Today in Madonna History: August 28, 1986

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On August 28 1986, Madonna and Sean opened in David Rabe’s Goose & Tomtom at Lincoln Centre’s Mitzi Newhouse Theatre, in New York.

Here’s a snippet of an article that Dena Kleiman published about the play:

A Revival that may not revive (New York Times August 19, 1986):

Madonna and Sean Penn are quietly dashing in and out of Lincoln Center these days in connection with closely guarded rehearsals of David Rabe’s Goose and Tomtom that may never be opened to the public.

But maybe, said Mr. Rabe, who is also directing the play, he will invite a special audience to come next week to a free performance – or even two. And after that? ”I’ve reserved the right not to show it,” Mr. Rabe said.

The rehearsals, in which Harvey Keitel, Barry Miller and Lorraine Bracco are also taking part, have been described by Mr. Rabe as a ”work in progress” for a play that was previously – but in his view unsuccessfully – produced. He said he believes he has a better handle on the play now, but is still not absolutely sure.

In the play, Goose (Barry Miller) and Tomtom (Sean Penn) are a pair of jewel thieves, who, in collaboration with a sexy woman named Lorraine (Madonna), amass a collection of gems only to have them stolen by a rival gang.

”I’m in the process of trying to understand it,” said Mr. Rabe, who is currently working with the actors on the stage of the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. ”I wrote it without understanding it, and it has taken a long time to grasp.”

Today in Madonna History: August 16, 1985

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On August 16 1985, Madonna and Sean Penn were married at a clifftop mansion in Malibu, California. Their wedding day was also Madonna’s 27th birthday.

Some of the celebrities attending the wedding included Rosanna Arquette, Tom Cruise, Andy Warhol, Cher, Martin Sheen, Rob Lowe, Carrie Fisher, Diane Keaton, David Letterman, Rosanna Arquette, Christopher Walken, Steve Rubell and many others.

Sean and Madonna later honeymooned at the Highlands Inn in Carmel, California.

Andy Warhol recalled this about the wedding:

It was just the most exciting weekend of my life. Martin went down to the hairdresser earlier in the day to have his hair done. We rode in a limo out to Malibu and when we saw helicopters in the distance we knew we were at the wedding. Somebody had tipped the reporters off about where the wedding was and about ten helicopters were hovering, it was like Apocalypse Now. And one helicopter had a girl hanging off with a camera and they were all trying to get in close. And the security people found camouflage-outfitted photographers in the bushes. And I looked really close at Madonna and she is beautiful. And she and Sean are just so in love. She wore white, and a black bowler hat, I don’t know what that was supposed to mean. And someone said that Sean had shot at the helicopters the night before. The only boring celebrity there was Diane Keaton, really. And it was the right mixture of nobodies and celebrities. Sean came over to say hello, and the good-looking family of Madonna was there, all the brothers. And you can see Madonna and Sean love each other so much. Really, it was the most exciiting thing ever.

Today in Madonna History: May 17, 1991

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On May 17 1991, Roger Ebert gave Madonna’s Truth or Dare documentary a 3 1/2 star rating and a thumbs up review.

Here’s what Ebert had to say:

Although the movie seems happiest when it is retailing potential scandal, its heart is not in sex but in business, and the central value in the film is the work ethic. Madonna schedules herself for a punishing international tour of mostly one-night stands and then delivers with a clockwork determination, explaining to a family member in Detroit that she can’t go out to party because she has to conserve her strength.

Night after night the exhausting show goes on, taking on aspects of a crusade for the cast members. Ironically – given Madonna’s onstage use of sacrilege as a prop – every show is preceded by a prayer session, everyone holding hands while Madonna asks God’s help and recites a daily list of problems. And when her dancers have personal problems, they come to her as a counselor and mother figure.

She seems to like it that way, and halfway through the film I was even wondering if she deliberately chose insecure dancers with dependent personalities because she enjoyed playing mother to them.

Madonna has kept her act fresh by adopting a long series of public star personas, yet, backstage, people don’t relate to her as a star, but as the boss. Her charisma comes not through glitter but through power, and there is never any doubt about exactly who is in charge.

We get the feeling that if show biz ever loses its appeal for her, she could be successful in business or even politics: She’s a hard-headed organizer, a taskmaster, disciplined and clear-headed.

The movie follows the Blond Ambition tour from its soggy beginnings in Japan’s rainy season through a series of appearances across the world. There’s the Los Angeles concerts with all of the celebrities backstage (Kevin Costner tells her the concert was “neat,” and once he leaves she sticks a finger down her throat).

Detroit, her hometown, where she assures her father that she can indeed get him tickets. Toronto, where the police threaten to arrest her for public masturbation (“What do they mean, masturbation?” “When you grab your crotch”). Then she tours Italy and Spain, inviting guys she has crushes on to parties, only to discover they’re married or gay.

At one point in the film, talking about how lonely it is at the top, she’s asked if she ever knew true love, and she answers sadly, “Sean. Sean.” But she never says another word about her former husband, Sean Penn. In the opening scenes she is glimpsed briefly with boyfriend Warren Beatty, but then he disappears, unmentioned, after making what sounded to me like fairly sensible observations (he complains that, for Madonna, if it doesn’t happen on camera it hardly happens at all).

The organizing subject of the whole film is work. We learn a lot about how hard Madonna works, about her methods for working with her dancers and her backstage support team, about how brutally hard it is to do a world concert tour. Unlike most rock documentaries, the real heart of this film is backstage, and the onstage musical segments, while effectively produced, seem obligatory – they’re not the reason she wanted to make this film.

Why is work so important to her? Maybe there’s a hint in the many scenes where she takes a motherly interest in the personal lives of her dancers, and even joins them between the sheets for innocent, bored, adolescent sex games. Madonna, who has had such success portraying a series of sexual roles and personalities, seems asexual on a personal level. A voyeur rather than a participant. Control and power are more interesting to her than intimacy. When she manipulates the minds of a stadium full of fans, that’s exciting. It’s not the same, working with one person at a time.

Today in Madonna History: April 17, 1986

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On April 17 1986, Madonna and Sean Penn attended the Los Angeles premiere of his film At Close Range at the Bruin Theater.

Sporting a new cropped, platinum blonde hairstyle, Madonna and her notoriously media-shy husband paused to speak with various media outlets as they made their way down the red carpet.

The film, which co-starred Christopher Walken and Mary Stuart Masterson, featured Madonna’s latest single, Live To Tell, along with an original musical score by Patrick Leonard comprising mostly of motifs inspired by Live To Tell‘s minor chord changes. Its director, James Foley, helmed several of Madonna’s music videos for the True Blue album and directed her next film, Who’s That Girl.

Today in Madonna History: February 20, 1986

On February 20 1986, Madonna and Sean Penn attended the premiere of his film At Close Range at the Berlin Film Festival in Berlin, Germany.

Madonna contributed Live To Tell to the At Close Range soundtrack. Live To Tell was written by Patrick Leonard and Madonna, and was released as the first single from her True Blue album in March 1986.