‘Argo’ hero Tony Mendez battling Parkinson’s

The Washington Post

The first time I sat down to interview Tony and Jonna Mendez was in late 2012, not long after the movie “Argo” opened and propelled the retired CIA spies into fame after living a quiet life in retirement as artists. At their secluded red carriage house along a rocky road in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western Maryland, we chatted for several hours in their comfy living room, warmed by Tony’s paintings and Jonna’s photographs. “Their solitude has been interrupted lately,” I wrote, “by brave limousine drivers fetching Tony and Jonna for trips to Hollywood and New York with [Ben] Affleck, who plays Tony in ‘Argo,‘ an acclaimed film about the daring rescue in January 1980 of six American diplomats during the Iranian hostage crisis.”

I got together with them again on Tuesday in Bethesda, this time in an unmasking of a different sort: We chatted about Tony’s life as a Parkinson’s disease patient. Tony and Jonna had been discreet about his struggles, including when we first met in his early stages of the disease, but they decided to talk publicly about it for the first time in front of 400 people at an international symposium for the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, an organization helping develop a new treatment for the debilitating disease.