Today in Madonna History: June 23, 2015

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On June 23 2015, Liz Rosenberg announced her retirement as Madonna’s publicist.

During Madonna’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Madonna thanked Liz in her acceptance speech:

“She’s been — and still is — the head of publicity for my entire career.  Now, does anybody understand the insanity of being my publicist for the last 25 years? Well, I think Liz was smoking a joint when I first met her. I walked into her office and she very politely stubbed it out in the ashtray. I don’t think she thought I knew she was smoking a joint but it was a little bit obvious. Anyway, we hit it off right away. She was my kinda girl — tough, irreverent and funny. And we’ve had a long and amazing chunk of time together.”

Today in Madonna History: May 28, 1990

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On May 28 1990, Madonna played the second of a three show run at the Skydome in Toronto, Canada during her Blond Ambition Tour.

As the story goes, the concert on May 28th was attended by a Toronto police detective who became uncomfortable with Madonna’s simulated sexual theatrics. The detective complained to the Crown attorney, who became convinced–based on how it had been described–that the show on the 29th should not be permitted to proceed with similar content.

Supt. Frank Bergen was one of the constables sent to follow up on the complaint on May 29th, which was subsequently captured in Madonna’s film Truth Or Dare. Bergen recalled the events in a recent interview with The Canadian Press:

What I was struggling with was how do you go to the microphone and tell everyone the show is cancelled? My role and my position was we were not going to shut the show down. We were portrayed as being real knobs, if you will [in the documentary]. I don’t think we were…I don’t think we ever got to the (point), nor would we have, where we walked up onto the stage – and onto her bed – and handcuffed her. Then we would’ve been part of a different history.”

It took a year before the officer would hear about his cinematic debut in Truth or Dare, when one afternoon his teenage neighbour excitedly shouted across the backyard that he’d spotted him on the big screen.

Bergen said he respects concerns over obscenity but concedes it would’ve been difficult to satisfy a “loose interpretation of the Criminal Code.”

Today in Madonna History: March 15, 1999

On March 15 1999, Madonna’s publicist, Liz Rosenberg, confirmed to MTV News that a tour in support of Ray Of Light had been canceled.  Instead, Madonna would be working on a number of other projects including:

  • A new song with Ricky Martin for his next album
  • A new song for the Austin Powers 2 soundtrack
  • Assembling a new greatest hits album (Liz called it “The Immaculate Collection 2“) with a few new songs
  • Starring in a new film, The Next Best Thing, with Rupert Everett

Liz had this to say:

“The starting date of the movie was postponed, and it created such a small window to turn things around and get into total tour mode and put together the kind of show Madonna does, with no stone unturned, that she thought it would be better to wait until 2000.”

Today in Madonna History: February 22, 1992

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On February 22 1992, Madonna made a surprise guest appearance on NBC-TV’s Saturday Night Live, where she lovingly spoofed longtime publicist Liz Rosenberg (and herself as well) in the recurring skit “Coffee Talk” alongside her favorite SNL alum Mike Myers and host Roseanne.

But the biggest surprise turned out to be reserved for Madonna, Myers and Roseanne when the subject of their adoration in the skit, Barbra Streisand, made a rare public appearance by sauntering on set as they were finishing up the sketch.

Today in Madonna History: February 13, 1995

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On February 13 1995, Bedtime Story was released in Europe by Maverick Records as the third single from the album Bedtime Stories. In North America, the single was delayed until April due to the sleeper success of Take A Bow, which continued its slow-but-steady climb to the top of the Hot 100.

Bedtime Story was written by Björk, Marius De Vries & Nellee Hooper and was produced by Hooper & Madonna. Björk’s original demo, titled Let’s Get Unconscious, was reworked by Hooper & DeVries and renamed Bedtime Story for its submission to Madonna. Björk later revisited elements of the song’s lyrics in Sweet Intuition–a b-side from her 1995 single, Army Of Me.

In a 2001 interview for NYLON magazine, writer James Servin asked Björk whether it was true that she had written the lyrics to Bedtime Story for Madonna because she liked the idea of her expressing a viewpoint that was paradoxical to her controlled public image:

“I think at the time, yes. But that’s like six years ago, when everything about [Madonna] seemed very controlled. I think she’s a very intuitive person, and definitely her survival instincts are incredible. They’re like, outrageous. At the time, the words I thought she should say were, ‘I’m not using words anymore, let’s get unconscious honey. Fuck logic. Just be intuitive. Be more free. Go with the flow.’ Right now, she seems pretty much to be going with the flow.”

This prompts me to ask Björk if she thinks she might have put those mellowing-out thoughts into Madonna’s head. “Well, I wouldn’t credit myself for that,” she says. “Not at all. That’s a question for you to ask her.”

I sent a fax to Madonna via her publicist Liz Rosenberg, with the question: “Did singing the lyrics Björk wrote for Bedtime Story lead you in the direction of going more with the flow?” A day or two later, I receive this e-mail from Liz Rosenberg: “I wish I could get an answer from Madonna for you. She’s deep into rehearsals for her tour, and I can’t get any info from her for a while. I can tell you that Madonna certainly thinks Björk is inspiring and a brilliant artist. Madonna is a huge fan of her music. I’ve never thought Madonna was a ‘go with the flow’ person before or after recording Bedtime Story. She goes with a flow – but it’s a flow of her own creation, if you know what I mean.”

Today in Madonna History: December 14, 1987

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On December 14 1987, Madonna and Sean Penn appeared on the cover of People magazine.

Everyone Said It Wouldn’t Last… …And It Didn’t. After Two Years of Marriage, Madonna and Sean Penn Go Their Separate Ways.  

Well, you can’t blame Judge John Merrick. It was Merrick, now a retired justice of the peace, who performed the August 1985 marriage of Madonna Louise Ciccone and Sean “KO” Penn. “I felt they were serious about their vows,” says Merrick. “I remember a line from the ceremony: ‘Although there will be times that your moods may falter, and you’ll question each other’s motives, the faith and love that you share will help to show that your inconsistency is only for the moment.’ ”   Trouble is, for Sean, 27, and Madonna, 29, that moment seemed to persist for a little over two years. Now, after 27 months of holy matrimony and unholy acrimony, the material girl and her rebel without a pause are positively, absolutely, this-time-they’re-not-kidding headed for that crowded community called Splitsville. “The marriage is definitely over,” says Madonna’s spokesperson, Liz Rosenberg. Seconds Penn’s publicist, Lois Smith, “The two of them have called off the marriage.”

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Today in Madonna History: September 7, 1995

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On September 7 1995, Madonna won Best Female Video for “Take A Bow” at the 12th annual MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY. Madonna also presented the award for Best Rap Video.

Later, a post-show chat with Kurt Loder to promote her upcoming ballads collection Something To Remember quickly went off the rails when Courtney Love infamously interrupted the interview. While it may have been Liz Rosenberg’s worst nightmare, the hilarious encounter certainly gave viewers something to remember!

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