The Name Game.
Madonna! Madonna! Madonna!
Bo-ber-onna, bo-na-na fanna
Fo-fer-onna, fee fi mo-mer-onna, Madonna!
Come on ev’rybody, I say now let’s play a game.
I betcha I can make a rhyme out of anybody’s name.
The first letter of the name
I treat it like it wasn’t there…
Lyrics sung by Shirley Ellis for a 60 year old.
Every gay man who has lived in New York City, Miami, or Los Angeles, even a short stay in damp London,
has a Madonna story to tell. It might have been a chance public sighting of the mysterious artist who
has reinvented and reinvigorated the world as her audience as a provocative entertainer longer than the
Beatles stayed together. But we gays are privy to inside information that damn Madonna’s diminishing gay
loyalty because it is quite easy to see and hear accounts of her blatantly stealing fresh ideas from
subversive society (LGBTQ, sexual revolution, censorship, spiritualism, S/M, politics, fashion), repackaging
them into slick videos and crowns herself the queen of these otherwise taboo subjects. It’s not that she
is an advocate for humanity, but a successful capitalist producing progressive and technically advanced
concerts that warrant the exhorbant ticket prices to see this one aging woman’s show that only Madonna
(at 60 and more years) can pull off. Hands down, the best live concerts produced, each new show
surpassing the previous one as the star’s ageing process requires more special effects to compensate for
the diminishing human capabilities. And Madonna will spare no expense to ensure her concerts are show
stoppers, and the audience is satisfied they got their money’s worth. These fans who can justify
the price even though they truly don’t have the luxury of disposable income are devoted to this performer
of four decades, and she does not appear to be willing to retire, so she performs and builds her wealth on
the captive paying concert audience (across our divided nation and around the not necessarily English
comprehensive world). Herded into standing room only conditions for her notoriously delayed and
overpriced concerts are her minions, like the babies she adopts. It is as insecure and cheap to that she
does not share some of her wealth or a least announce credit for any inspiration or contribution on a
project she performs. She prefers to reward herself as the sole benefactor she stamps with her
ubiquitous name. But Madonna has been found guilty of plagiarism by the critics and well ead public
opinion, a lot of gays, as in the outrageously guilty dismissal of OJ Simpson. She convinces the world
that she and her personal Giger counter discovered the yellow brick road of gold financial success.
No credit to her street savvy backup dancers, dismissed after one-world tour with no more wealth or
credentials than before she employed and used them. “Paris is Burning” trumps “Vogue”. If you listen to
her lyrics, she is always repenting for her own hypocrisy. Power breeds greed, vice versa.
Celebrity power at Madonna’s level can be more insidious than drugs to an addict. When confronted
with disagreeable behavior, the accused superstar addict counterattacks, and there is no amicable
consensus; just self-protective denial. Another failed intervention. That so much of the inspiration
for her always contemporary albums/concerts/images demonstrating her growing and financially
feasible artistic potential are broad enough to satisfy her aging original audience and the new young
fans not dismissing her for her seniority (60!) with the best cosmetic surgery on call 24/7 to ensure
she’s ready for the public’s close-up scrutiny. That factor is not as important to the new blood
attending to her product; it is Madonna’s ear to the current young sound today’s youth listen to
attached to their high definition earphones all day, and the all so important the young collaborators
she has the advantage and power of approaching without ever being rejected.
Young Madonna wrote and sang songs for a flailing rock band when she first stepped foot onto gritty
late 1970’s NYC. Now she has cameos contributing on her songs so she doesn’t have to embarrass her
middle-aged (senior citizen?) damaged voice uttering youth street lingo, or be accused of producing
basic 4 beats per measure pop that becomes an ear worm tormenting you all day. Concert fans are
now the financial cog keeping the music industry turning. The overhead that this business woman and
sole attraction spends with no approval from financial suits to produce the most star-centric one woman
show with undertrained but talented exotic sexy stage performers must be daunting and slightly
undemocratic, not to mention the employment of the most respected and patient physical, spiritual,
and cosmetic professionals treating the Queen Bee to keep her show ready. I know she has been
advised a few times to give the blond peroxide a break, as her hair, as all blond addicts can attest,
is submitting to a toxic treatment still not regulated by the FDA.
