Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Madison-Felix Awards- Guest Commentary II

The Madison-Felix Awards was an awards show in Buffalo New York, which ran from 1995-2005. It was put together by my friend Big Brian and I. In reality it was a parody of an awards show mixed with an open bar drinking contest. Still it was fun and irreverent and some of the best parties I've ever had. But like all good times, they eventually drifted off to the land of nostalgia. This and the next blog are dedicated to their memory.

These next two weeks are given over to the reflections of others who have attended the Madison
-Felixs' in the past. Special thanks to Charlene Shotwell, Kevin "Monkeyhead" Young, Sean Burns, and Aaron  "Psycho" Thies.

The Madisons:
An Awards Show Like No Other

“Back where we started… Here we go ‘round again…” The theme song that kicked off the Madison Awards plays over the speakers. Emerging from the coat room is the MC of the evening, Brian Young, wearing his staple black beret.  A (free) beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
A quick scan of the room shows an age range not seen in many environments. From 21 to 81, I believe each age has been represented in the audience (either by choice or by chance). The choice is from friends and family of the organizers of the formerly annual event, Brian Young and the Rev. Rex Hurst. The chance came from an un-expecting octogenarian couple who stumbled into the Screening Room hoping to watch Metropolis.
A brief history of the Madison Awards tells the story of Brian and Rex who own, what I refer to as, the biggest collection of shitty films that nobody wants to see. They wanted to provide alternate entertainment to their friends due to the Oscars becoming such a horrible shell of what an awards show should be.  While there was the usual Best Picture award, there were additional categories that always should have been awards. These include, but are not limited to, Most Annoying Use of a Child in a Film and Best Comedic Performance in a Non-Comedic Role.
The highlight of each year was the Lifetime Achievement award.  The winners had a montage of their “highlight” reel set to a carefully selected piece of music. Past winners include Don Knotts – She’s Got The Look, Alan Hale Jr – I’m Too Sexy For My Shirt and Charles Bronson – I Think I Love You. However, nothing could top the year everyone’s favorite quadriplegic Christopher Reeve was saluted with a wonderful rendition of Walk Like a Man.
The most endearing part of the show was that each member of the audience got to come up and present the awards for the movies and actors. It granted everyone the chance to add their own little piece to the history of the Madison Awards. No greater impression was left on the crowd than Farmer Jeff Faulker with his love poem, Ode To Knockers.
The show started out as an opportunity to get some friends together, have a good time and drink some beer. What the event grew to become was a wonderful, spontaneous and unforgettable experience that those lucky enough to be in attendance will always cherish. I know I do.

                                                                   Kevin Young (Monkeyhead)
                                             It Was There

I was really just a guest, stepping into a group of your friends and only knowing you & Tony House. I did bring Jim Ludwig one year, and I recommended it to my friend Vince Burke who went on a year I cancelled. My memories are of the cries of “Free Beer!”, a raunchy poem about tits being read, a string of horrible movie clips, a racist Bugs Bunny cartoon, and then a box of shit from somebody's attic being handed out as prizes.

                                                                                     Sean Burns 

                                                   Bread and Circuses

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. This sums up my relationship with Rex. His antics where a grab bag of juvenile, hilarious, unbelievable, and horrifying. I felt it my responsibility to provide the world a warning as to his activities.

Until recent times, Rex has sickened me more than he has drawn my admiration. Only twice have I admired his efforts. Once was when he lost significant weight. Turns out he was sick, and couldn't keep anything down but carrots. The other was The Madisons.

I'll admit that I was extremely hesitant to attend the first Madisons. Rex is like a precocious juvenile, but throw in Brian, and targeted anarchy is ensured. My mind ran amok with what "films" would be showcased. I forwent imagining the specific title, and went straight for the attendee reactions. Vile, putrid, and plain stupid immediately held sway. While all of these proved true, the unholy event produced a miraculous result. In no small part to the now notorious "FREE BEER" everyone greatly enjoyed themselves. The crowd was "select" in comparison to later events, but was no less diverse. Friends, morons, dates, and moms where equally blessed.

A few years into the Madisons a lucky few (among which I could count myself) where given the opportunity to vote on the nominees. It was an arduous task to almost randomly select the winners from the lists of unknown titles. The blessing was that the title held all you needed to know.

There was often a scramble as people arrived, hounding Rex for what award they wanted to present. Some people where born to present certain awards. Case in point, Rob presenting the Alan Ormsby Overacting Achievement Award so he had an excuse to rip off his glasses and deliver that classic line:

Perhaps to your surprise, the Madisons required formal attire. Everyone was well adorned, except for that one guy who wore the t-shirt with a tux printed on it. Douche. Anyhow, this shocked newcomers and added to the feeling of an unsupervised junior prom with a hidden keg in the back.

One thing I greatly looked forward to with each Madisons was the people. You mingled with people you saw no other time of the year. You'd be surprised as a new long lost or old high school friend materialized. As with any gathering of a certain size, there were cliques. Each gathered about their own clump of tables. But, unlike other events, all cliques were wholly united. When anyone presented an award everyone called out their name in raucous joy. If you didn't know the person, you paused half a beat to learn the name, then joined in the cheer. You felt like you knew the whole room. Those popular in high school, and those who were clearly not, all corralled together in harmony and "FREE BEER".

