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Origins of the Madisons

Many moons ago. White Men come to Dennys…

It was the halcyon days of youth (over 11 years ago). We were 23 and spending too much time at Dennys and other unreputable spots; smoking, laughing, drinking coffee, and talking lots and lots of shit. An entire night’s entertainment for only $1.25 plus tip.

Those were the days when we were passionate and argued loudly about shit that:

A. Doesn’t matter, and

B. Was completely out of our control.

Still the energy was there. The pumping explosion of adrenaline that coursed through you and gave a soaring high. As we spoke and yelled and laughed, the elation was sustained by every drop of coffee and puff of smoke. The mind was razor tight, and words tumbled from the lips without thought or hesitation. You became a vehicle for the divine, an inspired object, and it was beautiful. It was so euphoric that you could barely remember what was said, and later some person would come up and say,

“Hey Dan. Remember when last week when you pissed off that Southern Girl; you asked if her parents met through mail order?”

And all that remained was the dimmest of recollections. Still the longing for the next night of bullshit and laughter never ceased. This was all done without the use of drugs or alcohol.

There were many circling through our cabal then. Many who were only half seen at Comstock, many who weren’t seen at all. The Dashwood Society was in full swing, and we were legion: Myself “The Reverend”, Big Brian, Jeff Death, Mahatma Nick, Dr. I, Gay Bill, Dr. Harkey, Ensign Raiff “Flying Armadillo Boy“, Nurse Pam, Eric the Martyr, Lint, Withy, Counter Frank, Big Chief Strait-Jacket, Mr. Craik, The Mystery Man, Beldar Boy, Furher Frank, Crazy Lisa, Porno Lisa, Monkey Head, Some Pregnant Blonde, Ranji, Mattress Boy, Loudmouth Dan, Fat Frank, Shark Man, Disco Dan “The Dancing Man”, The Greatful Head, Coffee John, Saigon, Crazy Cooney (Whose ex-wife apparently started Sesame Street), Psycho Carrie, Amy, etc.. (This is excluding Comstock regulars, Rocky members, gaming guys, and the Frank Clan.)

And out of all of them, I know the whereabouts of, perhaps, 5. I’ve got anecdotes and stories of what happened to them, but nothing within the last 5 years.

With all of this talent, we had very little achieved to our credit. The Burroughs Show, which I wasn’t involved in, Big Brian put together, and used many Dashwood regulars, the possession of some animal pornography tapes, plus piss and shit eating films, (This was in the days before you could find it so easily on the internet) and that was all. The Madison-Felix Awards were our longest lasting and crowning achievement, and it came by accident.

The year was 1994. The Academy Awards were over, and we were pissed. The Best Actor category was of particular interest to us. We were rooting for Nigel Hawthorne in “The Madness of King George.” We loved the movie, every second of it. “If there’s any justice in the world,” We cried,” he should win!”

He lost.

Best Actor went to Tom Hanks for “Forest Gump.” A film about a retard who sits on a bench and harasses strangers. We were shocked, appalled, livid, and carried on like, in the long run, it really mattered, or would affect our lives. Which it did.

The night was waxing on, as we were, occupying a booth at Dennys. Three that night: Myself, Big Brian, and Saigon. Big Brian (for those outside the know) looks like a big hippy Woody Allen. He perpetually wears black on black over his massive frame, a tilted beret on his head, full of curling locks. The smell of nicotine and stale tar constantly wafts about him. A consummate smoke hound, he used to keep a metal bowl full of his butts and when he was low on cash, would root through it looking for any scrap of unburnt tobacco, and assemble a make shift cigarette. One of those bizarre geniuses that bottomed out in High School, and only his natural Irish perverseness kept him from achieving later academic success. He’s the only person that I’ve met that actually learned to speak French in a High School French class, yet he failed the class. 6’4” with a size 15 shoe, and a boxing trainer, he was definitely a person who could intimidate. Yet short skinny guys with toothpick arms always seemed confident that they could beat him up. Eric the Martyr was one, Schultz another.

