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Into the (Gay) Groove

Jason A. Michael

Did you hear the news? Madonna is set to perform at this year's Motor City Pride.
OK, so it's not actually the Madonna, but it's a Madonna – and we're not talking about the (possible) image of the Holy Mother burnt into a toast point here, either. Julie Nugent is a renowned Madonna impersonator, and she'll bring her "Into the Groove" tribute show to Ferndale.
Just how close is Nugent to the real thing? Well, here's a good indicator. While the original pop princess hails from Pontiac, her tributor, if you will, is almost a native Michigander.
"I can't say I ever lived in Michigan, but I feel connected because I have generations of family there," Nugent says. "My father grew up in Lansing but moved after joining the Navy."
Presently residing in Huntington Beach, Calif., Nugent said what she really has most in common with Madge is her love of fitness and dance and discipline in the area of diet and exercise. And the most blatant difference between the two?
"Well, I don't think I'm as publicly erotic," Nugent says with a smirk.
Differences aside, Nugent said that stepping into the Material Girl's Manolos was easy.
"When I used to work with different cover bands, they would have me sing Madonna songs," she says. "People started telling me that I looked and sounded like her, and then some agents convinced me to try my hand at being an impersonator. As soon as I started collecting costumes and seeing the audience reactions, I got hooked."
Nugent said her favorite Madonna period is her Virginal era – as in the release of her second album, "Like a Virgin," in 1984.
"I loved to watch her early videos when she was first becoming a major star, and you can see that fresh excitement in her performances," she says. "Plus, all girls wanted to dress like her – and she even made it fashionable to show your bra straps."
When she wasn't busy sporting cone-shaped boobies, the real Madonna racked up over 50 Top-40 hits, 14 of those number ones. Meanwhile, Nugent features over 20 of those hits in her repertoire.
"They mostly came by default from requests I've received from listeners, and what was the most natural for me to perform," she explains. "Certain songs make me feel I can connect with the audience better than others."
And her favorite?
"'Into the Groove' is really my favorite of all her songs," Nugent says. "It makes me feel young, alive and powerful."

Into the Groove
5:15-6:45 p.m. June 1
Main Stage, Ferndale

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