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Confessions of a
Madonna fan

Confessions of a
Madonna fan


The announcement of her new tour sets off a whole new wave of frenzy for this devoted acolyte of Esther

Madonna's Confessions tour kicked off in late May in Los Angeles, but the excitement has been building for weeks. At least in my little corner of the world--if the release of a new Madonna CD is cause for celebration, word that the woman is going on tour can induce everything from hysteria to pandemonium. By the time Madonna and her entourage finally krump their way to the East Coast, nearly four months will have passed since that afternoon back in March when I first got The E-Mail, the one announcing plans for the upcoming tour, the one with the subject heading that gasped, "Why is she doing this to me again???"

I didn't even have to open it. It was from S, and I immediately knew who the "she" in question was, and I knew very well what it was that she was "doing again." My heart started to race. I was suddenly short of breath. Why was she doing this again? And why were we acting like this again? We were all veterans of, among other things, multiple Madonna shows. Weren't we past the age of getting into a froth over a concert? Weren't we too old to be behaving like this? Age-appropriate quandaries would have to wait. Madonna was coming. Where? Did it matter?

I opened the message, saw the link for the Sun article at the bottom of the text, hit FORWARD, and typed in multiple e-mail addresses as quickly as I could. After all, the only thing better than being able to share with your fellow Madonna fans that the object of your adoration is going on tour is the possibility that you will be the first one to break the news to others.

It was only a matter of seconds before the return messages began stacking up. "Where is she playing?" "When will the dates be announced?" "Is that set list accurate?" And the all-important "What are you going to wear?" Yes, indeed. What were we going to wear, as if our sartorial choices were, even for one minute, going to compete for audience attention with Gaultier's show-specific--and showstopping--couture.

In the weeks that followed the excitement intensified, as we waited for tickets to go on sale. As die-hard fans, we knew we'd have first crack through the presale on There was a bit of concern, seeing that the tour would not be playing our hometown (the nation's capital), but there was plenty of room on the calendar for more dates to be added. She could--and would, we convinced ourselves--squeeze us in. Worst-case scenario: Philly was just a short train ride away. Or we could always travel further afield. "Wouldn't it be great to see her in Paris?" one early e-mail asked. "Is she playing Buenos Aires?" asked another. "London? The pound is still pretty high..." But even though the staggeringly high GBP was a formidable deterrent to travel over the Atlantic, we were ready to spare no expense.

The big day arrived and, at the appointed time, credit cards with suitably cleared limits were at the ready. We loaded the site and waited out the last few seconds with a stomach-clenching mix of anxiety and glee. But just when we should have been that much closer to seeing Madonna live, the unthinkable happened.

Password and/or user name not recognized.

And no amount of frantic retyping could get the words off the screen. With all of the excitement, we forgot to renew our membership. We were shut out from the ticket buy. Before we even had time for the panic to pass--and for Plan B to be conceived, let alone hatched--the others started to share their good news. D got tix for Atlantic City, opting for "the smaller venue," he said, before adding, "Worst-case scenario, she adds a D.C. show, and I see her twice! Twist my arm!"

Or yank it out of its socket. Argh. No, really, we were happy for him. Our miserable misfortunate aside, we were truly happy. And he certainly didn't know what our experience had been. But our respective worst-case scenarios were shaping up to be dramatically different. He had one, possibly two sets of tickets, while we were empty-handed. In a matter of minutes a line had been drawn between us, though. He and the others were now The Haves, and we were most definitely The Have-Nots. And we didn't like how it felt.

Rather than disclose our situation, we decided we'd wait until after we got our tickets through the general-public sale, we'd announce the city, the venue, and our seats. We'd all be on the Madonna-bound Homo Disco Party train, the Fast Track to Fabulous, soon enough.

Tickets went on sale and, as predicted, they were snatched up and put back out on the market at costs that equaled--and in some instances, surpassed--our mortgage payment. With some brokers charging several thousands of dollars for a single premium seat, it was hard not to pause and wonder: How much is too much? Even for Madonna.

When did scalpers become recast as "brokers"? And how were they getting away with this? "They know The Gays have the purchasing power," B said, matter-of-factly. "Can't you call in some favors?" M asked. I could, but I did--five years ago for the Drowned World tour. The "I know someone who knows someone" game was in full play. And it turned out that M had connections of his own through his new job. I was rousted off the couch one night by a phone call: "If you want Madonna tickets," he scolded, "you'd better come out and schmooze with this guy."

Fine. I got up, got dressed, and made my way out to the bar where I was, my friend assured me, certain to score. Eight beers, two hours, an underwear contest, and one unwanted hand in an inappropriate place later, I drunkenly texted the good news to S as I stumbled home. "We have FOUR TIX. BOX SEATS." (Countless exclamation points not included, by the way.)

I was relieved. And proud. I'd taken a hit for the team. When we spoke the next morning, I told my partner L, who was out of town on business, that tickets were all but in my hand. "It's not what was in your hand that I'm worried about," he groused. "And I don't appreciate your friends pimping you out."

