Is Overkill Messing Up Madonna? Surprises Promised For Her Saturday Concert

Posted: July 09, 1987

The publicity flacks working on the Madonna "Who's That Girl?" concert tour are being unusually restrained when it comes to spreading news about the Madonna/Level 42 spectacle playing Saturday at Veterans Stadium.

"We don't want to give too much away," says Michael Raleigh of Madonna's management office. "You've got to save some surprises."

Raleigh willingly reveals only that the presentation is a "meticulously planned Broadway-style show" featuring 17 numbers, lots of choreography with three backup dancers/singers, 10 musicians, and four costume changes for the star. Eight really big video screens are carrying close-circuited closeup images all the time, "so you can see everything, even the perspiration on her face, from the farthest seat in the stadium."

In Madonna's case, it's hard to believe there are many other secrets left to unfold. Ever since her arrival as a TV-marketed commodity, flaunting her sexuality (and especially that cute, bare belly button) on the music video for "Lucky Star," Madonna has been the most public, media-manipulated personality of the 1980s.

She herself admits she'd have had a heck of a time selling 30 million records - scoring 11 consecutive Top Five hits - without the aid of those videos. Developing her personality far more than her simplistic bubble funk music ever could, the videos have all played up her voluptuousness and hyper- kinetic energy, and her self-fulfilled kinship to Hollywood legends like Marilyn Monroe - whom Madonna apes in the "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"

styled "Material Girl" clip - and Liza Minnelli - whose Sally Bowles character (in "Cabaret") Madonna affects in the sordid peep show imagery of "Open Your Heart."

Also on the the theme of media overdose: It's difficult to pass a newsstand and not see Madonna's pasty face staring at you from some rag or another. Currently, she's the cover girl for both Cosmopolitan and the National Enquirer. The former touts her beauty and vegetarian diet secrets, which have turned M. into a slim, porcelan-skinned evocation of 1950s all- American girl, the antithesis of her former floozy self.

The Enquirer, should you care, carries the heart-rending news of her latest reconciliation with mate (and future jailbird) Sean Penn, the baddest, boorish, boozin' and brawlin' Hollywood Brat Packer. "Will you take me back as your husband? I'll love you and honor you forever!" Sean is quoted to have begged, down on his knees, on a plane flight to Miami for the opening of Madonna's tour. According to the Enquirer, "Madonna took both his hands in hers and replied lovingly, 'I will.' " Ain't love grand? Ain't nothing sacred?

Madonna herself allowed in a recent interview that she's very much a manufactured product, and that living out the public fantasies is just "part of my job."

"No one created me - I created myself, and my success certainly didn't happen overnight," she says. "I worked for a long time before it happened."

Ten years ago, as Michigan-born Madonna Louise Ciccone, Madonna arrived in New York with $35 in her pockets and ambitions of a career as a dancer in her head. However, she quickly fell in with some musicians, weaseled her way into their band and made connections with the New York disco scene, where she built her following from a base in the gay community.

It wasn't until her second album, "Like a Virgin" that she crossed over to the Top 40 mainstream, where her comic-book style of look-but-don't-touch sensuality tapped a nerve with fantasy-prone teen and pre-teen girls.

Defending her following, whom some deride as "Madonna wanna-be's," the singer suggests "Children always understand. They have open minds. They have built-in s- - - detectors."

Most of her fan mail comes from kids. "They say that they love me, and they wanna be me, and they wanna marry, and they think that I give them hope and courage, stuff like that."

The problem is, the teen audience is also incredibly fickle, prone to love a performer only as long as she/he's got a hot single on the Top 40 radio, and to not give a hoot about 'em when they're not happenin.' At the moment, Madonna is between hits. "Who's That Girl," the title track of her forthcoming (end of the month) third movie, has just started to make an impact on the airwaves, hasn't yet burned into the mass consciousness.

As a consequence of that, and of the deluge of competing summer concert tours (and what I perceive as Madonna overdose), ticket sales for Madonna's summer shows have been slower than expected.

In Miami, for example, where the tour opened, Madonna played for a claimed "sold out" crowd of 68,000 people at the Orange Bowl. That's nothing to sneeze at, although sources say the stadium actually holds 80,000. Shows in Atlanta, Miami, Montreal and Boston have also been called "sell- outs or close to sold out," but Madonna's flack offers no information about the Washington, D.C., stadium show, which was reported elsewhere to be a money loser.

Locally, an Electric Factory Concerts spokesman says ticket sales for the Vet show are "brisk" and that a "sell-out is expected."

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