Thursday, March 31, 2011

Madness in Madison

It’s no surprise that recent political events in Madison, Wisconsin, included some strange twists and turns plus touches of creativity.

Democrat Senators fled the state to prevent passage of anti-union legislation. The Republican Governor finally got the bill passed with some parliamentary trickery. Protesters came from near and far. Most estimates pegged maximum crowd size in and near the capitol at between 85,000 and 100,000 on the busiest days.
A ferocious Badger

Some of the protesters displayed as much creativity as the Senators and Governor, including the lady pictured here with the sign she developed to let the Governor know just how she felt. The grandma, Nancy Rathke, displayed the tenacity of some protesters who now intend to impeach the Governor when she said, “Grandmas united can never be defeated. And now let’s make it so.”

Were I the Governor, I would be nervous.

Eccentric behavior has been a hallmark of Madison politics for a long time. Several unusual incidents occurred back in my student days at the University of Wisconsin and later when Sandy and I were residents of the city.

A young lawyer protested the addition of a one-way lane on University Avenue by driving the wrong way on it in an antique auto until the police showed up and arrested him. Local media were on hand and the publicity caused city fathers to remove the lane and restore the avenue to its previous condition.

A candidate for Mayor threw more than his hat in the ring when he held his announcement event at the “Dangle Lounge,” a notorious topless bar in downtown Madison. With media reps and political supporters packing the place, the candidate jumped up on the bar and opened his trench coat to reveal he literally “had nothing to hide.” The voters were not impressed by the full-frontal revelation--he lost the election by a considerable margin.

The Dangle Lounge, featuring athletic young women dancing all night on top of the bar, played a role in our lives when I worked for four years at the Forest Products Laboratory, a major U.S. Forest Service research facility on the edge of the University campus.

Quite a few relatives, friends, and Forest Service business associates visited us. The city offers may fine things for visitors to see—spectacular views from the Lake Mendota shoreline, a beautiful state Capitol, many excellent examples of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, and other wonders. The University campus offers enough points of interest for a solid day of touring.

What did our visitors want to see when we asked them? After a moment of embarrassed silence, many suggested we take them to the Dangle Lounge. We hosted so many trips there that we actually got bored with the place.

Our good friend Dick Paynter, resident artist at the Forest Products Lab, fit right into the “Mad City” scene. Before one New Years Eve bash, he landed a moonlighting job at the Dangle. He was hired to apply body paint to the dancers. He created some interesting designs.

Sandy and I unwittingly accepted one of Paynter's recommendations when we asked about good places to go for a night on the town. Bars that openly acknowledged they catered to gay men were unusual in the late 1960s. We learned quickly that our friend had directed us to one.

We sat at the bar. The bartender was wearing a powder blue jumpsuit. When he decided he needed to visit the men's room, he unzipped the suit, let it fall to the floor, and calmly sauntered across the room in the buff.

Sandy and I were willing to try a few new things during our years together, but we never went to that bar again. There were enough other kinds of madness in Madison to amuse even the most jaded adventurers.

5 comments: said...

Ah Madison. Where most of the population is under the age of 22 and simply know everything there is to know.

I have spent much time in Madison taking courses through the University (the two-week seminar kind), interacting with the folks at the State Data Center, and I have two Aunts living there with whom I interact from time to time.

My Aunts are on opposite sides of the fence politically speaking, as are all my WI cousins, so I tend to keep up with events in WI so that I can watch my p's and q's in conversation with them. Dianne

joared said...

There's more going on in those staid midwest cities than the east and west coast big city denizens realize!

Big John said...

Loved the Grandma picture. I had one just like that, you would not have messed with her. :-)

Bruce Snook said...

You've lived quite a life! Thanks for sharing an interesting, informative and entertaining backgrounder regarding Madison. I've never been there, but it sounds like it would be worth a visit!

Kay Dennison said...

I love the state of Wisconsin -- the home of my mother's family -- and am proud of their stand.

Ohio isn't much different!! I'm gonna post an excellent protest song from last week's rally in Columbus tomorrow! It's a hoot!