Sunday, August 25, 2013

Good Days and MAD: A Hysterical Tour Behind the Scenes at MAD Magazine

1994, first edition, from Thunder's Mouth Press
Dick DeBartolo
Good Days and MAD: A [crossed-out] Historical [replaced by] Hysterical Tour Behind the Scenes at MAD Magazine
Original price $29.95, purchase price $9.95
Hardcover in good condition

I don't think this is as good as Frank Jacobs's MAD World of William M. Gaines (1973), but I do recommend reading them both if possible, since this updates by a couple decades the lives of Gaines and his magazine.  Gaines died in 1992, and DeBartolo, who had a close, teasing friendship with him, clearly misses him.  At one point, they had closer contact than expected, when they went separately to the same prostitute in Thailand, a wilder MAD trip than any in Jacob's book.  What's really odd is DeBartolo is gay (his first wedding anniversary was a couple days ago, but he and his partner had been together 32 years at that point), yet no mention is made of this in the book.  Was DeBartolo bi, experimenting, or what?  And what did the sometimes personally conservative Gaines think of this?

That may sound like a side-issue, but I think it's representational of the nothing-fully-explained, meandering quality of the book.  Jacobs didn't go strictly chronologically either, but I felt like his book had more focus, and more depth.  This is just a fun collection of stories and articles and photos (many in color), with something like fourteen "forewords" by MAD staffers scattered throughout the book.  Jacobs, now still alive and writing for MAD at age 84, of course quotes from his own Gaines book.  DeBartolo is much younger, 67, having first contributed to MAD in high school.  (And he was the one who made Match Game dirtier and hence funnier.)

By 1994, I'd long since stopped reading MAD on a regular basis, in part because I didn't like some of the changes in the magazine after Gaines's death, including allowing advertising.  Some of the material here is familiar to me but much of it I never saw in its first appearance.  Every few years I read an issue-- I well remember reading the parody Harry Plodder and the Torture of the Fanbase and noting that they used the book subplots, like Ron and Hermione as prefects-- but it's definitely not as big a part of my life as when I was young.  Appropriately enough, the next MAD book we're coming up to (and possibly the last) is 1996's MAD About the Seventies....

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