Today in Madonna History: November 9, 1985

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On November 9 1985, Madonna hosted the 1985-86 season premiere of NBC-TV’s Saturday Night Live.

The musical guest was Simple Minds.  Simple Minds performed Alive and Kicking and Satisfy Yourself.

During the SNL skits, Madonna performed Take On Me, La Bamba and Lionel Richie’s Three Times A Lady.

For the eleventh season of SNL, Lorne Michaels returned as executive producer after a five-year absence. Michaels wanted his own cast so the entire cast from the previous season was fired.

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Say what you will about Madonna’s acting chops, but the icon has always had our backs and never been afraid to push the envelope. Take, for example, her only hosting stint on Saturday Night Live back in 1985 when she was indisputably the most famous entertainer woman on the planet. In the sketch, which was clearly inspired by the anxiety and, in some cases, furor that surrounded an episode of Dynasty. Superstar actor Rock Hudson had joined the cast as a love interest to series regular Linda Evans. In one episode Hudson kissed Evans on the mouth. Not a big deal, you’re thinking but by the time the episode aired Hudson was revealed to be battling AIDS and had known at the time it was filmed but hadn’t disclosed the information to his costar. It was a different era, friends, an AIDS diagnosis was thought to be a death sentence and there were even tabloid reports that Evans had contracted the disease from a mere smooch. Evans, for the record, bore no grudge against the late superstar.

Anyway, in the skit titled Pinklisting, Madge dons a dark wig to resemble Evans’ other costar Joan Collins and a clipped British accent (a harbinger of things to come!) to play a TV actress unwilling to do scenes with a costar “she doesn’t know” due to her fear of AIDS. The joke, if it can be referred to as one, is that the costar is played by Terry Sweeney (still the only openly gay male SNL player), as a super-femme gay actor who tries to butch it up but he loses his cool when confronted by a snarky Judy-Liza headline.

While the sketch isn’t exactly a rib-tickler it’s surprising in hindsight that it was a comic skit built around AIDS at a time when it was still considered a fatal disease, and broadcast in November 1985, less than a month after Hudson’s death. While that may seem insensitive, remember that this was the year Larry Kramer’s landmark AIDS-themed play The Normal Heart was first produced — and President Reagan hadn’t even uttered the word in public. So let’s hear it again for Madonna, forever at the forefront of progress, bringing a public discourse on the disease into the homes of millions of TV viewers.

Today in Madonna History: December 10, 1991

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On December 10 1991, Madonna was honoured with the Award Of Courage by the American Foundation For AIDS Research (AMFAR) at a Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel dinner, in Beverly Hills, California.

At the event, Madonna discussed the rumours that she had tested positive for AIDS:

“When the rumors surfaced that I was HIV-positive, I thought, well, someone’s really bored today . . . let’s make up a real juicy story. I tried to ignore it but it wouldn’t go away. . . .

Instead of pointing the finger at people and having witch hunts and ostracizing each other for lifestyles and sexual preferences, we should all be uniting to fight this disease . . . but we’re not. Because we’re afraid. We’re scared out of our skins to face the truth that AIDS is not a gay disease, it’s a human disease.

Now I’m not HIV-positive, but what if I were? I would be more afraid of how society would treat me for having the disease than the actual disease itself. If this is what I have to deal with for my involvement in fighting this epidemic, then so be it.

I’m not afraid to be associated with people who are HIV-positive, and I am not afraid to love people who are HIV-positive. Because their ordeal is more important than mine, because their courage is larger than mine, because what they’re facing is real. And if we can learn to deal with real, and our fears, then I’m hopeful that we can conquer this disease.”

The event drew 850 guests, and raised $750,000 for AmFAR. Performers included Patti Austin, k.d. lang, Barry Manilow, Michael McDonald, David Pack and Rosie O’Donnell, who did a hilarious send-up of the Madonna’s Vogue.