MORE VIDEOS GOING UP LATER, INCLUDING INSIDE THE PARTY!
My first memory of really being into Madonna would be from around September 1983. I was driving home from playing Dungeons & Dragons at my cousin's in Swartz Creek, listening to Top 40 radio at full blast, and rocking (more like popping) out to Shannon's "Let the Music Play" when "Holiday" came on. My reaction to it was immediate—this was like aural sex, a true popgasm.
Exactly 27 years later, my dream to meet Madonna finally materialized last night at, of all places, Macy's.
Admittedly, the desire to meet an idol is fraught with risk. No less a personage than former recording star and current recording exec Tommy Page has cautioned me about doing such a thing (I told him I'd been a member of his fan club 'cuz I thought he was cute but meeting him was lovely so why not push it?). And it's also a shallow, silly kind of goal in life—or would be, if it were my only one. But nonetheless, it has been a goal and it's now in my rearview and I'm happy to say it went off without a hitch.
I got myself invited to cover the red carpet—turns out it was pink—for Madonna and Lola's Material Girl celebration at Macy's. I was a legit correspondent for a legit teen mag that legitimately has written about the line, so this was an organic occurrence. A harmonic convergence.
Still, I owe it all to Liz Rosenberg. Liz is Madonna's publicist and her public sense of humor, her protector and her friend; never simply her flack or her mouthpiece. I started corresponding with Liz 16 years ago when I was writing Encyclopedia Madonnica. I never thought Liz would actually like the book (in fact, I'm pretty sure Madonna didn't if she even did more than glance at it), but was pleasantly surprised when she loved it and would recommend me as a fan/expert for various Madonna-themed TV projects. She's helped me get into a number of Madonna events, too, and now she's helped me meet the Big M by having Macy's make room for me on its rather crowded carpet.
I was confirmed by Liz, then had to inquire with Macy's to actually receive my tip sheet on the day of the event. I feared it would be chaos and it kind of was, even if it eventually worked out. Arriving at 35th St. and Broadway just after 4:00 p.m., I ran into a wall of still photographers being cautioned to line up further down the block or risk police action. Some responded by getting ornery, some by shrugging that this was par for the course. I spotted several shooters I know: Greg, Bruce, Matt. They didn't seem to think it was the end of the world, which was comforting since I've never covered a carpet that didn't have spots mapped out for each attendee and this one—outdoors—looked to be going the Wild West route.
A Macy's employee began inaudibly calling out photographers' names as a sweet New York Daily News intern young enough to be my daughter and I craned our necks to see if we could read lips for when they got to journalists. When the time seemed right, I just walked up to them and they called my name (along with an incorrect affiliation, but close enough!). This got me into a holding area behind the carpet, where I met a nice guy from Us. As we waited, the spots were filling up so we finally asked our handler if we shouldn't be lining up, too. Turns out we should have lined up minutes earlier, so we were checked in again and told, "Okay, you guys, just squeeze in there." The line was already packed, so that led to some shifting around.
A stringer for Star who'd left her bag at the partition barked at us that we had to get out of her way, end of story. When the guy next to her said, "No, this is my spot," she turned on me: "Is it THIS guy then?" I just told her, "Look, we were told to squeeze in here. It's not our fault. I'm not moving. Deal with it." She was just ferocious. While I approve of being assertive in these situations, I disapprove of leaving your purse as a marker and then trying to bitch your way back into place.
She also spent lots of time trash-talking Madonna's appearance and relevance, a great example of the strange divides between people who care about celebrities, people who cover celebrities and celebrities. It's a two-way street of NEED-HATE-NEED.
Fortunately (for me, not for him...I'm afraid I was a babbling mess), I was also next to Ben Widdicombe, formerly of the New York Daily News and Star, so he's sort of the link between the sweet intern and the bitter stringer. Very nice guy who indulged my blather and his presence as someone who has famously had his personal fill with the celebrity racket was interesting in light of my personal mission.
With TV and mainly tabloids to my right and the last few outlets (AOL, HuffingtonPost) and still photos to my left, I was hoping Madonna would go from photos to us to TV, my main concern being that the 'bloids would do as they were threatening to do—ask her off-topic stuff about her stalker or about having an affair with Ashton Kutcher—and scare her away from me. But the line was going to move the opposite way, so I had to hope for the best.