So for an average young adult convinced that they MUST experience a Madonna concert in their
lifetime, it would probably require said college student to take a leave of absence from their state
university for a semester to get herded into a standing room only stadium hoping to see petite
Madonna make her grand entrance always no less than one hour late (Grace Jones used to spook
her audience opening her show with multiple transgender Grace look-alikes confusing and distracting
from the real icon before finally arriving in the most dangerous methods. She sat on a disco ball that
was lowered from the 30 foot apex of the Saint disco’s atrium.) Madonna is a spec on a large stage,
lip-synching, recovering her strength and respiratory stability from dancing and sometimes providing live
vocals like a heart attack victim in ER as she ducks into the various foxholes conveniently scattered
around the giant stage, allowing the exhausted performer to fall into a soft chair with waiting triage,
sparing her the walk off the giant stage, past curtains, and numerous stagehands she has no energy
to acknowledge. Cost efficient, maybe spiritually and physically selfish luxury, as silent cosmetic and
costume professionals perform the grooming to the one woman show caser with no stand-in,
refurbished like Dorothy at Oz, in record time. Like inspecting, repairing, and ensuring a NASCAR will
finish the race, Madonna her precision paced concert, in the limited time allotted after multiple dress
rehearsals to ensure the show is perfect. Nobody would be the wiser if the DJ was signaled to mix 15
more seconds of music and video while stage dancers delay their finale to give the star more recovery
time. Madonna might be small (by Alvin Ailey dance troupe standards) but has had to become mighty
strong to direct her own shows to her level of perfection. Albums don’t finance the artistry of the
once novel music industry. Now it is well over a few $100 for the bottom tier standing room only
concert experience of a B-list music veteran. Woodstock was free.
continued in Part 2 & 3.
By Christopher Duquette, author of “Homo GoGo Man: a fairytale about a boy who grew up in
Part 2 by Christopher Duquette
Madonna has failed to achieve her broken dream of being an established actress. Marilyn Monroe
got closer to breaking that glass ceiling. Humiliating herself by advocating for acting recognition
in ‘Evita’ was sad. I’ve seen this fortunate and hardworking offspring of a struggling Detroit suburban
family turn around her prospects to amount a fortune that is reported in financial journals as top tier
for the past decades. She’s shrewd. And she’ll cut you out of her life if her authority is threatened.
An intimate open mike at the Sunset Boulevard Tower Records selected to broadcast Madonna live
by MTV started late to promote “An American Life”, (star not ready, just learned to play the guitar
that completed her new folk look), Madonna lifelessly crossed the quiet stage, mumbled some sad
folkish songs in a beatnik getup from her offbeat new album. A first and a flop. When an audience
member requested “Like a Virgin” to maudlin Madonna, MTV production crews could not avoid the
awkward and ugly response Madonna broadcast live as we all silently held our hopes and breath
that the star would do what star’s are expected to do; entertain their fans democratically. But being
the diva in control of the moment, Madonna channeled the equally unprofessional and rude pit bull
she can be, rejecting the request with on air disgust, as if a pair of lips with herpes and chlamydia
sores were going to kiss her. If it was Madonna’s fear of STDs that put “Like a Virgin” in the one
naive audience members mind to request. Mean Madonna muttered her hatred for the dated song,
on air. Yet Madonna has prevailed worse scandals, divorces, a revealing tell-all book by her once
soul mate and know estranged gay brother she entrusted with the role as her one time unexperienced
stage producer. No explanation was ever given, other than family is not even a priority in Madonna’s
highly egocentric orbit.
At 60, she has to work harder to stay current to compete with the competition. The fickle music
industry that drives Madonna forward with advanced stage technology is a mask to distract the
stressful dance performance this once natural dancer (one MTV video award for her simplistic
dancing to ‘Ray of Light’, which she modestly laughed as nothing more than a 40 year old madly
dancing like she’s crazy) that an aging dancer may never bring back the romantic past of more
grassroots performances. Loops of her missing a step during the Super Bowl will haunt any ego,
even hers, forever. In 1983, while my freshman college sister and I allowed black market speed
to shut out the riot of a Saturday night at the Roxy Disco, my boyfriend breathlessly stopped our
cackling to announce that a white girl who can really dance was on a small stage lip-synching to
that artist’s first radio hit, ‘Holiday’, with two black backup dancers/singers, and he insisted we
see this apparition for ourselves. We never would have guessed from the radio play that this song
was sung by a white girl, and that she had the moves of someone with soul. My sister and I waved
him away (a small stage performance while the club DJ was still playing for the massive dance floor
crowd didn’t seem like a life changing event.) It was Madonna, in what was probably her first live
performance of a hit song that she toiled to get produced and distributed, using her feminine
charm to get the up and coming DJ Jelly Bean Benitez from the Fun House Disco to play it as a
Public appearances seem to indicate Madonna has no fear of the clock ticking. Her ever evolving
output of work embraces today’s 20 year old raver who still takes MDMA to dance to tribal pots
and pans club music. Madonna’s bread and butter, her impressive concerts, are for the young of
body, and a 60 year old ringleader manipulates them. It is the high tech, low talent, show stopping
glitches that has also aroused resentment from the gay community. She shows no vulnerability.
She still knows that she relies heavily on the gays’ approval to trickle down to the general public
to maintain her popularity, stay in demand, and financially successful. She has alienated many gays
in the music industry who gave her otherwise banal pop radio songs some panache once remixed
and played in NYC dance clubs. Charm and ambition.