The Madisons occasionally served as a counselor. Relationships began and ended during the event. More than a couple new significant others were delighted to attend a formal event, only to feel it was drastically misrepresented. Some were horrified. Some punted their relationship after. For myself, I brought my new girlfriend (now wife) to the final Madisons. Luckily for me she stuck around.

An unexpected delight was the intermission buffet line. Set in another room, which was actually illuminated, the line moved slowly as everyone conversed with everyone else. This produced the only sluggish line that was not maddening.

Door prizes were a crowd favorite, albeit the ceremony of giving them out often carried on a little too long, as by now the "FREE BEER" was closed and everyone was making plans to make for a bar.

I've condemned far more of Rex's activities than I've ever condoned, but for once he focused on something good. The result was something legendary. My biggest regret is the one year I missed the Madisons. They are the closest you will come to experiencing the spectacle of the Roman Colosseum.

                                                                                   -Aaron Thies


I was flattered and a little humbled when Rex asked me to write up my memories of The Madison Awards. I was more of a peripheral character, a supporting cast member, on the outskirts of the main group who ran the show. But I remember those events fondly nonetheless. And being a movie theme here, ya gotta hand it to those peripheral characters. Looking back at 40, I have to say The Madison Awards ceremonies were an amazing part of our collective friend experiences in the ‘90s. They were insane, creative, and always a mind blowing good time

I think 1996, 1997 or so was the first year Rex graced me with an invitation to his quirky parody awards ceremony. The Madisons he said were a take-off of the Oscars, and held near or around the same day. They were a nod to the last name of Oscar Madison from the Odd Couple, according to legend. I was a chain smoking Buff State student at the time and was excited to go, but had only known Rex casually for a few years. I remember that cold day in early spring when I first experienced the glory of the Screening Room Cinema behind Northtown Plaza, the aging strip mall full of perpetually defunct storefronts and crumbling 1960s style décor. The event was hosted by Rex and his cohorts including Brian Young, whom I had only remembered meeting when I somehow fell asleep on his shoulder at Denny’s, Brian’s brother who was inexplicalbly named “Monkey Head,” and a few other characters that Rex had apparently strung along from his Rocky Horror days. The “award” was an old VHS cassette spray painted gold. Brilliant.
Anyway, Rex wanted my input, so I am going with more of a “random memorable moments” thing. So here it is:

• FIRST SHOWING OF SOUTH PARK BEFORE IT HIT IT BIG: The Madisons were the first time many of us saw the pivotal cartoon South Park. We all sat dumbfounded as “Jesus Versus Santa Claus” was shown on the screen long before it hit the air on Comedy Central. We watched in sheer amusement as these characters that looked like talking scraps of construction paper were displayed before us, not having any idea that maybe a year later South Park would be everywhere. Incidentally, in the mid ‘90s Comedy Central was only available on the cable company offered in the city. Slacker suburbanites had to drive to the homes of their friends in urban areas or watch it in a bar.

• TONY HOUSE AND THE STERNO CANS: Tony House was a new character to me at the time of The Madisons. I knew he was a buddy of Rex’s and a fellow St. Joe’s boy, but I didn’t know what to make of him. Tony had big eyes like an anime character and swooping brown bangs reminiscent of a late ‘80s skater punk mixed with a Bob’s Big Boy statue. But Tony’s almost cartoon like cutesy appearance was contrasted by a slow moving, dry witted air of smarm. That made him fucking brilliant. Tony was highlighted in a video from The Madisons describing what was offered at the Screening Room’s banquet buffet table. I recall watching Tony narrating the selection of foods at the buffet, “And here we have a selection of pizza slices. There are Sterno cans underneath to keep them warm. See?” The camera zoomed in on the pizza then zoomed beneath to show the Sterno cans. “And here is a selection of Buffalo chicken wings. Hot, medium and mild. And as you can see, there are also Sterno cans keeping them warm.” The camera panned to the Sterno cans again. Then Tony segued into the dish of salad. “And here we have a selection of salads and vegetables…” Tony added a deadpan, “…Thankfully there are no Sterno cans under them.” Tony’s smarm was and is hilarious, and his ability to drop a smarmy comment at the end of a tirade like a too slow to explode grenade is why we love him. And years later when I knew Tony as only a vague acquaintance he appeared on Facebook. I friended him immediately and posted, “YOU ARE STERNO CAN TONY!”

• BAD OUTFITS: Ah, I remember my first Madison’s outfit, a late ‘90s tight black bodysuit and a black shiny “broomstick skirt” as they called them back in the day. Never will be thin enough to wear that again. I also recall scouring the thrift stores to find ensembles to wear to the following years’ awards. I once found an old red and black velvet prom dress at some Salvation Army in the ghetto and ironed it out and wore it with opera gloves and a fake Holly Go Lightly hairdo. But as an adult woman whose body has now seen the effect of age and childbirth and breastfeeding, I remember fondly rocking my black leather corset vest with a push up bra to one of the awards shows. Ah yes, I had “the girls” on display that year and it inspired several off color comments from the men. But hey, you’re only young with perky boobs once.

• BAD DATES: I had several bad dates to The Madisons, as I’m sure we all did. I could go into more detail here. But I won’t. Plus some of them have found their ways onto my Facebook friends list so I will just keep my mouth shut and move on.

