The Boyfriend of the Week

May 8, 2000

This week's Boyfriend is someone I'm sure a lot of you are saying "Yikes!" about right now. Not because he's not good looking (I dare you to deny that he's a total hunkazoid), but because he's kind of scary. By which I mean he's played a lot of really scary characters in films and, as you must be aware of by now, it's often very difficult to separate the character from the actor.

In fact, I usually try to avoid doing it at all costs.

However, in this case, I have to inform you guys that not only is Michael Madsen NOT a bad guy in real life, but he also isn't really the typecast-bad-guy in the movies you think he is, either. To back this hypothesis up, I have carried out a study of my own devising. My study involved 42 of Michael Madsen's movies. I researched each movie thoroughly and recorded in my special "Scientific Boyfriend Studies" notebook whether or not Michael's character was a good guy (or in the Latin, "Goodus Sweetiemus") or a bad guy ("Jerkus Nastius")(it is important to use Latin when conducting a scientific study so you can more readily fool the layman into thinking you know what you're doing).

The results of my study were calculated using a very complicated series of mathematical formulae (more Latin), which I will not even bother detailing to you because you would never in a million years understand it, since you are the laypeople and I am the scientist. However, because I know being a mere layperson can be frustrating at times, I have created a simplified version of the final formula which I think you will be able to understand (if not, you'll just have to believe me when I tell you I am a GENIUS):

(Number of Goodus characters) = x
(Number of Jerkus characters) = y
Ratio of Goodus to Jerkus = x:y

The resulting ratio, you'll be surprised to discover, was XXXII : X (or, "Thirty-two to Ten" for those of you who do not understand Roman numerals, which I have also used in my study so as to seem more intelligent).

What does that mean, dear teacher? you ask me. Why, kids, I reply, that means Michael has played a GOOD GUY over three times as often as he's played a bad guy! So why the stereotype? Why do we all kind of go "yieeee. . ." when we see Michael Madsen's face staring back at us? I can't speak for you, obviously ("I don't even know your language!" -- name that movie), but for me, the answer can be summed up in two words:

Reservoir
Dogs

I shall explain further -- the movie "Reservoir Dogs" was Mikey's first real foray into the world of serious movie famedom. If you've seen the movie, I would be willing to bet you haven't forgotten "Mr. Blond." In fact, I would be willing to bet you have nightmares about Mr. Blond to this very day. I'm not even the slightest bit embarrassed to reveal to you that the first time I saw RD, I had to stop the tape three times in a row at the infamous Mr. Blond ear-choppin' scene. I finally had to just fast-forward right through it because I was never going to see the end of the movie if I had to sit through the whole scene to get there. That is the most squirm-inducing scary-as-hell 15 minutes of a movie I have ever encountered in my LIFE. And this is despite the fact that NOTHING HAPPENS (I feel comfortable revealing that because if you haven't seen it yet, you're way behind in the game anyway. Yet imagine my gruesome disappointment and, okay, embarrassment, when I told a friend I had had to skip the whole bit and he replied, "Why? He doesn't even hurt the guy!" Dang.). Anyhow, there is something about the way Mr. Blond circles that chair singing those 50's tunes that makes my insides want to jump right out of my skin and run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. The 50's tunes, which make me think of my dad (whenever he comes home from work, he enters the house singing some goofy song from his youth with great dramatics and even, sometimes, a little dance-walk that very closely resembles the one Mr. Blond does around the chair), in combination with the knowledge that Mr. Blond is about to do something extremely horrible and excruciatingly painful to that guy is just waaaaay too much for me.

And I've seen every horror movie ever made! Without batting an eyelash! I even occasionally watch "Trauma: Life in the ER" on the Learning Channel and don't even turn away when the camera goes in close on a stick that's impaled through a guy's leg (yeesh)! But mix an oldies song, a big knife, and a creepy Michael Madsen and I practically pee my pants.

So, if you are like me, that's why your first thought upon encountering this week's feature was one of shock, terror, and a sudden desire to run away screaming and wildly waving your arms about.

In case I've brought up some difficult memories for you (like of your own first screening of "Reservoir Dogs"), I will now give you two MORE words, and these should both reassure and comfort you:

Free
Willy

'Nuff said.

Mike's other memorable Jerkus Nastius roles(or "bad guy" parts, in case your Latin is rusty and you skimmed the paragraph above that got all technical) include Mr. Black in "Donnie Brasco" (a movie I highly, highly recommend) and Rudy Travis in the remake of Sam Peckinpah's film "The Getaway" (a movie I highly, highly recommend. . . that you not bother renting). Also, he was in that television show "Vengeance Unlimited," which lasted only about one season, and in which he played an avenger who "helps those in need of more help than the law can provide" (which is polite-speak for "breaks the kneecaps of anyone you pay him to assault"). I might be wrong about his good/badness in that show, though, because I never watched it (I knew better).

