Editors' Personal Madonna Moments
In light of Madonna gracing our March cover and her spectacular Super Bowl performance, the editors at The Advocate decided to share our personal stories with the star, either encountering her from afar or up close and personal. We all seemed to have a "Madonna moment" if you will, where she was either six degrees removed or one. Share your personal Madge moments in the comments.
Winston Gieseke, managing editor: In 1988 after seeing Madonna in Speed-the-Plow, I wrote her the sort of gushing fan letter you’d expect from a 17-year-old and mailed it to the house in Malibu where she lived with Sean (address courtesy of a star map I’d bought on a trip to Los Angeles). I enclosed a self-addressed stamped enveloped and asked her to please return it with an autograph. I never heard from her. By 1990 I myself was living in L.A., and out of the blue I received a much-forwarded envelope from Italy. Inside was a letter from a fellow fan who told me that two years earlier he had journeyed to the U.S. and made his way out to Malibu in the hopes of catching a glimpse of our favorite star in the flesh. But all he was able to see was her gate and some trash cans, which he proceeded to dig through. It was here that he came across my fan letter, which I had completely forgotten about. Now 19 and much more practical, I sat down and composed another letter to Madonna, this one more bitchy than gushing (“The last time I wrote you a letter, you threw it in the trash. I’m enclosing another self-addressed stamped envelope and I expect a response!”) and dropped it in the mail to her new house in the Hollywood Hills. A week and one day later I received a postcard. It said “For Winston, love Madonna.” It’s been in a frame on my wall ever since. And the Italian? He became a dear friend, one I’m still close with nearly 22 years later. And whenever people ask how I know him, I say we met through Madonna’s trash can.
Matthew Breen, editor-in-chief: Like Madonna, I too was like a virgin at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Neither she nor I had ever been to the giant festival near Palm Springs, but in 2006 we both added that notch to our belts. But she may have also killed general admission for me, once and for all.
Madonna arrived by police escort about 30 minutes behind schedule. “It's fucking hot in here!” she shouted into the tent as she emerged from a giant disco ball wearing a blue-violet jumpsuit and dark glasses. “This is my first festival. Now who's going to share the drugs with me? Don't be selfish. Share the love!” Madonna danced, writhed, and crawled to four tracks from Confessions on a Dance Floor (“Hung Up,” “Get Together,” “I Love New York,” and “Let It Will Be”), “Ray of Light,” and her very first single, “Everybody.” The set was a short one, under 30 minutes, and ended abruptly.
But afterward, when the crush of humanity stomped back over the polo grounds to the main stages, I felt like a wounded wildebeest in the middle of a water buffalo migration —and we’d been way way waaaay in the back where I never thought my friends and I would be so set upon by the hot, bedraggled hordes. I’ve never felt so claustrophobic in my life. Chain link fences were torn down, people were falling, screaming. It’s amazing that no one was trampled to death.
Sometimes people are called, hyperbolically, “a force of nature.” Madonna herself isn’t, but the effect she had on the crowd turned us into a veritable flash flood. From thenceforth I decided I’m sticking to assigned seating at concerts. If there’s cocktail service involved, that’s gravy.
In my high school, girls were divided between those who followed
Madonna and those who followed Cyndi Lauper — it was really a division
between the popular girls who liked Madonna and the freaks who liked
Lauper. I remember being really torn at the time because I wanted to
dress slutty like Madonna but I was clearly a freak like Cyndi and I
believed Lauper to be the more talented performer and I was sure she was
queer at the time (and Madonna, well, at that time she was dating
Jellybean Benitez so that kind is the antithesis of lesbian). But then
we had a talent show and this very beautiful blond girl performed "Like a
Virgin" and I was hooked. I bought a cassette of Madonna's first two
albums and later I married that girl. When we divorced, we split the
cassettes. I still have mine somewhere.
Neal Broverman, senior editor:
I was so excited to attend my first Madonna concert back in September
2001. Then, 9/11 happened and the world changed. The Drowned World stop
in Los Angeles, scheduled for a day or two after the terrorist attacks,
was pushed back a few days but the show did go on. I was in a limousine
with two friends and an ex of mine. It was a heated environment,
everyone was anxious over what happened on the East Coast and the limo was
filled with romantic tension exacerbated by free booze.
the time we got to Staples Center, we were all hammered. I remember
hearing "Holiday," and sort of recall "Frozen" and "Don't Tell Me," but that's about it. Madonna
briefly mentioned the terrorist attacks and she seemed uneasy. On the ride
back in the limo, a meltdown of a fight occurred between my
friends, my ex, and me. It was an uncomfortable, though unforgettable night.
Seven years later, I was in another limo, heading with two of the same
friends (no ex) to Madonna's Sticky and Sweet tour at Dodger Stadium.
We were hours late because protesters had blocked many of L.A.'s major
streets following the passage of Prop. 8, which happened the day or
two prior. The city was at a standstill — before getting in
the limo at my apartment, I got off an idling commuter bus and
walked home. When we arrived on Sunset Blvd. in the limo, the traffic was
unmoving. The driver drove in the middle turn lane, bypassing all
the cars waiting to turn into Stadium Way. While the cars who did the
same thing were turned back around by a traffic cop, our limo driver
yelled, "Jump out now!" We did and walked up towards the stadium. We got
into our seats and the show started three minutes later. The stadium
was beautiful, she was wonderful, and it was a major win compared to
2001. Madonna even consoled us for the stinging defeat of Prop. 8.
“Express Yourself” was endlessly fascinating and titillating for me, a lesbian coming out and of age in the late 1980’s. Back when MTV still played music videos I taped the video — that’s right, on VHS — and played it over and over until the tape got those trademark worn-out ripples. Madonna’s brazen sexuality resonated for me in a way that previously only Annie Lennox had been able to do — both women mining the liminal space of feminine and masculine energy.