Todd Tobias, Indy Men's Magazine, and zipline riding with Rerun

June 27, 2012
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Todd Tobias, a dear friend and one of the most talented men I’ve ever met, died on June 26th.

For five years, from 2002-2007, I had the honor of working closely with Todd creating Indy Men’s Magazine. We worked so closely, in fact, that when I look at back issues (which I've been doing a lot in the last two days), I often can’t recall which one of us or which of our staff members wrote what.

I don’t know whose brain hatched the earmuff issue. Not sure who thought it was a good idea to have an issue guest edited by a capuchin monkey. Not clear on who came up with the plan to do a travel story in Chicago recreating our favorite moments from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” At Indy Men’s, where Todd benevolently presided as publisher, it was always all about improving the work—making it sharper, funnier, more original, more truthful—then it was about writer ego. The better line made it in. And when an issue was complete, we relentlessly Monday morning quarterbacked it not to belittle those who worked hard on it, but to zero in on what we could have done better and to use that information for the next issue.

While credit for the in-house stuff didn’t matter much at Indy Men’s, honoring writers mattered a lot to Todd. I have never seen a publisher with such love and respect for good writers and their work. And we had a chance to work with the best, both locally and nationally including Tom Chiarella, Cathy Day, Dan Barden, Michael Kun, William F. Nolan, Doug Crandell and many, many more. Today I got a note from David Gerrold, who wrote the famed “Trouble with Tribbles” episode of “Star Trek” and the book The Martian Child, expressing his condolences. (Yes, Indy Men’s published an original story of Gerrold’s.)

Todd was an outstanding writer himself, and in addition to mourning a friend and colleague, I’m mourning the great work that I truly believed would come out of him over the coming years.

Nobody was more fun to edit. I’d read a fragment of a manuscript that Todd would nervously show me, point out what was brilliant, ask a few questions, and he’d go back to the computer, emerging from his cave with something even funnier or more moving. He wrote across a wide range of subjects, but his “Dad Files” columns were the ones I treasured the most. He loved being a father and embraced the vulnerability of that job, setting the bar high for anyone else who contributed to that popular column. His love for his kids shined through his words.

Todd prided himself on creating a magazine where its writers could be vulnerable. Indy Men’s didn’t pretend to have the answers to the big questions—and sometimes didn’t have the answers to the small questions. Todd wanted our writers to share the joy and the sorrow and the truth of their lives, what they were genuinely excited about, what they were disappointed in, what they had and what they lacked.

And for five years, he managed to keep it afloat, celebrating every issue with a launch party. And why not? In Todd’s view, we should be as proud of our work as any novelist signing books at Barnes & Noble. And that enlightened thinking encouraged all of us to pay attention to everything in the magazine, from the small print chatter from our mascot, the Table Moose on the masthead page to the monthly fake ad to the Tom, Dick and Harry poll.  

Even after Indy Men’s folded, Todd couldn’t help but continue creating. He and I collaborated on some book projects and, more recently, he was developing programming for television. The most recent creative work I read of his was uniquely Todd-ian: Facebook posts of fictional Super Bowl celebrity spottings, including Tina Yothers getting messy at a rib joint and Todd himself sharing a zip-line ride with Rerun from “What’s Happening?”

Entirely crafted in his unique brain, that image—Todd and Rerun on the zipline, zooming over the heads of baffled football fans—is what I’m clinging to right now while I miss a one-of-a-kind man.

Feel free to share your thoughts here.

