NOTE: ALL IMAGES ('cept the 1980s one & the IGTTYAS one) COPYRIGHTED BY ME. PLEASE DO NOT USE OUTSIDE THIS POST WITHOUT ASKING. THANKS!
Whenever Madonna has a limited event, I go into panic mode. Will I get in? How will I get in? Who should I ask? Are they reliable? And again, will I get in?
Madonna's Smirnoff event at the Roseland—a dance-off between international finalists in a contest to win a spot as one of her dancers on tour—was the hardest event to pin down because nobody seemed to really know what was going on. Drowned Madonna graciously got me on some kind of a list, but they weren't sure when I should arrive, had no contact name for back-up (and are based in Italy, so wouldn't be reachable the evening of the event) and were told I'd be in a "bloggers' lounge." I asked around and no one knew anything about these details, so I was kind of wary I'd get in at all.
At the last second, I asked and was put on a list plus one and told to arrive by 9PM, so I had to take my "Madonna husband" Jason. José likes Madonna but will not foolishly stand around for hours on end just to be near her. Whereas Jason (and I) would still be there now if Madonna had never left the premises.
We got there around 7:15PM for an event with 9PM doors. Small line of 100 people or less. Ran into my Facebook friend (and now friendship friend) Delvin (pictured) and his buddy Willie; my Sticky & Sweet chum Brad and his better half Louie; John, one of my most reliable Madonna-info hook-ups ("Did you hear there's a W.E. test screening?") along with his friend Stephanie; and also Marcus, an advertising wiz who's always inviting me to cool stuff and who loves Madonna. Sadly, there were some...weird...people going up and down the line playing "Give Me All Your Love" on a transistor radio, attempting to rile us up, and there were some Smirnoff cameras capturing our middle-aged screams.
Delvin & his pal Willie, who you might know from I'm Going to Tell You a Secret (below)
We'd been told over and over there was only one line (I was going to check if I was on that "bloggers' lounge" list), and a woman I spoke with told me point-blank that the entire event was general admission, and the only difference between being media and non-media would be checking in on a different list. I apparently was not on that media list, but I felt good about being on the general list...until they separated all the Icon winners into a gargantuan line alongside us and they began going in. Madonna fans are a mixed bag of types, and it can not be said there are no douchebags who love Madonna—lots of people jumped the line and several tried to cut in front of us in spite of it having been a single-file line for over two hours by then. Oh, did I mention we weren't even going in until closer to 10?
Finally, we made it to the very front, where the exasperated guards in "STAFF" T-shirts were openly telling people no one had any idea what was going on. All I did was flash my ID and hand in the releases we needed (to be on camera—the event was filmed) and we walked straight in and onto the main floor, five or so people from the side stage. The main stage looked nice and all, but being old, we were smart, like ancient dogs who remember the crinkle of a food wrapper even if it's of a variety it hasn't encountered in a while, and knows it's time to beg. So we huddled near that side stage, which was set up with luxurious white couches and looked ot us like the place where Madonna would sit and judge the contest.
It wasn't uncomfortably packed, actually, nothing like her Sticky & Sweet Roseland gig. But it did take an uncomfortably long time before anything happened!
Guy Oseary, Liz Rosenberg, at least two yarmulked Kabbalists and a host of trendy-looking entouragers emerged and filled the couches before us.
Then when announcements began from the stage regarding the dance-off, Madonna came out into a VVIP section of the mezzanine with her boyfriend Brahim Zaibat and sat almost out of view. It was such a bummer! Was Madonna really going to sit up there the whole time?
Luckily, after some opening dances from around the world (something about "black, white, yellow, high-yellow, fierce, not so fierce" was being said), we saw Madonna put on her coat (uh, it wasn't cold in there) and disappear, so we knew she planned to come into view. What nobody suspected was that she would soon emerge from under the stage, rising like Venus from the sea in a cute little outfit that included shorts so short they're probably illegal in parts of the South and over-the-knee, studded black boots. That plus her David Letterman-style magic hair gave her the look of a fetching minx, albeit one who would not hesitate to kick your ass all the way home.