• THE FREE BEER SONG: Rex and I used to make each other mix tapes, and I once made one called “Ditties for Dan.” That tape had the most awful and delightfully crappy songs, and Rex and I would sing along to them while driving around together in our ‘90s slacker years. Some of those songs included “Boogie” by John Hartford, which is a song that sounds like it is sung a man with emphysema, prostate issues, and bad gas pleasuring himself to thoughts of his love, with whom he only wants to “boogie.” 

“Oh No Darling” by T Bone Burnett was another great one for blasting while driving around in Dan’s mom’s mini-van.

“Lookin’ For Money” by The Chicken Chokers was also a good fit, as Rex and I would often be broke and spotting each other for enough extra cash to get the “Working Man’s Special” at Anacone’s or perhaps a cheap pint of whatever was on tap at Bobby McGee’s.

…Anyway, I came across a song called “Free Beer” by a band called “Da Yoopers.” “Yooper” is a term for a resident of the Upper Michigan Peninsula, and being a Great Lakes city they have similarly awful accents as people from Buffalo do, but mixed with a bit of a “take off, hoser” pseudo Canadian lilt. The “Free Beer” motto was already a theme for The Madisons and it fit nicely.

                                     -Sharlene Shotwell

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Madison-Felix Awards- Guest Commentary

 The Madison-Felix Awards was an awards show in Buffalo New York, which ran from 1995-2005. It was put together by my friend Big Brian and I. In reality it was a parody of an awards show mixed with an open bar drinking contest. Still it was fun and irreverent and some of the best parties I've ever had. But like all good times, they eventually drifted off to the land of nostalgia. The next several blogs are dedicated to their memory.

    These next two weeks are given over to the reflections of others who have attended the Madison-Felixs' in the past.  Special thanks to Rose Mooney, Michelle Wolf, Kevin Cygan, and Lisa Rae for their contributions.

 Going to the Show
      “I feel just like I did the first day he went to school”, I said turning to look at Joe, Rex’s father. We were sitting at a rear table in The Screening Room watching fellow attendees stroll in. Girls with long dresses and gloves up to their elbows, some fellows with a version of a tux. Some just in regular streetwear. Although this was not the first year of the Madisons, this was the Madison’s entry into the big time, tables with chairs, a full screen, sound and “free beer”. No more having to strain to see on the small screen which movies had been chosen for a prestigious award. Guests came from far away places; Rex’s father came from Albany and Brian’s mother came from Orchard Park.
     And then the program began. A hush, no more time for jitters. Rex and Brian set the tone for the evening with their initial patter. It was all so seamlessly choreographed, award flowing after award and at the end would be the ultimate, the award of the Madison itself, a gloriously gold encrusted videotape somehow attached to a plastic base. (editor’s note: the Madison was so highly valued it was in later years stolen and held for ransom).
     The idea, I believe, was to be more real than the Oscars. There was no political maneuvering here. Only merit applied. Who cared if no one had ever heard of the nominee before. We were taken on a magic ride of discovery when we saw South Park before it was on tv. We went on the road of political incorrectness with old Disney cartoons and Helen Keller quips. We were an involved audience and talented guests were invited to share their brilliance with the rest of us. Mesmerizing. And throughout the evening, chants of “free beer” filled the room.
     But as engrossing as the evening was, at the back of everyone’s mind was the question, “Who would receive the Lifetime Achievement Award and would they actually show up to receive it?” There were too many recipients to name here (actually I can’t remember them) but I do recall hearing that Charles Bronson responded that he would attend but unfortunately died before making the trip.
     The finale of the evening was the awarding of the door prizes. These were graciously given out by Rex and there were many of them. Books, a shoe, videos, a shoe; I think everyone felt they had a memento of the evening. And alas the evening did have to end. We slowly filed out, almost overcome by the hugeness of the event, our lives forever changed. How could this ever be surpassed and what a long wait until the next Madisons.

      - Rose Mooney

Editing the awards videos

     After the first year of the Madison-Felix awards the guys decided to increase the budget by $1.27. I offered to use my computer to better produce the winners video. This was back in the time of video capture cards and I was looking to learn some video capture and editing. I already had the equipment I just needed a project to work on. The final product was rather simple. A title screen with the award name followed by a title screen with the winning movie followed by the video clip picked out by the experts. It was just a matter of getting all of the videos digitized and putting them in the correct order. I was buried in old VHS tapes that people had in their collections and often a dozen or move VHS tapes from Blockbuster or Hollywood video. The video capture card worked for most of these VHS tapes but eventually companies started adding protections that scrambled the videos. Luckily most of the movies that won were old favorites and trashy B movies from 3rd rate companies. Their content provided the most laughs. DVDs eventually tricked into the pile in later years. For the most part they were easier to digitize.
     The real challenge was the lifetime achievement awards which required far more edits then the entire winners video in the span of 3-4 minutes and syncing it up to music. The two winners of this award that I remember were Monkey Head and Alan Hale Jr. The Monkey Head video contained a lot of National Geographic like video of monkeys that someone recorded from some nature channel. The real masterpiece was the Alan Hale Jr. video. It synced up perfectly with the audio track and at the end of the video we used a clip of him splitting his pants. Nothing says quality video awards show like Alan Hale Jr's underpants, except maybe a woman masturbating with a severed arm.