But that's really about it, kids. Although, some of the roles I deemed "Goodus" are actually more borderline, like the role of Jimmy in "Thelma and Louise."

Speaking of the Goodus, let's look now at Mikey's happier characters. In this corner, we have: Virgil Earp in "Wyatt Earp" (stunk, except for Virg and Doc) and Glen in "Free Willy" AND "Free Willy 2" (no comment). Plus, I liked him in "Mulholland Falls," "Species" (but not "Species 2"), and his first movie ever, "War Games." Hey, I bet you forgot all about "War Games," didn'tcha? He really does good quite well and doesn't that happy and nice smile (see pic below) make you feel all silly inside?

It's kind of tricky. On the one hand, he's scary. On the other hand, he's not. However, I think a reader summed it up best when she said to me (in an email message requesting that I run MM), "I usually don't find myself drawn to men who are scary but there is an innate humanity in his demeanor. I would take his bad checks." Right on, crouton.

A little biography: Mike was born and raised in Chicago (born 9/25/59 -- coincidentally a mere ONE DAY (and several years) after my dad was born, and what's with my dad popping up in here so often? Is it really a coincidence, or is it actually some kind of cosmic message -- you be the judge). His dad was a firefighter and his mom was (and still is) a famous writer/producer. He's 6 feet, 2 inches tall (perfect for me) and is married with 4 sons (somewhat less than perfect for me). Before he was an actor, he did about a zillion other things, like work as a mechanic and a hospital orderly. But after seeing John Malkovich in "Of Mice and Men" at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, Mikey decided acting was where it was at, hooked up with John for some advice, and then moved to LA.

Where he promptly took a job as a gas station attendant.

However, not at just ANY gas station. Mike took a job at the famous Unocal gas station in Beverly Hills, which, as I'm sure you're aware, is where everybody who is ANYBODY goes to buy gasoline (well, you know, except for those of us who live out-of-state). His first customer, incidentally, was Fred Astaire, who gave him $100 to change a tire (I need this job). Anyway, eventually, he pumped gas for someone who thought he had a real talent for acting like a regular old gas station attendant even though he was obviously a god of the stage, and that guy talked to another guy who talked to another guy who got Mikey his first movie role in "War Games." And that's when the ball really started to roll. The horse really started to take off. The duck really started to quack. (The metaphors really started to stink.)

A little known fact about Michael Madsen (well, I didn't know it, anyway) is that he's also an award-winning poet. His third book of poetry (which is mostly a compilation of his first two books of poetry) won the Firecracker Alternative Book Award. It's titled "Paradise Burning." However, the bad news is that I read about 4 of Michael's poems and, well, they kinda stunk. I mean, if that's all it takes to become an award-winning poet, then I'm all set to take over.

But still, it's a noble hobby and I respect him a lot for it.

Here's a little trivia about Michael -- he was asked to play the part of Mickey in "Natural Born Killers" and turned it down when Quentin Tarantino said he oughta (good move, Mikey). He was also asked to play Vincent Vega in "Pulp Fiction" and turned that one down too (ooo, bad move! Except John T. was PERFECT!). He wears Ray-Ban shades in almost all of his movies and his first wife was Cher's sister! On the family side of things, he absolutely refuses to see any of his sister Virginia's movies if she appears nude in them (well, honestly, can you blame him? I don't want to see MY sister nekked on the big screen either!). On the ridiculous, make-fun-of-him-for-this side of things, he recently released a CD of himself reading his own poetry.

Can anyone say "Rod McKuen"? I knew you could.

Michael has at least four movies due out in 2000. One is a horror movie, one a thriller that also has his pal Dennis Hopper in it, one is a movie being directed by Daniel Baldwin (hmmm), and one is a tv movie sequel (gak). I'm not too sure about any of them, to be honest, but one never knows. The good news is, no matter how stinky the movie, Michael Madsen is still going to be really talented, really incredibly tremendously sexy (and I often refrain from using that word because of what it implies -- i.e. SEX -- but I'm sorry -- Michael Madsen's voice, eyes, and hair just make me totally crazy), and also, honestly, a pretty nice guy.

MacGyver Factor Score: 95.2%. Points off just because even if I ever did score a date with Mikey, I really would have trouble shaking off the whole Mr. Blond thing. Holy cow. I'd almost say I wished that he'd never done that movie because then I could just embrace him without a single moment of (irrational, yes) terror. But I can't REALLY wish that because he was just SO goodus at being jerkus! It's one of the roles that made me realize just how talented he really is. Crikey.

However, points back because that really is one seriously cute smile.


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