"The best" arrived in the form of Liz, who walked the entire line seeing who was there and in what order. She politely told the 'bloids they'd get three questions and to keep it on related topics. When she saw me, she kissed me and pinched my cheek. This made me relax and assume I'd get something from Madonna, even if that something wouldn't be a five-minute, one-on-one Access Hollywood-style interview.
Finally, quite late, Taylor Momsen's SUV pulled up and she hopped out. The raccoon-eyed face of the line, she was quite striking. The makeup baffles me, but she's exquisite—tall, leggy, willowy. She was in a great, talkative mood with everyone and despite sarcastic comments from journalists that she wouldn't be caught dead in Material Girl clothes for real, she was in it head-to-toe. She was asked by people on either side of me about Tim Gunn's withering put-downs of her and she deflected the second one by saying, "I don't respond to tabloids, thanks."
Big commotion when Madonna and Lola arrived, both from the assembled press (everything got tighter) and from the hundreds of fans across the street. "Madonna! Ma-DO-nna!" one young girl continually wailed.
I grabbed Guy Oseary for a quick question. I didn't film him, but when I asked him where the leaks were coming from and if they were intentional, he said:
"I don't know. I keep asking the fans to tell us. What's the upside? There's no upside to that. There's nothing I can do about it. I mean, I've never heard them all. If you find them, let me know. I don't want to do anything bad to them, I just want to know where they're getting them."
I liked Madonna's look! It reminded me of her pre-Raphaelite Golden Globes appearance and her '91 AIDS Dance-a-Thon, pretty and soft. As she got closer and closer to the end, she took fewer and fewer questions. While she and Lola spoke with the tabloid pack, I got some great footage.
The final question from the 'bloids was about her stalker, so Madonna almost zipped past me. But then I just asked her and Lola what inspires them the most about each other's style and Madonna looked at me slyly from an angle. Lola urged her to go first and Madonna said everything looks good on her daughter so she's jealous. Before Lola could reply, some complete idiot in our group asked Madonna, "Do you like my Madonna shirt?" I then got to ask if Lola would want to do a line for men/guys/boys. She said, "I think so..." and Madonna joked, "Material Boy?" Lola shut her down: "No, Mom, that's not cool."
Unfortunately, that's when Ben jumped in with his very on-topic question. No hard feelings at all, just wish Lola had finished her thought. And then a couple more questions and they were past my area and on to the ravenous still photographers.
It was a moment I'd long wanted to happen, and finally...it was over.
I then met up with José and we entered Macy's on 34th. Mobs were inside taking pictures of Madonna, who was on her way in (though I'm not sure exactly how she got up to the fourth floor). In Juniors, there was a curtained-off area to enter, filled with fans wearing their party passes. Everyone was jammed into cordoned off areas to the left or right of a dais where it was obvious Madonna would be speaking. As I came in, Madonna arrived on the left, so I got some video of that. Fans were going wild, shouting her name.
I settled into a spot by a pillar and spent the next 40 minutes with my arms in the air trying to get some video and pictures. Madonna was introduced as needing no introduction, and gave a short, peppy speech about the line and thanking us for coming. She and Momsen and Lola and Liz (plus some of Lola's schoolmates and, later on, Rocco) sat on the stage an watched as dancers did an elaborate performance to basically every Madonna song ever.
Toward the end, adorable Rocco even did some breakdancing.
Finally, Madonna—begging off dancing by gesturing to her shoes—thanked us all again and took off. That's when my friends recognized José from José and Luis of Blond Ambition fame, so we got pictures with him before leaving just in time to catch Madonna exiting the building.
Now that it's all over, it's one of those hmmm moments. I'm totally satisfied with what I got and it's also one of those times when you wonder if you'll be outgrowing this fandom thing by virtue of the fact that the object of your affection actually exists and is mortal. (I kind of felt that way after seeing Truth or Dare, but I shook it off.)
In short, it was everything I realistically hoped it would be. It was not everything and more, but that's good because it leaves wiggle room for the next silly goals...a posed picture with Madonna and a social introduction. Hey, a boy can dream. I'm just glad to find out a man can, too.