Today in Madonna History: October 15, 1992

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On October 15 1992, Madonna threw a Sex book pre-release party at New York City’s Industria Super Studio, and signed all the invitations under her alter ego “Dita”.

During the party, Madonna showed up dressed as Little Bo Peep and carried with her a stuffed toy lamb. 

Madonna’s publicist Liz Rosenberg showed concern at first worrying “what the parents of America’s impressionable teens will soon be thinking” but later said that it “all depends on your idea of lovemaking, which in Madonna’s case, should give new meaning to the word erotic.”

Both Walden Books and Barnes & Noble prepared corporate statements that their store managers could share with customers who were offended by Sex. Both statements defended the right of bookstores to provide “diversity and choice” to customers and say censorship is not the role of bookstores.

Bookstore owner David Epstein stated that “The feeling of most people who have ordered the book is that Madonna is something special, that this is cutting-edge art, they’re not the kind of people who are buying it because it’s smut and dirty pictures. People are interested in it as art.”

Today in Madonna History: October 13, 1992

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On October 13 1992, the Erotica single was released. Originally credited to Madonna & Shep Pettibone, Pettibone’s partner Tony Shimkin was later granted co-writing credit for nearly all of the Pettibone collaborations on the album, including Erotica. The debut release to feature the imprint of Maverick Records, the song was produced by Madonna & Pettibone.

As several leaked demo versions of the song can now attest, the track had gone through numerous incarnations before Madonna settled on lyrics that positioned her in the perspective of Dita – the alter-ego she had created for her Sex book. The song’s original chorus (“You thrill me…”) was reincorporated into the song when Madonna performed it during her 2006 Confessions Tour. Alternate verses were also used to create the track Erotic, which was included with the Sex book – these lyrics were also featured in a William Orbit remix that was included on the Erotica maxi-single.

French art director and photographer Fabien Baron designed the artwork for the single, the album and the Sex book. He also directed the Erotica music video, which included footage he had shot on Super 8mm during the making of the book. Baron recalled his first meeting with Madonna to discuss their potential collaboration in a 2009 interview with Hint Fashion Magazine:

“I met Madonna at her home on Central Park West to talk about working on her Sex book. It was very comfortable but very uncomfortable at the same time, which is a very interesting feeling. She’s very imposing and knows what she wants. She’s very informed and opinionated, which makes her genius. She takes you in and swallows you up — and you don’t mind it –  you actually enjoy it. There’s an unspoken seduction that goes on. I was young…she was young, too – and beautiful. That was an unforgettable era. She put that book out at the best moment. She timed it very well…she knows what she’s doing. And such drive. Some people want to lift stones to see what’s under them. She’ll be on a beach with millions of stones and want to lift every one of them.”

Today in Madonna History: November 2, 1992

On November 2 1992, Madonna appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine, with the headline: The Selling of Sex – The New Voyeurism.

Here’s a snippet of the article inside, written by John Leland:

What if Madonna gave a sexual bonfire and nobody came? In the quiet before the inevitable storm a few weeks back, NEWSWEEK asked Madonna about the possibility of failure or, more grievous, inconsequence. What if she released “Sex“—her explicit coffee-table book of erotic photos and writings, celebrating sadomasochism, homosexuality, exhibitionism and other pansexual delights-and the public merely yawned? “If everybody yawned,” she said, armed for this and other contingencies, “I’d say hooray. That means something happened.”

It was one of those neat identity makeovers for which Madonna is justly renowned: after coloring the last nine years with her determination to engage our attention at all costs, here she was, Florence Nightingale, dutiful erotic night nurse, content to slip into the shadows once her services were no longer needed, the patient cured. Now that’s what you call spin.

But for Madonna and for the rest of us, this was no lark. A deft little way to make some money and grab some spotlight, “Sex” also promised our first barometric reading of a turbulence boiling in American culture. Call it the new voyeurism: the middlebrow embrace, in the age of AIDS, of explicit erotic material for its own sake. From Mapplethorpe to MTV, from the Fox network to fashion advertising, looking at sex is creeping out of the private sphere and into the public, gentrified by artsy pretension and de-stigmatized out of viral necessity. Canny marketers exploit it; alarmed conservatives, joined by many feminists, are trying to shut it down. In many ways, as Pat Buchanan asserted at the Republican convention in August, there really is a cultural war going on. “Sex” stood to claim the battlefield. Advance cover stories on the book in Vanity Fair, Vogue and New York Magazine heralded hot like you’ve never seen before.

And from the looks of things last Wednesday morning, “Sex” measured up. Dismissive reviews, splashed across the tabloids like news of Pearl Harbor, couldn’t stop the ambush. Bookstores, record stores, anybody who carried it got swamped. Priced at $49.95 and packaged in a Mylar bag that warned ADULTs ONLY!, the book sold 150,000 copies on the first day, out of 500,000 printed for American distribution. Who says we’re in a recession? Laurence J. Kirshbaum, president of Warner Books, called it “review-proof.” Many stores pre-sold their shipments before they arrived. Others couldn’t restock fast enough to keep pace with demand.

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