
- Oxford, Mississippi on CNBC Boomer Nation
- Oxford, Mississippi
- Best Atmosphere in College Baseball
- Ole Miss Football - Opening Weekend 2012
- Ole Miss Football Team Intro 2012
- America’s Game - 1962 Ole Miss Rebels National Champions - John Vaught
- “Lock The Vaught”
- Ole Miss Baseball Home Run Shower
- The Ole Miss Rebels Throw Texas Size Party
- Ole Miss Band Dixie
- Ole Miss HOTTY TODDY Cheer
- The Oak Ridge Boys Tribute to George Jones
- Hoka Video / Documentary
- Oak Ridge Boys Stop in Oxford
- George Will Gives Honors Convocation Address
- College Towns Doubling as Retirement Communities
Ronzo: The Gateway Drug to Cool
Who could inspire hundreds of people to don wild hats and brightly colored shirts and take to the streets to celebrate his life, marching down North Lamar in Oxford’s first second line parade? Who else but Ron “Ronzo” Shapiro? He was part of the landscape here for over 40 years, and because of him our lives and our town will forever be changed.
Written by Erin Austen Abbott InvitationOxford.com
PHOTO: DEREK MORETON
We all met Ronzo at different times. For some, it was during that awkward time in adolescence when you are figuring out who you are and growing your first set of armor in the process. For others, it was as an adult, having just moved to Oxford. For many, it was at The Hoka Theatre, the first and last of its kind. But through the vast differences of when, we all share the common thread of how Ronzo made us feel. He could light up a room as he entered, with a smile that was warm, and it was kind, and it was sincere. Ronzo was a beacon that many just needed.
I first met Ronzo when I was about 3 years old. It was the late ’70s, and my mom, Dorothy Abbott, had taken a job at the Center for Southern Culture, moved us to Oxford and discovered The Hoka.
Ronzo and my mom became fast friends. She was a single mom, and The Hoka was a spot that wasn’t too precious to bring two kids to. She didn’t have to cook, and my brother and I would be occupied by the juke box for a long time. She could read or visit with friends while we entertained ourselves. Ronzo would greet us with big hugs and warm smiles every time we stopped in, and he would join us at the table while we ate a “Love at First Bite” (basically a club sandwich, Hoka-style).
Ronzo was the gateway drug to everything cool for me in those early years. He introduced me to so much good music and film, all before I turned 8. I had my fifth birthday party at The Hoka, Ronzo standing over me, watching as I opened my presents. We wore almost-matching plaid shirts that day, which I’m sure was not by mistake — I wanted to be just like him as a child.
I heard teenagers hanging out at The Hoka describe it as the time when they learned it was OK to be weird. The Hoka was always the place you could retreat to and feel a sense of belonging, when nowhere else in town allowed you to be different.
We moved to Florida when I was 9, but I wasn’t done with Oxford. In my 20s, I moved all over the country searching for a place that made me feel like Oxford did in those years — searching for a place like what Ronzo had helped cultivate here. I couldn’t find it anywhere. No place compared to Ronzo’s Oxford.
Upon my return in 2005, Ronzo and I picked right back up like no time had passed. The Hoka was gone by then, but I made frequent stops at his next venture, the Main Squeeze, for the only vegan meal I could find in town at the time. Ronzo will always be so dear to me, and my memories of him will continue to be as the father figure that he was to me.
MOLLY FERGUSSON STUART
I hope that we can honor Ronzo by carrying on in his spirit. Smile at strangers; make small talk while waiting in lines; support the arts; read the books by the writers passing through Square Books; sit and stay awhile. Most of all, welcome everyone.
The city of Oxford has planned a memorial for Ron “Ronzo” Shapiro the evening of Nov. 1, at the Powerhouse. The community is invited to join in sharing stories of Ronzo over cocktails, while also taking more memories of Ronzo home with you.
“As someone drawn to the civil rights movement and a more bohemian, unconventional lifestyle, moving to Oxford in the ’70s and finding The Hoka was like coming home. On our weekly Hoka pilgrimages, my children and I were in the company of people who loved music, art, film, literature, and justice.” — Writer and editor Dorothy Abbott
“I never felt bad at The Hoka. And if I ever felt bad, I went to The Hoka and felt better.” — Sparky Reardon in “Sorry, We’re Open”
“It's never too late to be more like Ronzo.” — Jim Dees, longtime Hoka partner and friend of Shapiro and host of Thacker Mountain Radio
“Places, like dogs, have a way on taking on the personality of their owners until the two begin to mirror each other in uncanny and wonderful ways. That was certainly true of The Hoka. Like Ronzo, it was funky and fun, open and warm, a place where weirdos could go and belong, and stiffs could go to loosen up. And by extension, Oxford took on that personality. So, if you think Oxford is cool and you wonder how it got that way, it was Ronzo. Plain and simple. He made us cooler than we deserved to be and thank God for that.” — Filmmaker Joe York, producer of “Sorry, We’re Open,” a documentary film about The Hoka
“Many people were introduced to films that could not be acquired in Oxford with out (Shapiro’s) service,” Shook said. “Without him, we would have been without. It was a gift.” — Fara Shook
“Ron was an electric human being,” Bowen said. “He had a certain kind of energy that excited the whole community.” — Mary Ann Reid Bowen
“I miss his laugh and his words of wisdom, and the way he enjoyed all the moments of life.” — Molly Fergusson Stuart
“Ron didn’t just create a gathering place for the local counter culture, he helped to create and nurture that culture … He was Ronzo, living his optimistic and positive philosophy that being your own weird self makes the world a better place.” — Artist Noah Saterstrom
“I wouldn’t be where I am without the help and support of Ron Shapiro. He was an ambassador of the arts in Oxford and will be deeply missed.” — Artist J-MAN