Mina Bauer, an artist and a bohemian, lover of music, men, food, clothing, travel, politics and peace, passed away on August 17 at age 68. Peaks of rhapsody and valleys of darkness defined Mina’s life. “If Mina had anything to tell people, it was this: Enjoy every damn minute you’re here,” said lifelong friend Amber Turner. “Just enjoy the hell out of life. Have a damn good time. Be happy.”
Mina was born on April 1, 1942 to Mohammed Moazed and Fourough Nuyani in Tehran, Iran. Her parents’ marriage was arranged by their parents; Mohammed saw Fourough only once before the wedding. “He spotted her through a bush before they were married, you know how the story goes,” said Mina’s daughter Meran.
Mohammed was a physician who had studied in Paris and worked for the government under the first Shah. During the Second World War, as Iran was siding with the Germans, Mohammed—a Jew who converted to Islam—feared for his family’s security. When Mina was an infant, her parents bundled her up and snuck out of the country to Lebanon. From there they traveled to Egypt, where they boarded a cargo ship destined for New York. The ship was part of a caravan of three. After sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, a German submarine sunk one of the other freighters.
After Mina and her family arrived at Ellis Island, they moved into the Waldorf Astoria for several months before finding an apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. “It was very isolating for them. There really weren’t many Persians in the United States at that time,” Meran said. Fourough developed debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and rarely left the apartment. After a time, Mohammed began practicing medicine out of a home clinic.
When she was old enough, Mina was sent to a Catholic boarding school in upstate New York. She hated it. “She felt very abandoned by her parents,” Meran said. “She felt like an outsider.” At home, Mina cherished her time with her parents. She loved going to Jones Beach, where she would sit back to back with her father and eat Persian meatloaf sandwiches. “She also loved going to the movies,” Meran said. “Every Saturday, she would go and watch double features and eat candy. It was the only place that was air conditioned and she could escape to glamorous worlds.”
Mina was a rebel in high school. She liked to hang out with guys who had motorcycles and hitchhike around town. One time, a young man named George Raff picked her up. She was only 17, and he was already in college, but they soon fell in love—much to Mohammed’s chagrin.
After she graduated from high school, Mina was sent by her father to Ohio State College. But Mina dropped out after the first year, and moved with George to Seattle. There she studied art at the University of Washington and made many friends that would remain with her for the rest of her life.
Soon, Mina decided that New York was the place to be. She dropped out of college, left George and went with friends to Manhattan. “We did the ‘leave home and go to New York’ thing. We were Lower East Side girls,” Amber said. “Anybody who was anybody was playing in the village. Anybody who was anybody was making art. We were bohemians. Everyone was an artist, or a photographer or a painter. It was this cauldron of youth and creativity and love. Kerouac was over, but Ginsberg was there, Peter Orlovsky was there—everybody was there.”
Mina lived in a rundown apartment on Eldridge Street, a gritty neighborhood through which she nevertheless walked barefoot at 3 o’clock in the morning. She seemed to know everyone in the music scene. Before long, she met and fell in love with Joe Bauer, the drummer for the hit band The Youngbloods. “She always said he was the love of her life,” Meran said. After Joe’s success grew, he and Mina, and many of their friends, moved to the West Coast. “Everyone in the band had gotten married by that point, were having children, were more successful,” Amber said. “People were craving green. There was no green in New York back then.”
Joe and Mina rented a house on the water in Inverness. It was 1967, and counter culture had not yet reached West Marin. “We were the original hippies of West Marin. We moved in, and it was really Redneckville,” Amber said. “This was at a time when, if you walked into the Farm House in Olema and had hair longer than an inch, they’d beat the crap out of you.”
Mina gave birth to a little girl in 1971. Joe was born in Memphis, and Mina was born in Tehran, so they took the first two and last two letters of each city, and named her Meran. “Mom wanted to name me ‘Apple,’ but Dad got his way,” Meran said. When Meran was three, Joe developed a brain tumor. It went into remission, leaving him deaf in his left ear, but the tumor came back and finally killed him in 1982. “My mother never got over it. She didn’t get off the couch for two years,” Meran said. “She would drive to the grocery store, and I would have to go in and get the groceries. She was comatose. She didn’t get dressed, she didn’t do anything.”
After two years of mourning, Mina started getting out of the house again. She met an old family friend named Alex Riley at the Western in Point Reyes. They dated for three months, got married, and divorced three months later. “It was a rocky time. It was the beginning of her trying to find her way,” Meran said. Then, out of nowhere, Mina decided they were moving to Paris. She was tired of mourning, and needed a fresh start. She met up with Joe’s old friend Jack Gregg overseas.
One night on her birthday, Jack took Mina to the Sunset Club on Sebastian Boulevard. It was a basement club, known for being one of the hottest jazz and bebop joints in Paris. There she met a jazz drummer named Art Lewis, who would be her companion and lover for the next 17 years.
The couple lived in Art’s attic apartment on Rue du Faubourg St. Denis. A courtyard embellished with cobblestones in sunburst patterns set the building off the street. “That apartment had three and a half floors, and we were on the half floor,” Art said. “The French are amazing at using space.” Mina had become an avid painter, and was looking for a studio to rent. She eventually found a place with several French models. “They hit it off, and she really made herself at home,” Art said. Once Art took a gig in the Aix-en-Provence, where Van Gogh painted some of his most memorable scenes. “We rented a car, we had so much fun,” Art said. “We went out to this good old country house. We had a leaky room on the second floor. We loved that place.”
Art and Mina traveled back and forth between Inverness and Paris for several years before settling in West Marin. Mina’s distinctive French look, reminiscent of Edith Head, always drew attention in West Marin. “She was so elegant. Her sense of tying a scarf this way and wearing her hat that way,” said friend Elizabeth Zarlengo. “She had a great sense of style and design, both in her person and in the way she lived her life. Mina became more passionate about politics and peace as she grew older. “She wanted world peace. She worked for peace, always demonstrating,” Amber said. “As we grew older and people got more conservative, Mina never lost that edge.” Art remembers pulling Mina off of a conservative after a scuffle during a peace rally in San Francisco.
Mina was diagnosed with ALS last summer. The disease progressed rapidly, but Mina passed away painlessly and with the knowledge that she was loved. “She thought West Marin was the most beautiful place on earth and thought she was blessed for being able to live there,” Meran said.
Mina is survived by her daughter Meran Cricket Riley, granddaughters Josephine and Genevieve Riley and her brothers Khosrow Moazed of San Diego and Cyrus Moazed of Middletown, Maryland. Donations can be sent to Project ALS or made online at projectals.org. A memorial is planned for September 18. Further details will be posted in the Light.