Today in Madonna History: August 26, 1997

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On August 26 1997, Madonna: Truth Or Dare was released on DVD in North America by Artisan/LIVE Entertainment.

The documentary’s international rights holder at the time, MGM Home Entertainment, was unfortunately much less quick on the draw. DVD editions of In Bed With Madonna (the film’s foreign title) were gradually issued in most international markets between 2002 and 2006.

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: December 4, 2011

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On December 4 2011, shoe designer John Fluevog told the Calgary Herald’s Theresa Tayler that he never expected that Madonna would pay her respects by whipping out a pair of shoes he had gifted to her, putting them on during a scene in her infamous, documentary Truth Or Dare.

“Yah like ‘em?!” she said, as she flirted with the camera, showing off the “Munster” platforms.  At the time, it was a massive publicity break for the respected, but still little-known, Canadian designer.

Fluevog told Tayler that he rarely tells the story of how Madge ended up with a pair of his kicks:

“I don’t really like giving away shoes. It’s not what I do. This is a business. One night I was watching Madonna on one of those American talk shows. She was being very naughty, talking about spankings and saying all of these silly things. I thought, this is a game player. Her whole thing is a game. She needs a pair of my shoes.”

Fluevog then sent one of Madonna’s stylists a pair of his shoes and he never heard back.

“Not a thank you, not anything. Then, someone told me she wore them in the movie . . . I didn’t like Madonna’s game. I found it annoying, but I respected what she was doing.  The movie moment was a game-changer for Fluevog.  Things exploded for us. It was all a bit of shock to me.”

Today in Madonna History: July 15, 1992

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On July 15 1992, Truth Or Dare was re-released on VHS in the U.S. and Canada, priced for retail purchase. The new edition featured bonus performances of Hanky Panky and Like A Prayer filmed in Paris, following the film’s credit roll.

While bonus features were a relatively uncommon addition to VHS releases, even more unusual was the omission of these same special extras from all other releases of the film, including the subsequent DVD and Blu-ray editions – formats that would normally include any bonus content available. The most likely explanation is that the extra footage has been lost. A recent interview by Queerty.com with the film’s director Alek Keshishian appears to support this when he noted that neither he nor Madonna’s management have been able to locate the whereabouts of any of the film’s outtakes.

The original 1991 VHS release of the film, which had been priced for the rental market at nearly $100 per copy, featured alternate packaging and no bonus content.

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 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.