Madonna 101: Confessions of a True Blue fan.
By Tim Parks
Remember the ’80s public service announcement where the dad confronts his son about marijuana he discovers in his offspring’s room, and where did he learn about drug use from? The son’s reply was, “I learned it by watching you!” Well, I can say the same thing about watching and listening to Madonna throughout the years, minus the drug reference. Everything I learned about life, I learned it from Madonna.
With her materialization on the pop music scene with the track, “Everybody,” in October 1982, Madonna encouraged everyone to “dance and sing, get up and do your thing,” and that simple plea was truly encompassing of the song’s title.
It was easy for gay listeners to embrace the raw sexuality that Madonna provided on her debut album, Madonna, especially with tracks like “Physical Attraction” and “Burning Up.” Even as a thirteen year old, I found myself gravitating towards her brand of danceable sex education.
There was just something special about her, and at a point when I was still in the closet, it was like she was looking inside of me with an x-ray machine, pinpointing the spots that were the most easily accessible to help strengthen my fractured gay sensibility bones.
In essence, I felt like she was performing the soundtrack to my life, whether it was the hidden lust I felt about some guy in my gym class, or the hope that one day I could be in the know about telling someone, “Don’t you know that I’m burning up for your love?”
I can remember listening to “Like A Virgin” when I still was one, which seems like eons ago, and her “scandalous” writhing and rolling around on the stage at the very first MTV Video Music Awards, was something I had wished I had the balls to do – to just be so unabashed and comfortable in my own skin, sans the wedding dress, of course.
She was never ashamed of her sexuality, which I was at odds at up until the fated summer of 1985, when I decided it was time to tell it true. Madonna was everywhere that summer – on the radio and touring with her first concert (“The Virgin Tour”) and performing at Live Aid. At the movies, she was stealing scenes in Desperately Seeking Susan, while her private life was caught in a media frenzy surrounding her impending nuptials to Sean Penn, and because of early nude photos she had posed for ending up in the pages of Penthouse and Playboy.
Her response to the photos being used when her star was on the rise? “I’m not ashamed.” And somehow, those three words bolstered me to tell my parents that they had a gay son, which was met with the requisite “it must be a phase” response. My mother even went so far as to buy me the Playboy and Penthouse with Madonna in them; and in a sense Madonna became a beard for me with my four older brothers who weren’t in on my secret – never mind the fact that I would drive my candy apple red scooter up and down the street, while singing “Holiday.”
Her likeness adorned my bedroom walls on posters and a calendar, a far cry from the days when my oldest brother occupied that same room with his plethora of Led Zeppelin posters, and much like her oft referred to ability to transform herself, I turned my bedroom into a shrine of sorts to my diva.
Eventually, I got to a place in my life where I was able to paraphrase her 1989 hit “Express Yourself,” and came clean with my brothers regarding my sexuality, right around the time she was coming under fire for hers with Erotica, her “Sex” book and the movie Body of Evidence.
I have always felt a kinship with a woman I have never met, but greatly admire.
To summarize what Madonna has taught me as a True Blue fan, and why I have stuck with her through thick, thin and Swept Away for these twenty-five years, is that she has been there for me through life’s joys and sorrows, messy break ups and personal triumphs with her music lessons, chief among them is that “it’s called a dance floor, and here’s what it’s for, so, come on, Vogue!”
In all seriousness, the most fundamental lesson I can glean from the artist formerly known as the “Material Girl,” is Madonna’s uncanny ability to bounce back from personal and professional disappointments, coupled with the drive and determination she exudes and makes no excuses for, which serves as an invaluable lesson in the fine art of self belief.