     - Kevin Cygan

Writing for the Madison-Felix's

     The literary contributions to the Madison-Felix Awards were always fun, and I’ve missed having a reason to write them. Interestingly, they didn’t evolve into what they were until the third year.
     At the first show, I merely told an anecdote. Both Rex Hurst and Big Brian had attended my wedding about four months earlier; the story I told has been disputed in its authenticity, but was enjoyed nevertheless. Toward the end of the reception, my brother-in-law claimed to have heard Rex and BB discussing my sister’s rack while in the restroom. Even though he said their analysis was favorable, both Rex and BB later declared the conversation never took place. No matter; the audience of the first Madison-Felixes thought it was pretty funny.
     At the second show, I didn’t decide to do a follow-up until that afternoon. I was into trashy historical romance novels at the time, and one of my recent ones involved a displaced British heiress in the pre-Revolutionary colonies with her wilderness guide. So I read an excerpt at the show where the main characters engaged in fellatio, and this is where “His Staff Sprang Free”originated. This phrase was raucously uttered at a few more shows, usually after the Free Beer had been tapped and passed around.
     Then the third show happened. “I Like Knockers” by the late great Jeff was already well-known by this time, so I expanded on it by inventing a backstory. It was basically about how Jeff met his smoking-hot wife through a mail-order bride service and all the equally-hot daughters they had. There was also a Jeff Jr., and they all ran a successful farm together (among other things).
     The story was a huge hit (though bear in mind the audience was quite drunk by the time I read it) and so the tradition came to be. Later installments featured The Ballad of MonkeyHead—BB’s younger brother, The Amazingly True Adventures of Tux the Masturbating Cat—complete with photos, and The Tao of Matt Schultz—see Rex’s earlier post referring to the restroom incident. My personal favorite was about BB, Rex, and the Redheaded whore. It was about how BB met the Redheaded Whore who resembled Wilma Flintstone, but then the Reverend Rex inadvertently stole her away by converting her to his Church of the Unconscious Revelation.
     One year, I tried my hand at literary porn. This was the only story that wasn’t specifically written about a regular attendee. However, as I read a particular phrase during the juicy part, BB laughed so hard he nearly fell out of his chair. And what did I say that was so damn funny? “Cock-gobbled.”
     That term alone inspired the next year’s story: Super-Rob Vs. the Cock-Goblin, where our superhero valiantly saved his city form the evil monster who went around dining on male genitalia. Regrettably, I cannot recall what or about whom I wrote for the final show. Maybe I had too much Free Beer that night.