Madonna posed, hands on hips, then preened her way to the side-stage where she spent most of the night trying to hide from all of us fanarazzi so as not to distract from the hard-working dancers who were dancing on the main stage.
It was off-putting that she didn't really acknowledge us, but it was understandable because these poor dancers were doing the fancy footwork version of lip-synching for their lives and all eyes (and flashes) were on Madonna. So she had her dancers and associates kind of cock-block us as best she could, at least while the dancers were performing.
I had such a great view of Madonna! Dancers came out on the main stage and on the edge of the side stage, so she kept having to turn back and forth to watch, at one point lying on her tummy and smiling like a little girl watching her favorite cartoons.
One of the dancers—I don't know which, I never took my eyes off the prize—apparently fell, which made her laugh and mouth, "Oh, shit!"
Lola was up there, too, paying close attention and evaluating everyone amongst her friends.
This went on for what seemed like a zillion years (it was hard on the feet), but culminated with Madonna coming forward and coyly choosing the four finalists.
Once she'd accomplished that—after admonishing us for taking her picture instead of paying attention (shades of her Bedtime Stories party at Webster Hall!)—she sat down with her boyfriend to watch the four dance one more time. Then, when handed the mic again, she was clueless about what she was expected to do. I'm tellin' ya, the event was loose!
She eventually figured it out and walked onto the stage to banter with some of the dancers, most memorably Scorpio, a Frenchman living in England who I thought might win. I loved that Madonna was pulling a partial Paula Abdul over all of this; she'd even told them all not to take not being chosen personally. Ultimately, it was Li'l Buck from Memphis who won, and he was blown away, telling the crowd he'd come from the hood, the streets.
Madonna hugged him and then the evening entered a phase reminiscent of an Andy Warhol movie; she walked around her little be-couched nook speaking to people and pointedly ignoring all of us gawking at her from a few feet away. She encouraged Lola to dance, which she did, and then others danced, forming a wall around Madonna and making it hard (but not impossible) for us to see her busting a move.
But bust she did, dancing with Brahim and loosening up to a "Rolling in the Deep" mix after seeming unwilling to dance to her own tunes ("Music," "Hollywood" and "Like a Prayer" were played in part).
Finally, Madonna seemed to think someone should've scheduled some audience time and she looked out at us and taunted us with some robotic dance moves that everyone immediately mimicked (well, not me; I was losing circulation in my arms from holding my camera aloft). She laughed and then took off, walking back across the stage and scaling some stairs to the DJ's exposed booth, where she threw her arms around DJ Martin Solveig, who of course is responsible for her next single, "Give Me All Your Love."
At this point it was past 1:30 and I was dying for her to leave. One definitely questions one's priorities in life when one finds oneself willing to stand in one place filming Madonna for as long as she cares to remain in one's view.
But Madonna was getting a second wind, dancing wildly next to Solveig to his "Hello" and things like "New York State of Mind" and a techno track by Benny Benassi called "Satisfaction." The highlight of the whole night was when Solveig, while playing Madonna's own "Hung Up" (she did some moves and sang along to it), sang into the mic, "L-U-V Madonna..." and Madonna chimed in, "Y-O-U You wanna!" So much for being pissed about the leak!
Then, on a dime, Madonna said good-bye to Solveig and strolled down to the stage and out of view. It was weird when she had ignored us early, but it seemed like the event just hadn't really planned out what the fuck she'd be doing so it wasn't too bad. But when she walked away without so much as a wave, it was kind of a bummer way to end everything.
Still, we got hours and hours with her and for a Madonna junkie, that's a pretty sweet high.
After, Jason and I left and ate some disgusting pizza at an all-night joint in Times Square before bumping into Stephen Guarino and Joe Conti of BearCity fame. They'd just seen SNL and told me they'd wrapped BearCity2 a month ago. Small, hairy world.
I downloaded my video and walked home surrounded by people, always surprised that New York really and truly is the city that never sleeps, and is still the city where you might get a chance to share air with Madonna every few years.