The first time I heard the name Dennis deNure was in the mid 80’s. As mentioned in my previous posts, in the early 80’s I used to hang out with a t-shirt vendor named Larry Castle. Larry had a cart on the State Street mall from which he sold some great original t-shirts that he designed and printed himself. One of Larry’s designs was a shirt with a realistic picture of a cow (showing the cow’s front side) that said “Wisconsin”, and on the back of the shirt was the cow’s rear end with the line “Come smell our dairy-air”.
Then one day a guy shows up on the mall trying to sell t-shirts. His name was Dennis deNure. At first he didn’t have a cart. He was just kind of selling t-shirts out of a box. I remember Larry questioning whether deNure had printed them himself (which was a requirement to get a mall vendor license at the time). Then deNure copied Larry’s idea, and sold a t-shirt with a cartoon cow flashing its rear end that said “Wisconsin. Come smell our dairy-air.” That pissed off Larry, but there wasn’t much he could do about it. The design was slightly different and lawsuits are a rich man’s folly. Then deNure finally got a cart to sell his t-shirts. He called it the Cow Cart, and he parked it right next to Larry’s.
About that same time the DOT announced they were redesigning the Wisconsin license plate and were seeking input for a new slogan. One of the submissions (as reported by the local news) was “Eat cheese or die”. About a year or two later, deNure put that slogan on a t-shirt, and thus began
his lifelong publicity campaign. I tried having a conversation with deNure once back then, but the guy was rather disconnected. He had an unrealistic sense of self importance, making conversation difficult. It was all about him.
I kind of forgot about deNure until 1987. In the spring of that year, the Richard Haas mural
was being painted on Olin Terrace. I happened to meet two of the artists working on that mural, while drinking at the Cardinal Bar. One was an American and the other was a New Zealander. They were friendly guys, and we had some great conversation talking about their jobs (working all over the country for Haas), and the Olin Terrace project. For the next week or two, I ran into them after work at the Cardinal, and we would talk about the day’s work.
One night they were a little distraught, as they had completed a very difficult day. They said some crazy person was standing up on top of Olin Terrace all day, throwing stuff down at them (paper I think) and shouting at them, yelling “I’m the Jesus Christ of Madison”. Who was this crazy person? Dennis deNure. How did they know? Because during the shouting he would identify himself: “I’m Dennis deNure. I’m the Jesus Christ of Madison”. I asked if they called the cops. They said the cops were there, watching deNure the whole time, and “they did nothing”. I never did find out what that was all about.
A year or two later deNure ran for mayor of Madison
(the first time). In subsequent elections he revealed his "Museum Mile" plan, which (like most deNure endeavors) is probably just a warped version of somebody else's idea.
Seems like every mayoral campaign since, his name comes up. But lately Will Sandstrom has taken his place as the bat-shit crazy candidate.