     - Lisa Rae

Madison-Felix Awards- The Best of Times
It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times…? Rubbish!”
~Mr. Burns as spoken to a typing monkey
     When it occurs to me to remember them, I look back the days of the Felix-Madison awards with great regret. Not that they existed, or I deigned to acknowledge their existence, but that I was only able to attend a mere two shows separated by eight years.
     I’ll leave the recounting of the excruciating details to Mr. Hurst; he is far better suited insofar as he is speaking to the moments he managed to achieve drunken lucidity. Instead, I’ll speak to my personal experience of the lamented award show from the perspective of a fringe player and introverted recluse watching from the sidelines.
     My very first Felix Awards (as they were called at the time) was coincidentally, the very first show. It was a tumultuous time in my life, having contracted a powerful case of Roommate Infuryitis and already plotting my escape to what I mistook as a better life in the Air Force. Mr. Hurst had already withdrawn from our day-to-day life, ensconced in his cabal of chain-smoking, coffee drinking, penny-ante philosophers, dreamers, and affiliated ne’er-do-wells. I understood he was up to something, but chose to ignore it under the auspices that plausible deniability would be my best defense when inevitably deposed. The invitation came hand delivered to my apartment for the reasonable sum of three beers, the rest of my snack food, and last half dozen cigarettes. In truth, I had my doubts to his ability to pull it off as advertised.
     I caught a ride into North Tonawanda with my seething and directionally challenged roommate, and eventually found the place. It was what would be known in the south as a ‘honkey-tonk’ nestled in the armpit of Western New York. While it was advertised as a formal gathering, I eschewed my one pair of pleated slacks and button down for my daily uniform of nameless jeans and well scuffed white sneakers, allowing me to blend with the fearsome patrons far better than the dandies in the back room. It didn’t help; I still felt out of place everywhere, but understood enough to pretend otherwise.
     My imagination had conjured five of so people overstuffed into a booth and Knaus’s miniature TV/VCR combination perched on the end with a collection of daisy-chained extension cords. The sight that greeted me, however, was stunning. The room was arranged into a U-shaped configuration of tables, with a large screen and projector present at one end. I hated this, as it allowed nearly everyone in the well-dressed crowd to see me, further reminding me that I was expected to present one of the nonsensical awards. I quickly retreated to the bar where in addition to my beer, I downed a double shot of something wicked. My anxiety abated, and I grudgingly returned.
     While I understand someone named ‘Saigon’ was involved, having never seen him I assume he was concocted to lessen any culpability on the part of Rex or Brian. The pair, dressed in the most resplendent finery they owned, kicked off the show with great flair. I always feel Mr. Hurst missed his calling as a media personality in his displays of showmanship, outspoken bravado, and complete lack of shame or conscientiousness. As he and Brian explained the origin and evolution of the event, my expectations grew, although this might be attributable to my fourth Heineken of the evening.
     The pace and timing were flawless. I think we all assumed the show would be punctuated by painful rewinds and fast-forwards to locate desired scenes, but the master tape they concocted managed to capture the salient elements of every scene. Although the award show was intended to honor the dregs of the film industry, non-essential personnel, and spectacularly terrible movies, the show managed to be funny. Better than funny. Hilarious! My sense of panic grew as the award I was presenting drew closer.
     While it’s now my stock and trade to attempt to inspire pants wetting laughter when I get in front of a crowd, I was not so very much myself at the time of the Felix’s. Attempting to follow the comedic duo of Rex and Brian was daunting, and in all honesty, there may have been some pants wetting on my part. Liquid courage allowed me rise and deliver my hastily scripted lines flatly, stuttering, and unmemorable, unless by contrast. I was relieved to sit, reestablish my anonymity, and take comfort in knowing I would never be asked again.
     I may be conflating similar events, but I recall the intermission to include a spectacular stunt of irresponsible magnitude on the part of Mr. Hurst. He ordered and had delivered over to him in the center of the room, a tray consisting of 21 shots of well-grade alcohol. In rapid succession he downed them, one after the other, until all were consumed in the space of six or seven minutes. “Well, something or someone was bound to kill him before he saw the dark side of 25 anyway”, was my thought. I was amazed when after a bathroom break he not only remained standing and coherent, but sparkling in wit and timing. I later found that he managed to regurgitate the majority of his consumption in a reprehensible exercise of alcohol abuse.
     The finale of the show included door prizes and gifts for the presenters. I can’t remember all it included, although most were Dollar Store items aside from inappropriate pornography, likely from Rex’s personal stash that I doubt had been so much as dented. Leaving, with my undesired gifts and in tow of my taciturn ride, I was able to admit that I had a surprisingly good time. Somehow, this collaboration that had been previously known for tainting food items with bodily fluids, pulled it off with both panache and flair.
     I exited stage left for a full four years, never able to make it back to the encores that had grown into a locally anticipated and celebrated institution. Even after my inglorious return, it took a few more years to attend, as I had taken a job requiring frequent unplanned travel. Finally at the eighth or ninth iteration I made my way to the Screening Room, appropriately dressed for the occasion.
     I won’t make the claim that I was any more comfortable in this new venue, especially as the majority of the attendants were either strangers, or had become so by virtue of time. It was, however, a much better show. It was clear that the format had been tweaked and honed, embracing and embellishing the many strengths and buffing out the miniscule flaws.
     There were a few highlights I recall. Dudley Moore, who had recently passed of brain cancer, was the punch line of a joke that drew considerable hissing. Jeff Death, in full hillbilly regalia, delivered a sincere and misanthropic poem about breasts that resulted in every woman attending making vain efforts to cover her décolletage. Rex made a grand announcement that he was disavowing himself from both his reverendship and doctorate, both procured from an institution with no business in dealing with either commodity. I dare say, he may have planted a seed that night in the maturity of dropping insincere affectations, though it would take some time to harvest.
     Overall, the Felix-Madisons were inarguable successes, with but one exception. Of the many films, shorts, documentaries, and other media honored, the event failed to pay homage to my favorite, only seen once. It was a short piece, maybe twenty minutes in length, and consisted of an interview with a man in a cassock and collar by a man off-screen. It began in typical fashion with pointed questioning and well thought out answers delivered with sparkling wit and philosophical insight. As the interview progressed, the man in the cassock poured and drank a shot of vodka every few minutes. Well-spoken erudite commentary devolved into outraged ranting, obscenity, and accusation delivered in an Irish whisper. By the conclusion, the man with is collar askew and hair disheveled, consisted of the frightening shouts of a madman. The whole piece was layered with depth, unsolicited candor, and social commentary not only in the answers, but the visual transformation of a respectable priest into a malodorous purveyor of Johnny Walker wisdom. It was brilliant, and only Rex Hurst could have pulled it off.

     - Michelle Wolf


Friday, May 15, 2015

The Madison-Felix Awards- 10 Years of Invitations

The Madison-Felix Awards was an awards show in Buffalo New York, which ran from 1995-2005. It was put together by my friend Big Brian and I. In reality it was a parody of an awards show mixed with an open bar drinking contest. Still it was fun and irreverent and some of the best parties I've ever had. But like all good times, they eventually drifted off to the land of nostalgia. The next several blogs are dedicated to their memory.

As we are winding down out series on the Madison-Felix Awards. I'm taking this opportunity to display the various invitations which were given out to people. Each of them was lovingly handcrafted from cobbled together photographs and cheap graphics, just like the show itself. Next week we will begin a series of guest blogs of people reflecting on their Madison-Felix experiences.

The first year very rough as you can see. This was when we were just the Felix awards, before we discovered another group was using the name.

                 The second year. This was when we got a little more serious and first moved to The Screening Room. Humdinger Records was Big Brian's production company at the time.

