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Posted on Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 12:22 p.m.

Stanley The Madhatter dies; friends fondly remember local rock-and-roll icon

By Roger LeLievre

Madhatter by Carl Lundgren.jpg

Stanley The Madhatter

photo courtesy of Carl Lundgren

Stanley The Madhatter, a well-known figure on the Ann Arbor/Detroit music and art scenes, died Monday in Ypsilanti at age 62.

Madhatter wasn’t his real name, of course: Stanley Zillifro seemed somehow too ordinary a moniker for his outsized, mid-1960s counter-culture persona. Growing up in Hamtramck, he emceed hundreds of rock and roll shows at Detroit’s historic Eastown and Cinderella theaters and the Grande Ballroom. He was a fixture during the mid-1970s and 1980s at the Chances R/Second Chance and Nectarine Ballroom nightclubs in Ann Arbor, where he had a hand in nearly every aspect of music presentation.

“Anyone even peripherally involved in the southeastern music scene in Michigan knows Stanley,” said John Carver, who owned the Second Chance / Nectarine Ballroom (now Necto) on Liberty Street. Zillifro was recently diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer, according to Carver.

Sporting muttonchop sideburns; a Fu Manchu moustache; and long, curly black hair, The Madhatter was generally attired in a hippie-inspired wardrobe, often with a vest festooned with buttons promoting rock and roll bands. Whatever he wore, the outfit was always completed by the black top hat that inspired his Stanley The Madhatter persona.

He moved to Ann Arbor in 1974 but had lived in Ypsilanti for the last 10 years.

Poet/activist John Sinclair this morning he was saddened to hear of Zillifro’s passing.

“I've known Stanley since the mid-1960s, when we were both in trouble with the marijuana police and all through the years since the Grande Ballroom and Trans-Love Energies and the years and years since he's been in Ann Arbor. … He always had a joint and a little piece of candy and maybe something more exotic to share with me whenever I saw him, and frequently he would come and see me perform when I was in Detroit or Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti, which is the ultimate mark of a true friend in my little world,” Sinclair said. “Now we'll have to see him again in the spirit world.”

Sinclair wasn’t the only one with Madhatter memories.

“In a scene full of characters, he stood out big time,” said Gary Quackenbush, Ann Arbor-based guitarist for the respected 1960s/70s rock band SRC.

Detroit artist Carl Lundgren and his wife, Michele, knew The Madhatter for more than 40 years.

“He remembered everybody and everything from the ‘60s. He had stories … he was constantly telling me of places that he’d been and things he had done,” Carl Lundgren recalled. “He was a very colorful and a lot of fun.”

“He was iconic, and he preserved the entire essence of the ‘60s generation,” added Michele Lundgren.

Stanley-The-Madhatter-Kim Maki.jpg

photo by Kim Maki

Carver spoke highly of Madhatter’s character.

“Stanley was the tough flower child,” he recalled. “He was a champion wrestler as a kid and he grew up on the east side of Detroit. He had a heart of gold, but you couldn’t push him around. You could trust him with anything.

“He was there in the ’60s with the White Panthers at the White Panther house, he spent time in San Francisco on Haight-Ashbury. He’d been there, done that. He was ubiquitous and highly regarded. People trusted him. He knew all the promoters from the old days and his voice has been on several major albums, including the J. Geils’ Band live album ‘Full House.’”

An avid collector of 1960s rock and roll posters, he was active in recent years promoting and hosting shows that featured that style of art.

He was invaluable at the Second Chance and Nectarine both onstage and off, Carver added.

“He was involved in every major show that was put on there, as an emcee or a DJ or as gatekeeper for the dressing room. He knew who to let in and who to keep out. No one got by Stanley. … I think he attained legendary status. Stan kind of tied the rock and roll scene together — he loved the music and he loved the musicians and he loved to make his presence known. He seemed to be everywhere. He had a blast.”

As word of The Madhatter’s death spread, comments came quickly to his Facebook fan page.

“He always reminded me of a time when having fun was a political statement. We've lost a friend and the universe has gained an emcee,” wrote Ryan Matthews of Royal Oak.

A celebration of his life will be held in Detroit at a later date, Michele Lundgren said.


tom kieda

Thu, Jun 2, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

I went to high school with Stan and have fond and funny memories of him. He was the most liked guy at Fordson High and probably because he had a great rapport with everyone he met. He loved people. Four of us guys went out often on Friday nights, and when it was his turn to drive it would be in his dad's station wagon that was equipmented with a ladder on the roof and loads of cleaning supplies and pails in the back; a good time, we always had. I saw him in 1972 and then I lost track of him. You were loved Stan.


Thu, Jan 6, 2011 : 10:52 p.m.

OFFICIAL BENEFIT TRIBUTE FOR STANLEY T. MADHATTER New Dodge Lounge 8850 Jos. Campau Hamtramck, MI Thursday, January 27, 2011 Doors Open 6 PM - Music starts at 7 $5 donation Facebook Michele Lundgren for more information and visit Stanley T. Madhatter's FB Fan Page!

Marcy Levy

Wed, Jan 5, 2011 : 7:37 p.m.

