A Madonna Holiday

Madonna has played an unlikely part in my holidays since I was a boy, even if the only official Christmas connection she’s ever fostered was her rather wretched version of ‘Santa Baby’ during the unfortunate ‘Who’s That Girl’ stretch. I won’t bother posting that rendition (it sounded like she had a cold during the recording) but I will post my own photos from her recent Rebel Heart Tour. This was the closest I’ve gotten to my idol, and Suzie and I squealed like we always do in the presence of such greatness.

The holiday connection comes during the period in which my fandom was at its zenith – the white-hot prime of the fall of 1991. She was on the precipice of the ‘Sex’ book/’Erotica’ album, but not quite there yet, so her star power had been growing steadily for about eight or nine years. Many of us consider this one of her most regal periods, when she had the eyes of the whole world, and some begrudging admiration to go along with it. Her ‘Like A Prayer’ album had earned her artistic worth, while her ‘Truth or Dare’ documentary had become one of the most successful documentaries at that time. After bring dismissed for years as a pop lightweight, she suddenly had the history and experience and success to assume her rightful place on the pop culture throne.

As the fall months led into the latter days of the year, and I was asked what I wanted for Christmas, I did not hesitate: a laser-disc player. It was being heralded as the next big thing, but I didn’t care so much for technological advances as I did about the fact that this was, and remains, the only format on which Madonna’s epic ‘Blond Ambition’ tour was officially available.

My Mom indulged me, and we brought home the Laserdisc player right before Christmas, and then I received the official Blond Ambition disc – three times the size of a CD – and set it all up in our basement. My Christmas memories were indelibly linked to the performances from that tour. Despite initial hesitation, I came to love this concert. With the pristine quality of the laserdisc, the impeccable sound system, and one of Madonna’s most amazing performances, it became emblematic of something special – something that resonates to this very day.

I’d study each dance move and vocal inflection, every nuanced wink and audience interaction, right down to the broken chair during the ‘Keep It Together’ finale, and I gained a little confidence with every little exhibition of power. It was what kept me going through the rocky path of adolescence.

During Christmas vacation, after the holiday obligations were done and the stretch of non-school days stretched gloriously out ahead of us, I’d pad down to the cellar and watch the Blond Ambition Tour. The time was golden. School vacation made memories more indelible. Madonna’s music added to the experience. The thrill of the Blond Ambition Tour set it all off. I fear I’m unable to fully convey what it all meant, but that’s all right.

Some memories don’t signify anything more than a marker of time. This one means a little more to me, but perhaps not anyone else. It was, after all, a memory of solitude, of loneliness, even if I would never admit it. It’s from a time in my life when I wasn’t quite sure of myself, when I didn’t really love myself, and when I was pretty sure no one else ever would. Yet there was the seed of something greater inside of me, and despite all my efforts at self-destruction, something helped me hang onto the hope that there was more to my story than hiding in the basement. Madonna shouted out in French the opening clarion call of the concert, “Do you believe in love?

My heart resounded, “Yes… Yes… Yes.”

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