The infamous llama from Brutes and Savages. We added the caption, as I'm sure you can tell. This is my particular favorite invitation. This year we finalized the name, Madison-Felix Awards, after we learned that the previous Felix's had folded.

We got some flack for this one. People said we were promoting Nazis. But it is obvious that the character is Dopey dressed as Hitler.

Big Brian front and center. This was the year The Phantom Menace was released to our collective groans.

Our male model here was a Mr. Schultz taken completely by surprise by our photographer.

The person shown here is my mother aged three. She was not amused by our using her photo.

We didn't create the caption. We just found it hysterical.

Nothing more needs to be said here.

 The final invitation made up of all the previous ones into the shape of an X to represent our tenth and last show. We found it fitting as the last show was a "best of" series of our most well received clips.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Madison-Felix Awards- Miscellaneous Hogwash

The Madison-Felix Awards was an awards show in Buffalo New York, which ran from 1995-2005. It was put together by my friend Big Brian and I. In reality it was a parody of an awards show mixed with an open bar drinking contest. Still it was fun and irreverent and some of the best parties I've ever had. But like all good times, they eventually drifted off to the land of nostalgia. The next four blogs are dedicated to their memory.


          The first year Big Brian and I had the Madison-Felix awards it was in a rented back room of a bar in North Tonawanda (those who know the city, recognize it to be the least of the Tonawandas), which was also being used by another party. We were separated by a partition, but that didn’t prevent them from continuously sticking their mullets in to make a stupid remark or just gawp at us. The only means of we had to show clips was a borrowed 24” TV and a VCR. Hardly satisfactory, but then we didn’t put too much effort into it.

         When we made the decision to do a second year, we had to find something more suitable. One day, I went to the DMV to get my license renewed, it being located then in the Northtown Plaza in Buffalo, and I happened to notice a place, called The Screening Room, tucked away in a corner of the plaza, completely unobtrusive. It was primarily a place that rented itself out for private parties and business seminars, though occasionally showed films on the weekends.

          I walked in and was overjoyed. A large screen filled an entire wall. Seating was done with café style table, adorned with a candle, and could handle up to 60 people. We could have the place to ourselves, no uninvited jerks. It was perfect. I talked to the owner and we reached an agreement.
          The Madison’s had found its home for the next nine years. On the day of the last show, we presented the owner (he was a great sport) with a plaque commemorating the show, which hangs on the Screening Room wall to this day. 

                                                             Ode to Knockers

One of the traditions at the Madison-Felix Awards was the reading of Jeff Death’s (RIP) epic poem Ode to Knockers. Jeff’s greatest passion in life was large women, specifically large women with large breasts. And he immortalized his love in verse.
          I hope I shall never see
    A bra size smaller than double D
          Hazel Court running down the stairs.
          Knockers are best because they come in pairs.
          I like knockers (said with a wolfish grin)
          Oh Kitten, oh Tiffany, oh Chastity
          Come away with me
          We’ll go to my farm
          And live high on the hog
          And have big-titted daughters
          That’ll take turns on my log.

                                                        Lisa’s Story

          Every year Lisa P. would entertain the crowd with a soft core pornographic short story, often involving her pet, Tucks the Masturbating Cat- a beast which spent way too much time rubbing its genitals. My mother, of all people, delighted in these tales more than anyone else.
          Her stories were great because they transcended the genre which they were lampooning. By themselves they were lonely housewife romance fodder, littered with the standard cliché’s of “his staff sprang free” and “she grew moist with anticipation”. And yet they revolved around some of the most ridiculous situations I have ever heard. She really was a pioneer of the comedy porno niche- which if it isn’t a thing should be one.
          My favorite one was a story she wrote about Matt Schultz, a frequent guest who habitually had a fight with his on-again off-again girlfriend at the Madisons. In it Lisa described a sexual encounter that Matt had in the bathroom of The Screening Room. Most of the details escape me, but it involved much soap spilling and the roll of toilet paper spinning with every thrust. They were truly unique works.
          BTW Schultz has since declined to add his voice to the menagerie assembled for the guest blog position which will be in two weeks’ time. As to the Schultz fights with his girlfriend, they became an expected part of the festivities. They were so anticipated that one show his girlfriend accidentally knocked a glass on the floor and the entire audience dropped to silence, thinking it was finally going to go off. Then a slow chant began to rise up from the crowd “Fight fight fight fight!” The crowd kept at it until the girlfriend stormed out of the place, Matt chasing after her. A self-fulfilling prophecy.

Benny Hill

          We started the tradition of slipping a Benny Hill clip into every show during the 6th Madison-Felix awards. We were tallying up votes and discovered that everyone had unaccountably voted for Jessica Tandy in Fried Green Tomatoes for the Best Supporting Actress Award, rather than Mink Stole in Pink Flamingos – which is what we wanted to show. Brain and I grumbled and moaned at the thought of having to dredge a clip up from the turgidly sappy flick. It went on until I said,

          “Fuck it. Let’s not do it.”

          “Then what are we gonna show?”
A man of subtle variations
          It hit me. Benny Hill had been dead a few years by then, but I still loved his material. I had grown up watching him on late night television, sneaking downstairs to see the show when I was supposed to be sleeping. Most males of my generation who grew up in Buffalo had an appreciation of him. To many he was the English guy who had lots of ribald sexual jokes, in-between songs and slapping an old guy on the head. But I have to say that Benny Hill was one of the best physical comedians that ever graced the screen. A latter day Charlie Chaplin.

