The Baltimore Scene 20 years ago…
Running into Madney Carlisle, the social butterfly formerly known as Madenney Schhhmadenney, at a recent cookout (as shown below)…
…made me dig through my back pages to find the City Paper “Best of Baltimore” issue from September 21, 1994. I contributed quite a few write-ups to that issue and went to the City Paper “Best Of” party that year at The Paradox (?). That’s the last time I saw this 6′-5″ larger-than-life personality and former club scene fixture, who was decked out in his finest Carmen Miranda-styled glam duds, the same that were featured on the City Paper cover.
Of him, City Paper (then under the direction of editor Sono Motoyama) wrote, …we’d like to thank our cover boy (?) Madenney for his ineffable contribution to this issue. He’s definitely one of Baltimore’s Best, although we’re not sure in what category.”
Under the category “Best #?@!*”, Madenney wrote the following poem, listing himself as “Diva Bitch, Rainbow Maker, Image Puppet, Real Phony”:
City Paper‘s 1994 “Best of Baltimore” was one of their best, and not just because I had a vested interest in it. It made me remember many cool places and people that are now gone (like Funk’s Democratic Coffee Spot, Gypsy’s Cafe, Memory Lane, and that year’s “Best Local Band” Candy Machine, whose guitar player Daniel Papkin, once worked with me at Video Americain – another Baltimore cultural institution now gone!), though some of Baltimore’s Best of ’94 and still going strong and continuing to win plaudits 20 years later and counting – like perennial faves Atomic Books and Normals Books & Music.
Speaking of which, City Paper acknowledged the first anniversary of Scott Huffines’ original Atomic Books (then on Read Street) by awarding it “Best Subversive Literature” for featuring food-and-babes fetish mags like (John Waters’s favorite) Splosh!…
…and “Best Live Show,” the latter for its “One Year Anniversary Party” on March 31, 1994 at Memory Lane. That was the legendary “Are We Not KISS? We Are DEVO“ show that featured nine local bands – including The Krudz, Soul Pit, Scapegoat (that year’s winners of “Best Local Band Tape”), Frost Mini-Flakes, Maypole, Edith, Helikopter, Blister Freak Circus, and W.O.D. (Womyn of Destruction) – playing tunes by Huffines’ favorite goofball-theatrical bands of the late ’70s and early ’80s.
And Normals co-owner Rupert Wondolowski (the self-described “Bookseller/Writer/Crank” who won numerous awards that year in various poetry and literature-related categories) had a “Personal Best” celebrating Blaster Al Ackerman, along with this classic bookworm photo:
Paging through the Arts & Entertainment section of this special issue, I came across a picture for The Polkats, who won 1994’s “Best Any-Reason-You-Want-a-Band Band” (as shown below) and remembered that accordian player (and all-around nice guy) John Shock is now married to my former library co-worker Kelly Ostrom (it’s Smalltimore: everyone is connected somehow to everybody else!).
In the same section I came across a pic of the lovely Donna Sherman, who won “Best Actress” for her role as campy femme fatale Roxanne in Impossible Industrial Action’s production of Charles Ludlum’s The Artificial Jungle.
Donna later met City Paper photographer Sam Holden while performing at the Axis Theater and they became an iconic couple for the next 15 years, until Holden’s unfortunate passing at age 44 in April 2014.
Also spotted in this section was Jeffrey Claggett, whose “Hermaphroditee” (one of many characters in his theatrical drag-bag, along with his beloved Cher and Lady Di) won “Best Performance-Art Drag Queen,” as shown below.
Claggett was also a member of the performance-art troupe Haus of Frau, whose racy flier for a show at the 14Karat Cabaret led to a raid by the Baltimore Police Department’s vice squad on July 17, 1993 (see “Baltimore Vice: The Night They Raided the 14Karat Cabaret” for details).
Other winners in 1994 included:
- Todd Stachowski – “Best Anti-Music Critic” and “Best Politically Incorrect Comic Strip” (“The Anti-Griffith Show”) for Shockwave magazine
- Fudgie Dobson – “Best Booking Agent” for Memory Lane
- Richard Gorelick – “Best Flack” for being Walter’s Art Gallery’s “public relations god”
- John Leist (my old high school and college pal, who sadly passed away before his time) – “Best Sick Jokes” for Funny Pages
- Funk’s Democratic Coffee Spot – “Best Coffeehouse” and “Best Condom Machines”
- Chambers – “Best Living Room to see a Rock Show” (“Personal Best” pick of Miuki Fortado, drummer for Jag and Pornflakes); the Davis Street music club later became the original Ottobar.
- H.O.M.E. Group’s Monthly Independent Film & Video Screening – “Best Independent Film and Video Series”; though started by tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE and Rebecca Barten, by 1994 it was being run by film-music wonderkid Skizz Cyzyk out of a former funeral home (complete with coffin) now called The Mansion Theater. This is where I first saw Craig Smith’s Psychedelic Glue-Sniffin’ Hillbillies and other crazy independent and experimental films. My brain’s never since been the same. (Thanks Skizz!)
Sadly, this issue has not been archived on the City Paper‘s online web site. Glad I kept all my CP “Best Of” issues (might as well get my money’s worth at my storage facility!).