Friday, March 14, 2008


Photographed in 1986 by Herb Ritts for Vanity Fair

Oddly enough, I started writing this before I heard about Madonna's induction into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame. I found all of these in my little archive of old magazine pics. But it turns out to be all appropriate and timely. I love being timely.

I clearly remember the first time I heard Madonna.

I was riding in the car with my father. I was young... in my early pre-teens. My parents were divorced and every now and then my father would pick me up for a visit and it was one of those times. In my mother's house I was not allowed to listen to popular radio or watch television unless it was PBS and the discrepancy between my exposure to the world of popular culture and the savvy awareness of my peers had become glaringly obvious (which, in my opinion, explains my obsession as an adult with film, music, fashion and general pop culture). But my father let me listen to the radio. For this and many other reasons, I thought he was wonderful.

We were riding over a bridge somewhere in Florida when I heard it. I remember the cars around us. I remember that the trucks next to us on the narrow bridge made me nervous. And I remember hearing the catchy first notes of "Borderline" coming through the speakers and how I perked up, even though I had never heard it before. I remember asking if I could turn up the volume. I remember ignoring my usual childlike embarassment over hearing somewhat adult lyrics in front of a parent. I was hooked. I remember that later, back at my mom's house, I would listen to the radio when my mother wasn't home with a cassette tape in the machine, waiting to hit "record" as soon as the first few notes of a Madonna song came on.

I loved Madonna. My late childhood through my teens and well into my twenties, I had a strong affection for her. I loved her when she was "chubby" and dressed like Billy Idol if he was a woman raised in an adult novelty store. I loved her faux Marilyn Material Girl routine. I loved Desperately Seeking Susan and watched it again and again and again and wondered how I could make a jacket like hers.

I don't have any info on this shot, if anyone knows who took it, please let me know so I can credit it.

I loved her bleached platinum blonde and straggly, earthy brunette. I loved her with huge chunky eyebrows. I loved her singing about unplanned pregnancy with a petulant self-rightousness. I loved her Bettie Boop phase. My baby sister bought me a copy of Who's That Girl on VHS because we rented it constantly and quoted absurd lines to each other. We sang "Cherish" and "Holiday" and "Like a Prayer" at top volume in my car when my sister was a teenager.

Photographed in 1989 by Patrick DeMarchelier for Vogue Magazine

I loved Madonna earthy and pissing off the church and Pepsi with her gorgeous video for "Like a Prayer". I loved her all pristine glammed up to Vogue and I loved her as Breathless in Dick Tracy. She was funny and enjoyable in a League of Their Own, hilarious in the video for Human Nature and eerie, ethereal and perfect in the video for Bedtime Story. I still liked her through those years. Later, I enjoyed watching her sing more classically in Evita and I was tentatively appreciative of her initial transition to techno-pop.

But she lost me somewhere after that.

Her music no longer seemed vital and interesting to me. She made what I felt was the weakest film of her career... or maybe I just didn't like her getting older (and what an evil, awful person I am if I feel that way). Maybe I couldn't understand a version of her that had ventured into territory unfamiliar to me - motherhood and family. Maybe it was just that her hardness and drive started to overshadow her joyousness. Maybe I didn't like the WAY she got older - fighting it tooth and nail in such an obvious way instead of embracing a more mature and graceful image of herself. Whatever it is, I don't love the Madonna of now.

But I still love the Madonna of my youth.

Or the image of her.

The constant, fluid changing as if she was not yet sure who she was, either. The sound of a voice not yet trained properly. The abandon of a woman unafraid of bad press and enjoying the spotlight. The girl who stood up on American Bandstand in 1984 and said, "I want to rule the world."

New York, 1979
photgrapher not listed


  1. Yes...yes..YES. I wish I could have worded my love for Madonna as eloquently. And LOVE Desperately Seeking Susan...LOVE. No words to describe how much

  2. I remember that Vogue magazine layout. I HAD that Vogue magazine. I remember the mules she wore and how her brother had been her interior designer. Man, I loved Madonna back in the day, all her crazy evolutions! Still love her, although, you're right; some of the joy seems to be gone.