The Making of Blond Ambition and Vogue: Choreographer Vincent Paterson talks about Madonna
Vincent Paterson first worked with Madonna on her controversial Pepsi commercial. Before that he choreographed for Van Halen, Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson. The brilliance of his choreography can currently be seen on Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour, and her Vogue video. Vincent Paterson met with Michael Louis in New York City this past April upon his return from Madonna’s tour kick-off in Japan.
M.L.: How long have you been working with Madonna?
V.P.: I did the Pepsi commercial last year, choreographed Express Yourself for her and then I choreographed and directed the Blond Ambition tour.
M: How did you hook up with Madonna?
V: Originally? I used to work with Michael Jackson a lot, choreographing the Bad Tour. He brought a director in named Joe Pitca who directed The Way You Make Me Feel which I choreographed. Joe Pitca was directing the Pepsi commercial so he hooked me up with Madonna.
M: How did you get started in choreography?
V: I was a director first, then an actor, dancer, and then I started choreographing And then I just sort of jumped into it pretty quickly. I assisted Michael Peters on a lot of things. But I made the decision to begin choreographing and got out there very quickly and choreographed a Pepsi commercial for Lionel Richie with fifty dancers. And then I did a video for Van Halen, Hot For Teacher and then I did California Girls for David Lee Roth and it just took off.
M: The controversy over the Pepsi Like A Prayer commercial you choreographed. Were you informed the video was going to be taken off the air?
V: They showed it once on the Grammys or Super Bowl, one of those monster events, and that was the only time it aired.
M: Seemed like it was on the news more than it was as a commercial?
V: Yeah. It aired once.
M: Do you think it was a publicity stunt by Pepsi?
V: Who knows what goes on in the politics of America. Do you ever know? No. I think there was a confrontation with the groups. Pepsi has so many major stars representing their product I don’t think that ploy did anything for them. In fact, I know it probably did a lot of damage in sending people back over to Coke. Because people got pretty angry that a company as large as Pepsi would bow to the whims of a small sector of religious fanatics.
M: I don’t think the companies realize how many people disagree with the fanatics.
V: Those people are organized so they have a single voice whereas the rest of America, we are independents, so we don’t have one voice in which to speak, so our opinion doesn’t get heard. They have a minority that’s strong and organized and consequently…
M: How did you get involved in the Express Yourself video?
V: For that project I was the choreographer. Madonna called me and said: “Hey, you want to do a video,” and I said, “Sure, I love working with you.” So, she pretty much had ideas and concepts with David Fincher, and I came in and filled in a lot of the blanks, just as a choreographer.
M: Fill in the blanks?
V: Well, she had one piece that one section of the video she wanted to do dressed up in a man’s suit so I created that. Another section that were men fighting, I did that, and another section doing gymnastics, I did that. And the last section was the guy coming in and picking her up from the bed, ravaging her, sort of, and I did that because it was a very touchy scenario and it had never really been done before in video so I wanted it handled correctly.
M: Any interesting stories about the making of Express Yourself?
V: I think the funniest part was the first day Madonna had to be topless on the set. She was very, very, nervous about that. Very uptight. But she’s so relaxed the second day. You know, it was fine, she didn’t care. It was no big deal.
M: It’s funny how she’s always playing the role of the Vixen. But the picture of her in Vanity Fair by Helmut Newton where she has a sh*t-ass grin with her head back, she looks like a little girl.
V: She is like a little girl. She’s an artist and being an artist I think you have to have a little kid in you, an old person in you, and masculine and feminine. It’s more than being just a singer, songwriter or something like that. That’s the beauty of her and that’s the reason I love working with her. She’s not afraid to make statements. She’s not afraid to make comments on political situations, or sexual role playing, or cross dressing, or fantasy. And in fact, the further you go, the further she wants to go with you.
M: Where did the idea for Madonna to grab her crotch in Express Yourself come form?
V: It happened basically as a gag. A joke that wasn’t suppose to happen and it happened on a take, and we kept it. She had been kidding me a lot about Michael Jackson and the crotch grabbing. So it was sort of a joke and I said to Madonna: “Well, you’ve got balls, grab ’em.” (laughs). So she did.
M: Any controversy over that scene?
V: No. I think it worked to our advantage. People said: “Yeah, she’s strong. Women can have a voice and…”