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 d├ęcor. 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