Everything was fine, I assured him. My reputation was intact. I could tell he was about to say "And I don't see what all the fuss is about," but he knew better. He'd actually found out, firsthand, during the Drowned World tour in 2001. It was his first time, and though I had tried to tell him how stunning, hypnotic, transcendent the Presence That Is Madonna was, live, he simply gave me a knowing, loving smile. I knew he didn't believe me, but I also knew he soon would. Sure enough, the show began, and he was transfixed. By "Beautiful Stranger," he had been converted.

Four days, five phone calls, and several e-mails to M went unanswered as we waited to find out if J was coming through with our tix. By day 5, S took matters into his own hands. "Four tickets, 10th row, in Philly!" his e-mail announced. I almost cried. Then he told me the price. And I really wept.

"You wouldn't go through that much trouble to see Jesus if he were on tour" was our mom's standard response when we clamored for concert tickets growing up, and as I remembered her saying that now, I couldn't help but think, Bet his tickets are cheaper.

"The gays have the money, and the brokers know it," B said again, more matter-of-fact than ever. "They know they can ask top dollar and the gays will shell it out--they have to see Madonna." His observation, despite the third person referencing, was correct. We do have to see Madonna. At any cost. And. apparently, at any age.

But why?

Yes, there's a certain status to being able to say you saw multiple shows of the same tour. Throw in a venue or two abroad, caravan several friends with you, and you're part of an even more elite crowd. But Deadheads, Jimmy Buffett's Parrotheads, and those people who follow Trey Anastasio all do the same thing. And it's certainly not about status for them. It's about the communal experience, and in a world where everything has the potential to become a divisive issue, there is comfort in knowing that for two hours you'll be in close quarters with thousands of people with whom you have at least one thing in common. A Madonna show is like the ultimate gay pride event, except with a playlist you love.

"It's about feeling the energy and vibe of all that love in one place for Madonna," answered S, who has seen each tour, save the Virgin tour, twice. "To be able to hear and see and feel the power of her incredible talent just amazing!"

There's also the very personal connection, not only to the songs but to the artist singing them. D, who has tickets for three shows of the Confessions tour, all in different cities, admits to such devotion that he still gets anxious watching footage of Madonna's 1990 MTV Video Awards performance of "Vogue." "When Madonna and her backup singers toss their fans into the air--what if they don't catch them? Thankfully, they always do, but I still hold my breath."

I recalled a similar hand-wringing moment when Our Star performed "Sooner or Later" at the Academy Awards in March 1991. Her hands shook, and my heart raced. The woman who had, for me, embodied Invincibility Incarnate on the Blonde Ambition tour the previous summer--and whose message of self-respect convinced me that my breakup the morning of the show with my partner of the previous three years was the right thing to do--was showing a vulnerability we'd never before seen. But the song, the stage, and the audience were soon hers. By the time she cooed "Talk to me, General Schwarzkopf! Tell me all about it" at the song's end, we knew she was back in charge. It was an inspiring and commanding enough performance that for months afterward I watched every time I did my ab work. It was perfect motivation.

If Madonna's songs have always provided the inspiration, then the live images most definitely delivered the empowerment. And as time goes on, though, images become more important than ever. In a segment of society where youth is worshipped, there's great comfort in seeing that Madonna, at 47, is in better shape than she was 20 years ago. R said it best when Madge's radiance eclipsed the twinkle of the two little, younger stars in her orbit as she performed "Hollywood" at the MTV Video Awards in 2003: "Britney and Christina could take off all of their clothes and all eyes would still be on Madonna."

As the Confessions tour got started this week and the images began coming in, we gushed and fawned and gasped about Her Look. The e-mail exchanges focused on past concerts, future performances, and all-time favorite lists. A standard top 10 was too limiting. The list was expanded to accommodate everyone's top 16 Madonna songs. BJ compiled "the definitive" spreadsheet. "Ray of Light" came in at number 1, being the only song to make everyone's lists.

The conversation soon switched to favorite live Madonna moments. The winner was, hands down, the version of "Vogue" that opened the Re-Invention tour, with both D and S being the most effusive. "It was ballsy to open her tour with 'Vogue,' arguably her most popular song--BJ's spreadsheet notwithstanding--and a song that could have easily driven the audience into a frenzy as an encore," D stated emphatically. S agreed. "Only Madonna could open with her most popular song and have the show go on to gain momentum from there."

And that's probably the best explanation of why, despite our age and despite the cost, we will always flock, run, stampede, and do whatever our wallets allow in order to see Madonna live: Like her shows, Madonna continues to gain momentum. Her best is always still yet to come.

The cost of our 10th-row seats for Madonna's Confessions tour? That's one confession I'm not quite prepared to make. But the reassurance that comes from knowing that life can keep getting better? Well, that's priceless.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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