Saigon was a mad scientist in the making. A walking encyclopedia and had a natural intelligence that could give Louis a run for his money. He was studying genetic engineering at the time, and in his odd reserved-yet-gleeful manner, showed off his strain of flies-without-wings that he had developed. He was extremely skinny with a shaved head, and an intense emaciated look with large eyes that just stared. He looked like a death camp survivor who had fattened himself up to 92 pounds a few weeks after Auschwitz.

The diner was packed that night. Pat Travers had been playing the town, and the place was full of every drunken mullet in North Tonawanda. We ignored this, concentrating on our bitching and whining. Oh the humanity!

We reached a crescendo, when finally an illiterate from the next booth turned his boil laden neck and yelled, “Shut the fuck up. You don’t like it, do your own fucking show.” Then erupted into laughter with the rest of the car wash attendants, with whom he was sharing his dining experience.

Inspiration! That was it! We would do our own show. How hard could it be? We would show this person, whom we never saw again. And Toothless Jim, if you can read this, my hat is off to you sir! Without your wit and candor we may have wallowed in obscurity until our nether days. Yea beyond even.

We were The Eggmen! The world was our walrus! We descended on the task with fevered impulses. What would we call it? “The Felixes.” Our Felix Unger to Hollywood’s Oscar Madison. And we created categories that people actually cared about, like “Best Key grip”, “Best Best Boy”, “Best Gaffer”, “Most Annoying Use of a Child in a Film”, “The William Shatner Award for Acting Excellence”, “The Alan Ormsby Award for Over Acting Achievement”, “Best Unintentional Cameo”, “ Most Predictable Plot”, “Pretty Boy Actor You’d Most Like to Whack”, “Ditzy Actress you Most Like to Strangle”, “Best Comedic Performance in a Non-Comedic Role” (Which turned into our nastiest category, The Miracle Worker anyone? When she learns to say “Waaaater“), and the list goes on. Plus our Lifetime Achievement Awards given to people everyone knew, but were never recognized by the industry. You’re welcome, George Peppard.

And we needed an award, a symbol for our step into the limelight. We always said that the Madisons had an operating budget of five dollars, but we went all out for the award. A faux marble base was obtained from some downtown shack. We took a Kodak VHS cassette (the fancy kind) and liberally decorated it with glittering golden spray paint. Using the finest store bought Krazy Glue, we affixed our golden symbol to it’s base, and viola; history was born.

We assembled our tapes and, using the magic of two VCRs hooked up to each other, we created the master tape (which has since been lost to the ages). The first year was held in the back of a bar. I forget the name, but it had a TV arraigned around a few tables. Brian and myself presented it, but kept tripping over each other’s feet, so it was decided that Brian should handle it after that. The first show was a mild success. People came, ate and had a few chuckles. The highlight, to me, was Fat Frank, giving away the award for, “Best Plot for an Ernest Film”, standing at the podium, waxing philosophical about how wonderful and inspiring the Ernest films were to him.

To be honest, Big Brian and I had initially considered the show a one time joke. We would do it, have a few laughs, and then move on. Then something happened. I’m not sure about Brian, but I was unsatisfied with the the way it turned out. I wanted something bigger. Brian, I figured, thought that the joke could last as well. One day we looked at each other and said, “You know that awards show was fun. We should do it again.” And it turned from a one time joke into an annual event.

We pressed on and found our home for the next decade, The Screening Room. A place of wonder and enjoyment. The screen filled an entire side of a wall. The tables were café style, with candles on them. Beer and wine was served. Smoking was allowed (Always a prerequisite for Brian). It could be had cheap, and the owner was a film buff. It was perfect. We rented it for a night, and made ourselves at home.

Then disaster struck. I discovered that there was another awards show called The Felixes. Imagine the horror to know someone had ripped off your idea 5 years before you had even thought of it. Brian was informed and we deliberated. The natural solution was presented and pounced upon. We changed the name.

We were now The Madisons. A crisp alluring name, for the discriminating executive. All was right with the world, except for the bad taste in my mouth, I had really liked the name Felix. Another year passed and we discovered that the Felixes had folded. HA! Brian and I deliberated again, this time in confidence, and decided not to drop the name Madison. After all they were both the show. Flip sides of the same coin. So we created an amalgamation, so we were dubbed, and remained, “The Madison-Felix Awards.”

