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.
On May 5 2019, the Associated Press released an article covering Madonna’s emotional speech at the GLAAD Awards the previous night:
NEW YORK (AP) — Madonna, a pioneer for gay rights, accepted the Advocate for Change Award at the 2019 with a rousing speech that went from playful to emotional, bringing the audience to its feet.
The 60-year-old pop icon turned heads as she walked to her table at the Hilton Midtown in New York on Saturday night, before taking the stage to celebrate her three decades of advocacy work in the LGBTQ community.
“Why have I always fought for change? That’s a hard question to answer. It’s like trying to explain the importance of reading or the need to love. Growing up I always felt like an outsider, like I didn’t fit in. It wasn’t because I didn’t shave under my armpits, I just didn’t fit in, OK,” she said. “The first gay man I ever met was named Christopher Flynn. He was my ballet teacher in high school and he was the first person that believed in me, that made me feel special as a dancer, as an artist and as a human being. I know this sounds trivial and superficial, but he was the first man to tell me I was beautiful.”
Madonna went on to say Flynn took her to her first gay club in Detroit, and that the evening changed her life.
“For the first time I saw men kissing men, girls dressed like boys, boys wearing hot pants, insane, incredible dancing and a kind of freedom and joy and happiness that I had never seen before,” she said. “I finally felt like I was not alone, that it was OK to be different and to not be like everybody else. And that after all, I was not a freak. I felt at home, and it gave me hope.”
Madonna also said Flynn pushed her to leave Michigan and go to New York to pursue her dreams. And when she arrived in the Big Apple in 1977, she was in awe with all New York had to offer — diversity, creativity — but she also learned about the AIDS epidemic.
“The plague that moved in like a black cloud over New York City and in a blink of an eye,” she said and snapped her fingers, “took out all of my friends.”
“After I lost my best friend and roommate Martin Burgoyne and then Keith Haring — happy birthday Keith — I decided to take up the bull horn and really fight back,” she added.Gay
Madonna, teary-eyed from her seat, received the award from Anderson Cooper, Mykki Blanco and Rosie O’Donnell, who gave a powerful speech about how Madonna helped her become more comfortable in her own skin.
“So here I was — VG, very gay — dating a man and I went to Madonna for advice,” said O’Donnell, who co-starred in 1992′s A League of Their Own with the singer. “I was questioning and unsure, my gay life was blossoming but I didn’t quite know what to do. And she told me, ‘Rosie, just follow your heart’ — advice I still follow to this day.”
The multi-hour GLAAD event also gave awards to Andy Cohen, the FX series Pose and The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Samantha Bee, the film Boy Erased, CNN’s Don Lemon and R&B singer Janelle Monae. The event will air on Logo on May 12.
Despite winning seven Grammys, two Golden Globes and countless other honors, Madonna said getting GLAAD’s Advocate for Change Award has a special place in her heart.
“Because it’s recognition of years and years of work that I’ve done over three decades. It’s not anything superficial,” Madonna said in an interview with The Associated Press after receiving her honor. “It means something to me because I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into all the work that I’ve done over the years advocating for change.”
On December 1 2018, Madonna shared this photo and message through her social media channels:
With My Good Friend Keith Haring. He was a big AIDS activist when everyone was calling it GAY cancer. I was with him the day he died of AIDS. He said what hurt him the most was how people did not want to touch door knobs after he touched them. The discrimination then was next level. #worldaidsday.
On October 27 1990, Madonna’s first dance teacher and mentor from Michigan, Christopher Flynn, passed away from an AIDS-related illness. On the news of his death, Madonna issued the statement: “Christopher Flynn was my mentor, is my higher power, and will remain an eternal inspiration.”
Indeed, Flynn would later serve as the inspiration for one of the characters from Madonna’s directorial debut, Filth And Wisdom, as she explained to Gus Van Sant in the October 2010 issue of Interview magazine:
The character that Richard E. Grant plays in the film I directed, Filth and Wisdom, is this blind professor who was based on my ballet teacher, Christopher Flynn. Growing up in Michigan, I didn’t really know what a gay man was. He was the first man-the first human being-who made me feel good about myself and special. He was the first person who told me that I was beautiful or that I had something to offer the world, and he encouraged me to believe in my dreams, to go to New York. He was such an important person in my life. He died of AIDS, but he went blind toward the end of his life. He was such a lover of art, classical music, literature, opera. You know, I grew up in the Midwest, and it was really because of him that I was exposed to so many of those things. He brought me to my first gay club-it was this club in Detroit. I always felt like I was a freak when I was growing up and that there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t fit in anywhere. But when he took me to that club, he brought me to a place where I finally felt at home. So that character in Filth and Wisdom was dedicated to him and inspired by him.”
Madonna would also recall Christopher’s influence in the second verse of the lyrics of the song, In This Life.