Today in Madonna History: June 1, 1990

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On June 1 1990, Madonna performed her “Blond Ambition Tour” at The Palace Of Auburn Hills, in Auburn Hills, Michigan.  During the show, Madonna invited her father (Silvio Anthony Ciccone) onstage to sing him “Happy Birthday”.

Today in Madonna History: May 29, 1990

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On May 29 1990, Toronto police threatened to arrest Madonna on the grounds of lewd and obscene behavior for the Like A Virgin masturbation sequence in her Blond Ambition concert.  The show went on unaltered, and no charges were made after the tour manager gave the police an ultimatum: “Cancel the show, and you’ll have to tell 30,000 people why.”

Madonna performed 3 sold-out concerts at the SkyDome, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Today in Madonna History: May 27, 1990

On May 27 1990, Madonna played the first of three shows at the Toronto Skydome during her Blond Ambition Tour. The shows were Madonna’s only Canadian dates for the tour.

I was fortunate enough to have attended this show when I was twelve years old. Not only was it my first Madonna live experience, it was my first live concert experience. The morning tickets went on sale my mom was working out-of-town so she let me skip sixth-grade for the morning and I headed downtown to Sunrise Records…I managed to score two 100-level tickets directly facing the stage. I don’t think the word “excited” would sufficiently describe how elated I was to be going to see Madonna. The next two months felt like the longest two months of my life, but I couldn’t have been happier. I watched the Ciao Italia! concert on VHS daily during the lead-up, hoping that the new tour would be equally good. Needless to say it far exceeded my expectations – and my mom’s as well! We had the best time dancing and singing and just being utterly blown away by the spectacle. I couldn’t have asked for a better first concert experience, or for a better memory. Much love to the two M’s for making it possible! – Justin

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: February 25, 1992

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On February 25 1992, the Pioneer LaserDisc-only release Madonna: Blond Ambition World Tour Live won Best Music Video–Long Form at the 34th annual Grammy Awards at Radio City Music Hall, New York.

Although Madonna had received four Grammy nominations in previous years (Best Female Pop Vocal in 1986 & 1987; Best Original Song From A Motion Picture in 1988; Best Music Video–Short Form in 1991 for Oh Father), Madonna: Blond Ambition Tour Live represented her very first Grammy Award win. Ironically, the lack of a VHS edition or of any subsequent DVD/Blu-Ray reissue of the title meant that only those in possession a pricey LaserDisc player were afforded the opportunity to purchase and enjoy the award-winning release.

Madonna would receive three more Grammy nominations for Best Music Video–Long Form in the years that followed; she was nominated in 1995 and 2007 for The Girlie Show–Live Down Under and I’m Going To Tell You A Secret, respectively, before finally winning the award a second time for The Confessions Tour in 2008.

Today in Madonna History: December 15, 1990

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On December 15 1990, the LA Times printed a feature article by Robert Hilburn, about Madonna’s forth-coming laser-disc release of the Blond Ambition tour.

Can Madonna sell laser-disc players as well as she sells herself? Pioneer Artists, the nation’s leading distributor of music-related laser discs, hopes so. In a move virtually unprecedented in the video industry, Pioneer has just released Madonna’s Blond Ambition World Tour Live exclusively on laser disc. Normally, video packages of this nature are released on videocassette two to six weeks before they are released on laser-disc. In this case, however, Blond Ambition won’t be released on videocassette for at least a year.  Steven Galloway, president of Pioneer Artists, said he hopes the fact that an artist of Madonna’s stature would release a video only on laser disc will send a signal to millions of potential laser customers that the new format has finally come of age.

Galloway said that the laser exclusive with Madonna grew out of an agreement last spring for Pioneer, the electronics hardware and software giant, to sponsor her tour.

“I contacted her manager, Freddy DeMann, long before the tour started in hopes of getting the laser-disc rights to any video that was going to be shot in association with the tour,” Galloway said. DeMann was meeting with potential corporate sponsors at the time, Galloway said, and he asked if Pioneer would be interested in sponsoring the tour. The company apparently jumped at the opportunity.

“Madonna is the ideal artist to reach the new demographics that we are hoping to attract with the new, low-priced combination CD and laser players . . . the young, hip 18-35 audience,” Galloway said.

“Until these low-priced players arrived, laser discs were considered something just for the high-end market . . . a rich man’s toy. But that has changed and Madonna seemed the ideal artist to drive that point home.”

And what about the Blond Ambition package itself?

The video is based on the same concert in Nice that HBO broadcast live last summer, but the new, edited laser version offers much more of the vitality and charm of the show itself than the HBO special.

Today in Madonna History: August 10, 1985

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On August 10 1985, Into The Groove spent the first of four weeks in the #1 position on the UK Singles Chart. It was Madonna’s first chart-topping single in the UK, where she has collected a total of thirteen #1 hits to date.

As an added validation, Into the Groove was Madonna’s first self-produced release (co-produced with Stephen Bray). While artists co-producing their own work is common today, it was relatively unusual at the time, particularly for female artists. The immense success of the single undoubtedly helped convince the powers at Sire/Warner to grant Madonna the artistic freedom to co-produce her next album, True Blue, together with her collaborators Stephen Bray and Patrick Leonard.

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