There is no room here to describe all of the stories surrounding “The Madison-Felix Awards,” but I will tell some in the future. We lasted for 10 years (9 longer than we thought we would). We went through rejection letters from the stars, cease-and desist letters from lawyers, a potential lawsuit from the Academy Awards (how they found out about us, I don’t know), and almost had an honest-to-God celebrity show up.

The show was more than a show. As we all grew and drifted apart, it was the one time when people who normally didn’t see each other would come together and enjoy themselves. People I wouldn’t see for another year. I miss it. Good bye old friend, and rest in peace.


15 Responses

  1. Sorry I’ve been away for so long. I just moved down to Columbia, SC, and started my new job in a High School.

    I will post another piece on Madison stories that I remember. I was drunk through most of them, so anything that you guys remember add please. Actuall Louis never came to one, and Mike only a few, so Aaron anything you got I would like to hear.

  2. As you tell you stories I will surely remember more I can fill ing. I expect the year you started with a 21 shot salute I will have to tell the entire tale. Wasn’t Mattress Boy the guy who lived with Rob? Where did you meet Brian. As for the first year I have already posted my version of that first year, which I too thought would be the last. I was very suspicious going in, but, perhaps won over by my door prize, decreed this the best thing Dan ever did.

  3. Yeah, Mattress Boy lived with Rob, and I met Brian at Rocky Horror. He was part of the cast.

  4. I regret having missed as many as I did, although the one’s I attended were truly memorable!

    The thing I was most impressed with was the incredible amount of patience and research it must have taken to find the only frame in existance clearly showing Alan “the Skipper” Hale’s exposed nut sack.

    Your comparing Dashwood’s creative ability to the Beatles, however, is on the same level as them comparing themselves to Jesus. Apt.

    I remember a lot of these suspicious characters except the Mystery Man has me puzzled. One of the Franks listed above (you forgot his wife Angie) was also a customer of mine at Collector’s Inn. I think he was a tattoo artist making him one of the most gainfully employed and respectable members of the outfit.

  5. Don’t forget there is already a sectino on this blog devoted entirely to the Madisons already. Please edit/comment here:


  6. You never met The Mystery Man or his friend Beldar Boy. To be honest, we never knew much about him either. Hence the moniker.

  7. I was gone for much of the time that the Madisons were in existence. I had the opportunity to attend one – but it was snowy as hell and I felt sick (overindulgence in food, again) – so I abstained. I regret that now.

  8. Can I just ask if the story of the award’s final fate was ever told?

  9. I don’t think it was and I remember there being some sort of business where the actual award was hijacked and held for ransom, most likly by Schultz who was the butt of most Madison jokes.

  10. Matt stole the Madison award and held it for ransom. It was missing for two years before it was returned. His plan was to give it to people on vacation the entire year and have a new picture of the Madison in different locations sent to Dan, like the Roaming Gnome. Then Matt would return the Madison at the show the next year. This got side-tracked for a long time as Matt left it at some girlfriend’s house for a long time. Matt left it at her house then broke up with her and she was quite angry with him. I think in the end Matt mercenaries Jeena to get it back for him.

    I recall when Dan stormed over to Princeton convinced Chet had it.

  11. I thought for sure it was never returned. From what I recall, Matt tried to get back together with her just to get the award back. When that didn’t happen he eventually tried to get someone else to get it for him, but I thought it was lost by then.

  12. I believe it was thought to be lost forever but eventually it was gotten back in time for the last 1-2 years. Dan?

  13. I can’t remember, but I think we had to make a new award. I recieved a ransome letter for “$1,000,000, or else the award gets it!” With a picture of the award tied to a chair. I put $1,000,000 of the Game of Life money in an envelop to the correct spot, then we never heard from the kidnappers again.

  14. That’s how I remember it – a new award was obtained after all hope of recovering the original was given up. I wonder what Matt did to that girl other than break up with her.

  15. I just came across this again after reading it wish Dan would get off his ass and write more about some of these characters.

    One note of tragedy; Little Dave Ganczewski now actually works as a key grip/ gaffer/ best boy and is actually listed in the IMDB. Had the awards held on for just a few more years we could have honored one of our own.

    A reason to bring the Madison’s back? Ah, be that it were.

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