mertalas via Instagram
Alek Keshishian, Vincent Paterson, Salim Gauwloos and Jose Gutierez discuss making the famous Madonna documentary at MOMA last night:
Michael Musto recounted a few of his most notorious encounters with Madonna for the latest issue of Village Voice:
In the early 1980s, I found myself on a double bill with a rising singer I’d never heard of; her name was Madonna. My Motown cover band had equal billing, but that clearly eluded Madonna’s team, who saw the downtown club gig as a showcase for her and her alone. Madonna sound-checked with such elaborate precision that my band never got to do so; by the time she was obsessively through with the mic, the doors were opening to the public and we were fucked. What’s more, after our performance, Madonna’s manager didn’t want us greeting guests in the joint dressing room, because the apparently demure Madge was getting ready for her set and didn’t want to change in front of strangers. I demanded my rights, while thinking, “This creature isn’t going anywhere.” I should have realized then that it was just this kind of aggressive tunnel vision that would rocket her to the pantheon.
Madonna was suddenly everywhere on the club scene, but her first single, the 1982 ditty “Everybody,” was so insistently whiny, I still wasn’t convinced she had a snowball’s chance. But she made it, with artfully done videos, rampant sexuality, and an ability to charm people’s pants off with feisty frankness. She even tried Hollywood, bombing out with stuff like the screwball comedy Who’s That Girl? while never letting people see her sweat. By 1987, I was hooked, so I went to see Madonna promote the movie outside a theater in Times Square, where she told the assembled throngs, “Shut up, so I can talk.” The steely determination was impressive.
She struck up a sensational gal-pal relationship with lesbian comic Sandra Bernhard, indulging in all sorts of innuendo that got the media and public panting. The two stars were at the center of 1989’s “Don’t Bungle the Jungle” — a BAM benefit for the Brazilian rainforest — where their sardonic antics upstaged ecological issues. After Madonna rattled off some rainforest facts, Sandra moaned, “Who the fuck do you think you are, Tracy Chapman?” “No,” replied Madonna. “I’m not working at a convenience store. But I do like to sneak off to a 7-Eleven at night for some jawbreakers.” “The bitch is cold,” Sandra interjected. “Funky cold Medina.” They launched into a version of “I Got You Babe,” and the comic sang, “I know we don’t have a cock, but at least I’m sure of all the things we got.” “Don’t believe the stories,” urged Madonna as the show wound down. “Believe the stories,” implored Sandra.
When I interviewed Sandra for my Voice column, she claimed their lesbian shenanigans were just shtick and people should relax about it. “I mean, God, you know, Madonna is a raging lesbian!” she said, eyes rolling. “I mean why don’t they take it really literally!” But when Madonna was spotted wildly making out with Sandra’s ex-girlfriend Ingrid Casares, I took the denials with a grain of potpourri.
Having a kiki with Lola after 25th Anniversary Screening of Truth Or Dare at the MOMA!
Surreal Moment! At the MOMA!! So nice to watch a film in a museum. So many freedoms we take for granted that we did not have then. Thank you Alek Keshishian. We changed history with this film.!
Madonna via Instagram
The Candles have been blown. The Cake has been cut, but it’s not too late to make my Birthday Wish Come True!! I want to take you on an unforgettable trip to Art Basel. Link in bio to enter to win and support @raisingmalawi #madonnaxomaze
Madonna via Instagram
Truth or Dare is one of the few documentaries whose legacy, it seems to me, continues to evolve. Madonna is still adding to her own legend, and Truth or Dare had such specific insight into her ambition, her sense of self, and even gay culture thanks to her dancers. How do you think the movie’s legacy continues to endure, especially in recent years?
Gosh, I’ll be honest with you. It’s not something I really think about. I kind of feel like that process is up to the individual. I’d say the most significant realization is when I meet people who say that the movie kept them alive in some way. It’s usually gay people, and they basically say it made them feel they weren’t alone in a time when they were vulnerable. That’s amazing to me, that that legacy lives on. We forgot that some of the stuff that we were making at the time was incredibly controversial for a mainstream film and a mainstream star. It’s that legacy that was the most significant for me, but I don’t know if that’s changed. I don’t even know if people watch the movie anymore.
It feels like this movie captures a hundred different storylines — about Madonna, her dancers, her crew and her family. Did you worry that wouldn’t cohere?
When I was shooting it, there was always that frustration: You’ve got a crew, you’ve got cameras, lights. It takes a certain amount of time to get to things. I probably missed 90% of the stuff, even if we shot 200+ hours of film. Then you realize that in the 10% you’re getting, hopefully there’s a way to show in a microcosm, two hours, the whole that you missed. That was my view while shooting. The thing about the documentary that made it so challenging is I tended to edit while I was shooting. Madonna tended up to bring up things, like her friend from high school. I would think, “Oh, we need to bring her in. We need to have her see Madonna.” There were points in the shooting where I thought, “We’re not getting enough of her vulnerability.” I have all this funny stuff and tough-person stuff, but I was missing a side of her that I knew by that point. A documentary is really about the relationship between the documentarian and the subject; that creates what you end up seeing. At that point, Madonna and I spoke every morning before she did anything and every night — just as friends catching up. There was a vulnerability to her, especially in the mornings. People didn’t get to see that, and that’s why I decided to shoot the mornings in her suite where she’s waking up and we hear all those voices talking about her. That was one of the few things that I shot where I didn’t place myself in the room. I knew if I placed myself in the room, she’d kind of be communicating to me. I was literally standing outside the suite and my film guys were in there. We got these beautiful images of her alone in this giant space, which to me was the metaphor. I think one of her people goes, “I think she’s this little girl lost in this huge storm.” Those are the kind of ways you try to create in a microcosm the fullest portrait of the person.