Today in Madonna History: June 13, 1991

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On June 13 1991, Madonna was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.  The feature included a photo spread shot by Steven Meisel.

Madonna has no equal at getting attention. She often seems to behave like someone who has been under severe restraint and can now say and do whatever she likes without fear of reprisal. She delights in being challenged, in telling more than she had planned, in going further than she had intended. And judging from her new film Truth or Dare, there is no “too far” for Madonna.

Today in Madonna History: May 24, 1991

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On May 24 1991, Madonna’s Rescue Me single was certified Gold by the RIAA for shipment of over 500,000 units in the U.S.

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: May 7, 1991

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On May 7 1991, Madonna admits her bisexuality in a controversial 2-part interview with The Advocate magazine.

Today In Madonna History: March 25, 1991

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On March 25 1991, Madonna performed Sooner Or Later from Dick Tracy at the 63rd annual Academy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. Sooner Or Later won the Oscar for Best Original Song by Stephen Sondheim; her escort at the awards was Michael Jackson.

Sooner or later you’re gonna be mine
Sooner or later you’re gonna be fine
Baby it’s time that you faced it
I always get my man

Today in Madonna History: March 23, 1991

On March 23 1991, Madonna’s Rescue Me jumped from #11 to #9 in its fourth week on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the USA.

Rescue Me was released as the second single from Madonna’s first greatest hits package, The Immaculate Collection.

Today in Madonna History: January 4, 1991

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On January 4 1991, Madonna responded to a Rabbi’s accusation of anti-semitism for the song lyrics in the remix of Justify My Love, called The Beast Within.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, accused Madonna of insulting Jews by using this Bible reference:

“I know your tribulation and your poverty and the slander of those who say that they are Jews, but they are not, they are a synagogue of Satan.”

In a letter sent to Madonna’s manager, Freddy DeMann, Rabbi Cooper said the Wiesenthal Center was outraged and wanted the quotation withdrawn. “The imagery of ‘Jew as Devil’ has led to untold violence against the Jewish people and slander against Judaism over the course of the last 2,000 years,” the rabbi wrote.

He charged that the phrase could “contribute to those who seek to promote anti-Semitism” and said that neo-Nazi groups had used such imagery to promote racist ideology among youth.

Madonna responded with this statement:

“I certainly did not have any anti-Semitic intent when I included a passage from the Bible on my record. It was a commentary on evil in general. My message, if any, is pro-tolerance and anti-hate. The song is, after all, about love.”

Rabbi Cooper said he took Madonna at her word.

“She was direct to the issue, she responded quickly and we’re relieved that she did so,” the rabbi said.

How did you feel about The Beast Within the first time you heard it? 

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