But she famously does not like to give credit FOR ANYTHING or IDEA for her artistry when it would
make her look less like some cosmic genius and more like a humble member of the human race. She
may as well be a drag queen impersonating herself. Note: close-up selfies of a cosmetically fat filled
face filling the a smart phone screen on her 59th Birthday comes off like a scary Halloween clown
Continued on Part 3
by Christopher Duquette, author of “Homo GoGo Man: a fairytale about a boy who grew up in
Part 3 by Christopher Duquette
When I was in my post college 20’s, birthdays were weeklong excuses for bad behavior, with
alcoholic (legal as an 18 year old college freshman in 1976) celebration intoxicating all seven
days leading up to my actual birth anniversary was suffering from acute alcohol poisoning,
dehydration, malnutrion, and a well intentioned Quaalude that would put me in a seriously dangerous
state of unconsciousness. I was a narcissistic monster who always thought the world revolved
around me, and I was undefeatable. When I hit 30, I was made aware of the uncanny fact that
I shared the same birth year,1958, as three of the largest pop icons of past and future decades:
Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Prince.
I wasn’t necessarily a fan of any of these successful musicians separated at birth; I just didn’t
pay attention to the radio or read Billboard. I heard the melody of disco music in dark drugged
underground clubs, and never bothered to follow lyrics. Musicians even admit to garbling lyrics
while f**ked up in recording studios, so lyrics are what you want to make of them. I need a beat
that I can move my hips that set the metronome of my dance beat like I’ve got Latin blood, and
the rest of the body follows like jellyfish tentacles. Dark clubs, anonymity, a crowd rather than
a single dance partner to dance with, and no self-consciousness of mirrored walls, and no romantic
notion of cruising for love with the “sex dance”. That’s a total distraction from purpose to dance.
It was a performance in clubs like Studio 54, but a soul searching experience in downtown
underground clubs where the disco bug bit me. Before there was endorphin highs from lifting
weights, now I would spend every Saturday night for hours (1 – 8?) dancing to mixed disco music.
That was my Nirvana.
I always needed a new song for my burlesque performance as a stripper at the Gaiety Male Theater,
and with no costumes or props, I relied on the chill that a good disco song could electrify my
nervous system. That and some poppers. Peter Brown’s “Do You Wanna Get Funky with Me?” took
control of my performance, an innocent college student, into the inferno of hell. I performed to
the song, not the audience. I was proud to provide 1958 as my birth year, even though father time
keeps me looking like I was born in 1980.
Aside from Madonna’s long play remixes (hated albums with wasteful tracks) I preferred 70’s R&B
musicians who could give me the beat to dance with rhythm on 12 inch long play singles: the
Original’s “Down to Love Town”, Thelma Houston “Don’t leave me this way”, Kool and the Gang’s
“Get down with the Genie”, Double Exposure’s “Ten Percent of Nothing”, Diana Ross’s “Love
I still buy Madonna albums, hate them at first, appreciate the amount of work involved on a
second listen, and buy DVDs of her performances that I can’t attend due to my inability to secure
an affordable ticket, or be in a riotous stadium. I admire her ability to milk her audience to be on
demanding frequency for two hours as she shuffles through greatly orchestrated, choreographed,
costumed sophisticated concerts, knowing that she is born the same year as me, not Brittney
Spears. I keep it as energetic, youthful, talented and real as she does. She’s a Leo. I’m a Taurus.
We probably would not get along. I wonder what she would think if she got the chance to read this.
If I could have rescued Michael Jackson to provide respite from his frenemies in my humble home,
and gotten him to just drop the charade of being a character for the world and just be happy and
gay, I would have. Then Prince. I am addicted to prescriptive meds myself, Xanax, and I resent
the medical community for the stabs at undoing the damage I did to myself by partying on illicit
drugs for 25 years. Prescribing a legal but lethal medication for my acute anxiety is a catch-22,
and the subject of my next book. Now its just Madge and me. And I can dance as good as her
Alvin Ailey white ass can. We both learned from veterans of early R&B mentors who introduced
us to the then underground world of disco.
Note to Madonna: I liked “Confessions on a Dance Floor” as it was the the best album produced
since ‘Erotica’. It was relatable to me. I was a burlesque dancer, I love the base-line disco beat
of the songs, and I appreciate the old-school mixing of one song into the next like in the
underground disco’s where the DJ could really mix one song over and over and over. Madonna:
Try reading my confessional book of being a disco hoofer as long as you:
‘Homo GoGo Man, A fairytale about a boy who grew up in Discoland.’
by Christopher Duquette
Amazon, DonnaInc, BarnesandNoble, libraries, small bookstores.
P.S.: My 60th Bday was a disappointment (Fire Island is not how I left it 12 years ago),
but I’ve moved on. Good luck on this monumental milestone, and always remember how easy
everything came to us when we had youth and beauty.