I was So saddened to learn of Stanleys passing. He was a great friend to me, a very kind hearted man with a wonderful soul. I always loved seeing him at all the great concert events he emceed; he made it all very exciting. He will be missed. Rest in peace dear friend. Much love; Marcy Levy xo


Wed, Jan 5, 2011 : 6:20 p.m.

I lived with Stan for about a year in Ypsilanti. It was a strange year. He made great grilled cheese sandwiches. I forgive him for eating all my almond butter that one time, even after making fun of me for buying it. In all honesty, I thought most of his stories were pure BS. But it seems that I was wrong. I had no idea that he meant so much to so many people. He was a wonderful person, a generous man, and not the worst housemate. Goodbye, Stan. I love you, you beautifully crazy guy.

John G

Wed, Jan 5, 2011 : 7:38 a.m. will be missed for sure. After knowing you for over 20 years we had a lot of good time a lot of fun some legal some not, nice article Roger. I will see you again some day

David Mallia

Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 8:13 p.m.

I worked with Stan, and he was definitely part of the fabric of the Nectarine Ballroom. Although we were very different people, he was always kind and generous and accepted me. His gentle nature left a mark on me. I saw him many ago when he was walking to Ann Arbor. I gave him a lift and we spent about an hour just talking. He will be missed. God Bless, Stan and Rest in Peace old friend.


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 7:42 p.m.

Rock on, Stanley.


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

I only had a handful of conversations with him but they were always fascinating, first-hand accounts of great rock & roll debauchery. He was always eager to offer stories and other things.

David Briegel

Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

Jack, Jim, Mimi, Ingrid, you guys knew him better than I but what nice tributes. He was one of a kind. I'm happy that I got to see him at the Townie Party! Farewell and RIP!


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 4:12 p.m.

Stanley was a true friend of mine since 1966. He lived life as it came and was always looking forward to what was going to happen next. Through Grande and Eastown days, running into eachother in the Haight, living on Prentis, Forest, Warren, the Lodge and hanging out together. Moving to A2 in 1970, seeing him a lot during his Second Chance and Nectarine days. Being married and raising my son slowed down my social life for a while but then I reconnected with him through our mutual friend, Jeffrey Strouss during the past two or more decades (now they are together again without boundaries). We talked almost every week and he always kept me posted of events, even though it's been hard for me physically to go many places the past few years. He was the emcee at a benefit concert for me in May 2009 at the Cavern Club in A2. All my good buddies showed up for me (including John Sinclair performing, my A2 friends and my old Detroit pals) and gave their love in so many ways. I was grateful and touched beyond words. Stanley was a Detroit and Ann Arbor and Ypsi friend. I would pick him up to go to many venues here and in the Detroit area over the past 20 years. We made sure we didn't miss a concert, an art opening, art fairs and festivals that friends displayed at, the Grande 40th reunion and we loved "Grand Openings". Stanley was the belle of the ball and a great Presenter - you will always be present in my heart and soul, thank you for being a rare friend, a present. May your spirit soar. Peace be with you and with us all. Love, Mimi Blanchard

Ingrid Ault

Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 3:42 p.m.

Wow. My heart is sad. I spent many an early morning eating grill cheese with Stan. He is a friend that although we were not in touch at times, but always at the front of my mind. Thanks for this article Roger. And thank you John for reminding me that he was a wrestler. I loved the high school photo he used to carry with him. Such an interesting man who lived an exceptional life on his own terms. Hard to do that today. Finally its great to see some of the other comments. Makes me miss the good old days when we were all a family. Peace be with you Stanley.

Scott Reynolds

Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

Stanley, you were a true friend and brother and will be missed dearly! I always enjoyed working with you, and hanging out with you... the epitome of a free spirit. A square will not be the same!- Scott Reynolds


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

I've had a set of bells that Rev. Stanley gave my wife and I in my car's glove compartment for quite some time. I think from time to time about packing them away with most of our other music gear, but it's always seemed right to keep them there in case of emergency. We weren't super close -- he was good friends with some friends of mine, so our paths crossed a few times over the past years. It still bummed me out to hear the news yesterday. An incredibly nice fellow who will be missed by many.

j. schulz

Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 2:51 p.m.

Stan the man... I went to high school with Stan at Fordson in Dearborn. He lived in Dearborn Heights and we were bussed to Fordson. He was a wrestler and a member of the Varsity Club, and we used to come to Michigan Football games and tried to pick up girls. Stan was a bit of a "Greaser" and always had a bottle of Jade East cologne in his pocket. I remember seeing him onstage at the Grande Rivera and many other events in A2. We always shared a smile and a hug... way too young to die, I will miss you. Jimmy the artist


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

Madhatter was awesome! He worked with my husband Mikey B at the Nectarine for years. We reconnected with him a few years back at DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival). They recently planned to have him emcee Mike's upcoming events starting this Sunday. He was so full of love and life and music. Thank you for being such a great friend. God Bless You Stanley.


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

Stanley was indeed an icon, as well as an incredible friend. All of us in the Detroit/A2 area will be missing Stanley. When I heard the news, it broke my heart....What a truly real, gentle and open soul!!!!


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

Sad to hear of his passing. He was a mensch.


Tue, Jan 4, 2011 : 1:42 p.m.

So many stories, so many good times, Stanley was the ultimate host to the generations of us in the days of "real time rock-n-roll. RIP Stanley.