Leroy Hardy lives two lives.
In one, he is a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, a clean-cut, suit-wearing, private college administrator responsible for donor relations and fundraising. In the other, he wears a suit, but this one is rainbow-colored and about 90 percent sequins. He made it himself.
It’s one of dozens of homemade and purchased outfits which populate Hardy’s closet, inspired by the 70s psychedelic nightclub scene, or perhaps the wardrobe of Elton John. Few students were even aware this man existed, let alone that he had an alter-ego.
That is, until a certain YouTube video began to virally circulate among faculty and students.
“Psy and I are tight,” he jokes. “I think, probably, I’m the first Caucasian-baby boomer-male to parody him.”
Hardy’s Gangnam Style parody had just over 3,000 views in under a month since it was uploaded Nov. 2, as an episode of his YouTube show, “TalkZaPoppin.” Filmed in various locations around Reno and Tahoe, the video features Hardy with the UNR cheerleading squad, even dancing for a packed UNR football halftime show.
In fall 2010, Hardy was hired as the vice president of Institutional Advancement. In this position, he is responsible for the majority of fundraising and donor relations.
“The college needs money, and there is no one at that college that knows local community, really, besides me,” he said.
Hardy has been instrumental in the Incline Village community since he spontaneously moved from Los Angeles in 1990, after starting a successful litigation support business. He was involved in the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, the Parasol Foundation and Star Follies.
The first year he worked at SNC, he held a fundraiser to honor Wayne Prim, and it raised more money than any other in the college’s history. Then last summer, he put on a “White Party” fundraiser, and it raised more money than the Prim fundraiser. He can also be credited with the renewal of the bookstore, the SNC mascot and SNC Eagle Club.
“I’m a ‘rah-rah’ guy. When you see this house, and you see my wardrobe, and you see my wife and I’s lifestyle… It’s because we both have always maintained a certain amount of child-like playfulness our whole life. For some reason as you age, you lose that. I incorporate that into everything I’ve done,” Hardy said.
Hardy’s house embodies his love of the unusual, the bizarre and the whimsical. A wooden door greets guests, complete with intricately carved owls and gnomes. Stained Manzanita frames the entryway, wrapping around deck railings and giving it the appearance of a Tolkien-esque hobbit-home.
“This house, as you approach it and you enter it, it’s hard to be in a bad mood. That was our vision when we built it,” he said.
The inside is adorned with unique trinkets and colorful carpets, murals of pastoral fairy scenes, and bizarre collectibles. Even their dogs are unique: a poodle, a Mexican hairless, and a Chinese crested.
“I always seem to stand out in everything I’ve done because I do things differently,” said Hardy.
Hardy and his wife Patti realized that most video podcast shows were pretty boring.
They decided to do an unconventional talk show upstairs in their house, called TalkZaPoppin. Using connections gained over the years, Hardy hired a film crew and began interviewing guests. His first guest, RaquelGuardia, a successful fashion designer and motivational speaker, was not prepared for Hardy’s unique brand of interview.
“She came on thinking I was going to talk about her impressive resume, like you do when you go on a talk show. You popularize their agenda, you stroke them, make them feel good about themselves. You tell the audience to go watch them, to buy their books… I don’t do that,” Hardy said.
He tries to make his guests uncomfortable, but it is always in good spirits, he said.
Due to his high-profile position at SNC, Hardy was nervous about TalkZaPoppin being released to the public. After checking with President Lynn Gillette, he decided to continue with the project. The videos remained low profile, until his Gangnam style parody was released.
“A couple of students I don’t know came up to me and said, ‘Oh I love your video!’ That’s a hell of a thing at my age, and in my position at the college, to be recognized for a Gangnam style parody. I just get a kick out of that,” Hardy said, pleased at the student and faculty’s response to his video.
“Surprisingly enough, not one negative word, ever. And that’s a total surprise. A lot of faculty at colleges are considered to be stuffy and conservative and opinionated, that just goes with the game. I was flabbergasted, after the first week, Kendra Wong was a subscriber. I didn’t even email it to her. I don’t even know how she found out about it,” he said.
Hardy plans to continue TalkZaPoppin and is launching an official website, www.talkzapoppin.com. He does not have any expectations, but is excited at the popularity that his show has gained. He will be performing Gangnam Style live at the Holiday Gala, an SNC fundraiser at 5:30 pm, Dec. 7, at the Hyatt’s Lakeside Ballroom. Tickets are $125/person.