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 d├ęcolletage. 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