          Brian agreed, loving the idea. We inserted the clip which began with several women dancing- the audience being a little confused since it obviously wasn’t Jessica Tandy- then moving onto the back of Hill’s head wearing one of his patented fuzzy blonde afro wigs. When he turned around and revealed his face, the audience went wild, surprised and overjoyed at this inclusion of an old friend. How could they not be?

          After this it became a Madison’s tradition to slip a clip of his in unannounced. He always appeared to applause.

Threatened by Faye Dunaway’s Lawyers

          One of Big Brian’s assumed duties (he assumed them since I didn’t bother) was to attempt the monotonous task of attracting someone famous to the show. In the days before email was commonplace just finding where to send the letters to was a long and arduous task. As with many things with Big Brian I was never quite sure whether he was serious or not, and it was probably both. Brian’s main goal in life was to be amused and it amused him to write letters year after year, only to gather deafening silence in return. Until we didn’t.
          It wasn’t an acceptance letter, but a cease and desist from the lawyers representing Faye Dunaway. Brian has always had a red head fetish and his greatest lust in life was the notable actress (her and Wilma Flintstone). Every year he invited her and every year the letters got weirder and weirder, to the point where he was offering to “let her stay at his place as long as she wanted” (understand this was just Brian’s sense of humor) and describing the delights of Buffalo in such a way as to sound like it was the worst place in the world this side of Beirut. Hence the threatening letter. I’m just glad my name wasn’t attached to any of them- at least I think they weren’t.

          And this leads us to…

Threatened by the Academy Awards

          Apparently not all of the letters sent out ended up directly in the trash. Around the time Brain and I were putting together the 6th show, he received a letter from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (the Oscars). Someone had gotten wind of our “rogue” awards show and for a completely inexplicable reason were demanding that we place a disclaimer in the ceremony stating the Madison-Felix Awards were in no way associated with their little show. We complied. Why not, we thought it was funny. From then on we opened the show with this denial and a picture of an Oscar crossed out.

The Award was Stolen Once

          The Madison-Felix Award, a plastic VHS tape spray painted gold, and glued to a faux marble base- symbol of our renegade status- was once kidnapped. After the 7th show, Brain called me up to ask if I had the award. I replied negative.

          “Someone’s stolen the damn thing.” He roared.

          “No way. Who the hell would want that?”

          He hung up unhappy. About a week later a letter was dropped in my mailbox. In it was a Polaroid of the award tied to a chair and a ransom note made from cut up advertisements.

          “Bring one million dollars to the Amherst Theater at midnight this Friday or else the award dies!”

          Well we couldn’t have that! That Friday I stuffed an envelope with 10 $100,000 bills from my old Game of Life set and placed it in the designated spot. We received no reply. Like the Lindbergh baby villains, the kidnappers took the cash and absconded away never returning the prize.

          We never found what happened to it- apparently it was lost. But the next year when giving away the Most Annoying Use of a Child Award, Matt Schultz admitted to being the culprit. Very good.


          This is where my obsession for every little detail comes in handy. Part of the package of the Madison-Felix’s was a buffet to stabilize your body after all of that beer (We assumed that they got drunk and if they didn’t, they weren’t doing their job damn it!). It was standard Buffalo buffet fodder consisting of pizza and wings and a slathering of celery and carrot sticks- which are traditional with wings in Buffalo for some reason. It wasn’t great, but then no one was there for the food.

          The placement of a meal was initially a problem for us. Originally we served the meal at the beginning of the show, everyone got their fill except for a few stragglers, but by the end a lot of people were still hungry. So we decided to move the buffet until the end of the show- that lasted a year. Half way through the show there was a mutiny and most of the crowd charged into the room where the food was kept, whereupon they gorged themselves. Then they relaxed and started chatting. As the years went on and people moved in different directions they lost touch and would only see each other at the Madison-Felix awards. So they decided to catch up and the babble of their voices drowned out the show. Never let it be said that we didn’t learn from our mistakes. Thus ever afterwards we stopped the show half way through and opened the trough for all.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Madison-Felix Awards- Guess Who's Coming to the Madisons?

The Madison-Felix Awards was an awards show in Buffalo New York, which ran from 1995-2005. It was put together by my friend Big Brian and I. In reality it was a parody of an awards show mixed with an open bar drinking contest. Still it was fun and irreverent and some of the best parties I've ever had. But like all good times, they eventually drifted off to the land of nostalgia. The next four blogs are dedicated to their memory.

