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Farenheit 451 bookstore founder dies

Dennis Madison, founder of bookstore Fahrenheit 451, died in

Laguna on July 24th. He was 82.

Madison founded the popular and long-lived bookstore in 1966 in

Dana Point but soon moved it to a shop just up from the Hotel Laguna


on the Coast Highway. His idea was to combine a gallery and bookstore

and to concentrate on selling controversial books with political or

sexual content.

The name for the bookstore came from a Ray Bradbury novel and


movie. Set some time in the future, Farenheit 451 (the temperature at

which books burn) speculates that the government might decide to

limit individual’s freedom by burning books.

Ray Bradbury was on hand when the store opened. By way of

publicity, Madison arranged an insurance policy with insurers Lloyds

of London to the effect that if the government ever decided to burn

books they would make Madison a payment of $1 million. Fahrenheit 451

survived, albeit under different owners until 2000. Although famous


as the founder of Fahrenheit 451, Madison had a colorful life both

before and after the bookstore. Born in London, England, Madison came

to the US when he was only 16. He worked in New York as a theater

manager and met many of the jazz greats. He arrived in Hollywood some

time in the 40s and worked in some famous Hollywood restaurants

including the Brown Derby and Romanovs. He even worked in Laguna’s

own Victor Hugo (now Las Brisas).

Later, Madison used his combined assets of genteel good manners


and large size (being taller than six feet tall) to launch an

Attorney Service/ Process Service agency. He would present a summons

with the words, “I hate to have to give you this.” His partner was

then “wanna be” actor Mike Farrell (MASH and Providence). Madison

moved with his wife Margaret Madison to Laguna in 1961. He and

Margaret joined the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (UU), hosting

meetings in their home. Madison became the UU’s president from 1962

to 1964. The UU continues today on Cypress Drive.

Although they later divorced, Madison and Margaret collaborated in

the early 70s on another Laguna project, campaigning local newspaper,

The Village Sun. Margaret was also a well known Laguna resident in

her own right as a potter and founding member of the Sawdust


Some time later Madison returned to England developing a career as

a well-respected trade editor and journalist. He returned to Laguna,

at 67, not to retire, but with yet another business, the

Anglo-American Press Bureau. Here he scoured U.S. newspapers for

stories he could feed to such diverse English magazines as Motorcycle

News, Electrical Contracting News and Golf Monthly. He issued his

last invoice on July 1, just three weeks before he passed on.

Dennis will be sorely missed by his many friends in Laguna and his

son Mardy Madison of Bend, Oregon, and his daughter Marla Madison of

London, England. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. on Tuesday

Aug. 20 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at 429 Cypress Drive

and will be followed by drinks (from 5:30 p.m.) at the White House

Bar, 340 S. Coast Highway.

In lieu of flowers please make a donation to the Multiple

Sclerosis Society (1-800-344-4867) For further details contact Aileen

Goodson on (949) 452- 0236.

-- Obituary written by Marla Madison