What does Lady Liberty have to do with William M. Gaines, founder of MAD Magazine? Actually, a lot. At one time Gaines had the world's largest private collection of Statue of Liberty Memorabilia. He blamed his love of the Statue on me. One day he called me into his office and said: "You and your lousy little boat! If you never took me down the Hudson to see the Statue of Liberty from the water, I wouldn't have fallen in love with her - and bought all this stuff!" At one time Gaines owned three of the four original Frederic Bartholdi models. They were the ones Bartholdi made before the final design was picked. Once, while I was working on To Tell The Truth, I met someone who worked at the Statue of Liberty. Through him, I tried to get Gaines up onto the torch. What an adventure that turned out to be! (There's more in Good Days And MAD. But that book is out print! So you'll never be able to read that story. Or will you? --- Yep, see the book plug below!)
Who can ever forget Walter M. Gaines!
No, wait a minute. That doesn't sound right. Oh sorry. Its "William M. Gaines"! And yes, who could ever forget him? I can't. And trust me, I've tried! Anyway, since he haunts my apartment and my boat, I appease him by keeping this tiny little (cheap!) piece of the web going in his memory.
We luv ya, Bill. Dick DeB Dick DeBartolo, MAD's Maddest Writer
If you're here Bill, move the bars on the equalizer!
A genius who is sorely missed.
Fearless leader of "The Usual Gang Of Idiots"....
He was a one of a kind man, and a kind man too. Bill is no longer on this planet, but hopefully he's somewhere wonderful, with a Nathan's frankfurter in one hand, and a glass of great wine in the other.
Whenever we used Gaines as a name in a MAD magazine satire, we added something make his name more "grand". The last name I remember for Bill was: William Mildred Farnsworth Higgenbottom Gaines, Pious the IX!
Like many of us, Gaines loved gadgets and gizmos. I had a great deal with Gaines. He hated reading instruction books, so one day he said: "You love gadgets and I love gadgets. But I can't stand figuring out how to make them work. So, let's do this: Buy any gadget you like that you think I'll like too. I'll pay for it. You play with it until you'll bored. Then give it to me and show me how to use it. That way I'll never have to look at the instructions!" Pretty neat, deal, eh?
When asked what MAD Magazine's philosophy was, Bill Gaines thought for a minute and said:
"We must never stop reminding the reader what little value they get for their money!"
....but the truth was that Gaines regarded the reader highly. He would personally read all the incoming mail. He refund money if anyone bought a piece of MAD merchandise which they felt performed poorly. If he got more than three complaints about a piece of MAD merchandise he would cancel the contract with the manufacturer. When he was at the helm Bill wouldn't let MAD be associated with any television show because he wanted control over who the sponsor might be. Of course not even Gaines could be given that kind of power, so he just passed on all TV offers. That was one of the few things we disagreed on, because I thought it would be great fun for the MAD writers to work on a MAD TV show. When Bill passed on, The MAD Show licensed the name from TimeWarner, but wanted no one from MAD involved!
LUCY THE ELEPHANT
Gaines and I become fast friends shortly after a MAD dinner where he mentioned "The Elephant Hotel". "Oh you mean 'Lucy'" I replied. Gaines had never met another person who knew about the Elephant Hotel and the next weekend he insisted we make a trip to Margate, New Jersey (right next to Atlantic City) to see it in person. Poor Lucy was falling apart, so Gaines said we have to find the Mayor and get a fund going to fix her up. We went on a search for the Mayor and found his house. Gaines gave him a check and told him what a find it was to have Lucy in town. He promised more help and spread the word. It was on that same trip that Gaines introduced me to fried Taylor Pork Roll on soft hamburger buns! Mmmm....now there's a treat!
The Elephant Hotel is still looking good and Lucy has her own website:
I wrote a book about the mad way William M. Gaines ran his multi-million dollar magazine. It was run more like a college newspaper with no secretaries and no switchboard. Lots of luck trying to get a message if you weren't in! It includes stories about the MAD Magazine trips, including taking the entire MAD staff to a subscriber's house to beg him to renew! It also tells about Gaines' love of gadgets, his love of wild practical jokes, and what he did to persue his fierce love of frequent flyer miles. And there's of the story of what happened late one night when Bill, Annie Gaines and myself started up to the Torch of the Statue of Liberty. That was an adventure that can be told only because it happened more than 50 years ago! Good Days And MAD is out of print but you can most likely find a used copy online. Sometimes I find a new copy at Dick's Gadget Warehouse. You can ask about that here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill's Park Bench. William M. Gaines has his own memorial bench in Riverside Park, NYC. It's in front of the marina there. And the reason for that location? For about 30 years my office was on a 50' houseboat there. And that's where dozens of MAD parties took place. Of course it wouldn't be a MAD party without the founder of MAD Magazine there. So Bill came to the marina a lot. Bill was never late, but often came early. He waited until the appointed time to call my boat phone and say he was at the (locked) marina gate. He would sit on the park bench in the photo while he waited. Of course if I or my neighbor saw him there early, I would go out to the bench and usher him in! As of 2023 the marina is expected to be demolished & replaced with a new marina. Hopefully, Bill's Bench will not be affected. Here's the whole story on YouTube:
This was it - the last issue put together by the original NY "Usual Gang of Idiots". MAD moved to LA in December 2017. But they're dumb out there too, because they asked me to continue writing for New MAD!
Click on the photo to hear the latest Giz Wiz Show with OMGChad and myself.
I lost my NY office at MAD, but I made my own MAD office at my Gizneyland Studio where I do my podcasts & write for New MAD.