My Dearest Madge,
I feel quite confident it’s all right to call you that. You’ve so intimately become a part of my life through the power of your music over these past four-plus decades that you must surely feel that closeness as well. If not, perhaps this letter will do the trick at showing you why this is true.
Madonna Louise Ciccone, you are a legend. Let me start there. You are featured perhaps more than any other artist on the soundtrack of my formative years. I grew up on your music, and it represents some of the best (the “Vogue” era) and worst (the “Take a Bow” era) times in my life.
I have various memories of you going back to the early ’80s. I remember being near a softball field — my parents were playing, not me by any means — in 1984 when I first heard “Borderline.” I had already heard “Holiday” and “Lucky Star,” but “Borderline” hit different. I was 12, and the budding drama queen in me loved it immediately.
I was a teenager, but still too young to drive, when I found myself at a party with a badass cousin of mine who was always getting me in trouble. I knew no one there. They were all older than me and drinking alcohol. And I was standing alone in a corner humming along to “Like A Virgin.” And I was — in every sense of the word! It was my first semi-adult, no-parents-in-attendance party and I felt horribly out of place.
I begged my cousin Brittany, the original “Material Girl,” who I was spending the night with, to take me back to her apartment where my aunt was no doubt waiting up, furious. We’d blown curfew by a couple of hours. When she finally acquiesced to my (urgent) requests that we leave, it was me that my dear aunt blamed for staying out late. It seems that Brittany the Brat could never get in trouble but was always leaving me in a heap of it. Talk about “Papa Don’t Preach.”
But I love a redemption story as much as anyone, and it was thanks to Brittany that I got the chance to star in your brave documentary “Truth or Dare.” OK, so I didn’t so much as star in it so much as I was sitting in row 18 at the Palace of Auburn Hills while the show was being filmed. But hey, I say I was in the damn movie, and I’m stickin’ to it.
When I moved to Miami a few short weeks after the concert, my, shall we say, appearance in the film was my claim to fame in certain circles. You had not brought your Blond Ambition tour to South Florida, butI had already seen it. It was a “Live to Tell” moment. OK, perhaps not my biggest claim to fame, but it did earn me the envy — perhaps resentment — of a few diehard fans.
In Miami, I was soon enough engaged to a handsome man named Carlos who loved you. Cliché, perhaps, but he was “Crazy for You.” He bought your “Sex” photography book, which was largely shot in and around our neighborhood and on South Beach. And your 1992 “Erotica” album became a big part of the soundtrack of our ever-shaky relationship. (I speak of deep cuts like “Waiting” and “Thief of Hearts.” It was my favorite album of yours. Well, until “Bedtime Stories,” the next one, came out and I heard “Secret” and “I’d Rather Be Your Lover.”)
About that nasty breakup: “Bye Bye Baby” made me feel strong, and “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” spoke to me during that time, too. It wasn’t an easy split. Carlos was the first man I had brought home and introduced to my parents. He even spent Christmas with my family two years in a row. But we were both young and we grew apart. Carlos decided to become an exotic dancer and I decided to relocate. Still, “I’ll Remember,” as you sang.
When I moved back to Michigan, I kind of lost touch with you. You now represented my life in South Florida, and you were hard to listen to after the Carlos debacle. I had to take you off the playlist for a minute. But my respect for you never wavered.
You continue to be a trailblazer. I thank you for the music and how you’ve moved me through the years. I’ll miss you this month when you come to Little Caesars Arena. Forgive me, but I’m not comfortable in large crowds and I’m too old to sit in the nosebleed seats and too poor to sit up front. But I’ll always have memories of seeing you on the Blond Ambition tour in your cone-shaped brassiere. Over 30 years later, it still marks the greatest concert experience of my life.
Decades may have passed, the hair on my head may be gone and it’s been years since I lost my own “blond ambition.” But thank you for helping a gay boy like me grow into a proud gay man. I couldn’t have done it without you.