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  • Rib Run
    For the few times I got to hang with him, I found great respect for his talents and his ability to create fun. We need more "fun" makers in this world and we lost a really good one when your friend died. When I got to be a couple of my characters for the famed Rib Run issue, I found someone who understood me and supported my bit of madness. Thanks for letting me into his world, even if it was so briefly. Taylor Martin
  • legacy
    Lou - your words bring joy to me this morning. THIS is Todd :)
  • Everyone's Friend
    I'm not sure you would run across too many people in this world who spent any time with Todd who wouldn't call him a friend. His creative spirit was infectious, which combined perfectly with his goofball nature. Whether it was a caesar salad "cook-off" or one of the many (sometimes horrible) games he would routinely make up on the spot, you couldn't help but join in the fun. Godspeed Todd, you were one-of-a-kind.
  • A Fan
    I was a fan of IMM. It was written from a certain perspective of guys with a comfortable income, and enough time to laugh at themselves, and I enjoyed it. I often wished that Indianapolis Woman came from a place half as honest. It's too bad for us all that Mr. Tobias will not be contributing fresh words and ideas... but at least we got to enjoy him for while. Sorry for your loss, Lou, and for his family. Peace, Mari
  • Heartfelt Tribute
    Well said Lou...after reading this, I wish I had known him, but I did see the magazine a few times and liked some of it very much...sorry for your loss, and RIP.
  • So sad...
    Todd was always so kind to me. I saw him a few months ago and he flashed a big smile and walked over to say hi. I'll miss him. Condolences to his whole family.
  • IMM -- my only mag
    I really don't read magazines...they bore me, too many ads, and my attention span simply goes away -- even magazines targeted to activities about which I am passionate and enthusiastic. Not so for IMM...I read that cover to cover and was always eagerly scouting for the next issue. I had never heard of Todd Tobias prior to IMM, never met him, dont know anyone who knows him (that I know of, at least). I hope my appreciation for Tobias' creation and work product will bring some joy and peace to his friends and family in their time of loss.
  • True talent
    I was so sorry to hear this news. Working with Todd and Lou at IMM as an intern was one of the best professional experiences I can remember. For a budding journalist and writer, I couldn't have hoped for better role models. I'll always remember the fun, passionate atmosphere Todd fostered at the magazine. Condolences to his family & friends--Indy has lost a great talent.
  • What a Loss for All of Us
    IMM was smart,wacky and well-written. I loved getting the male perspective and looked forward to each issue. We seem to hear from too few smart, wacky people, though their contributions are sorely needed, especially in these times. RIP, Todd.
  • IMM purely for benefit of Durham
    Not sure why no one wants to deal with reality but Durham was the $$$ behind IMM....or should I say Fair Finance was the $$$ behind IMM. Sad loss but everyone is only commenting on how dynamic Todd was at IMM and facts are facts. IMM was clever but it appears that it was only clever by half. Am I the only one that can see that the demise of IMM is curiously at the same time of Durham's demise?
    • Well Said, Lou
      He will be missed. My condolences to his family and friends.
    • inaccurate/inappropriate
      Curious, In addition to containing inaccuracies, your comments are inappropriate here. Respectfully, Lou
    • Gone Too Soon
      I'm still in shock after hearing the news about Todd just this morning. But the least I can do is add my own tribute to the growing stack. I first met him at Indianapolis Monthly when he became an intern (I was Senior Editor). Todd made a fan of me with his hard work and sincere dedication to his writing. Around the same time, when he heard about my upcoming wedding, he presented me with two floor-level tickets to a Pacer game. Years later, as publisher of the brand-new Indy Men's Magazine, he not only signed me on as a contributing editor, but gave me a respectful introduction at the magazine's launch party. That was Todd -- affable, soft-spoken, creative and genuine. I miss him already.
    • Too young
      I completely agree with everything WhiteOut said. Does anyone know why he passed so young?
    • Amazing man
      I had the pleasure of not only knowing Todd but being his neighbor and best friend. He was one of the smartest men I have ever met. I feel blessed that he was apart of my life and I will miss him. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.
    • Band Mate
      I played in a cover band with Todd a few years ago. Like most bands, they get cobbled together when existing members bring in another player, and such was my first meeting with Todd. He was likable from the start, very intelligent, and his pop culture references matched mine, even though he was 6-7 years younger than I was. We played the stuff we liked to listen to (Petty, Chili Peppers, U2, Steely Dan, and of course lots of Springsteen)Whenever we'd have band meetings about new songs, Todd was adamant about not playing anything too obvious, or trendy, and I loved that about him. I was the drummer, and drummers typically are the sherpas of the band: "Can you bring my amp to the gig?", that kind of thing. One trip my SUV was packed to the roof, yet Todd wanted me to bring his guitar. I saw him slide his dark cherry Les Paul Custom without a case into the last available space on top of all the other gear---it was like he was mailing a letter. One night, I was with an out of town associate at a Geist waterfront restaurant. I take the out-of-towners there so Indy wouldn't appear so small town to them. We stood outside after dinner chatting when a Rolls Royce glided by, silent and stately. I told my friend that I wanted stick around to see what Pacer or Colt got out of the Rolls. It was Todd. "You know that guy?" I was asked. "Yep. He's the singer in our band." Pretense to Todd was as foreign to him as playing a Jimmy Buffet song. Over the years, we connected on Face Book... I'd read his posts and remember what a great wit, a fast mind, and a talented writer Todd was. Like everyone, I was shocked by Todd's passing. There are people that drift through your life, then there are those that leave an impression on you forever. I'm honored to have been able to spend the time I did with Todd.
    • Curious
      Curious, I responded to your e-mails directly. Apparently, though, you aren't giving real e-mail addresses. That speaks volumes. --Lou
    • amazing
      He was honestly the best man I know, the best writer, a sweet and amazing Person. I will always miss him.
    • my uncle
      todd was my uncle he was like my second dad
    • Best dad ever
      Todd or as he was known to me as dad was the best dad me and my older sister could ask for. I know all children say there dad is the best but i really mean it. How many 1st graders get to say they're mentioned in several articles and books. Thank you for all kind comments. Rest in peace Daddy

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