     An ordinary evening, or was it?
     Big Brian called me up excited, “Rex get over here. You’re not going to believe this shit!”
     Getting ready not to believe this shit, I sped on over to Brian’s. I had no idea what to expect, but I was sure it would be hilarious. All I knew was that it had something to do with the Madison-Felixes.
     It had always been our practice with the Madisons to send invitations to anyone that was going to receive our award. Those whom we could locate. I mean how do you find Alan Ormsby from “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things,” or Eric Stern from “The Love Butcher?” For the first couple of years we actually held out hope that someone might condescend to reply, but by the 10th year all of those ideas were gone. We only sent them out as a joke, and sat around snickering when the “I regret to inform you that we cannot attend” letter (when they even bothered to do so) rolled in.
     This was the end of the Madison-Felixes. The last show. I actually lived in North Carolina, so most of the burden was on Brian, and he was getting tired of handling everything himself.
     The old days of it being just fun fun fun were over, and now it was more of a hassle. We worked harder at it, and the shows improved, while our enjoyment waned.  Gone were the days of creating our master tape, by hooking two VCRs together, the night before the show. I asked Brian how this happened, and we remembered back in time we would show up drunk to the show and go from there. Remember when I inaugurated the 3rd Madisons by drinking a 21 shot salute. The last being a flaming shot of Rumple Mintz? I kind of do.
     When we first started the show, our intentions were to pay tribute to the less known and forgotten masterpieces with a few jokes tossed in. That lasted a year. We quickly followed suit and descended into clips of llama fucking, Divine eating dog shit, unspeakable horrors from Salo, men getting their dicks chopped off, old women playing Russian roulette, boy in the Nazi uniform getting a blow job from his sister, an accident clip were a man gets hit by a car and flying 20 feet (met with uproarious applause) and the unforgettable girl-masturbating-with a-severed-arm clip from “Entrails of a Virgin.”
Classics like this!
     Our normal stable consisted of films like: Night of the Bloody Apes, Make ‘Em Die Slowly, I Spit on Your Grave, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Brutes and Savages, and our ultimate award winner (7 Madison-Felixes) The Love Butcher. A film I could see win over and over and over again with out getting tired of it.
        One thing we always had each year, was our Lifetime Achievement Award, with accompanying song. It was called the Mike Horner award, after the first winner, a porno star that we enjoyed watching. Other noteworthy recipients were Don Knotts, George Peppard, Jabba the Hutt, Christopher Reeve, Alan Hale Jr., Bob Newhart etc. The purpose was to give an award to a person that everyone knew, but that was never honored. No one ever honored us back by showing up. Except for now.
     I arrived at Brian’s and bounded up to his apartment “WHAT‘S UP?” I yelled. He stood there massively, smoking a cigarette, and handed me a piece of paper.
    “Remember who we're giving the Lifetime Achievement Award to this year?” He asked with nervous excitement. Somewhere between hysterical laughter and panic.
    “Yeah, Charles Bronson.”
    “Well read the letter.”
     I looked at it. “Dear sir, I am delighted to inform you that Mr. Bronson will be honored to accept your very prestigious award…”
    I glanced over at the “prestigious” award, sitting on a dusty shelf above Brian’s TV, wedged in between his Bob and Doug MacKenzie Action Figures, and some George Orwell books. A plastic tape glued to a fake marble base. I looked at Brian.
    “What the hell are we gonna do?”
     The only other time something like this had happened was when we received a threatening letter from Faye Dunaway’s lawyers. It stated that criminal prosecution would take place if we did not cease and desist our correspondence. I say “our” correspondence, but it was really Brian’s last letter that had spawned this response. I never read it, but it went along the line of him getting upset with her ignoring us, how it wasn’t nice of her, and if she needed a place to stay then she could stay at his. Brian states that this was a joke, like when he sent out Christmas Cards full of Bible-beating “Praise Jesus” material to every Jewish name he could find in the phone book, and I believe him. Everyone who knows Brian could believe this. Still, he always had a thing for redheads.
     Charles Bronson coming to the show? THE Charles Bronson, of The Dirty Dozen and Death Wish fame. Christ? What’s he expecting? I supposed a lot of fancy big star treatment, like a place to stay or food. How cheap were the Motel 6 rates again? I suppose we could pick him up in my Mom’s Honda Civic hatchback. Does he like Cheetos? Because I could get a lot of them cheap from the corner gas station. Oh God. I’ve seen his movies. If he doesn’t like the show, he might machine-gun our entire families.
     Now it might be pointed out that he had been deceptive in offering him the award in the first place. It was a Lifetime Achievement Award, and may be flattering for someone who hadn’t received attention for some time. I believe his last film had been Death Wish 4, and for a man who had a lot of staring roles in good films, it might be a bit of disappointment to have been almost forgotten. If indeed he was. Still in your declining years and all that comes along is a pack of lunatics from Buffalo, putting on a mockery of a show, simply to have a good laugh. Is it better than nothing? Perhaps.
     Then I thought of the collection of clips we had prepared in Mr. Bronson’s honor. It consisted of lots of scenes with him killing, stabbing, shooting and garroting people, all to the tune of The Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.” What was he going to make of that? 
     We’ll never know. Those who attended the final outing of the Madison-Felix Award will note that there was no celebrity present. We went out as we went in. Completely ignored by the film industry at large. Bastards. While it might have been a disaster, we would have at least tried to handle it, but Charles Bronson did something to make the entire potential-fiasco go away. He died.

Hopefully doing what he loved!
     Perhaps it was the knowledge that at least someone somewhere remembered his work and that felt it was deserving of recognition, and at last he could die in peace, content that he was not forgotten. Perhaps it was the heart attack. It will be a mystery lost to the ages.
      Still to the end the Madison-Felix Awards always remained a place where those of dubious credentials and past glory could, for one night, remain among the stars.
Charles Bronson 1921 - 2003. RIP!