Famous Faces at LSU

In terms of population, LSU is the tenth biggest city in Louisiana. On any given day there are roughly 50,000 students, faculty, and staff running from place to place, not to mention countless campus hangers-on. There are those who center of the crowd — people whose mere appearance generates questions: Who are they? Why are they on campus? And how did they build those platforms on their bikes for their dogs? Legacy gives you the answers.

Name: Mark Martin
Occupation: Archivist, Hill Memorial Library
How you recognize him: Broad Chinese hat, wide spacers in ears, leg tattoos
With his piercings and tattoos, Mark Martin should look no different from your average skate punk. But don’t mistake Martin’s appearance for a refusal to grow up; he has spent the last seven years knee-deep in the stacks of Hill Memorial Library, where he works as a processing archivist. There, he has a chance to explore everything from Mardi Gras posters to ancient Egyptian papyrus.
While some people’s bodily modifications are born out of teenage rebellion or college drunkenness, Martin’s gauges and tattoos are symbolic and thoughtful. He said he  began the designs while studying the Mayan culture.
“When I read the Popul Vuh — the Mayan creation story — it hit me that there are a lot of similarities between their story and many other cultures’ creation stories,” he explained. The tattoos serve as a “cosmoglyph,” a depiction of the ascended gods above, rulers on earth, and the gods of the underworld.
As for the hat, Martin wears it to protect himself from the sun and rain, though its stylishness doesn’t hurt.

Name: Jefferson Opal
Occupation: Inventor
How you recognize him: the dog perched atop the back of his bicycle
The first thing that one notices when stuck behind Jeff Opal’s bike in traffic is a large cardboard sign with the words “Dog Flight Simulator” written in black Sharpie. The sign is attached to a towering cage made of chicken wire, covered with a piece of a fumigation tent. When a small bark comes from within the cage, passersby pull double takes. Opal said he doesn’t mind the attention. “People have been asking me for my autograph, believe or not.”
Opal’s dogs Leo and Jack got lonely when their master would leave them to go about his day-to-day business. So Opal put his inventive mind to use and constructed a bi-level platform that would easily attach to his bicycle, allowing the dogs to come along for the ride. While some cry animal abuse, Opal is quick to point out that Leo loves nothing more than an early evening bike ride. “This dog begs for me to put him up there,” he said. “When he’s up there, his tail’s wagging.”
Opal is currently raising money to patent what he calls the Tower Pet Carrier in hopes of selling it in stores. The store-bought version of his invention would be made of hard plastic and metal and would be stackable to allow for multiple dogs.
Don’t worry, Leo doesn’t spend all of his time on the bike; Opal often lets him run free. As for the passersby, Opal doesn’t mind the attention. “People have been asking me for my autograph, believe or not.”

Name: Dr. Miles Richardson
Occupation: Professor Emeritus, Department of Geography and Anthropology
How you recognize him: Long ponytail (until recently), portrait of Hank Williams bearing the words “He still lives”, three-wheeled bike adorned with “What Would Jesus Bomb?” banner
Dr. Miles Richardson came to LSU in 1965, the same year that Bob Dylan overturned folk music’s apple cart by going electric. In much the same way, Dr. Miles Richardson made a name for himself at LSU by confronting and challenging the ideals of the status quo. (You have him to thank for helping get rid of the mandatory ROTC enrollment for all male LSU students in 1969, ending the era of the crew-cut freshman.)
Dr. Richardson’s voice was not silenced with the end of the 1960s. One of his frequent targets is the Consuming Fire Fellowship, the religious group from Woodville, MS, that Dr. Richardson believes antagonizes more than evangelizes. “They have a sign that says they’re against fornicators, cheaters, and Catholics,” he said, recalling the group’s tirades. “They’re against all of my friends!”
Dr. Richardson’s office door boasts a sign proclaiming it the official headquarters of Tigers for Hillary. But Dr. Richardson has other passions besides confrontational politics. After 42 years at LSU, the Palestine, TX, native insisted he’d never want to leave Louisiana. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Even if Harvard called, I’d tell them no.”
He added, “I very much appreciate the Cajun culture.  I’m an honorary Cajun, myself.”

Name: Mike the Tiger
Occupation: Student
How you recognize him: Gigantic head, lack of pants, stripes
This summer, University student Mike the Tiger was dramatically rescued from a tree by LSU alumnus and Miami reserve police officer Shaquille  O’Neal. The ordeal was caught on tape by ESPN and aired during commercial breaks throughout the summer.
“That was a really intense hour,” Mike told me. “Cats and trees — I can’t explain it.” Mike, who has been at the University for over fifty years, has majored in practically everything. Though Mike doesn’t stay on campus, he often drops by the cage of Mike VI, whom he claims is like a brother.
“I’m the better looking one,” Mike said. “He gets jealous sometimes and
roars at me, but he’s pretty good about anger management.”
LSU has posted photos of Mike on the doors of various restaurants where the his Tiger Card is accepted, a move that most University students would find intrusive. “I wasn’t super-psyched about it,” he said, “but when they told me that my social security number wouldn’t be on it, I thought it would be okay.”
Mike also travels with LSU’s sports teams. Though he does not have to ride in a pet taxi on airplanes, Mike said, “It has been interesting to see stewardess’s faces when I get on board.”
Despite his appearance, Mike was never picked on when he was younger.
“Was I ever made fun of? Um, not really . . . I was a tiger.”


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