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R.I.P, Mr. Butch, king of Kenmore Square

Who knows if Mr. Butch, a.k.a. Harold Madison Jr., ever made it to Rhode Island, but the Worcester native was a longtime folk hero-celebrity of the street in Boston, where he was a fixture in Kenmore Square and Allston. Butch, who is said to have been in his late 50s, was fatally injured yesterday during a scooter accident in Boston.

The Boston Phoenix has coverage here.

I profiled Mr. Butch as a student journalist at BU and kept up an acquaintanceship marked by some characterisically Butchian encounters:

On one occasion, Donnis was looking to interview Butch for the short-lived magazine Street. At the time, Butch kept his guitar in the old Strawberries Records and Tapes shop in Kenmore Square, and Donnis stopped in looking for him. The manager said Butch had just left to get dinner. Donnis arrived at a nearby Japanese restaurant to find Mr. Butch seated before an impressive spread of sushi -- improbable scenes like this were part of Butch's legend. Butch greeted him warmly and invited him to share the meal. Later, Donnis and some friends took Butch along with them to the Channel to see the Butthole Surfers, with Butch crashing in the van while Donnis and pals went in to see the show. Later, Donnis became separated from his friends -- they'd left without him -- and, without making a big fuss about it, Butch loaned Donnis $20 to get a cab home. To the people who will recall Butch only as a guy who was always looking for a handout, we respectfully disagree: if Butch had little in the way of earthly goods, it was often because he lived so generously, in every sense of the word.

For David Henry's classic picture of Mr. Butch eating sushi that day, click here.

There's a little Mr. Butch in all us, I believe. He represented the ability of people to carry on and even triumph in the face of adversity.

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