Cedar Rapids Gazette (Newspaper) - March 25, 1992, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
\ftnt <Ju\niJtinyi ' Lfntc\ioi ^eiiyn
53 & —> ^ nil* tit * 'Jour a City ’ 33a 2830
Tom Hunter creates Noggin in a bubble
By Ann Scholl Boyer
To meet Tom Hunter, one wouldn’t think he’s the editor of Noggin, one of Iowa City’s most controversial publications.
Four-letter words freely make it into print. Grisly illustrations of women aren’t censored. Even God and religion aren’t sacred in the tabloid Tom created in October 1990.
Everything about Tom, though, hints at a man who is sensitive. His voice is gentle. When he shakes hands, he’ll likely use both hands as though he’s greeting an old friend. When he points to a vulgar, racist term in one of his issues, he says. “I don’t think I could get that word to come out of my mouth.
“I’m a very sensitive person, but I’m not very fragile,” he
He’s seated behind a painted black desk in a makeshift room he created outside the Iowa City home he rents with two others. His friends call it “The Bubble.” It's framed with white plumbing pipe. The walls are plastic drop-cloths. It’s where Tom writes, and he’s done it even in sub-zero weather.
“I just needed a place to work and decided this was it,” he says.
To pay for Noggin, which has a press run of 10,000, he works full time and a lot of overtime as a nursing assistant at the Psychiatric Hospital at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
The publication doesn’t take advertising and $10 lifetime subscriptions are few. Most of the copies Tom distributes for free, mainly at the residence halls at the U of I.
His contributors are a mixed bag — high school students, college students, senior citizens, nurses, blacks, whites and people from other states. No one is paid, not even Tom.
Noggin stems from rejection Tom experienced as a writer. He wanted to get his work in front of people so he created a forum. "If you like to draw, write fiction, poetry or essays. Noggin wants to publish your work,” reads a statement in each issue.
"The editorial principle we’ve stuck to, to our detriment sometimes, we do not edit people’s stuff, especially on the grounds of content," Tom says. The only items he’s turned away are those he thought were “so shoddy, they would have embarrassed that person.”
“It’s a real big umbrella. When you say I will take anything, you have more people that come foreward.”
The first couple of issues, most of the contributions were from people Tom knew. Since then, he’s even had submissions from people in other states who have stumbled across a copy of Noggin. He counts among his contributors a homeless man and a well-known Iowa City artProfile/Tom Hunter
Hometown: Omaha, Neb Address: Iowa City Family: parents Marylyn Hunter and Ronald Hunter, both of Omaha; brothers Ron Jr., Mark and Steve; and a sister. Ann Thariani.
Occupation: nursing assistant. Psychiatric Hospital, the U of I Hospitals and Clinics Interests: writing. Mozart, the outdoors
I’ve completed five manuscripts."
He keeps his possessions to a minimum, riding a bike rather than driving a car, for one. His only indulgence is a complete set of Mozart CDs.
"I've been tremendously focused. I’ve probably done the writing of IO people since I ve been doing this for ll years. It makes you have this huge dedication because it’s your own ticket out.”
Living the life of a writer has been lonely, though. He’s single; never been close to being married, he says. Some women can't get beyond the uncertainty of his future employment, he says.
"I may be a Stephen King in 20 years or a janitor in 20 years. It could go either way. Writing is really a very lonely profession.
"You have to keep (writing) the words. You have to keep learning how to get better and you have to read lots of old books to learn what they’re doing right. There are so many fronts that you have to keep working on. People don’t become writers unless they have tremendous stamina . . . You just basically keep going. I know eventually Iii sell a novel. I’m 29 years old. Maybe it’ll be three years. Maybe it’ll be 18 years. I just won’t give up. “I’m on the clock. There’S not a day that I wake up that I don’t think I’m a writer.”
Tom Hunter outside the “bubble” where he writes even in sub-zero weather. The University of Iowa graduate works as a nursing assistant at the Psychiatric Hospital at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to pay for Noggin, the controversial publication he publishes.
ist in his 60s.
Noggin was 100-percent against the Gulf War. Tom is openly pro- choice and an atheist. Cartoons by Iowa City artist Scott Warren have continually stirred up controversy, especially when he tackled the case of Edward Gein, the man whose activities with dead bodies inspired such movies as "Psycho” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” His drawings were from actual photographs of the case, including that of a nude, headless female, gutted and cleaned like
one would dress a deer.
"I grew up with three older brothers so my threshold of being grossed out is so much beyond anybody elses,” Tom says.
Tom includes his phone number in each issue of Noggin. He welcomes the calls, saying he enjoys "intelligent conversation.” “They can’t say any cuss words that bother me. I’m a big person so I don’t worry about getting beat up. I’m more interested in the dialogue than in what they can do to me. Ifs worth it" to list his number.
Tom has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and is pursuing a master’s in the field from the U of I. His goal since the sixth grade was to be an engineer. That changed, though, when he got into college.
“Creativity wasn’t part of the deal,” he says.
He’s since plunged into writing. He doesn't watch TV (gave that up in eighth grade). He’s not into sports. He reads and writes.
"There’s just a lot of things people spend their time in that are a waste of time. That’s why