Often when I meet people, I’m asked if I’m related to Steve Madden, the shoe guy, or the football guru and game creator John Madden.
No, but I did meet big John once at the then Bing Crosby Golf Tournament in Pebble Beach, CA . At the time I was representing Bing’s wife, Kathryn Crosby, who wrote a book “My Life With Bing” I was promoting. When big John and I shook hands, his was so large he made me feel like a Lilliputian.
And I’m no relation to Owney Madden either who was a leading underworld figure in Manhattan nicknamed “The Killer” involved in organized crime during Prohibition who ran the Cotton Club and was a boxing promoter in the 1930s.
No, my dad was Bill Madden. He was a lady killer with his violin, playing nightly at the Traymore Hotel and conducting his Atlantic City Festival Orchestra on Garden Pier in that city where saltwater air brought out ladies’ charms in that enchanting romantic birthplace of Miss America and cotton candy where I grew up not far from the high-rent blue properties in Monopoly, Boardwalk and Park Place.
I remember well those concerts when dad would conduct his orchestra playing Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” at the end of which I’d toss a handful of particles in the air that looked like snow showering the orchestra on a warm summer night.
So why don’t people ever ask me if I’m related to Bill Madden, the magician and concert violinist who started out in the violin section of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra and wound up at Carnegie Hall. Or to Don Madden, my brother the artist whose full-page cartoons graced every issue of Playboy Magazine for 50 straight years like the ones at the beginning and conclusion of this nostalgic piece.
Yes, art flowed in our family. Our dad was once called the world’s greatest gypsy violinist by non-other than the King of Romania one night in Sam Maceo’s nightclub in Galveston, TX. I was way below the drinking age back then living on the gulf coast with my mom and dad at the swanky Buccaneer Hotel.
Way back in post-World War II Texas, Maceo’s was the one nightclub that stood above the rest offering the finest musicians like my dad, the hottest entertainers, and the ritziest crowds enjoying the state’s ultimate illegal gambling.
The Balinese Room on Galveston Island, where my dad played, was the swankiest spot on the Gulf Coast, the jewel in the crown of Sam and Rosario Maceo‘s Galveston-based empire.
The Maceo brothers were Italian-immigrant barbers turned bootleggers, who ended up as a gambling-club owners. Their immense holdings on Galveston Island and their influence helped Galveston weather the depression far better than most cities across America.
If my dad isn’t impressive enough, how about my brother Don, probably the greatest living cartoonist. Don is a master at drawing the most colorful and the funniest cartoons you ever saw. They’re classic.
I’m a PR guy, a promoter and right now I’m promoting a stellar crop of Maddens whose talent deserves wider recognition and even greater acclaim.
So next time someone meets me hopefully they’ll ask “Are you by any chance related to Bill and Don Madden?
And I’ll say proudly YES! You bet I am!
Besides an inveterate blogger, Tom Madden is an author of countless published articles and five books, including his latest, WORDSHINE MAN, available in December on Amazon. He is the founder and CEO of TransMedia Group, an award-winning public relations firm serving clients worldwide since 1981 and has conducted remarkably successful media campaigns and crisis management for America’s largest companies and organizations.